Reconnecting Extensive Reading and Academic Writing in the Moroccan EFL Classroom

Scientific Essay, 2016

23 Pages



I- Introduction

II- Extensive reading

III Characteristics of Extensive Reading
1) The reading material is easy.
2) A variety of reading material on a wide range of topics is available.
3) Learners choose what they want to read.
4) Learners read as much as possible.
5) Reading speed is usually faster rather than slower.
6) The purpose of reading is usually related to pleasure, information, and general understanding.
7) Reading is individual and silent.
8) Reading is its own reward.
9) The teacher orients and guides the students.
10) The teacher is a role model of a reader.

IV Graded Readers

V Academic Writing

VI Effects of Reading on the Development of Academic Writing

VII Reconnecting reading and Writing Models

VIII Conclusion


I- Introduction

This article is premised upon my doctoral research paper that endeavors to investigate and ferret out whether learners of English as a foreign language (EFL) need extensive reading in order to produce academic texts. In fact, literacy in Morocco has mushroomed considerably within the realm of TEFL in recent years, especially with respect to language acquisition, research, and business. This can be attributed to the prevalence of English in Moroccan higher education. Thus literacy—or the ability to read and write effectively—has become mandatory in order to enable EFL learners to operate not only functionally, but also socially, economically, technologically, and most importantly culturally. Literacy becomes imperative to raise students’ awareness of the momentous role that reading and writing perform within development, communication, and scholarship. Yet the teaching of English reading and writing in Moroccan higher education has been divorced for decades, and most language educators and TEFL practitioners have been wrongly assuming that reading is simply receptive, whereas writing is simply productive, with little relation between them. However, reading involves the production of meaning and writing involves response to and use of previously read texts. Writing motivates reading and reading inspires the response of writing. The pedagogical mindset has created a plethora of hurdles toward marrying reading and writing in Moroccan classrooms. Reading and writing can both lay a firm foundation for literacy that will gradually enable students to develop meta-cognitive skills, namely critical thinking, problem-solving, logical reasoning, and decision-making skills. In brief, helping EFL students read and write effectively can improve our national development in many domains. Evidence for this claim can be found in the fact that, today, English has become the vehicle of international communication. Therefore, enabling EFL learners to become effective communicators and both literate and knowledgeable learners in English will gradually make our country a compelling destination not only for research and education, but also for foreign investment and business.

II- Extensive reading

Extensive reading is unquestionably of paramaount importance in language acquisition. It inspires learners’ creativity, unlike watching movies in which everything is determined by the director or producer. Similarly, it allows students to create in their minds how a particular character looks like or imagine how a scene is acted out. Accordingly, reading enables students to exercise and cultivate their creative thinking skills. More importantly, develping reading skills can tremenously improve students’ ability to grasp convoluted concepts and thoughts. The potential of ER is based on the concept that by exposing students to an input-rich and enjoyable environment, their knowledge of language will increase and their eagerness to learn will develop naturally (Hedge, 1985).

Palmer explains that extensive reading “means “rapidly” reading “book after book.” A reader’s attention should be on the meaning, not the language, of the text” (1997: 5). This suggests that extensive reading has to cover a relatively large amount of material, and it is entirely grounded upon semantics and pragmatics, not syntax or morphology. That is to say, readers are solely concentrated on meaning, whereas syntax and morphology are neglected for the sake of enjoying the material being read at hand. In the same book, Palmer contrasts extensive reading to intensive reading, another term he coins, in order to show clear-cut differences between them and avoid confusion. He defines intensive reading as “taking a text, studying it line by line, referring at every moment to our dictionary and our grammar, comparing, analyzing, translating, and retaining every expression that it contains” (qtd. in Day and Bamford, Extensive Reading 5). In other words, intensive reading is a more internal and time-consuming process where students dissect the text to learn more about grammatical, syntactic, and lexical rules in order to better comprehend the mechanics of language. In effect, intensive reading is a primordial step toward extensive reading.

Nuttall suggests “most of the skills and strategies we want our students to develop are trained by studying short texts in detail. But others must be developed by the use of longer texts, including complete books” (1996: 38-39). This implies that both intensive reading and extensive reading are necessary for language efficiency and competence. Intensive reading comes first and extensive reading comes next. That is to say, students start to learn a foreign language by doing intensive reading, where the focus tends to be mostly on grammar, basic vocabulary acquisition, reading comprehension, and paragraph writing. Afterwads, they do extensive reading in order to be able to understand meaning in context and without paying attention to grammar.

III Characteristics of Extensive Reading

For a better grasp of extensive reading as an approach in the field of TEFL, Bamford and Day came up with ten characteristics that specify how extensive reading should be taught. It must be noted that Ray Williams offers his approach to teaching foreign-language reading in his 1986 article, “Top Ten Principles for Teaching Reading.” Nevertheless, Day and Bamford regard Williams’s approach as excessively focused on grammar in lieu of pleasure and general understanding. In the section below, an attempt will be made to introduce and discuss the ten characteristics offered by Bamford and Day (1998: 7-8).

1) The reading material is easy.

This is what makes extensive reading an unorthodox pedagogical approach in TEFL. When the text is appropriate to the level of learners, they undoubtedly enjoy it and finish reading it. Sometimes beginners are given intermediate texts so they encounter difficulties at the level of translation. They also fail to understand complex sentence structures, which are beyond their comprehension. In this regard, the main goal of extensive reading is completely unaccomplished because the pleasure and enjoyment of the reading material are absent. In brief, students will not succeed in reading extensively if they have to struggle with difficult texts.

2) A variety of reading material on a wide range of topics is available.

This absolutely helps students familiarize themselves with various topics and learn more about different subject-matters. In the same vein, students have the opportunity to choose books that are interesting for them and suitable to their level. Hence, sufficient reading materials should be available for students, including not only classic literature, but also books from other fields of study and disciplines. In fact, an extensive reading class is meant to help students explore something purely out of interest and to incrementally develop a taste for reading in a specific area.

3) Learners choose what they want to read.

Self-selection of reading materials is, indeed, one of the major pillars of extensive reading, as it helps students be in control of their own reading. Self-selection of reading materials not only makes extensive reading an unprecedented experience in the field of TEFL, but also an enjoyable part of the curriculum. When students choose their favorite books they do not feel stressed out or demotivated because the books they are reading are not imposed on them by their teacher or the curriculum. Students’ reading motivation increases, for they choose the reading in which they are interested. It is generally believed that in extensive reading programs, giving learners freedom to choose books appears to have a positive impact on learners' attitudes towards reading in general and learning English in particular.

4) Learners read as much as possible.

Quantity is a primordial element of extensive reading. Starting with the concept “no pain no gain,” it is believed that hard work is required in extensive reading. Students need to read a lot of books so as to build more vocabulary and familiarize themselves with various syntactic structures. This ultimately leads to a noticeable transformation in writing. The more students read, the more they improve their reading pace and lexical knowledge. Moreover, students become better and more confident readers, and hence they develop the skill to read silently for a long period of time, which helps them better comprehend the reading material. In the same manner, they become better writers: more alert to the syntactic structures and semantic layers of words. In doing so, students automatically increase linguistic and literary knowledge in the foreign or second language that allows them to get closer to the wellsprings of thought.

5) Reading speed is usually faster rather than slower.

When learners read extensively, they do not have to bother with stopping at unfamiliar or difficult words because the purpose is to get a general understanding, not to delve into details. In case they encounter difficult words, students can guess their meanings from the context. Day and Bamford mention “the virtuous circle of the good reader: Reads faster; Reads more; Understands better; Enjoys reading; Reads faster...” (qtd. in Nuttall, 1996: 127).

6) The purpose of reading is usually related to pleasure, information, and general understanding.

ER occurs most often when students read independently from classroom assignment. This helps them cultivate a sense of enjoyment for reading. Reading is meant to be enjoyable and that is what makes learners eager to read more in order to improve their reading and writing skills simultaneously. One should know that the main impetus behind extensive reading is pleasure, information, and general understanding, as opposed to intensive reading, which is primarily focused on grammar.

7) Reading is individual and silent.

Reading is a lonely path that one takes. It is only the student and their book embarking on a pleasurable journey that eventually becomes academically rewarding. In the field of teaching, reading aloud is helpful for pronunciation, whereas reading silently is helpful for both comprehension and vocabulary acquisition. William Grabe strongly supports the aforementioned statement in a TESOL Quarterly paper, where he stresses that “ longer concentrated periods of silent reading build vocabulary and structural awareness, develop automaticity, enhance background knowledge, improve comprehension skills, and promote confidence and motivation” (1991: 396). The goal of ER is not for students to grasp what they read entirely, but rather to acquire general knowledge and personal experience.


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Reconnecting Extensive Reading and Academic Writing in the Moroccan EFL Classroom
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Housseine Bachiri (Author), 2016, Reconnecting Extensive Reading and Academic Writing in the Moroccan EFL Classroom, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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