Thursday, December 17, 2009

Extensive reading: why it is good for our students… and for us. | Teaching English | British Council | BBC

An article by Alan Maley posted to BBC's Teaching English, 9 December, 2009: "Extensive reading: why it is good for our students… and for us." In this, the first of two articles for TeachingEnglish, Alan Maley considers the benefits extensive reading can bring to English language learners and teachers.

What is Extensive Reading (ER)?
Extensive Reading is often referred to but it is worth checking on what it actually involves. Richard Day has provided a list of key characteristics of ER (Day 2002). This is complemented by Philip Prowse (2002). Maley (2008) deals with ER comprehensively. The following is a digest of the two lists of factors or principles for successful ER:

  1. Students read a lot and read often.
  2. There is a wide variety of text types and topics to choose from.
  3. The texts are not just interesting: they are engaging/ compelling.
  4. Students choose what to read.
  5. Reading purposes focus on: pleasure, information and general understanding.
  6. Reading is its own reward.
  7. There are no tests, no exercises, no questions and no dictionaries.
  8. Materials are within the language competence of the students.
  9. Reading is individual, and silent.
  10. Speed is faster, not deliberate and slow.
  11. The teacher explains the goals and procedures clearly, then monitors and guides the students.
  12. The teacher is a role model…a reader, who participates along with the students.
The model is very much like that for L1 reading proposed by Atwell (2006). It has been variously described as Free Voluntary Reading (FEVER), Uninterrupted Silent Reading (USR), Sustained Silent Reading (SSR), Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), or Positive Outcomes While Enjoying Reading (POWER).

So what are the benefits of ER?
Both common sense observation and copious research evidence bear out the many benefits which come from ER (Waring 2000, 2006). There are useful summaries of the evidence in Day and Bamford (1998: 32-39) and The Special Issue of The Language Teacher (1997) including articles by Paul Nation and others, and passionate advocacy in Krashen’s The Power of Reading. (2004). The journals Reading in a Foreign Language and the International Journal of Foreign Language Learning are also good sources of research studies supporting ER. (see references for websites) And there is the indispensable annotated bibliography,

So what does it all add up to? Read the article and find out. Do you agree or disagree? How often do you read in English?

Extensive reading: why it is good for our students… and for us. | Teaching English | British Council | BBC

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