Teaching Second Language Reading at Wikia

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Reading 44595

Learning to read

Teaching second language reading is a thematic focus in the ESL setting. Some of the following information is taken from the books listed at the end. Please add more about teaching second language reading on this page.

What is “Reading”?

Reading is like an infectious disease: it is caught not taught. (And you can't catch it from someone who hasn't got it...) - Christine Nuttall (1983)

  • What do you think about reading? Do you think of other metaphors to describe reading process?

What Is Reading?

Learning spiral2

The learning spiral

The learning spiral depicts the developmental process of learning from awareness to synthesis. It also reflects how L2 learners learn reading. Aebersold & Field (1997) discuss the 3 elements involved in the reading process: the reader, the text, and the interaction between the reader and the text:

The Reader

The readers' past experience influence their process of reading:

  1. The family inlfuence: family members shape children's reading behaviors, habits, and attitudes.
  2. The community influence: the social events occured in the community shape children's bases of knowledge.
  3. The school influence: children learn how to read at school. They share different experience or values with other classmates.
  4. The cultural influence: culture shapes children's way of interpreting the reading and this world.

The Text

  • Sources of text: authentic materials, such as labels, instructions, advertisements, and notes; artificial materials, such as textbooks.
  • Rhetorical structure: description, classfication, comparison, contrast, cause and effect, process, argument, and persuasion.
  • Syntax and grammar: cohesion
  • Vocabulary: content words and function words

The Interaction between Reader and Text

  • Interaction through reading strategies
    • Effective word recognition
    • Use text features (subheadings, transitions, etc.)
    • Analyze unfamiliar words
    • Read for meaning, concentrate on constructing meaning
  • Interaction through schema: knowledge readers bring to text
    • Content schema: a basis for comparison
    • Formal schema: organization forms and rhetorical structures of texts
    • Linguistic schema: decoding features for word recognition

Models of Reading

Bottom-up theory (decoding)

Constructing the text from small units

Top-down theory

Fitting the text into reader's existing knowledge and checking back when new information appears.

Interactive school of theorists

Top-down and bottom up processes occured alternately or simultaneously.

  • Please see top-down and bottom-up design for more information on these two theories implemented in information processing and knowledge ordering.
  • Which model do you think will be the most effective reading strategy? Or it depends on the reading purpose?

Vocabulary Issues In Reading

Vocabulary teaching is the central focus in teaching L2 reading. It has been addressed and discussed by several researchers, such as I.S.P. Nation, a vocabulary guru. See his research on How Large a Vocabulary is Needed For Reading and Listening?

  • Vocabulary Notebook: An activity that help students improve their retention of target vocabulary is to have a vocabulary notebook. Students take notes on the target words, and use the cover up to review those words. Are there any other activities to help students acquire target words in reading?
  • REAP: REAP stands for Reader-specific Practice. It has two functions.
  1. It serves as a search engine, finding authentic reading materials on the Web for pedagogical constraints, such as target words, readability, and text length.
  2. It has a reading interface that contains reading text and hightlighted words with access to the dictionary definitions.
  3. It also has the assessment parts before and after the reading, so students' existing vocabulary knowledge is measured, and their retention of the vocabulary is also examined.

Note-making Strategies

Students’ awareness of their strategy use in reading helps them understand and regulate their reading process and thus improve the efficiency of academic learning. Note-making is an important strategy that will increase readers’ active attention to the text, help them retain and recall the important points, and activate their past experience and prior knowledge to associate with the new information given in the text (Bretzing & Kulhavy 1981, Carrier & Titus 1979). Therefore, the efficient note-taking can not only increase the degree of comprehension, but also consolidate readers’ long-term memory of the target reading.

Definition of Note-Making

Taking notes is a passive process of copying verbatim notes. "Making" notes is an active activity in reading, which readers interact with the text by summarizing and paraphrasing the main ideas. According to Paul(2007), good reading notes include thinking, writing (summary or phraphrase), underlining, and drawing (graphic organizer).

Types of Notes

There are different personal styles of reading notes. Students can try to find out what is the most appropriate of making notes. In the folllowing, three types of notes are introduced for students to experiment on, but you are welcome to add more examples of notes. By looking at others' notes, students can learn what kind of notes improve their reading comprehension.


The marginal notes


The mind map


The diagram

  • Marginal notes: the summary and paraphrase of the main ideas in the margin.
  • Graphical Organizer or Mind Map: the visual representation and connection of the major points. Buzan's (2006)The Mind Map Book has more examples of effective mind maps.
  • Diagram: an effective way of comparing more than two points.

See Also


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