Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Reading activities

Many textbooks which state the aim of improving learners’ reading ability claim that they develop certain strategies through the activities they offer. Here are some of them:

  1. Find a specific item of information quickly.
  2. Make use of accompanying information, e.g. headings, pictures, to predict the content of the text.
  3. Distinguish between fact and opinion.
  4. Guess the meanings of unfamiliar words by using contextual clues.
  5. Read at different speeds for different purposes.
  6. Recognize larger rhetorical patters such as classification, cause-effect, problem-solution, etc.
  7. Recognize coherence relations such as main idea, supporting details, examples.
  8. Use prior knowledge to work out meanings within the text.
  9. Predict the connections between parts of the text form the use of connectives.
  10. Use the dictionary well and understand its limitations.
  11. Realize that a writer does not express everything explicitly and in detail and make appropriate inferences.
  12. Respond appropriately to the text.

Would you add anything to the list that you feel is important? Choose a reading textbook and survey it to see if any or all of these strategies are trained.

I have surveyed English File 2 by Clive Oxenden, Paul Seligson and Christina Latham-Koenig (OUP; 1997) and I found that all of the items mentioned above are fostered in the book.

I would like to add some other activities to the list:

  • Read and find mistakes
  • Read and highlight specific words, e.g. adverbs of frequency
  • Read and connect it to your feelings, e.g. by asking questions like ‘Did you enjoy it?
  • Read and guess, e.g. read and guess her job
  • Read and complete the text with some words
  • Read and use the information to complete a map, chart, drawing, etc.

Let’s see what you think. Eager to know.



HEDGE, Tricia (2000), Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom, UK, OUP; Chapter 6 (Discussion Topics and Projects # 6- p. 223)

OXENDEN, Clive (1997), English File 2 Student's Book, OUP

Reading skills

Consider these examples of things students say they do when they meet difficulty in reading comprehension, particularly when they meet a new word or phrase. Would you encourage or discourage any of these, or suggest a sequence of strategies?

a. 'I think about whether the word is important for understanding the whole text': encourage.

b. ‘I read on to see if the word is repeated’: encourage, and it is connected to the one above, because if the word appears more than 3 times and it is key to the understanding of the text, we need to pay attention to it and try to guess the meaning.

c. ‘I go to my dictionary for a translation’: discourage. I will first ask my students to try to guess the meaning from the context and then to translate it but as the last resource.

d. ‘I think if there is a Spanish world like it’: discourage. Sometimes it is helpful, but most of the times words are misleading and they can be false cognates.

e. ‘I ask my teacher to explain’: discourage. I would try to foster independence by making my students try to guess the word or ask their partners, or resort to a dictionary.

f. ‘I look to see if the word has some part I know’: encourage. Sometimes we can guess the meaning of words by looking at its morphology.

g. ‘I say the word out loud’: encourage. Some students are auditory and need to hear the word to check whether they can guess it or not.

h. ‘I start again form the beginning of the sentence’: encourage. It is a good way to make students focus more closely on the context and not just the word, so they can guess it.

i. ‘I ask the other students in my group’: encourage. I don’t like to underestimate my students. Sometimes they know more than what they show.

j. ‘I write it in my notebook’: encourage. As long as the word is not written in isolation, it is a good technique to record the words the student finds interesting or useful and to remember them, most likely.

k. ‘I study the words around it’: encourage. Once more, the context should be the main help for students to guess a word.

I would include also: try to recognize what category the word falls into so as to restrict the scope of its meaning. And I would also like to highlight the importance of the context and meaning of the text so as to work out the meaning of a word.

I have racked my brains thinking about this, now the ball is in your court. What do you think about this entry? You are welcome to leave a comment, as usual.



HEDGE, Tricia (2000), Teaching and Learning in the Language Classroom, UK, OUP; Chapter 6 (Discussion Topics and Projects # 2- p. 222)