Looking at Extensive Reading through TALO and TAVI lenses

For a definition of TALO AND TAVI, read Geoff Jordan’s post.

For those interested in learning more about Extensive Reading, I recommend reading A Community of Readers: Interviews with Extensive Reading Scholars and Practioners.

upload_5hgv3s3qgtdbut957kimdb21j5320151.jpg-finalI had the wonderful opportunity to join ELT Reading Materials Design course last September with Marcos Benevides and iTDi community. Actually I had been in contact with Marcos since the beginning of 2014. I used Attama-ii multiple path stories to improve learners’ vocabulary knowledge and introduce multiple-path stories to them, so I had pretty much a good idea of what the course would be like and it was: amazing!

Looking from the perspective of learning, we often think of what to focus on when preparing lessons that involve texts by considering primarily vocabulary and grammar. It is true though that whatever text we choose to use with our learners, there will be words/chunks or grammar that they will struggle with. Prepare a lesson that takes everyone’s knowledge into account in a group and predict their needs would be very difficult, so I guess usually classes tend to favor top-down process instead of bottom-up. That is, using strategies to overcome what they don’t know by focusing on what they know.

“Bottom-up processing is not thought to be a very efficient way to approach a text initially, and is often contrasted with top-down processing, which is thought to be more efficient.” Teaching English Website

 However, using top-down approach alone is not efficient either if the text has more than 95% unknown words. Read Unknown Vocabulary Density and Comprehension (Marcella Hu Hsueh-Chao and Paulo Nation, 2000)

Buying the idea that reading for pleasure, at the right level and allowing learners to choose the reader would be much more beneficial for my learners than working with texts I choose in class, I decided to give extensive reading a try. Before I reflect on the positive impact it had on my learners and how I introduced it to them, I’ll use Geoff’s post on TAVI and TALO: Reading and ELT to take a closer look at the reading project but from a different lens. I actually have already done it in the comments.

Point 1. The principles underlying the selection of texts

Texts are usually chosen as a pretext for learning grammar and vocabulary. I believe this is done that way because it is hard to find a text that suits everyone or even a subject that everyone is willing to talk about. Because of that, I tried last semester with my groups that were not using coursebooks a different approach to reading: extensive reading.
Students chose their own books according to their interests and levels.

Point 2: Preparatory activities for the reading of text

There was no need to prepare activities. Apart from preparing them to chose their own readers using a comic book, we measured the number of words they did not know and I talk to each learner about the results and checked how much they really comprehended the story.

Point 3: Work with text

Learners were responsible for reading and understanding the text. They were advised to change the reader if they found that reading was not really enjoyable, of if they didn’t like the story or if they found more than 2/3 words they didn’t know per page. No one actually felt the need to change the stories they were reading. Even though some had to do more of bottom-up than others. They had the choice but liked their stories so much that didn’t mind walking the extra mile.

Point 4: The type of teaching/learning interaction involved

Although some advocate that all they need is reading, my learners and I sat and decided together what kind of things we could do in other for everyone to share their stories with the group in the following week. We also took the time to assess the interactions and the skills involved, never the language. They did most of the work. I just mediated the sessions or stepped in to provoke them to think about something further or to give positive and negative reasons and weigh them.

Point 5: Follow-up activities to the reading of the text

I totally agree that TAVI is more beneficial at this point. Sharing stories is something that we do on daily basis. So my learners shared their stories and instead of each one reading one book, we came in contact with many stories in 5 weeks of reading and sharing.

upload_5hgv3s3qgtdbut957kimdb21j5185013.jpg-final(2)

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7 thoughts on “Looking at Extensive Reading through TALO and TAVI lenses

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Rose. I’ve always considered extensive reading a valuable part of learning English because I know how much reading helps me to improve my reading and language skills. However, I’ve never actually made a serious attempt at a coherent and complete extensive reading programme. Our English department has a collection of graded readers which we English teachers lend out, but it is up to the students what they choose or if they choose anything at all. I think that it’s great idea to include all the stages you describe in your post and monitor students’ progress consistently. I believe such a programme needs a thorough planning and strong willpower and determination, so hats off to you and your students. 🙂 Thanks for the motivation and inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Hanna, thanks for reading, sharing and commenting.
    It was the same for me Hanna. As a reader, the benefits has always been clear to me, but never really attempted it until taking iTDi Advanced course with Marcos Benevides. As soon as I got the confidence I wrote to my supervisor with a rough plan and some ideas. We sat and talked about it. She asked questions, raised some issues and gave ideas. If you had read my article for TESL-EJ, I had been working all year long to also give students a more active role in decision making regarding planning. I documented it and at the end they filled a questionnaire. We had about 60 titles for them to choose among 28 students. Not a lot, but did the job. I’m planning it implement it from the beginning of the year instead. Still need to go through everything and right a report to present to my supervisor. Her support and trust was very important for the whole process. Students were aware of her support and she was there at the day that students chose their readers. Each group that went there, she observed their reactions and attitudes towards the project.

    I wish there was a way to allow learners to bring their own texts to class (texts they have chosen themselves) but it would be very hard to make them read something in English on their own, like piece of news to share with the class. Stories on the other hand seens to be more engaging and readers already done the work of grading the language. So more potential to work out.

    Maybe bring a number of texts (headlines which had been graded and let them choose and report it back at the end of class so everyone gets out with not only yours but others pieces of news? I’ll try to get a catalogue of world news on various subjects for the first few weeks and see what happens. I’ll give this idea a try. just thought of it. What do you think? Or lyrics that they have to read and report back using drawing, collage, or text? I love the idea that students can choose their text, therefore commit themselves to understand it and choose what tasks they can do to better understand it. Any ideas it is more than appreciated.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely, Rose. Your ideas sound great! The only thing is to be persistent and consistent. It takes time to get used to new methods and approaches but if you include them regularly, students will start appreciating them. Headlines are sources of useful language – phrasal verbs, grammatical elision and colloquial expressions, plus they may easily generate students’ interest. And once the students are motivated they can choose their own learning content. I actually do this with listening – there are great stories here: http://www.newsinlevels.com/. I let my students choose the snappiest title out of, say, five headlines, and then they read and listen to the story. The stories are graded, which is fantastic. I believe that this can work with lyrics too. Anyway, good luck with your experiments and keep us posted.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the suggestions and reminder that listening is equally important. I did use Lyrics training with them. They would choose a song that contained examples of Present Perfect. An example of TALO though. That was given as homework, most of the students used the tool and some started using it on their own afterwards. I’ll check the website you shared. Thanks a bunch for contributing with your ideas/experience.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: My Extensive Reading Blueprint ;) | ROSE BARD – Teaching Journal

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