Main reading strategies improving extensive reading skills
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014
Murumbayeva Aliya, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
Chzhan Yelena, East Kazakhstan State University in honor of S. Amanzholov, Kazakhstan
Reading is an incredibly active occupation in which people extract meaning
from the discourse they see. It is not a passive skill. To do it successfully,
we have to understand what the words mean, see the pictures the words are
painting, understand the arguments, and work out if we agree with them. If we
do not do these things then we just scratch the surface of the text and we
quickly forget it [1; p. 89]
Researches make difference between
“extensive” and “intensive” reading. Many academicians suggest “extensive”
reading as reading at length, often for pleasure and in a leisurely way, while
“intensive” reading tends to be more concentrated, less relaxed, and often
dedicated not so much to pleasure as to the achievement of a study goal [4; p.
Extensive reading – especially where
students are reading material written specially at their level – has a number
of benefits for the development of a student’s language. This kind of reading
makes students more positive, improves their overall comprehension skills,
gives them a wider passive and active vocabulary, enables students to read
without constantly stopping and provides an increased word recognition. It is
the best possible way for them to develop automaticity.
When we read a story or a newspaper, we
employ our previous knowledge as we approach the process of comprehension [4;
p. 202]. Reading comprehension is defined as the level of understanding of a
passage or text. Reading at the rate of 200 to 220 words per minute is
considered as a normal speed of reading. For normal reading rates, 75% is an
acceptable level of comprehension. That means if a reader can understand the
meaning of at least 75% of the total text given, then it is regarded as
acceptable limits for reading comprehension.
is the only reason for reading, especially extensive reading. Without
comprehension, reading is a frustrating, pointless exercise in word calling. It
is no exaggeration to say that how well students develop the ability to
comprehend what they read has a profound effect on their entire lives. A major
goal of teaching reading comprehension, therefore, is to help students develop
the knowledge, skills, and experiences they must have if they are to become
competent and enthusiastic readers.
years, teaching reading comprehension was based on a concept of reading as the
application of a set of isolated skills such as identifying words, finding main
ideas, identifying cause and effect relationships, comparing and contrasting,
and sequencing. Teaching reading comprehension was viewed as a mastery of these
skills. Comprehension instruction followed what the study called mentioning,
practicing, and assessing procedure where teachers mentioned a specific skill
that students were to apply, had students practice the skill by completing
workbook pages, then assessed them to find out if they could use the skill
correctly. Instruction neither did little to help students learn how or when to
use the skills, nor was is ever established that this particular set of skills
research indicates that comprehensions built through the teaching of
comprehension strategies and environments that support understanding of a text.
It is important for educators to teach students active strategies and skills to
help them become active, purposeful readers. Teaching reading comprehension is
an active process of constructing meaning, not skill application. The act of
constructing meaning is:
interactive– it involves not just the reader, but the text and the context in
which reading takes place.
strategic – readers have purposes for their reading and use a variety of
strategies as they construct meaning.
readers change the strategies they use as they read different kinds of text or
as they read for different purposes .
are used to improve reading comprehension that include training the ability to
self-assess comprehension, actively test comprehension using a set of questions
and by improving metacognition. Theoretical teaching (teaching conceptual) and
a better knowledge of language can also prove of immense help. Practice plays
more pivotal part in development and honing the skills of reading
comprehension. Self-assessment with the help of elaborate interrogation and summarizing
reading comprehension is the culmination of mastering vocabulary, phonics,
fluency and reading comprehension skills. Person having good comprehension
skills is considered as active reader, with an ability to interact with the
words by understanding its complete meaning and the concept behind it. Thus,
skill of reading comprehension distinguishes an active reader from a passive
reader who just read the text without getting its meaning.
There is much
difference between good readers and poor (passive) readers.
What do usually
good readers do?
reading, good readers tend to set goals for their reading.
reading, good readers read words accurately and quickly, while dealing with
meanings of words.
are selective as they read.
use their background knowledge (schema) to create mental images, ask questions,
and make inferences.
monitor their comprehension as they read.
How Do Poor
Readers Differ From Good Readers?
do not have sufficient awareness to develop, select, and apply strategies that
can enhance their comprehension.
rarely prepare before reading.
reading, poor readers may have difficulty decoding, reading too slowly, and
often lack sufficient background knowledge and have trouble making connections
readers are unaware of text organization.
poor readers do not reflect on what they have just read.
reading comprehension strategies, we can refer the following:
personal connections with the text by using our schema. There are three main
types of connections we can make during reading:
Refers to connections made between the text and the reader's personal
Refers to connections made between a text being read to a text that was
Refers to connections made between a text being read and something that occurs
in the world.
Mental Images (Visualizing)
This strategy involves the
ability of readers to make mental images of a text as a way to understand
processes or events they encounter during reading. This ability can be an
indication that a reader understands the text. Some research suggests that
readers who visualize as they read are better able to recall what they have
read than those who do not visualize.
This strategy involves
readers asking themselves questions throughout the reading of text. The ability
of readers to ask themselves relevant questions as they read is especially
valuable in helping them to integrate information, identify main ideas, and
summarize information. Asking the right questions allows good readers to focus
on the most important information in a text.
Authors do not always
provide complete descriptions of, or explicit information about a topic,
setting, character, or event. However, they often provide clues that readers
can use to “read between the lines”— by making inferences that combine
information in the text with their schema.
Determining importance has
to do with knowing why you’re reading and then making decisions about what information
or ideas are most critical to understanding the overall meaning of the piece.
Synthesizing is the process of ordering,
recalling, retelling, and recreating into a coherent whole the information with
which our minds are bombarded everyday. Synthesizing is closely linked to
evaluating. Basically, as we identify what’s important, we interweave our
thoughts to form a comprehensive perspective to make the whole greater than
just the sum of the parts [5; 6; 7].
It’s hard to
teach reading comprehension strategies without teaching students about
metacognition and schema (background knowledge). Although
"metacognition" and "schema" aren't comprehension
strategies, they are very important for teaching reading comprehension
strategies . Simply put, metacognition means “to think about your thinking”.
Mathematical equation can be used to teach this concept to students: Text +
Thinking = Real Reading. When we read the text and think at the same time, we
are “real reading”…or being metacognitive! 
define schema (background knowledge) as the meaning you get from a piece of
literature that is intertwined with the meaning you bring to it. A layering
occurs, a weaving of past and present, an amalgam of old and new ideas and
experiences. When you read, sometimes you activate your schema or you build
upon it. One student described schema simply as “everything that is stuck in
your brain”… A reader who hasn’t such pre-existing knowledge would find the
reading task more difficult. It means that understanding a piece of discourse
involves much more than just knowing the language [7; p. 216].
However, it is not enough to tell students
“to read a lot”; we need to offer them a program, which includes appropriate
materials, guidance, tasks, and facilities such as permanent or portable
libraries of books, in other words to create appropriate environments for
reading [4; p. 204].
One of the fundamental conditions of a
successful extensive reading program is that students should be reading
material, which they can understand. If they are struggling to understand every
word, they can hardly be reading for pleasure – the main goal of this activity.
This means that teachers need to provide books, which either by chance, or
because they have been specially written, are readily accessible to students.
written materials for extensive reading may be called “language learner
literature” and are often referred to as “readers” or “simplified readers” [2;
They can take the form of original fiction
and non-fiction books as well as simplifications of established works of literature.
Such books succeed because the writers or adaptors work within specific lists
of allowed words and grammar. This means that students at the appropriate level
can read them with ease and confidence. At their best, such books, despite the
limitations on language, can speak to the reader through the creation of atmosphere
and/or compelling plot lines.
Another thing is that in order to set up an
extensive reading program, we need to build up a library of suitable books. Although
this may appear costly, it will be money well spent.
We need to devise some way of keeping track
of the books in the library.
The role of the teacher in extensive
reading programs is crucial. Most students will not do a lot of extensive
reading by themselves unless they are encouraged to do so by their teachers.
Perhaps, for example, teachers can occasionally read aloud from books they like
and show, by their manner of reading, how exciting the books can be.
Having persuaded the students about the
benefits of extensive reading, teachers can organize reading programs where
they indicate to students how many books they expect them to read over a given
period. They can explain how students can make their choice of what to read,
making it clear that the choice is theirs, but that they can consult other students’
reviews and comments to help them make that choice. They can look for books in
a genre (be it crime fiction, romantic novels, science fiction, etc.) that they
enjoy, and that they make appropriate level choices. Teachers can act
throughout as part organizer, part tutor.
Before starting extensive reading, the
tasks should be set. Because students are allowed to choose their own reading
texts, following their own likes and interests, they will not all be reading
the same texts at once. For this reason, and to prompt students to keep
reading, teachers should encourage them report back on their reading in a
number of ways.
One approach is to set aside a time at
various points in a course – may be every two weeks – at which students can ask
questions and/or tell their classmates about books they have found particularly
enjoyable, or noticeably awful. However, if this is inappropriate because not
all students read at the same speed – or because they often do not have much to
say about the books in front of their colleagues, we can ask them each to keep
a weekly reading diary either on its own, or as a part of any learning journal
they may be writing. Students can also write short book reviews for the class notice
board. At the end of a month, a semester, or a year, they can vote on the most
popular book in the library.
Teachers can also put comment sheets into
the books for students to write in (with giving rating and comments about
It does not really matter which of these tasks
students are asked to perform if that what they are asked to do helps to keep
them reading as much and often as possible.
Though, the ability to read is considered
one of the most important skills that learners of English as a Second Language
and English as a Foreign Language need to acquire,
extensive reading is still most often seen as additional or supplemental to the
main program, which can be omitted if time does notallow. However, it should be a core part of every language program’s curriculum,
and all language programs should have an extensive reading component to deepen
and enrich the language the learners meet in their coursework.
1. Nuttall Christine. Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language. London: Heinemann Educational. 1999. – p. 87-95.
2. Day, R. R. and Bamford, J. Extensive
reading in the second language classroom. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998. - p. 7-8.
3. Flavell, J. H. (1979). Metacognition
and cognitive monitoring: A new area of cognitive-developmental inquiry.
American Psychologist, 34, 906 - 911.
4. Jeremy Harmer. The Practice of English
Language Teaching. Longman, 2001. – p. 199-227.
5. Tanny Mc Gregor. Comprehension
Connections. Heineman, 2007. – p. 28.
6. Debbie Miller. Reading with Meaning.
Stenhouse Publishers, 2002. – p. 47.
7. Susan Zimmermann, Chryse Hutchins.7
Keys to Comprehension. Crown Publishing Group, 2008. – p. 214-220.
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №6 - 2014