- Text characteristics
- Pre-reading tips
- During-reading tips
- After-reading tips
These tips can be viewed in three consecutive stages: before reading, during reading, and after reading. For instance, before starting to read a text it is natural to think of the purpose of reading the text. As an example of the during-reading techniques, re-reading for better comprehension can be mentioned. And filling out forms and charts can be referred to as an after-reading activity. These tasks and ideas can be used to enhance reading comprehension.
Good readers expect to understand what they are reading. Therefore, texts should contain words and grammatical structures familiar to the learners (Van Duzer, 1999). In texts where vocabulary is not familiar, teachers can introduce key vocabulary in pre-reading activities that focus on language awareness, such as finding synonyms, antonyms, derivatives, or associated words (Hood et al., 1996; cited in Van Duzer, 1999). The topics of texts chosen should be in accordance with the age range, interests, sex, and background culture of the students for whom they are intended. Pre-reading activities that introduce the text should encourage learners to use their background knowledge (Eskey, 1997; cited in Van Duzer, 1999). Class members can brainstorm ideas about the meaning of a title or an illustration and discuss what they know.
Before the actual act of reading a text begins, some points should be regarded in order to make the process of reading more comprehensible. It is necessary to provide the necessary background information to the reader to facilitate comprehension. In addition, as stated by Lebauer (1998), pre-reading activities can lighten students' cognitive burden while reading because prior discussions will have been incorporated.
- Teacher-directed pre-reading (Estes, 1999)
Some key vocabulary and ideas in the text are explained. In this approach the teacher directly explains the information the students will need, including key concepts, important vocabulary, and appropriate conceptual framework.
- Interactive approach (Estes, 1999)
In this method, the teacher leads a discussion in which he/she draws out the information students already have and interjects additional information deemed necessary to an understanding of the text to be read. Moreover, the teacher can make explicit links between prior knowledge and important information in the text.
- Purpose of reading
It is also necessary for students to become aware of the purpose and goal for reading a certain piece of written material. At the beginning stages this can be done by the teacher, but as the reader becomes more mature this purpose, i.e. awareness-raising strategy, can be left to the readers. For instance, the students may be guided to ask themselves, "Why am I reading this text? What do I want to know or do after reading?"
One of the most obvious, but unnoticed, points related to reading purpose is the consideration of the different types of reading skills.
- Skimming: Reading rapidly for the main points
- Scanning: Reading rapidly to find a specific piece of information
- Extensive reading: Reading a longer text, often for pleasure with emphasis on overall meaning
- Intensive reading: Reading a short text for detailed information
- The most frequently encountered reason as to why the four skills are all subsumed into one – intensive reading – is that students studying a foreign language feel the urge to look up every word they don't understand and to pinpoint on every structural point they see unfamiliar. To make students aware of the different types of reading, ask them about the types of reading they do in their first language.
- The type of text
The reader must become familiar with the fact that texts may take on different forms and hold certain pieces of information in different places. Thus, it is necessary to understand the layout of the material being read in order to focus more deeply on the parts that are more densely compacted with information. Even paying attention to the year of publication of a text, if applicable, may aid the reader in presuppositions about the text as can glancing at the name of the author.
Steinhofer (1996) stated that the tips mentioned in pre-reading will not take a very long time to carry out. The purpose is to overcome the common urge to start reading a text closely right away from the beginning.
What follows are tips that encourage active reading. They consist of summarizing, reacting, questioning, arguing, evaluating, and placing a text within one's own experience. These processes may be the most complex to develop in a classroom setting, the reason being that in English reading classes most attention is often paid to dictionaries, the text, and the teacher. Interrupting this routine and encouraging students to dialogue with what they are reading without coming between them and the text presents a challenge to the EFL teacher. Duke and Pearson (2001) have stated that good readers are active readers. According to Ur (1996), Vaezi (2001), and Fitzgerald (1995), they use the following strategies.
- Making predictions: The readers should be taught to be on the watch to predict what is going to happen next in the text to be able to integrate and combine what has come with what is to come.
- Making selections: Readers who are more proficient read selectively, continually making decisions about their reading.
- Integrating prior knowledge: The schemata that have been activated in the pre-reading section should be called upon to facilitate comprehension.
- Skipping insignificant parts: A good reader will concentrate on significant pieces of information while skipping insignificant pieces.
- Re-reading: Readers should be encouraged to become sensitive to the effect of reading on their comprehension.
- Making use of context or guessing: Readers should not be encouraged to define and understand every single unknown word in a text. Instead they should learn to make use of context to guess the meaning of unknown words.
- Breaking words into their component parts: To keep the process of comprehension ongoing, efficient readers break words into their affixes or bases. These parts can help readers guess the meaning of a word.
- Reading in chunks: To ensure reading speed, readers should get used to reading groups of words together. This act will also enhance comprehension by focusing on groups of meaning-conveying symbols simultaneously.
- Pausing: Good readers will pause at certain places while reading a text to absorb and internalize the material being read and sort out information.
- Paraphrasing: While reading texts it may be necessary to paraphrase and interpret texts subvocally in order to verify what was comprehended.
- Monitoring: Good readers monitor their understanding to evaluate whether the text, or the reading of it, is meeting their goals.
It is necessary to state that post-reading activities almost always depend on the purpose of reading and the type of information extracted from the text. Barnett (1988) has stated that post-reading exercises first check students' comprehension and then lead students to a deeper analysis of the text. In the real world the purpose of reading is not to memorize an author's point of view or to summarize text content, but rather to see into another mind, or to mesh new information into what one already knows. Group discussion will help students focus on information they did not comprehend, or did comprehend correctly. Accordingly, attention will be focused on processes that lead to comprehension or miscomprehension. Generally speaking, post-reading can take the form of various activities as presented below:
- Discussing the text: Written/Oral
- Summarizing: Written/Oral
- Making questions: Written/Oral
- Answering questions: Written/Oral
- Filling in forms and charts
- Writing reading logs
- Completing a text
- Listening to or reading other related materials
This article published: 29th March, 2006 was first published in Iranian Language Institute Language Teaching Journal Volume 1, No.1 Spring 2005.
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Shahin Vaezi Ph.D. Assistant professor, University of Science and Technology, Iran