Teaching reading with using authentic texts

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №10 - 2018

Skripchenko Alina, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan
Kikina Marina, Kazakh-American Free University, Kazakhstan

Reading means different things to different people, for some it is recognizing written words, while for others it is an opportunity to teach pronunciation and practice speaking. However reading always has a purpose. It is something that we do every day, it is an integral part of our daily lives, taken very much for granted and generally assumed to be something that everyone can do. The reason for reading depends very much on the purpose for reading. The use of authentic materials in the classroom is discussed, with the student benefiting from the exposure to real language being used in a real context. Other aspects which prove positive when using authentic materials are that they are highly motivating, giving a sense of achievement when understood and encourage further reading. They also reflect the changes in the use of language, there is a wide variety of text types, and they are also very versatile (they can be used in different ways to promote different skills) and can be used more than once as well as are updated. One of the main reasons for using authentic materials in the classroom is once outside the “safe”, controlled language learning environment; the learner will not encounter the artificial language of the classroom but the real world and language how it is really used. The role of the teacher is not to delude the language learner but to prepare him, giving the awareness and necessary skills so as to understand how the language is actually used.

The goal of this paper will be to provide our own model “Teaching reading with using authentic texts” of contemporary English as a Foreign Language teaching in higher education institutions.

Teaching reading with using authentic texts

Important concepts for teaching reading with using authentic texts

Extensive reading

Extensive reading is a way of language learning, including foreign language learning, through large amounts of reading. Proponents such as Krashen (1989) claim that reading alone will increase encounters with unknown words, bringing learning opportunities by inferencing. The learner’s encounters with unknown words in specific contexts will allow the learner to infer and thus learn those words’ meanings [1].

Extensive reading has been used and advocated in language learning since at least the 19th century. In the first language, many connections have been made between reading and vocabulary size, as well as other academic skills.

Concept of extensive reading is the following:

- the teacher encourages the students to choose for themselves what they read for pleasure and general language improvement outside the class;

- the students should read materials on the topics they are interested in and materials appropriate for their level;

- original fiction and non-fiction books, simplified works of literature, staged books, magazines can all be used;

- in order to encourage extensive reading we can build up a library of suitable books, provide them with extensive reading tasks and encourage them to report back on the reading in different ways [2].

Intensive reading

Intensive reading involves learners reading in detail with specific learning aims and tasks. It can be compared with extensive reading, which involves learners reading texts for enjoyment and to develop general reading skills [3].

Concept of intensive reading is the following:

- it is a classroom-oriented activity to have students focus on the semantic and linguistic details;

- in order to encourage students to read enthusiastically in class, teachers need to create interest in the topic and tasks;

- teachers need to tell students the reading purpose, the instructions and time allocated. While the students are reading, the teachers may observe their progress but should not interrupt;

- when the teachers ask students to give answers, they should always ask them to say where in the text they found the relevant information;

- the teachers should focus on strategies to deal with the unknown vocabulary items [2].

Bottom-up processing: Magnifying glass

Bottom-up theories hypothesize that learning to read progresses from children learning the parts of language (letters) to understanding whole text (meaning). Two bottom-up theories of the reading process remain popular even today: One Second of Reading by Gough (1972) and A Theory of Automatic Information Processing by LaBerge and Samuels (1974). Gough’s (1972) One Second of Reading model described reading as a sequential or serial mental process. In their reading model, LaBerge and Samuels (1974) describe a concept called automatic information processing or automaticity. This popular model of the reading process hypothesizes that the human mind functions much like a computer and that visual input (letters and words) is sequentially entered into the mind of the reader [4].

Concept of bottom-up processing is the following:

- readers must recognize the linguistic signals (letters, syllables, words, phrases, discourse markers);

- this data-driven processing requires a sophisticated knowledge of the language;

- from the data, the reader selects the meaningful signal [2].

Top-down processing: Eagle’s eye view

Top-down processing is defined as the development of pattern recognition through the use of contextual information [5].

In 1970, psychologist Richard Gregory stated that perception is a constructive process that depends on top-down processing. He explained that past experience and prior knowledge related to a stimulus help us make inferences.

Concept of top-down processing is the following:

- readers must refer to their own intelligence and experience to predict probable meaning and to understand a text;

- this conceptually-driven processing requires readers to infer meaning [2].

In this part of work we considered such concepts for teaching reading with using authentic texts as extensive reading, intensive reading, bottom-up processing and top-down processing. We consider that all of them are useful and effective.

Methods of teaching reading with using authentic texts

In recent years, various methods of teaching reading have been the continuous subject of a great deal of highly animated debate among educational committees, teachers, and parents. Although numerous educational techniques for teaching reading exist, these methods more or less fall into two widely variant categories, namely whole language systems and phonetic systems. However, whole language and phonetic methods can also be melded together to create a balanced system for teaching reading to students [6].

The whole language reading methods

Whole language methods are more commonly known as language experience or whole-to-part methods. In the past, educators extensively used these methods to teach reading to students, but today these methods are used mostly in conjunction with the phonetic method. Whole language methods of teaching reading implement a belief in the importance of learning meaning first and then applying that meaning to written language (Bovee, 1972). Spache (1969) states that “more than any other approach to the teaching of reading, the language-experience approach conceives of learning to read as part of the process of language development. It alone recognizes the close relationship among reading, speaking, writing, and listening”. Proponents of this method believe that students will “acquire reading skills by being read to, immersion in print, and learning them in the context of reading for meaning” (Honig, 2001) [6].

Whole language developed in the early eighties. The teacher read “whole stories” and is responsible for engaging children by reading aloud to them, stories that children learnt to love by having them read over and over again. Teachers then focus on sentences and then words within well-known books were absorbed (Fox, 2001).

The Phonetic Reading Method

The phonetic method of teaching reading, on the other hand, is more skills-based than the whole language method. It relies on a part-to-whole framework and provides two sub-methods: the analytic and the synthetic phonics methods. The phonetic method requires the teacher to teach reading skills explicitly to students, making it the most widely accepted method for teaching reading. Thus, teachers frequently use the phonetic method to teach reading in the modern classroom. The phonetic method stems from the idea that students must first understand the key elements of language, which include letters, sounds, syllables, and words, before being able to read and reach comprehension [6].

The Balanced Method

The balanced method of teaching reading incorporates ideas from both the whole language and phonetic methods. It includes both explicit, systematic reading instruction and whole-language experience (Honig, 2001). Students practice phonics skills by interacting with and being immersed in quality literature which reinforces reading skills [6].

In this part of work we considered such methods of teaching reading with using authentic texts as the whole language reading methods, the phonetic reading method and the balanced method. We consider that the balanced method is more effective because it combined two others.

Methodological basis of teaching reading with using authentic texts

Model “Teaching reading with using authentic texts”

The goal of teaching reading with using authentic texts is to improve authentic knowledge of the language.

Main principles of teaching reading with using authentic texts

Principle 1: Encourage students to read as often and as much as possible.

The more students read the better. Everything we do should encourage them to read extensively as well as – if no more than – intensively [7].

Principle 2: Students need to be engaged with what they are reading.

Outside normal lesson time, when students are reading extensively, they should be involved in joyful reading – that is, we should try to help them get as much pleasure from it as possible. But during lessons, too, we will do our best to ensure that they are engaged with the topic of a reading text and the activities they are asked to do while dealing with it [7].

Principle 3: Encourage students to respond to the content of a text (and explore their feelings about it), not just concentrate on its construction.

It is important for students to study reading texts in class in order to find out such things as the way they use language, the number of paragraphs they contain and how many times they use relative clauses. But the meaning, the message of the text, is just as important as this. As a result, we must give students a chance to respond to that message in some way. It is especially important that they should be allowed to show their feelings about the topic – thus provoking personal engagement with it and the language. With extensive reading this is even more important [7].

Principle 4: Prediction is a major factor in reading.

When we read texts in our own language, we frequently have a good idea of the content before we actually start reading. Book covers give us a clue about what is in the book; photographs and headlines hint at what articles are about; we can identify reports as reports from their appearance before we read a single word. The moment we get these clues our brain starts predicting what we are going to read. Expectations are set up and the active process of reading is ready to begin. In class, teachers should give students hints so that they also have a chance to predict what is coming [7].

Techniques in teaching reading with using authentic texts

Technique refers to any of wide variety of exercises, activities, devices used in language classroom for achieving the objective of the lesson (Brown, 2001). According to Glendinning and Holmstrom (1992), there are several techniques in teaching reading and the appropriate techniques based on the natural process of reading.

Technique 1. Establishing the purpose of reading.

Specific purpose for reading is one that helps guides students’ efforts to focus on important information in the text. This specific focus should be explicitly stated before students begin reading. Moreover, Gillet as cited in Mulyani and Siswayani (2006) states that the way you read will depend on your purpose. It means that recognizing the purpose for reading will help students to select appropriate reading strategies. Thus, the teacher should provide the students the purpose of reading in order to help the students comprehend the text [8].

Technique 2. Activating and building background knowledge.

Wallace (1992) suggests that in order to make sure that students can comprehend the text properly and quickly, a reading teachers need to know the reading material well to make clear what background knowledge the students may lack and give an introduction before the students begin to read it.

To activate students’ background knowledge can be done by reviewing students’ prior knowledge about the text such as by discussing what students know about the text, categorizing the information they already know, making prediction toward the text; and generating students’ own questions (Cook, 1991). Therefore, the effective techniques to activate background knowledge include: brainstorming, pre-reading questioning, predicting and topic talking.

According to Crawford et al, brainstorming is a method for creating many ideas about a topic. This activity consists of inviting students to call out words, knowledge and experience that relevant to the text, relevant language and an expectation meaning [8].

Technique 3. Previewing the text.

The techniques which can be used in this part are scanning and skimming. Skimming is the ‘process of rapid glancing through a text either to search for a specific piece of information (a name, a date) or to get an initial impression of whether the text is suitable for a given purpose.

While, scanning is a skill that requires reading quickly through a text to look for specific information. Edmonson (2006) recommends that the teacher needs to provide some previewing questions that can help students focus their pre-reading activity and also activate students’ prior knowledge. Previewing text is a beneficial preparation activity which enables students to establish their own expectations about what information they will find in the text and the way that information will be organized [8].

Technique 4. Questioning technique and vocabulary technique.

Question-answering technique is to answer the comprehension question. Anderson (1999) stated that justifying comprehension is a technique that asks the students to read a passage, then ask comprehension question, and then ask the class to justify the answer.

According to Wallace (2001), the questions should address three level of understanding: the explicit, implicit and the applied questions. Explicit questions refer to the questions which involve students to find the information available in the text, while implicit questions refer to the questions to recognize and summary the information based on their understanding though it is not stated in the text, and applied questions are required students to connect the text with their real life issue.

Explicit vocabulary instruction can be given through providing word definitions, synonym pairs, word lists, word associations, and the keyword method, semantic mapping and semantic feature analysis [8].

Types of organizational forms of teaching

Organizational forms of teaching are variants of pedagogical communication between a teacher and pupils in the process of classes. Such forms are the component of the system of teaching and realized according to the objective of language teaching in the interaction with the methods and means of teaching chosen for its achieving [9].

Immediate and mediated organizational forms of teaching occur at language classes reflecting the character of communication among its members.

Immediate teaching is realized in the form of group (collective) or individual activities. A group form occurs within the framework of the class lesson system of studies, when introduction, retention, and activization of study information occur in the process of teacher’s communication with all the participants of teaching. An individual form is realized at working with every pupil according to an individual plan, when he or she receives a personal task from a teacher and teaching is done in the form “a teacher – a pupil”. Such a teaching may occur within the framework of group classes though its conducting is connected with the difficulties because of a great number of learning groups [9].

Mediated teaching occurs without a personal contact of a teacher and a learner mainly through written speech or means of replacing it. Here an independent individual learner’s work with textbook and technical aids (at home and in the class) occurs. Distant teaching is one of the forms of mediated teaching, realizing an individual form of language classes.

Organizational forms of teaching regulate (define) the correlation between an individual and collective in teaching, the degree of pupils’ participation in study-cognitive activities and the character of supervising it on behalf of a teacher [9].

As applied to university and college teaching the following organizational forms are distinguished: lecture-room practical class (a lesson in language practice), extracurricular practical class, laboratory class, lecture, seminar, consultation, colloquium, teaching practice, test, examination, interview, home teaching.

Pedagogical conditions of teaching

Pedagogical conditions of teaching are the following:

- time. Available time to plan, collaborate, provide instruction, and eliminate barriers to maximize instructional time during the university day;

- facilities and resources. Availability of instructional, technology, office, communication, and university resources to teachers;

- community support and involvement. Community and parent or guardian communication and influence in the university;

- managing student conduct. Policies and practices to address student conduct issues and ensure a safe university environment;

- teacher leadership. Teacher involvement in decisions that affect classroom and university practices;

- university leadership. The ability of university leadership to create trusting, supportive environments and address tea-cher concerns;

- professional development. Availability and quality of learning opportunities for educators to enhance their teaching;

- instructional practices and support. Data and support available to teachers to improve instruction and student learning [10].

In this chapter we considered the model of teaching reading with using authentic texts. This model consists of goal, methodological principles and approaches, techniques, methods, organizational forms, teacher’s actions, student’s actions and pedagogical conditions.


This paper describes the model “Teaching reading with using authentic texts”. Based on the points that have been explained, we can conclude the following:

For the teachers:

In order to improve students’ reading comprehension, the teachers should always encourage their students to read and practice to comprehend some reading material since reading is good for their language acquisition. Besides, the teachers should provide some interesting, inspiring and good reading materials for their students. It should be authentic materials. Give them feedback for their efforts.

For the students:

Students should improve their reading comprehension because it will provide them a lot of benefits in learning English. Moreover, the students ought to improve their reading ability by reading more texts that should be from authentic texts.


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6. Morgan Decker. To Read or Not to Read: A Comprehensive Study of Effective Reading and Methods of Teaching Reading. Liberty University, 2007.

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8. Yanuarti Apsari. Teachers’ techniques and problems in teaching reading. 2015.

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10. Center on Great Teachers and Leaders. Understanding Teaching Conditions. September, 2014.

Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №10 - 2018

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