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Teaching Reading

A Short Course in Teaching Reading Skills By Beatrice Mikulecky

Professor Rocky Nelson, 2009

Teaching Reading?
A paradoxical situation exists in language classrooms around the world. Although most language courses require reading, then is very little systematic instruction in how to comprehend texts. vii

An emphasis on reading instruction can enhance the acquisition of standard English in many ways, including:

An increased awareness of the language. Immersion in the second language, resulting in increased acquisition. Models for improving writing in English Success in academic studies Improved vocabulary Increased cultural background knowledge And more vii

Learning to Teach Reading

When teaching is based on an understanding of underlying theories of reading and literacy development, teachers can be more confident and can plan more coherent lessons. viii

What is Reading?
A psycholinguistic guessing game (Goodman, 1970) [ read passage: p 1] As a reader of English, you probably engaged in the following activities while you were reading. Sampling the text for clues to meaning Predicting what will come next, using schema Testing this guess by further sampling of the text Confirming your guess or rejecting it and seeking another hypothesis. p15

Strategies of Fluent Readers

1. 2. 3. 4.


You notice the distinctive features in letters, words, and meanings. You guessed and took risks to predict meaning. You read to identify meaning rather than individual letters and words. You took an active role and applied your knowledge of the world and the topic you were attempting to understand You read as though you expected the text t make sense.

Strategies of Fluent Readers, contd




You made use of redundancies orthographic, syntactic, and semantic to reduce uncertainty about meaning. You maintained enough speed to overcome the limitations of visual processing and memory systems. (short term memory = 7 chunks) You constantly switched back and forth between the text and what you already know in an effort to understand.

You probably made several unsuccessful guesses before you finally had complete comprehension. p2 7

The Reading Process

When a person reads, two aspects of the human information processing system continuously interact; focusing on concepts (top-down) and focusing on data (bottom-up). The two processing strategies are employed interactively, but the ARE NOT USED EQUALLY. A reader who has a mastery of the texts vocabulary but is unfamiliar with the topic will rely on word knowledge in order to comprehend the text. [Compensatory Model] 8 p3

A Reading Model
The reader samples the text, instantly compares the data with what they already know, trying to find a match. The textual information activates prior knowledge, and the prior knowledge, in turn, activates expectations about what is in the text. If the reader is satisfied with the match between text and prior knowledge, then comprehension has occurred. (AHA!) p3

Second Language Learners

L2 readers, especially beginners, often rely heavily on the text, especially on the level of WORDS. Relying primarily on bottom-up processing will not always result in successful interpretation of the authors intended meaning, because the author has made assumptions about the background knowledge that a reader will bring to the text. Many researchers have argued that the concepts which a reader brings to a text are actually MORE important than the text itself for comprehension. p4

Second Language Learners

BUT, When second language learners rely too heavily on top-down processing to comprehend a text, they can be misled if their interpretations are based on cultural schemata which do not match those the author had in mind. Our culture and prior experiences influence our interpretations. [do example: More Word Power p 69] p5

Implications for Teachers

In order for students to comprehend texts in standard English, they need to develop new schemata of language, text, and interpretation, as well as schemata of alternative cultural practices and values. Teaching reading in standard English to second language learners (and other LEP students) can be seen as teaching an alternative cultural literacy.

Connections between Language and Literacy

Attitudes toward reading and writing flow naturally out of the ways a local culture uses oral language. Is it an oral culture or a written one; is meaning individually arrived at, or a group effort? The way ideas are organized varies across cultures. [contrastive analysis] Cultures vary regarding their view of the role and responsibility of reader and writer. Narrative structures differ p 7-8 13

Second language teachers often expect reading skills to transfer from the first language to the second. The foregoing is important evidence for NOT expecting that to happen!

What Students Need to be Able to Do


3. 4. 5. 6. 7.

Develop new schemata about reading Break the habit of reading every word Learn how to tap their background knowledge Strengthen their bottom up processing skills Learn strategies to process interactively Learn to read faster Learn to read in English for pleasure p 10

Applying Research to Practice

Students will learn to read in English best in a class which includes, on a REGULAR basis: 1. Substantial opportunities for reading selfselected book for pleasure and for taking bout their books. 2. Focused, interactive lessons on specific reading strategies, with opportunities to apply the strategies to a variety of texts. 3. Training and practice in speeded reading. p 11 16

Reading Strategies (Skills)


3. 4. 5. 6.

8. 9.

Automatic decoding (lots of SIGHT words) Previewing and Predicting Specifying purpose Indentifying genre Questioning Scanning Recognizing topics Classing ideas into main topics and details Locating topic sentences


Strategies contd.
10. 11.


13. 14. 15.


Stating the main idea Recognizing patterns between ideas Identifying connecting words (first, second, third) Inferring the main idea Recognizing and using referents (pronouns) Guessing unknown words from context. Skimming Paraphrasing, restating texts

Strategies contd.
18. 19.

21. 22. 23. 24.

Summarizing Drawing conclusions Drawing inferences Visualizing Reading critically Reading faster Adjusting reading rate according to need p 26

Cognitive skills are the strategies which a reader employs in making sense of a passage. Research has shown that students learn new strategies or thinking processes best when they are consciously aware of what they are doing and their purpose for doing it. p 28

Once students are conscious of the skills and how to use them, students can learn to monitor their own comprehension and apply appropriate strategies as needed for making sense of a text. This is called metacognition. There are 3 types of METACOGNITION: 1. Self-knowledge strengths and weaknesses 2. Task knowledge able to choose strategies 3. Self-monitoring being aware of ones self p 28 21

Teaching Skill-Focused Lessons

Begin by deciding which reading strategies would benefit your students the most. (SORS) For each skill, design a sequence of exercises which begins with very simple tasks and gradually increases in complexity. Do not include new vocabulary, grammar, unfamiliar things: only one challenge at a time. Begin by doing the skill orally. Beginners can do the exercise in L1 if needed to facilitate the development of the desired cognitive process.


Teaching Skill-Focused Lessons

In order to become aware of their own development as L2 readers, students should monitor themselves at first with record keeping techniques, lists, and diaries. In order to become aware of their own thinking processes, have students work in pairs or small groups to talk out their new strategy (also adds interest and fun to the tasks) Base the lessons on issues that are interesting to the entire class. (Day: context/explain/recycle) p 29 23

Your Lesson Plan

2. 3.


6. 7. 8. 9.

Focus on one skill at a time. Explain the purpose and why it is important. Do a sample exercise with the whole class. Assign a practice exercise to pairs of students . When completed, discuss it with class. Ask, what was your thinking? Assign more paired exercises in days ahead. Assign individual exercises. Assign additional exercises as needed in future. Apply the skill (and review/practice all others) in an all-class intensive reading lesson. 24 p 30




The teacher is the most important element! The teacher should provide students: 1. an anxiety free atmosphere in class so students will feel free to experiment; 2. practice so they will master new strategies; 3. Pressure in the form of persuasion and timings. Some ESSENTIAL roles of the teacher are that of model READERS, INTERPRETERS, AND THINKERS. p 31 26