The importance of predicting and interacting
with texts in developing learners reading skills
by Malgorzata Bryndal
In the previous lesson the students were introduced to a new language structure, namely the second conditional through a series of listening and reading activities. In the observed lesson the students will be practising reading skills via a simulated authentic text, which will also serve as a springboard to a follow-up speaking activity reinforcing the learning of the second conditional. This lesson will be followed by a session focused on developing the students’ vocabulary related to the topic of film/entertainment.
I have decided to focus on reading skills with this particular class in response to their learning needs and taking upon their initiative to practise reading authentic texts in class. Previous reading lessons revealed that although the learners cope with reading tasks generally well, they need training in reading strategies (especially predicting and inferring) and in improving reading speed and fluency.
The choice of the topic for the text was guided by the principle of selecting materials within the students’ shared world and cultural knowledge and determined by the students’ interests. The students are all following Asian soap operas on satellite TV and are up to date with current Bollywood gossip. Therefore, they should respond well to the article and the interview with Sagneeta Ghosh (an Indian soap opera actress) and, as indicated in part I, the familiarity of content will enable them to activate the schemata they need to process the new information from the text, hence aiding comprehension.
As I argued in part I, in order to develop reading fluency students need exposure to authentic texts. However, in the absence of good authentic materials the use of simulated authentic texts is justified (cf. Widdowson 1979)(1). As finding appropriate text proved to be quite difficult, I decided to design my materials simulating authentic texts, using 2 authentic sources: an internet site article http://www.tribuneindia.com/ and an article from a Bollywood magazine Cineblitz. The texts were relevant in terms of topic and contained natural uses of 2 nd conditional, thus seemed appropriate considering the students’ content and formal schemata. The designed material lends itself to practising the skill of predicting and inferring, and the activities draw on the interactive nature of reading.
Majority of the students have previously studied English via the traditional, grammar-translation method, and have not developed top-down text processing strategies, and rely firmly on the bottom-up, word-for-word reading. It is most evident in their reluctance to read silently. Although they are generally able to create meaning from the text, they are often unable to make predictions about various aspects related to the reading passage, nor can they make inferences if the facts are not stated explicitly. As I argued in part I of this assignment, the ability to make predictions about the text is crucial for successful reading comprehension, therefore, I decided that the problems with this strategy needed to be addressed in the lesson.
The procedure I intend to follow in the lesson is the 3-phase approach with pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading stages. It allows structuring the activities to guide students through the reading process starting with general and moving to more detailed comprehension tasks, reflecting the top-down view of the reading process. The pre-reading phase (stage1 of the lesson) serves to generate interest and activate students’ schemata. It will give me a chance to judge if the students have sufficient linguistic and schematic knowledge to cope with the text and if more time needs to be spent on activating schemata.
In the while-reading phase (stages 2,3,4,5 of the lesson) the students are practising skimming and scanning and are given a chance to see how making predictions can help them make sense of the text. In this stage of the lesson comprehension is going to be checked with a ‘true/false/impossible to say’ questions. The choice of this particular type of questions was dictated by the fact that they are said to be the most accurate gauge of understanding (especially if supplemented with the additional ‘why’ questions, cf. Swaffer 1985(2)) as it does not impose the teacher’s interpretation of the text as the single correct one.
In the post-reading phase (stages 6,7) the reading skills are integrated with speaking skills through a personalised activity which gives the learners a chance to respond to the text and develop their skill of reflection and critical reading. It also serves as a learning reinforcing activity of the previously introduced 2 nd conditional structure.
Throughout the lesson the SS will be closely monitored at all stages of the lesson, and I will make note of any persistent errors or problems to deal with through feedback or in the future remedial and revision work.
1. Widdowson, H.G. (1979) The authenticity of language data. In: H.G.Widdowson: Explorations in Applied Linguistics 2.Oxford: OUP.
1. Swaffer, J. (1985) Reading authentic texts in a foreign language: a cognitive model. The Modern Language Journal 69 (1), 15-34.
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