Doctoral Thesis / Dissertation, 2017
Organization of the Study
CHAPTER I: REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE
I.1 Literacy: Definitions
I.1.1 The Importance of Reading
I.2 Extensive Reading
I.2.2 Characteristics of Extensive Reading
I.3 Graded Readers
I.3.1 Characteristics of Proficient Readers
I.3.2 Roles of Extensive Reading Teachers
I.4 Writing and the EFL Learners
I.5 Views of Reading
I.6 Reading Approaches
I.6.1 Bottom-up Reading Approach
I.6.2 Top-down Reading Approach
I.6.3 Interactive Reading Approach
1.6.4 Schema Theory
I.7 Academic Writing
I.7.2 Codes and Conventions of Academic Writing
I.7.3 Types of Academic Writing
I.8 The Significance of Writing
1.8.1 Writing Differences: L1 Vs. L
I.9 The Product-Based Approach
I.10 The Process Writing Approach
I.11 Descriptive Writing
I.11.1 Characteristics of Descriptive Writing
I. 12 Effects of Reading on the Development of Academic Writing
I.13 Reconnecting Reading and Writing Models
CHAPTER II: DATA COLLECTION AND CLASSIFICATION
II.1 Data Collection Methods
II.1.1 Quantitative Research
II.1.3.1 Types of Observation
II.2 Description of Target Population
II.4 Validity and Reliability of the Questionnaire
II.4.1 Types of Reliability
II.4.2 Establishing Reliability and Validity in Students’ Questionnaire
II.4.3 Description of Students’ Questionnaire
II.5 The Distribution of Informants by Age, Gender, and Education Level 1-Background Information
II.5.1 The Distribution of Informants by Age
II.5.2 The Distribution of Informants by Gender
II.5.3 The Distribution of Informants by Education Level
II.6 Data Classified According to Subsections
II.6.1 Interest and Importance
II.6.2 Characteristics and Obstacles of Academic Writing
II.6.3 Connection between Extensive Reading and Academic Writing
II.7 Professors’ Questionnaire
II.8 The Extensive Reading Experiment at Mohammed V University
II.8.1Validity and Credibility of the Writing Test (Descriptive writing)
II.8.2 The Pre-Test
II.8.3 The Post-Test
CHAPTER III: DATA ANALYSIS
III.1 Data Analyzed According to Subsections
III.1.1 Background Information
III.1.1.1 The Age Group of Informants
III.1.1.2 The Informants’ Gender
III.1.1.3 The Informants’ Education Level
III.2 Interest and Importance
III.3 Characteristics and Obstacles of Academic Writing
III.4 Connection between Extensive Reading and Academic Writing
III.5 Professors’ Questionnaire
CHAPTER IV: DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS
IV.1 Discussion and Analysis
IV.1.1 The Pre-Test Results
IV.1.2 The Post-Test Results
IV.2 Recommendations for Syllabus Designers: “An Extensive Reading Program Sample”
IV.2.1The Extensive Reading Program Design
IV.2.2 Learners’ Motivation and Interest
IV.2.3 Teacher's Skill and Preparation
IV.2.4 The Program
IV.2.5 Goals of the Program
IV.2.6 The Learning Environment
IV.3 Writing Recommendations
Limitations of the Study
Works Cited List
Figure 1: Reading sample materials
Figure 2: Extensive reading activities
Figure 3: Reasons for reading extensively
Figure 4: Activities after reading
Figure 5: Meaning of extensive reading for students
Figure 6: What students enjoy about extensive reading
Figure 7: My teacher reads aloud to the class
Figure 8: I read aloud to the whole class
Figure 9: I read in class silently
Figure 10: I read books that I choose myself
Figure 11: Does extensive reading give you a sense of improvement?
Figure 12: Academic writing
Figure 13: Characteristics of academic writing
Figure 14: Planning
Figure 15: Generating ideas
Figure 16: Analyzing
Figure 17: Synthesizing
Figure 18: Revising
Figure 19: Quoting sources
Figure 20: Becoming a good writer
Figure 21: Do you think extensive reading affects your academic writing?
Figure 22: Do you use extensive reading as an approach in your class?
Figure 23: Do you think that extensive reading is important for students’ language...
development? If yes, please describe
I would like to express my deepest appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Youcef Hdouch, whose scholarly guidance and supervision have been immeasurable. He has assisted me from the very beginning of my research, and the completion of this dissertation could not have been accomplished without his perpetual support, criticism, and encouragement. In fact, I have been extraordinarily fortunate to have him as my supervisor. Likewise, he has planted in me the love and passion for TEFL. I will always remain grateful to him.
I would like to deeply thank the research committee for their thoughtful guidance, critical comments, and valuable correction of the thesis. Their detailed review and meticulous reading have greatly improved both the organization and quality of my work. I would like, therefore, to offer my sincere thanks to all of them.
Similary, I would like to profoundly acknowledge the members of the laboratory “Langage et Société” at Ibn Tofail University for their continuous effort and persistent endeavor to organize a plethora of academic and scientific seminars and workshops that help establish a rich and solid foundation for research and scholarship. I have learned much through participating in the seminars organized by professors and graduate students who generously shared their knowledge and research.
I would like also to thank all the professors in the English Department at Ibn Tofail University for spending their valuable time teaching me, training me, inspiring me, motivating me, correcting me, and shaping my thinking as a scholar. I shall remain thankful to all of them and am truthfully fortunate to have been taught by most of them.
I readily acknowledge my indebtedness to Dr. Charles Bazerman for his co-supervision and constructive comments and suggestions during my 12-month study at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). His insightful and inspirational classes tremendously contributed to my understanding of academic writing and its momentous role within literacy, as well as to my growth as a scholar. In addition, he taught me how to be an effective researcher, especially when dealing with data analysis.
I am also deeply grateful to Professors Randalyn Browning and Christopher Dean, who both allowed me to observe their writing classes at UCSB. This experience enriched and deepened my comprehension of academic writing classroom management and the pedagogy adopted. They were kind, interactive, and prepared to answer all my questions related to writing techniques, approaches, activities, and assignments. They made my classroom observation fruitful and beneficial.
I am similarly thankful to Professor Guenoun Mohammed, who encouraged me to distribute questionnaires in his class. It was an amazing opportunity for me to interact with undergraduate students and engage in face-to-face communication about the teaching and learning of reading and writing at Mohammed V University.
I would also like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Mrs. Silvia Ferreira for the great suggestions and illuminating remarks she provided me with when I was writing my dissertation. She has been both a friend and a teacher.
I owe my deepest gratitude to the Fulbright Scholarship, which has given me everything and also made many of my dreams come true. I shall always remain thankful for the financial support that Fulbright has given me to conduct my research project. Thanks to the Fulbright Scholarship, I have built so many memories that I will cherish forever.
I would like to thank Bachiri Nawal and Agnieszka Brenzak for helping me out technically with my research, especially in terms of graphs. Miss Brenzak’s moral support was critical at times of despair, anxiety, and trepidation.
Finally, my most special thanks go to the students of Mohammed V University, who participated in my research project. Their contribution made the data collection process fairly manageable and enjoyable.
To my parents who, for my higher education, have been through thick and thin. I wholeheartedly hope to reward them someday.
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This dissertation arises from an attempt to answer questions about whether Moroccan first and second year university students of English as a foreign language (EFL) need extensive reading in order to produce academic texts. Having used two different questionnaires, along with an extensive reading experiment at Mohammed V University, I have been able to analyze and discuss both ethnographic and numerical data obtained from the aforementioned research instruments. The participants in my research were Moroccan university students and professors. Results indicate a myriad of shortcomings in the teaching of reading and writing in Moroccan higher education. Classroom activities demonstrate a lack of students’ engagement and interaction, especially in the reading session. Results also show students’ willingness and keenness to commence reading extensively because they feel empowered, confident, and fluent over time. Extensive reading (a receptive skill) and academic writing (a productive skill) are both interactive, constructive, and complementary. In extensive reading, students learn to increase their reading speed and comprehension while simultaneously expanding their lexicon, whereas in academic writing they learn to think about the context, audience, and purpose of their piece of writing. In doing so, they learn to write with simplicity, accuracy, clarity, and an analytical eye. For students, these skills are new and they will ipso facto get used to them after they start writing. Development of literacy de facto relies enormously upon effective learning of reading and writing, for students consume knowledge through the former and produce it through the latter. Given this, both extensive reading and academic writing can solidly transform students into future writers, scholars, thinkers, and academics whose intellectual contributions will change the course of our country for the better. Therefore, the pedagogy adopted for the teaching of reading and writing in Moroccan higher education should be reconsidered.
إن الھدف من مناقشة ھذه الطروحة ھو محاولة الجابة عن مجموعة من التساؤلت المتعلقة بمستوى
الطلبة الجامعيين لعامھم الول والثاني بشعبة الدراسات النجليزية كلغة أجنبية وھل ھم فعل بحاجة للقراءة المكثفة لنتاج نص أكاديمي؟ والجواب على ذلك تم من خلل استعانتي بنموذج استمارتين مختلفين موجھتين لطلبة وأساتذة اللغة النجليزية، زيادة على ذلك، مدى خوضي لتجربة القراءة المكثفة في جامعة محمد الخامس بالرباط، ومن ھنا استطعت أن أصوغ تحليل ونقاشا مستندا فيه لمعلومات رقمية واثنوغرافية التي تم اعتمادھا وذكرھا مسبقا، وأذھب لتأكيد قولي إلى أن المشاركين في بحثي ھذا موزعين بين أساتذة وطلبة جامعيين وجود خلل في مناھج تدريس مھارتي القراءة والكتابة بالتعليم العالي إذ كانت النتيجة كالتالي: مغاربة،
المغربي، ويظھر لي ھذا الخلل في عدم تفاعل الطلبة مع أنشطة الفصل، وخاصة في مھارة القراءة. لكن ھذا ل يخفي النتيجة التي توصلت إليھا في كون الطلبة لديھم حافزا داخليا لتطوير مھارة القراءة المكثفة بھدف تعزيز آلياتھم اللغوية وتحفيز نفسيتھم.
إن القراءة المكثفة تتجلى في نمط استقبال المعرفة وأما الكتابة الكاديمية فھي إنتاج للمعرفة قاسمھما
المشترك ھو كونھما مھارتين بنائتين تتفاعلن وتتكاملن في بعضيھما، ففي القراءة المكثفة يتمكن الطالب من الزيادة في سرعة القراءة والفھم وتوسيع الرصيد المعرفي للمفاھيم وبخصوص الكتابة الكاديمية يتعلم الطالب طريقة الصياغة الصحيحة لسياق النص في استجابة مع المتلقي والغرض من كتابته، وعندما يتمكن الطالب من ضبط آليات الكتابة الكاديمية يصبح وبطريقة مباشرة له القدرة على الكتابة السلسة والدقيقة والواضحة بعين نقدية .القراءة المكثفة والكتابة الكاديمية ھما مھارتين جديدتين بالنسبة للطلبة وسيتم العتياد عليھما بشكل
تلقائي بعد الممارسة الكتابية.
إن التنمية القرائية، في الحقيقة تعتمد على نجاعة قوة اكتساب القراءة والكتابة لن الطلبة يتلقون
فالقراءة المعرفة من خلل استھلكم للقراءة والعمل على إنتاجھا مرة أخرى في الكتابة، وبناء على ھذا، المكثفة والكتابة الكاديمية معا لھما القدرة على تحويل الطلبة في المستقبل إلى كتاب وباحثين ومفكرين وأكاديميين لھم مساھماتھم الفكرية ھدفھا السمى ھو تغيير منحى البلد إلى الفضل، ولھذا يجب على المناھج
البيداغوجية المتبنية في تدريس مھارتي القراءة والكتابة في التعليم العالي المغربي، أن يعاد فيھا النظر.
There is no doubt that literacy in Morocco has mushroomed considerably within the realm of TEFL in recent years, especially with respect to language acquisition, research, and business (Ennaji, 2005; Zughoul, 2002). This can be attributed to the prevalence and growing interest of English in Moroccan higher education. In 1999, the kingdom of Morocco enacted a comprehensive educational reform that introduced English education at the lower secondary level (Commission Spéciale de l’Education et la Formation, 2000). 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 has become imperative to raise students’ awareness of the momentous role that reading and writing perform within development, communication, and scholarship (Kirsch and Jungeblut, 1986; Venezky, Kaestle, and Sum, 1987). Yet the teaching of English reading and writing in Moroccan higher education has been divorced for decades; probably most language educators and TEFL practitioners have been assuming that reading is simply receptive, whereas writing is simply productive, with little relation between them (Bazerman, 1980). As a matter of fact, 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 (Bazerman, 1980). The pedagogical mindset has created a plethora of hurdles toward marrying reading and writing in EFL classrooms (Shananhan, 1984).
Larouz claims that “a review of the literature on reading and writing reveals that much has been written on both skills separately but there is a lack of research on the relationship between the two” (2012:1). In the same vein, Larouz stresses that “literature published on the nature of the connection between reading and writing is somewhat scarce” (2012: 49). This is true since reading and writing have almost always been taught in separation; therefore, finding a true marriage of both skills has frequently been a rare currency in research. Furthermore, the teaching of reading and writing together has not pedagogically been part of our higher education, but in the recent years more research in combining both skills has grown rapidly among TEFL practitioners and educators. In fact, by understanding the dynamics and intellectual influences of reading and writing we can help respond qualitatively and quantitatively to various learning needs of students, and hence contribute to their literacy, and therefore boost our national development.
More importantly, one should mention that the methodology of teaching composition in Moroccan institutions seems to ignore the advances, research findings, and the corresponding recommendations in this area. In truth, it is quite conspicuous that some Moroccan English teachers are more interested in language correctness than anything else when it comes to composition. This merely means that accuracy (layout and structure) is prioritized whereas fluency (content, intelligibility, and coherence) is deprioritized. According to Mars, “the methodology for teaching writing effectively is an area in which Moroccan teachers receive little or no specific training at all; as a matter of fact, teachers rely on their experience as students and teach composition as they have learnt it through the sentence grammar-oriented approach” (1989: 72). Rababah views the entire issue differently; she “argues that this continuing dissatisfaction with the performance of Moroccan students, as it is the case for all Arab students, is due to a lack of fundamental standards in curriculum design about communicative skills. For them, the low level, which the students’ writings are best indicative of, is undoubtedly the reflection of what they were actually taught” (2003: 5).
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 (Trilling and Fadel, 2009; Wagner, 2008; Norris, 1985; Sternberg, 1986).
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 (Crystal, 1997). Therefore, enabling EFL learners to become effective communicators and both literate and knowledgeable learners in English will incrementally make our country a compelling destination not only for education and research, but also for foreign investment and business (Ennaji, 2005; Zughoul, 2002).
With hindsight, the objective of this thesis is to investigate the impact, interaction, and affinity of extensive reading and academic writing in Moroccan higher education. Extensive reading is primarily characterized by pleasure and general understanding of longer texts (Scrivener, 2005: 188). The reciprocal benefits and cognitive relations that reading and writing share have been increasingly researched by a number of scholars and writers, such as Heys (1962), Christiensen (1965), De Vries (1970), Tierney and Pearson (1983), Tsang (1996), Nelson (2006), Kraemer (2013), and many others. Nonetheless, many questions have remained unanswered and unresearched with respect to the ongoing textual, lexical, syntactic, and stylistic relations that cognitively and technically govern extensive reading and academic writing, along with the mutual impact that they may have on one another.
Accordingly, this research aims to unpack the conventions and techniques of written academic texts in tandem with extensive reading, as well as study the analysis of linguistic and technical tools utilized in academic written texts. It also aims to explore the impact of classroom interactions and learning-teaching procedures on the development of academic writing. To reach the above-mentioned objectives, an attempt will be made to research the significance and characteristics of extensive reading, as well as the techniques of English academic writing that would help Moroccan university students grow intellectually and academically.
This paper strives to answer the following questions:
1) What is extensive reading?
2) What characterizes academic writing?
3) To what extent does extensive reading contribute to the production of English academic writing?
4) How do extensive reading and academic writing interact?
5) What are the dimensions and goals of extensive reading and academic writing?
6) What is the impact of extensive reading on the writing of Moroccan EFL university students?
To answer the aforementioned research questions, this research paper will be divided into four chapters and a conclusion (presentation of findings):
The first chapter (Review of the Literature) will review the existing literature relevant to the characteristics of extensive reading and academic writing. It will also discuss issues related to the processes of academic writing skills and reading mechanisms. Similarly, it will establish a thorough understanding of the different theories, models, and approaches that deal with extensive reading and academic writing. It is split into two main sections. The first section handles extensive reading and the second section deals with academic writing, including descriptive writing and its characteristics.
The second chapter (Data Collection and Classification) will be devoted to describing the target population and the instruments used for gathering the research data, namely two different questionnaires and an extensive reading experiment at Mohammed V University-Rabat. Likewise, it will introduce and discuss the validity and reliability test that was taken into account before embarking on the experiment at Mohammed V University. This chapter will also tabulate the informants’ answers, in terms of questionnaires, using percentages.
The third chapter (Data Analysis) will transform the gathered data into graphs and analyze them. The data will be quantitative in nature due to the use of two different questionnaires, which will generate a deeper discussion of the main findings for the present study. The students’ questionnaire will be split into subsections. Each subsection of the questionnaire encompasses a set of questions that establish a profound comprehension of the research topic while simultaneously leading to pedagogical implications for the learning and teaching of extensive reading and academic writing. The professors’ questionnaire will help me gain firsthand knowledge of the methodology used for the teaching of writing and the tasks instructors assign to students to prepare them for academic writing.
The fourth Chapter (Discussion and Analysis) is divided into three main sections. First section will introduce, analyze, and discuss the results of the extensive reading experiment carried out at Mohammed V University in Rabat. This experiment seeks to investigate whether Moroccan EFL first and second year university students need extensive reading in order to produce English academic writing. Second section will describe and discuss an extensive reading program that aims at serving syllabus designers with recommendations about the learning needs and objectives behind such a program, and at the same time creating energy and synergy among Moroccan EFL learners in order to change their attitudes toward reading. Third section will provide writing recommendations to Moroccan EFL learners. I plan to make the writing process easy and strategic, and hence make academic writing an enjoyable and productive activity.
The conclusion will be primarily concerned with presenting and discussing the findings of the present study.
“The best way to improve your knowledge of a foreign language is to go and live among its speakers. The next best way is to read extensively in it” (Nuttall, 1982: 168).
The present chapter will review the literature related to the central issues of extensive reading and academic writing. The chapter is, therefore, divided into two main sections. The first section is devoted to providing working definitions of extensive reading and discussing its characteristics, as well as the roles of graded readers and extensive reading teachers. This section also endeavors to discuss various attributes of Moroccan EFL learners, reading views, models, and approaches in order to acquaint unfamiliar readers with background knowledge about the underlying processes and strategies that govern extensive reading. The second section mainly deals with defining academic writing and presenting its conventions. Similarly, it will discuss the significance of writing within literacy, and briefly introduce descriptive writing and its characteristics. This section will also provide writing approaches and models of reconnecting reading and writing in order to establish a solid foundation for the current research project.
In 1953, the UNESCO defined literacy as “the ability of a person who can with understanding both read and write short simple statements on his/her everyday life”, then in 1978, as “the ability of a person to engage in all those activities in which literacy is required for effective functioning in his group and community and also for enabling him to continue to use reading, writing and calculations for his/her own and the community’s development.” One should note from the aforesaid definitions that literacy carries within itself functionality and development that humans can utilize to serve not only themselves, but also the entire society. This actually helps our society grow and blossom in various domains. Subsequently, however, Freire and Macedo came up with a different view of literacy as “… a strategy of liberation that teaches people to read not only the word but also the world” (1987: 141). This definition emphasizes the utmost goal of literacy, that is, to emancipate the human soul and educate its mind. When people become literate they see the world and life from different angles. They become more flexible and open-minded as it were.
According to Touati, “a person is deemed literate if s/he can read and write. Illiteracy would simply mean the lack of those abilities” (2012: 8). Touati adds that the word literate in spoken Arabic means “one who reads”, “one who has studied”, or “one who has gone to school”. She explains that the concept of literacy has to be placed “within a global view of education since it constitutes its basic backbone as well as its clear manifestation” (2012:17). In the same vein, Touati stresses that there is not merely one type of literacy. However, there are a few of them: cultural literacy, functional literacy, and information literacy. She divides the term literacy into different phases, such as pre-literate, semi-literate, post-literate and highly literate. Touati clarifies that the terms pre-literate and illiterate are both alike, and hence indicate a lack or deficiency (2012:8). She contends that literacy in Morocco has positive social benefits, such as birth control, family planning, the acquisition of moral values, and access to general information and technology. However, it does not always secure employment (2012: 28).
Reading is unquestionably of paramount importance in language acquisition. It inspires and fuels 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, developing reading skills can tremendously improve students’ ability to grasp convoluted concepts and thoughts. In short, reading develops critical thinking and helps students become not only good writers, but also competent future scholars and researchers.
According to the testimonies of numerous students at Mohammed V University who major in English Studies, along with around 80% of the participants stressed that they constantly encounter the demanding tasks of reading an immense amount of lengthy and complex pieces of English and American literature (short stories, novellas, novels, and plays) in a variety of forms and covering an array of subjects. In fact, most students dislike reading in English because the elements of interest, pleasure, and enthusiasm are unfortunately absent, largely due to tedious reading materials and orthodox teaching methods. For Van and Gustafson, “insights gained from investigating how successful reading comprehension comes about—and why it may fail—are of great value for the development of instructional programs, design of textbooks, diagnosis of reading problems, and other educational practices” (1999: 15). In other words, reading ought to be an active and fluent process that involves meaning construction as a result of reader-text interplay. Often, however, it is not. This results in academic failure in the foreign language instruction (Graesser, Singer, and Trabasso, 1994). Given this problem, it is important to provide basic solutions to help students read in English and enjoy what they read. Second, writing assignments and research papers represents another challenging component of higher education in Morocco. According to the majority of Moroccan university students, predominantly at Mohammed V University, English academic writing, for them, is perceived as a burdensome part of the curriculum because it is technically and intellectually demanding.
For decades, extensive reading has been the center of academic debates for a myriad of scholars, educators, researchers, linguists, and TEFL practitioners. Its benefits have been well- researched worldwide in order to increase the quality of teaching and students’ literacy skills. This is meant to enable EFL learners to become both lifelong learners and proficient communicators. Amongst the pioneers of extensive reading was Harold Palmer, whose linguistic ingenuity allowed him to coin extensive reading. He used this term in his famous book: The Scientific Study and Teaching of Languages (1917). Since then, extensive reading has been increasingly developed and has become more critical in foreign-language instruction. It is used today as a pedagogical approach in the field of education in general, and in the field of TEFL in particular.
Interestingly, Harold Palmer opted for another term that conveys the same meaning as extensive reading, namely “abundant reading,” in the Report of the Committee of Twelve (Modern Language Association of America, 1901). In actuality, there are a myriad of synonyms that can be used interchangeably, such as pleasure reading (Day & Bamford, 1997; Dungworth, Grimshaw, McKnight, & Morris, 2004), sustained silent reading (Garan, & DeVoogd, 2008; Kelley, & Clausen-Grace, 2006; Reutzel, Fawson, & Smith, 2008), or free reading (Krashen, 1996; 2004). In fact, notwithstanding the above-mentioned terms in the existing literature, Palmer’s term remains the most ubiquitous in the realm of TEFL.
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.
1) Distinction Between Intensive Reading and Extensive Reading
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(Welsh (1997) qtd. in Waring, Getting An ER Program Going 3)
Another similar view is held by Barfield in an online paper, where he defines extensive reading as reading “a large quantity of texts, where reading confidence and reading fluency are prioritized” (2000: 25). Barfield expects students to read various texts in order to gain more confidence and achieve more fluency. Fluency is achieved through long hours of reading and dedication to the language one acquires. This is supported by Nuttall, who holds essentially the same view regarding extensive reading, contending that “We learn to read by reading…We want students to read better… To do this they need to read more” (1996: 128). This suggests that students have to read continuously in order to develop and enhance their reading skills. It is true that we learn much when we read, especially when we read books that we like. In this regard, extensive reading can be an excellent choice for students to read books of different subject- matters enthusiastically, which will affect positively their personal and intellectual development.
According to Carrell et al, “extensive reading often, such as in an EAP setting, involves rapid reading of large amounts of material or longer content, such as a whole book, for ‘getting the gist of’ or developing a focus on the general meaning of what is being read” (1997). This clearly indicates that extensive reading is based upon two main pillars: speed and meaning. That is to say, students are not supposed to look up each word in a dictionary, study grammatical structures, or memorize expressions of a text. In fact, Carrell’s definition of extensive reading sounds more or less like Palmer’s, which also emphasizes speed and meaning. 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. Afterwards, they do extensive reading in order to be able to understand meaning in context and without paying attention to grammar.
Bamford notes that “extensive reading is a language teaching procedure where learners are supposed to read large quantities of material or long texts for general understanding, the principal goal being obtaining pleasure from the text” (2004). This connotes that extensive reading is by definition premised upon substantial amounts of reading, which requires general understanding of a text, but prioritizes pleasure. Pleasure in this context is synonymous with the Lacanian term ‘jouissance.’ Hence, reading becomes an enjoyable and stress-free activity. Nevertheless, Simensen believes that extensive reading can counteract “a tendency among foreign language learners always to regard a text as an object for language studies and not as an object for factual information, literary experience or simply pleasure, joy, or delight” (1987: 42).
Schmidt takes Dawson's (1992) definition “...extensive reading as a means of facilitating acquisition ... and learners ... select books from a variety of genres and language levels and read them for interest and enjoyment, with minimal post-reading tasks.” Here, “minimal post-reading tasks” does not mean tasks, which are sometimes done by the students. On the contrary, post- reading tasks are required at all times. It is the nature of the task that is kept to the minimum. For example, the students are asked to write a very short summary (2 or 3 sentences long) and to comment on the reading they wish, with no grammar correction whatsoever from the teacher (2000).
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 or introduced. 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).
A) 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.
B) 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.
C) 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.
D) 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.
E) 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).
F) 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.
G) 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. 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.
H) Reading is its own reward.
Extensive reading does not necessarily mean that students will be tested on their reading. Students are joyfully exhilarated by their reading experience. However, teachers may ask students to do follow-up activities after reading. These activities are purely designed to reflect students' experience of reading in lieu of painstakingly answering comprehension questions. In brief, extensive reading creates pleasure and general understanding for students.
I) The teacher orients and guides the students.
Teachers can explain to students what ER is, its rationale, purpose, and methodology. Most importantly, teachers should not only explain or describe the package of ER, but they should also become role models for students in themselves reading. They can also give written assignments with respect to what has been comprehended in the reading material so as to ensure understanding and reinforce readability. ER is a student-centered teaching approach that contrasts the traditional teacher-centered approaches. Teachers can encourage and lead students to read as much as possible in order to bolster and increase their confidence, fluency, and eventually literacy.
J) The teacher is a role model of a reader.
Teachers are the embodiment of good readers in the classroom. They provide students with good reading techniques in order to enable them to read purposefully and meaningfully. Teachers have to enthusiastically take part in the extensive reading program, as well as motivate and encourage students to read for enjoyment. Similarly, they have to instill in students the habit of swapping books (graded readers) among each other in order to reduce the costs of buying additional books. In this regard, Christine Nuttall mentions in her book, Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language (1996), “students follow the example of people they respect, and above all that of their teacher. If the teacher is seen to read with concentration, to enjoy reading and to make use of books, newspapers and so on, the students are more likely to take notice of her when she urges them to do the same” (qtd. in Day and Bamford, Extensive Reading 136). They also model teacher book-talk as the teacher demonstrates his or her enjoyment of reading a book by talking to students. This can be helpful for the students who are struggling with reading (137).
On the whole, the ten principles of extensive reading are of paramount importance for teachers to use because they provide an unwavering theoretical framework for putting extensive reading in action within language classrooms. In fact, these principles create workable guidelines for conceptualizing and visualizing extensive reading within the curriculum.
Graded readers are books that are written with simple sentence structures for English- language learners. Graded readers are very useful materials for extensive reading (ER). In an ER program, choosing a book for pleasure reading is a crucial step toward fluency in both reading and writing. According to Waring, “graded reading is the reading of material which has been made easy to read.” A key link between graded and extensive reading is that, “graded reading uses specially prepared materials while extensive reading can, but need not do so” (1997: 9-12). The author also lists the benefits of graded reading: “building reading speed, lexical speed access, reading fluency, and the ability when reading to move from working with words to working with ideas.” He finally agrees with Bamford that students’ motivation is increased when reading extensively.
Additionally, Lindsay explains that graded readers should be written with relatively easy words and sentences in order to contribute to students’ reading enjoyment (2000: 169). When books are daunting to read, they hinder learners from improving their fluency and quick eye movements. Furthermore, students may not enjoy reading itself. In an ER program, if students keep reading graded reading books, they will able to read quickly and smoothly. Most importantly, reading should be perceived as an exciting part of the course and not just something to be tolerated.
With respect to the books’ selection criteria, Collie and Slater suggest a literary text that is capable of “stimulating the personal involvement by arousing the learners' interest and provoking strong, positive reactions from them and thus have a beneficial effect upon their linguistic and cultural knowledge” (1987: 6). Larouz adds, “reading passages test the reader’s ability to recognize not only what is explicitly stated, but also to recognize underlying assumptions and the implication of statements in the passage” (2012: 19). Nonetheless, choosing literature that is appropriate to the learners’ level in a particular class is a critical task because what might be easy for some students may not necessarily be easy for others. If teachers ignore this fact, it might cause a big gap in class with respect to students’ participation. The outcome of this teaching approach is that teachers will be interacting with very few students while the rest of the class will be desperately watching other students actively engaged. Thus, students usually tend to attribute their class failure to teachers. Accordingly, Lazar states that “most teachers find that when selecting texts for their learners they generally proceed on an intuitive basis. With a good knowledge of and rapport with a group of learners, this usually works well” (1993: 52). This suggests that when teachers understand their students well and communicate genuinely with them they seem to be in a better position to choose the appropriate reading materials that are able to stimulate, inspire, and instill great values and ethics in their students.
It is clear now to say that the aforementioned scholarly testimonies reaffirm the effectiveness and importance of graded readers and extensive reading in foreign-language acquisition in general and writing skills development in particular. There is no doubt that extensive reading with the utility of graded readers is a miracle in the field of TEFL.
illustration not visible in this excerpt
This chart clearly shows how graded readers should be written on an academic scale. In each level, there are a number of words that should be written to match the right level of students. There is no harm in creating groups in one class and using different graded readers to suit the level of each student. It would be pedagogically ineffective to assign one graded reader for the entire class, as this would create many gaps and pitfalls in the reading process because some students would find the reading material too easy while others would find it too difficult. There might be even a clash of levels among students, especially those who study more than others either at home or in private English language centers.
As a matter of fact, we cannot discuss extensive reading without discussing graded readers. They intertwine with each other. Graded readers are what make extensive reading a successful approach in foreign-language instruction. They provide EFL learners with an unprecedented and a unique learning opportunity, where they can freely and independently read, and hence learn enjoyably new things every day. Their extensive reading experiences can lead to many improvements in their writing, starting with vocabulary growth and ending with writing style improvement - particularly in terms of sentence structure and word choice. This issue will be discussed at length in the section that handles ‘Effects of Reading on the Development of Academic Writing.’
Experts of reading define various characteristics of proficient readers. Yet, despite contention, there has been agreement as to the key habits of proficient readers. Reading Apprenticeship views proficient readers as:
A) Mentally engaged
These readers are intellectually curious and highly committed to their reading tasks. When reading, they usually annotate, take notes, summarize, do research, make connections, and so on. They generally show a positive and strong interaction with the text. They are also active in class participation during the reading session. They ask questions and openly express their thoughts.
B) Motivated to read to learn
These readers are usually the ones who consider the book as their friend. They read everywhere and are usually passionate and ambitious. Their intrinsic motivation comes from the fact that they are are eager to learn more in order to earn more, and as a result their knowledgebuilding constantly progresses.
C) Socially active around reading tasks
These are the kind of readers who talk to people about what they read and share what they learn with them. They can inspire and encourage other people to read by strongly recommending books to them and sharing their reading processes, problems, and solutions with them.
D) Strategic in monitoring the interactive processes that assist comprehension
These types of readers are usually not dependent on dictionaries when reading. They do not read the entire text and avoid details and unnecessary information. In other words, they skim most of the time, which in my opinion, makes them efficient and fast readers. They are interested only in the most important and meaningful ideas around which a book revolves.
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