К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2011
Автор: Амиргазина Айнур
The ability to
read is considered one of the most important skills that learners of English as
a Second Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL) need to
acquire. Reading is a receptive skill in which people extract meaning from the
discourse they see.
There are many
reasons why getting students to read English texts is a part of a teacher's
job. In the first place, many of them think it important to be able to read
texts in English either for their careers, for studying purposes or simply for
pleasure. Anything we can do to make reading easier for them must be a good
The actuality of
teaching students to read critically is based on the fact that nowadays our
country tends to accept educational standards of European countries and the
most specific feature of the educational system in Kazakhstan is the transition
to credit system. It means that students must possess the ability to work
individually. Teachers should aim to develop learners’ skills of this type of
work from early stages. The practical purpose raised at school is the
developing practical reading skills.
J. Harmer, like
most researches makes difference between “extensive” and “intensive” reading.
In his opinion, the former suggests reading at length, often for pleasure and
in a leisurely way, intensive reading tends to be more concentrated, less relaxed,
and often dedicated not so much to pleasure as to the achievement of a study
goal [1; p. 199].
frequently takes place when students are on their own, whereas intensive
reading is often done with the help and/or intervention of the teacher.
– especially where students are reading material written specially at their
level – has a number of benefits for the development of a student’s language.
This kind of reading makes students more positive, improves their overall comprehension
skills, gives them a wider passive and active vocabulary, enables students to
read without constantly stopping and provides an increased word recognition. It
is the best possible way for them to develop automaticity. But it is not enough
to tell students “to read a lot”; we need to offer them a program which
includes appropriate materials, guidance, tasks, and facilities such as
libraries of books [1; p.204].
In order to get
students to read enthusiastically in class, it is desirable to observe a number
Nuttall Christine, the first thing we should always remember is that reading is
not a passive skill. Reading is an incredibly active occupation. To do it
successfully, we have to understand what the words mean, see the pictures the
words are painting, understand the arguments, and work out if we agree with
them. If we do not do these things - and if students do not do these things -
then we only just scratch the surface of the text and we quickly forget it [2;
need to be engaged with what they are reading. As with everything else in
lessons, students who are not engaged with the reading text or actively interested
in what they are doing - are less likely to benefit from it. When they are
really fired up by the topic or the task, they get much more from what is in
front of them.
For the third,
students should be encouraged to respond to the content of a reading text, not
just to the language. Of course, it is important to study reading texts for the
way they use language, the number of paragraphs they contain and how many times
they use relative clauses. But the meaning, the message of the text, is just as
important and we must give students a chance to respond to that message in some
way. It is especially important that they should be allowed to express their
feelings about the topic - thus provoking personal engagement with it and the
The forth thing to
know is that prediction is a major factor in reading. The moment we get a hint
- the book cover, the headline, the word-processed page - our brain starts predicting
what we are going to read. Expectations are set up and the active process of
reading is ready to begin. Teachers should give students ‘hints’ so that they
can predicate what’s coming, too. It will make them better and more engaged
For the fifth, it
is important to match the task to the topic. Once a decision has been taken
about what reading text the students are going to read, we need to choose good
reading tasks - the right kind of questions, engaging and useful puzzles, etc.
The most interesting text can be undermined by asking boring and inappropriate
questions; the most commonplace passage can be made really exciting with
imaginative and challenging tasks. We could give students Hamlet's famous
soliloquy 'To be or not to be' and ask them to say how many times the
infinitive is used. We could give them a restaurant menu and ask them to list
the ingredients alphabetically. There might be reasons for both tasks, but, on
the face of it, they look a bit silly. We will probably be more interested in
what Hamlet means and what the menu foods actually are.
For the sixth,
good teachers exploit reading texts to the full. Any reading text is full of
sentences, words, ideas, descriptions, etc. It does not make sense just to get
students to read it and then drop it to move on to something else. Good
teachers integrate the text for reading into interesting class sequences, using
the topic for discussion and further tasks, using the language for study and
concerning teaching reading is reading speed. In any self-assessment or
questionnaire – based survey, students almost always cite reading as the skill
causing them least difficulty. This is probably correct, at least in relation
to the other skills. However, it does not mean that students have no problems
with reading at all. The most usual difficulty is that indicated in Geoghegam’s
analysis at Cambridge, i.e. an ability to read at adequate speed [3; p. 56].
As students need
to read extensively as well as intensively, it is important that they are able
to do so in the most efficient way. Efficiency is coupled with speed of
reading, and it was noticed that some students read slowly. It is for this
reason that some reading courses include practice material aimed at increasing
speed and comprehension rate.
It should be noted
that there are two opposite points of view regarding reading speed. One is that
because students have difficulties with reading comprehension, probably linked
to a narrow range of vocabulary, they will naturally read slowly, and any
attempt to increase reading speed before improving reading comprehension is
misguided. The other point of view is that by improving reading speed, the
student is able to see longer stretches of language with each fixation of the
eyes and thus more easily contextualize unknown vocabulary and be able to
achieve general understanding [3; p. 57].
A good method of
increasing reading speed is for students to note the time they take to read a
passage in words per minute (wpm) and to answer comprehension questions – often
true/false or multiple choice, noting their score. Over the years various
measures and estimates have been made of slow, average and fast reading speeds
for serious reading material.
three kinds of reading speeds and then compared the performance of a poor
reader and a good reader. Less than 200 wpm is considered slow, about 250 wpm -
average, and above 300 – 400 wpm - fast, 250 wpm - is an attainable minimum. He
then made an experiment with his wife and himself (both native English
speakers). Averaging both their speeds they found that reading aloud they read
at 194 wpm, reading to themselves but mouthing words audibly they read at 294
wpm and reading silently they read at 385 wpm [4; p. 16].
We can see from
the table that reading speed also depends on the objective the teacher puts
forward in reading, and results in how full the comprehension of the text is.
exist on methods how to increase reading speed. Clearly, a student is at a
disadvantage if faced with a long reading list if he or she can only read
slowly. ‘Slowly’ is, of course, subjective, and will vary from reader to
reader, and will depend on the text type. It is easier to read a light novel
quickly with understanding than a densely-packed textbook.
courses usually discuss the causes of slow reading. This invariability includes
reference to eye movements (i.e. mechanical) and brain function (i.e. comprehension).
Factors considered are:
• eye and
• reading word-by
word instead of in word groups/thought units;
• eye regressions
along the line;
• slowness in word
• poor vocabulary
• vocalizing (i.e.
• sub –
vocalization (i.e. saying words silently to oneself);
• disability to
predict language [5; p.25].
Methods to improve
reading efficiency usually involve exercises and practice in increasing
vocabulary range, anticipation of language, improved comprehension, awareness
of eye movements, variable reading speed and timed reading passages.
It is essential
for students to be able to skim and scan texts. Skimming involves the quick
reading of a text – not every word – in order to understand the gist or main
points of a passage, i.e. the overall meaning. [5; p. 33] Scanning involves
quickly looking through a text, or surveying it, in order to find specific
information. [5; p. 41] When skimming and scanning, a student should be looking
at the heavy information words (or ‘content words’, i.e. nouns and verbs)
rather than the grammatical or structural words (e.g. articles, prepositions).
Many students feel
daunted by the idea that they must read quickly during the test. Any activity
where speed is emphasized can help to break down the idea that reading slowly
and carefully is the only way to understanding. Teachers could begin by setting
very simple scanning tasks (asking students to locate names or other nouns that
occur in the text). This can help to build up confidence. Teachers could then
move on to ask students to locate simple synonyms (asking students to find a
word meaning ‘a building’ – ‘house’ perhaps, or a word meaning ‘a vehicle’ –
maybe ‘truck’) Gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise; tasks should
be moderately challenging, but should not be too far beyond the ability level
of the majority of your students. “Find it fast” is an activity that will help
reinforce the idea of speed.
contribution to our knowledge of reading, with many implications for the
classroom, is provided by Schema theory. Bartram [4; p.98] first used this
particular term to explain how the knowledge that we have about the world is
organized into interrelated patterns based on our previous knowledge and
experience. These 'schemata' also allow us to predict what may happen. This
theory takes our idea of the interactive reading process a stage further by
proposing that efficient readers are able to relate 'texts' to their background
knowledge of the world. Brown and Yule, McCarthy and Carter, Cook and Nunan all
provide accounts of how this background knowledge can influence the comprehension
process. Clearly it can sometimes be based on previous knowledge of similar
texts. For example, if we are reading a newspaper, we know from previous
experience about the typeface, the layout, the order in which the information
is presented and so on. We share cultural background material with others. As
Nunan [43; p. 95] writes, 'We interpret what we read in terms of what we
already know, and we integrate what we already know with the content of what we
are reading.' The word 'wedding' in a British context could engender a complete
schematic framework to accompany it; that is, 'last Saturday', 'Registry
Office', 'Best Man' and so on. This is why reading something written by someone
in a language with different cultural assumptions from ours can be difficult.
Overseas teachers and students sometimes complain that reading literature in an
L2 is problematic not just because of the language, but also because shared
assumptions or different schemata do not always match up.
In many cases an
efficient reader appears to use what are called 'top-down' and 'bottom-up'
strategies. This means that the reader will not just try to decipher the
meaning of individual lexical items but will also have clear ideas about the
overall rhetorical organization of the text. The essential features of the
bottom-up approach are that the reader tries to decode each individual letter
encountered by matching it to the minimal units of meaning in the sound system
(the phoneme) to arrive at a meaning of the text, whereas with the top-down
approach, the interaction process between the reader and the text, involves the
reader in activating knowledge of the world, plus past experiences,
expectations and intuitions, to arrive at a meaning of the text. In other
words, the top-down process interacts with the bottom-up process in order to
aid comprehension. It is most useful to see the act of reading as the
interaction between top-down and bottom-up processing. Sometimes it is the
individual details that help us understand the whole; sometimes it is our
overview that allows us to process the details.
We might further
illustrate this by looking at a speaking/listening analogy first of all. If
someone asks us, 'Have you got a light?' and we get stuck at the level of the
bottom-up process by working out each individual word, then clearly we are
missing the top-down request, that the speaker is in fact asking for a match. As
teachers we may want to offer our learners one effective reading strategy,
which might be to approach the text by noting the title first of all. This
clearly points ahead to what the writer will be saying and how the argument
develops at various stages in the text itself, when the author is giving
approval and disapproval to various types of information. The reader may also
put 'schematic' knowledge into operation: in other words an understanding of
the background to some facts. This 'top-down' processing would interact with
the text as would the 'bottom-up' processing at the lexical level. The reader
may also get through the passage by means of what are sometimes referred to as
the discourse signposts in the text: expressions such as 'however', 'fortunately',
and 'there are’, ‘nonetheless', which are meant as a useful guide for the
Reading can be the aim teaching of a foreign
language, but at the same time it can be a mean of teaching other skills that
should be mastered by learners. The positive results of such work will spread
beyond the field of foreign-language learning. Improving our students’ ability
to read in the foreign language will improve their overall reading competence,
even in their own language. Moreover, the skills in which learners have been
systematically trained (anticipating, inferencing, structuring, analyzing,
etc.) are required throughout the curriculum, independently of the subject
Jeremy Harmer. The Practice of English Language Teaching. Longman, 2001. – p. 199-227.
Nuttall Christine. Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language. London: Heinemann Educational. 1999. – p. 87-95.
Geoghegam, J. Class readers. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1983. – p. 54-57.
Fry T. Embracing Contraries: Explorations in Learning and Teaching. New York: Ox ford University Press, 1963. – p. 12-19.
Glendinning T.M., Holmstrom V.A. Reading in a Foreign Language: A reading problem
or a language problem? New York: Longman, 1999. – p. 25-72.
Bartram M. and R. Walton. Hove: Language Teaching Publications. New York: Longman, 1998. – p. 86-110.
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2011