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"Extensive Reading" a gate to promoting critical thinking

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Reading is one of the targeted skills to be taught in class. We all familiar with reading for gist/specific info/ inferring and deducing the meaning. Yet how much in-class time do you allocate to reading novels or stories to introduce critical thinking?


Critical thinking, creativity, collaboration and communication are the ( 4C) first idea that comes to mind when talking about 21 century skills. There are various means of integrating these skills into the classroomز

Today, I am sharing my experiment with the use of "Extensive Reading" (ER) as one of the methods to integrate 21 century skills into our ESL/EFL classrooms. I will first share the Methdology then my experiment with this methodology and a guide of how to apply this Methdology to integrate the 21 century skills into your classroom

The Methodology:

In application to the Content- Based-Reading Circle (Williams 2007) and the Fiction-Based Reading Circle ( Furr 2004), where ER is used as a tool to promote learner autonomy and critical thinking, I have started a book club where one novel is read by all the students who joined this club and adopt 6 roles before coming to class based on the combined ingredients of both Furr adapted model and Daniel’s original definition and list of the Key Ingredients of Literature Circles:

1. Instructors select materials appropriate for their student population.

2. Small temporary groups are formed, based on student choice or the Instructor’s discretion.
3. Different groups are usually reading the same text.
4.When books are finished, readers may prepare a group project and/or the Instructor may provide additional information to “fill in some of the gaps” in student understanding--I call this step backloading the instruction. (Furr,2004)
5. Groups meet on a regular, predictable schedule to discuss their reading.
6. Students use written or drawn notes to guide both their reading and their discussion.
7. Discussion topics come from the students.
8. Group meetings aim to be open, natural conversations about books, so personal connections, digressions and open-ended questions are welcome.
9. The teacher serves as a facilitator, not a group member or instructor.
10. Evaluation is by teacher observation and student self- evaluation.
11. A spirit of playfulness and fun pervades the room.
(Daniels, 2000: 18)

The Literature Circle  6 Roles:

There are 6 roles that can be assumed either by each of the book club member, and these roles are as follows:

Summarizer: Your job is to prepare a brief summary of today’s reading. Your group discussion will start with your 1-2 minute statement that covers the key point, main highlights, and general idea of today’s reading assignment.

Discussion Director: Your job is to develop a list of questions that your group might want to discuss about this part of the book

Connector: Your job is to find connections between the book your group is reading and the world outside. This means connecting the reading to your own life, happenings at school or in the community, similar events at other times and places, or other people or problems that this book brings to mind.

Vocabulary Enricher: Your job is to be on the lookout for a few especially important words in today’s reading.

Travel Tracer: When you are reading a book in which characters move around often and the scene changes frequently, it is important for everyone in your group to know where things are happening and how the setting may have changed.

Investigator: Your job is to dig up some background information on any topic related to your book. Choose one of the following.

• the geography, weather, culture, or history of the book’s setting
• information about the author – her/his life and other works
• information about the time period portrayed in the book
• pictures, objects, or materials that illustrate elements of the book
• the history and derivation of words or names used in the book
• music that reflects the book or its time

The Background:

In my context at Alazhar English Training Center, I have started a book club as part of the extra-curricular program. Eight tertiary- level students had joined the book club to read " The Alchemist ". Students had no idea what is the procedure of this book club and have never joined a book club before.

The application guide

Now, to start a book club in and EFL classroom you might find the following steps a helpful guide as to either having a book club inside your class or as an extra-curricular.

 You must give an introductory session to explain the procedures of the reading circle

First : explain the 6 roles, and hand in the 6 roles sheet that explains every role. Each of the sheets are expected to be filled  before every session.

Second: assign a specific number of pages to be covered every time during the session , but prepared before the session.

Third: explain that your role as a teacher during the sessions is to remain negative until the very end where you might contribute some lingual feedback.

In my context the book was " The Alchemist" a relatively small novel. Hence it was finished after 6 sessions, including the orientation session. I asked every student to play the five roles and to keep the role of "The Director" to be played in rotation.

However, my advice to you is to let students assign a role per each especially when the book is a large one.

The students feedback:

In the following link you can find the students feedback. It is worth mentioning that by adapting this approach in the book club students showed an ability to lead, analyze, and to think critically.


Furr, M. (2004). Literature circles for the EFL classroom. Proceedings of the 2003 TESOL Arabia Conference,
Dubai. United Arab Emirates: TESOL Arabia.  

Daniels, H. (2002) Literature Circles: Voice and Choice in Book Clubs and Reading
Groups. Second Edition. Portland, Maine: Stenhouse


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