|English for Specific Purposes (ESP): Teaching English for Specific Purposes (Peace Corps, 1986, 110 p.)|
|Chapter Five: Materials selection and development|
Look at potential materials in terms of their comprehensibility to the students. In order to judge complexity, look at the following features:
1. Length: shorter texts will to easier to read, in general, than longer texts.
2. Internal complexity: texts made up of simple sentences will generally be easier to read than texts which contain many complex constructions.
3. Density of new information: texts whose content is already somewhat familiar to students will be easier to read than those with unfamiliar content.
4. Presence of supportive graphics: Pictures, charts, and other graphics provide context and make reading easier.
5. Organizational pattern: texts which follow a chronological or logical progression in the sequence of events or actions are more likely to be understood.
6. Degree of abstraction: texts that provide a concrete discussion of events rather than analysis or speculation will be clearer.
If passages are complex and dense, they should be short so that they can be read intensively. But students also need practice in developing their reading speed, and to do this they need to read longer selections as well. Passages which follow a chronological order or. provide clear descriptions can be long and still be accessible to the students. Supportive graphics are particularly important. Select texts which present a concept clearly through visual or graphic examples. Visual aids contribute much to the comprehensibility of a reading passage.
Other aspects of texts which affect their readability are the relevance of the topic to the students' interests, the task students are asked to do with the material, and the cultural context of the reading. Material which is not apparently relevant will be more difficult for students to comprehend. Tasks appropriate to different levels of reading complexity are suggested in Chapter Three, Developing Language Skills. Texts should also be assessed to ensure that they are not so culture-bound as to be incomprehensible to learners from other cultures. The cultural context is crucial because materials whose cultural content the students find objectionable will not only be incomprehensible, but may in some cases also alienate them.
Students do not have to understand every part of every reading passage they work from. You can use materials from which students can gain some skill or insight, even if total comprehensibility is not achieved. Students will accept this if they are told that they are reading a particular text for specific information or for a particular purpose; for example, if students are asked to scan an article to find the answer to questions you give them. The text can then later be "recycled" at a higher level as the students gain in proficiency.