К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2012
Автор: Аманкулова Айгерим Ергазыевна
about learning a foreign language, people tend to focus on speaking,
pronunciation, and some, who have been exposed to a foreign speech long enough,
might mention listening as important areas of development for acquiring a
foreign language. Ignoring reading, especially reading authentic literature,
takes its toll on English-as-a-Foreign-Language (EFL) learners and affects all
other skills, such as speaking, listening, and writing. EFL learners that the
author refers to throughout the work are EFL learners majoring in Teaching
English as a Foreign Language (TEFL), i.e. students learning English to teach
it to others.
This work while
focusing on reading does not have as its aim to downplay the roles of the other
three skills: speaking, listening, and writing. On the contrary, the work embarks
on the quest of restoring some of the ignored but vital aspects of teaching
reading authentic literature in the target language that will inevitably result
in overall better foreign language acquisition. The author of this work
believes that teaching combined extensive and intensive reading skills without
unnecessary divorce between the two types of reading is the optimal way of
teaching reading to TEFL students at a local university. Before launching into
the discussion of the important teaching reading aspects, one should be aware
of the differences between intensive and extensive reading since it is on the
analysis of those two that the claim stated in this work will be supported.
According to the
description of intensive reading provided by the British Council website,
intensive reading focuses on reading with special attention to details
presented in the text for the purpose of answering some questions,
accomplishing various tasks. An example of intensive reading might be reading a
text and choosing the most appropriate title for the text among the presented
options. Intensive reading exercises can vary from skimming a text to answer a
specific question to scanning a jumbled text extracts to put them in the
required order (http://www. teachingenglish. org.uk/ knowledge-database/
intensive-reading). Alice Omaggio Hadley in her book Teaching Language in
Context (2001) defines intensive reading partially by comparing it to extensive
reading, “In intensive reading,”-Hadley states, “often for information,
students need to understand linguistic as well as semantic detail and pay close
attention to the text. In extensive reading, often for pleasure, students need
not necessary comprehend all the details of the text. Rather, speed and skill
in getting the gist are more important criteria for training in this type of
reading task. Understanding in a general way the author’s intent, getting the
main ideas, and reacting to the material personally are also reading goals when
reading extensively” (Hadley, 205).
definition of extensive reading agrees with the provided above definition,
adding that students in order to enjoy reading in the second / foreign language
should have a say in choosing books to read depending on their interests.
According to the same source, discussions do not necessarily have to follow
extensive reading (http://www. teachingenglish. org.uk/
the two types of reading makes it clear that it is the purpose for which EFL
learners read that serves as a decisive criterion between the two types of reading.
Intensive – extensive reading classification is helpful in EFL classroom for it
makes reading purposes and goals clear both for an EFL teacher and an EFL
learner, which might and should result in a more efficient reading, that is,
reading that achieves its stated goal.
Most of the
interactive English textbooks used by local universities nowadays teach
intensive reading skills. Students themselves are more willing to grow as
intensive readers. International English tests such as International English
Language Testing System (IELTS) and Test of English as a Foreign Language
(TOEFL), passing which opens new educational opportunities in English-speaking
countries, make intensive reading skills more and more popular. While,
developing intensive reading skills is important and highly-demanded,
test-geared ignorance about and ignoring of extensive reading is dangerous for
EFL learners majoring in TEFL. Hadley provides several reasons “… for including
reading skill development as a vital part of the second-language curriculum:
(1) Reading is still essential in the teaching of literature, which remains an
important goal in many programs; (2) it is a skill that can be maintained after
students complete formal language study; (3) it fosters the development and
refinement of literacy skills” (Hadley, 177).
does not differentiates between the two types of reading in the presented
extract, in light of unbalanced attention to intensive reading and generally
sunk-into-oblivion extensive reading, it appears necessary to restore the value
of extensive reading, introduce it back into EFL classrooms, and teach EFL
students to enjoy it not merely for the aesthetic pleasure it brings, but to approach
extensive reading with intensive reading techniques to enjoy it even more than
into consideration the fact that TEFL student indeed take English literature
course and encounter many other classes where extensive reading is essential,
extensive reading becomes all the more important for that group of students.
Even though for
the sake of making an argument and because of the extensive research done in
the area of reading, intensive and extensive types of reading are separated in
EFL classroom, in real life people sometimes combine intensive and extensive
reading when using their native language. In that regard, a quote by Adler
(1940:14) describes one of the instances when two types of readings merge into
an acute meaning-deciphering activity.
If we consider men
and women generally, and apart from their professions or occupations, there is
only one situation I can think of in which they almost pull themselves up by
their bootstraps, making an effort to read better than they usually do. When
they are in love and are reading a love letter, they read for all they worth.
They read every word three ways; they read between the lines and in the margins;
they grow sensitive to context and ambiguity, to insinuation and implication;
they perceive the color of words, the odor of phrases, and the weight of
sentences. They may even take the punctuation into account. Then, if never
before or after, they read.
Sadly, the two
types of reading are either being divorced from each other completely in EFL
classrooms or taught not in the most efficient way. Disregarding purposes of
reading, stages of reading depending on the type of reading, level of the
English language acquisition in a particular group, interests and the
demographic characteristics of a group – disregard for all of the mentioned
factors combined result in less efficient way of teaching reading.
The two ways of
approaching reading that have been dominating EFL classrooms for decades in
East Kazakhstan universities specializing in teaching future EFL teachers come
down to Home Reading and Individual Reading with the exception of occasional
reading of texts in English textbooks with the sole purpose of picking up new
vocabulary and seeing that vocabulary within a context. While good in
themselves, Home Reading and Individual Reading were narrowed down to
summarizing the content of the text and, in case of Home Reading, to unguided
or poorly conducted discussions. For Individual Reading students were not even
required to discuss the text. Roughly, Individual Reading falls into extensive
reading category and Home Reading – into intensive reading category because of
It is necessary to
explain in more detail why Home and Individual Readings were inefficient.
Individual Reading was done by EFL students without instructor’s guidance as to
how to read the text and what to do with it except for preparing a summary and
some new vocabulary. EFL students are required to read Individual Reading
books beginning either first or second semester of their freshmen year.
Depending on the level of English language acquisition, students might or might
not have problems with approaching Individual Reading. In case of a lower level
of English acquisition, students are left groping for meaning in the text they
encounter one-on-one with nobody to help. Not being aware of the reading
process, students, thus, remain unaware of the reasons for unsuccessful
attempts to at least decode the sentences in English. The consequence of that
is either unprepared for Individual Reading students or students deprived of
any desire to do anything with reading in English unless left without a choice.
In case of Home
Reading texts that students are expected to read are usually shorter than those
for Individual Reading. Students read a Home Reading text, do some vocabulary
exercises, if those are provided, and then have discussions based on the text.
Discussions, as have been mentioned above, are either not guided or poorly
conducted. Guidance-deprived discussions are those that have questions asked in
random order for the sake of stating questions, that is, for the sake of
speaking. This attitude results from the attitude students approach the text
with. Students see a text as a frame within which a target vocabulary is
engraved. Their mission then becomes to pick out those verbal gems and apply
them when speaking. This attitude creates an artificial discussion that focuses
on using the target vocabulary, not so much on analyzing what was read, which
unmistakably will involve the use of the target vocabulary. Excessive focus on
the use of target vocabulary leads discussions into dead-ends that are usually
worded as “It all depends” or “Tastes differ.” Those notorious answers known to
many EFL students and instructors are usual closures to pretended discussions.
Individual Readings are not being criticized in themselves. It is how they are
being handled that is being addressed. Approaching reading with full
understanding of the potential and deep and clear view of the process of reading
could bring out of Home and Individual Readings so much more than mere summary
and a list of words to memorize.
Reading does not end with simply decoding symbols
written or typed on a medium (paper, computer screen). Reading is one of
perceptive skills. When information is received through reading, it is usually
processed. Knowing that, EFL instructors should not ignore the cognitive side
of reading in the target language. Therefore, discussions questions should
create an environment and a need for talking about the text; the questions
should evoke interest in the reading material and create a desire to think
about the text deeper.
One can achieve
that through modeling effective discussions conducted as Socratic seminars.
Socratic seminar is a method of approaching reading material through asking
three types of questions in order to analyze the text in focus. Socratic
Seminar encourages students to think about the material, form their opinions,
and share their views. This teaching method has a lot to offer for EFL teachers
and learners because it creates almost perfect environment for application of
grammar, vocabulary, and speaking skills. When conducting a Socratic seminar
students should come to the class having read the text beforehand.
a set of questions for each stage of the seminar. The first group of questions
is Opening questions. Opening questions have several objectives among which are
to guide students’ thinking in the necessary for the seminar direction, to help
students relate to the text they read, to activate the necessary vocabulary for
further discussion. One of the ways of conducting this part of Socratic seminar
is handing out a list of various questions based on the text, e.g., pick
different situations from the text and ask questions about those situations,
giving students some time to choose a question they want to answer and prepare
their answer. To open the floor for discussion every student should answer one
of the opening questions. Students may do in any order. The main condition of
conducting this part of the seminar is that no one is excluded from answering
one opening question.
Next stage of
Socratic seminar is asking Core questions. Core questions shift focus from the
readers to the actual text. Those types of questions deal with some particular
conflict and characters within the context of the story. These questions
usually try answer Why questions, trying to understand the reasoning behind the
events and actions in the given text.
The last type of
questions being presented during the seminar is closing questions. Closing
questions connect the story and the students to a global community. They bring
conflict and reasons of the conflict outside of the text and see how
conclusions made about the conflict can be applied in real life of students in
particular and of society in general.
By conducting and
modeling Socratic seminars several times, instructor later may delegate the
responsibility of preparing seminar questions and conducting the actual seminars
to the students. Socratic seminars train students to approach a literary text
with questions similar to opening, core, and closing questions. Socratic
seminars encourage students to think about a text in a foreign language in the
same way they might approach a text in their native language. When carefully
planned, these seminars create an environment within which new vocabulary can
be meaningfully applied not for the sake of uttering new words, but in a
natural sense of using words, that is, to express one’s thoughts and opinions.
combine both extensive and intensive reading skills because students approach a
literary text read for pleasure with the intensity of intensive reading,
digging into the text to appreciate it even more and get pleasure that is more
aesthetic from reading it.
seminars are instructor-led at least at the beginning, creating literature
circles and discussing books in literature circles is students-led by
definition. In literature circles, it is the circle members who take the
responsibility for reading and thinking about the texts. Literature circles are
groups of students that read the same book together at the same pace and meet
regularly to discuss what they have read from different perspectives. Literature
circles are not new, they are new in Kazakhstan.
Behind the idea of
literature circles lies a natural desire of active readers to share their
impressions about what they have read. Some of the students might not even be
active readers, Literature circles help to develop active reading skills for
those students who lack the necessary skills. What literature circles do is
creating an environment that encourages and organizes meaningful reading
discussions. Students not being exposed to the phenomenon of independently
discussing and sharing their thoughts about reading material do not usually
have a clear idea of how people should get together and talk about books.
Literature circles are helpful in that regard by way of having different roles
assigned to circle members. Students rotate their roles as they progress
through the book that the circle is reading.
literature circles, instructor should keep in mind that students should have a
choice as to what book their group would like to read. Instructor should
provide as broad of a choice for the groups as possible. Questionnaires might
be helpful when providing a book and creating a circle. Students can either
organize themselves into literature circles by book they chose or by the people
they feel comfortable discussing a book. In any case, students should not be
forced into a literature circle.
literature circle roles include Summarizer, Connector, Literary Luminary,
Researcher, and Questioner. (Daniels, 107). Presented roles target active
reading skills. When performing assigned literature circle roles, students
become aware of the process that is involved in developing targeted active
reading skills as each role is explained and broken down to easy-to-follow
steps. Rotating the roles provides students with opportunities to develop all
of the active reading skills and hopefully develop a habit of reading texts actively.
As with the
Socratic Seminars, Literature Circles combine intensive and extensive reading
skills helping students appreciate and enjoy reading with more. Combining extensive
and intensive reading skills is what is necessary to restore deep, meaningful,
exuberant nature of reading literary text in a target foreign language.
Students are aware of the fact that they are reading in a foreign language when
they encounter the alphabetic symbols of that foreign language on a page. The
goal of merging intensive and extensive skills is to make students aware of the
fact that they are reading a literary text and should enjoy the process just as
if they do when reading in their native language.
between reading in one’s native and foreign languages in terms of comprehension
and reading goal cannot happen only by enlarging one’s vocabulary in a foreign
language. One needs to treat reading in a foreign language as one does reading
in a native language with objective exceptions to some extra work done while
reading in a foreign language. When students majoring in TEFL realize that they
can enjoy literature in a foreign language the same way they do in their native
language, they feel encouraged and empowered and the challenges they face when
encountering a text in a foreign target language cease to dismay a reader, but
entice him / her with potential enjoyment anticipated as one copes with those
challenges on the quest of enjoying the text.
Reading does not end with decoding written
symbols. Reading, when unfolded, is decoding the message, the reason and
purpose that drove the source of the message to deliver the message, receiver’s
response to the message, and the impact it has on both the source and the
receiver of the message, or to put it plainly, reading is a live conversation.
The live conversation that is happening between an author and his/ her
audience, it is so live that time and space separating the participants of this
conversation is not a hindrance, but a medium, delivering the words through
ages and continents. Shrinking reading down to a mere source of new vocabulary
or disgracing it with un-thought and lightly-taken ‘discussions’ does not do
the justice to the true, deep, and rich meaning and purpose reading is intended
Daniels, Harvey. Literature Circle: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading
Groups. Portland: Sten house Publishers, 2002. Print.
Hudson, Thom. Teaching Second Language Reading. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.
Hadley, Alice Omaggio. Teaching Language in Context. Boston: Heiley& Heiley,
“Intensive Reading.” Teaching English. British Council. Web. 1 March. 2012.
5. Extensive Reading. Teaching English. British Council. Web. 1 March. 2012.
К содержанию номера журнала: Вестник КАСУ №2 - 2012