|English for Specific Purposes (ESP): Teaching English for Specific Purposes (Peace Corps, 1986, 110 p.)|
|Chapter Three: Developing language skills|
Reading is the primary channel through which your students will progress in English after your course is over. A good reading program provides instruction in the skills required at various levels of reading, along with plenty of practice in this skill, which can only be developed through extensive and continual practice. Follow the guidelines in Chapter Five, Materials Selection and Development, for selection of appropriate reading materials.
Two types of skills are needed in reading: simple identification skills, (decoding) and higher level cognitive skills such as analyzing, synthesizing, and predicting. Your reading program should work on two levels to develop both types of skill.
In order to do this, your program should incorporate two types of reading tasks: intensive and extensive. Intensive reading is close analysis of a short passage and can be used to develop vocabulary, grammar skills, and comprehension. Extensive reading is faster reading of longer passages to develop understanding of writers' organizational strategies, to improve reading speed, and to focus on main ideas.
Fluent reading depends primarily on knowledge of vocabulary and subject matter, and secondarily on knowledge of grammatical structure and familiarity with the ways that writers organize texts in English. Vocabulary development, then, is a vital aspect of reading (and listening) development. Your students will need to develop a good vocabulary in English in order to be efficient readers and listeners. You will probably find that they already know quite a lot of technical vocabulary in English in their fields. You can help them to expand their technical vocabulary and develop the additional vocabulary they need for further study.
Vocabulary should be taught only in context, never in word lists to be memorized with dictionary definitions. Use real objects or pictures whenever possible to introduce new words. The vocabulary you teach should be words which are useful for the students in the situations in which they encounter English. Do not give long lists of words each week; instead, focus on useful words that are present in the reading and listening passages students are working with.
Grammar is best taught in connection with writing (see below), but exercises related to the reading and listening passages the students have worked with can also help them to increase their reading comprehension. Help students focus on grammatical structures which appear in reading texts, such as verb forms, possessives, adjectives and adverbs, and comparative forms.
Higher level cognitive skills necessary for good reading depend on knowledge of the subject matter of the texts and knowledge of the way that information is organized in writing. Your ESP students already bring their knowledge of the subject matter to the reading task, and their backgrounds in their fields will help make the reading materials more comprehensible to them. Students' higher level cognitive skills can be tapped by giving them advance information about the texts they are asked to read, and by teaching them to preview texts before beginning to read. Previewing is a quick reading for general familiarity, in which students a) read the introductory paragraph; b) read the first sentence of each of the body paragraphs; and c) read the entire concluding paragraph. This should take students only a few minutes, and will enhance their reading comprehension.
The SQ3R technique is commonly used to help students get the most from their reading. SQ3R means Survey, Question, Read, Recite, and Review. Students are asked to complete these five activities:
1) to survey; looking over headings, reading introductory and concluding paragraphs, and identifying the core ideas of the passage.
2) to formulate questions from text headings.
3) to make a conscious effort to find the answers in the text as they read.
4) Having read the first section, to look away from the book and try to recite the answers to their questions, using their own words and trying to give an example.
5) to take notes, and, when they have finished reading, to review their notes.
Training in this procedure will help students to read more efficiently.
Students should receive practice in reading for different purposes, such as finding main ideas, finding specific information, or discovering the author's point of view. students should have a clear idea of the purpose of heir reading before they begin. Background information is very helpful in understanding texts. Students need advance guidelines for approaching each assignment. Knowing the purpose of the assignment will help students get the most from their reading effort. From the title, for instance, they can be asked to predict what the text is about. It is also helpful to give students some questions to think about as they read. The way they approach the reading task will depend on the purpose for which they are reading.
Use different texts for different reading tasks. Teach the skills of skimming and scanning. Skimming is quick reading to get the general drift of a passage. Students can be asked to skim a text to discover the author's purpose. Scanning is a focused search for specific information. Students can be asked to scan a text to answer a specific question.
Comprehension checks can be built into reading as well as listening exercises. Figure 4 is an example of how a reading exercise can incorporate comprehension checks. Students read part of the passage, then mark statements as "true" or "false" based on what they have read, and then continue reading. You can also teach them to read the questions about the text first, and then read the text itself.
Use long articles as well as short passages. Students need practice with long blocks of text which they read for main ideas as well as intensive work with paragraphs and short passages. Long articles can be read outside of class to provide background for the work that will be done during the class period. You can make long passages more accessible to students by dividing the text into sections and adding appropriate sub-headings.
Train students to recognize patterns of organization of texts. These include the following:
Description: Descriptions include physical descriptions or persons, places, or objects, or descriptions of processes, such as step-by-step explanations of how something is done or directions for doing something.
Example paragraph: Description by enumeration of steps in a process.
From Paragraph Development by Martin L. Arvaudet and Mary Ellen Barrett Copyright 1981 by Prentice Hall, Inc. Used by permission.
Figure 4. From English in Mechanical Engineering by Eric H. Glendinning. Copyright ° 1973 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Reprinted by permission.
Contrast: In this pattern the main idea is developed through comparison and contrast with other things. Often examples are used to illustrate. Definitions and descriptions are often included in this pattern.
Other patterns of organization of texts
In this pattern, a topic is broken down into causes, effects, reasons, methods, purposes-, or other categories that support the main idea
In this pattern the main idea is implied by the use of analogy. This organizing principle is often used to make complex concepts easier to understand by relating them to better known ones.
The purpose of a text in this pattern is to define, explain, or clarify the meaning of something. It may involve analysis, comparison or contrast, description, or even analogy. Help students to become adept at recognizing implied and explicit definitions.
Do not ask students to read aloud in class to test their comprehension. When reading aloud, the reader focuses on pronunciation, not comprehension. In any case, listening to other students' inaccurate reading is boring and counterproductive. Students should read silently when reading is to be done in class. Students will appreciate hearing you read aloud, however, because listening to native speakers is one way they accustom themselves to the sound patterns of English.
Students often believe they must understand every word in order to read English. In fact, good 'reading means the ability to process chunks of language larger than single words, so striving for word-for-word recognition will actually slow students down and interfere with their overall comprehension. Encourage them to use the context of the passage to understand it, rather than reaching for the dictionary every time they do not recognize a word. Context clues include use of functional definitions, as in "The scientist used a caliper to measure the thickness of the paper" where the meaning of "caliper" can be inferred from the description of the function of a caliper. Using context clues also includes noting grammatical clues, such as recognizing that a word is an adjective because of its position in the sentence, or noting past tense endings or possessive forms.
Context clues also include understanding the meaning of the other words in the sentence and applying such understanding to infer the meaning of an unknown word or phrase. For example, students can be taught to infer the meaning of the word "drought" in the sentence "Because of the drought, many communities in the Sahel region of Africa are having to leave their homes to search for water."
Be sure to get the most out of any reading passage you assign, using it in various ways so that students work with familiar material that they understand well in doing various types of reading and study skills exercises. Figure 5 shows how a reading passage can be used to develop several different types of exercises. C-uidelines for preparing reading comprehension questions are given in Chapter Five, Materials Selection and Development.
Objectives for Teaching Reading
1. Students will demonstrate their understanding of authentic material in their content area, including stating the main points of the text and giving the author's point of view.
2. Students will be able to scan a passage quickly to find specific information.
3. Students will use an increasing large vocabulary in the subject area and in general academic language.
Activities for Development of Reading Skills
1. Use fill-in-the-blank vocabulary exercises like the one given in Chapter Four, Program Design, to develop students' vocabulary. This type of exercise also doubles as a listening comprehension exercise if you read the sentence aloud and ask students to write in the missing vocabulary word.
2. Vocabulary can also be developed through instruction about prefixes and suffixes that carry meaning in English. These include:
a) prefixes which convey negative meaning, such as un-; in-; non-; a-; dis-; anti-; de-; counter-; contra-; mls-; mal-; under-; over-;. Examples: like/dislike; understand/misunderstand.
b) Noun-agent suffixes such as -er; -or; -ent; -ant; mist; -ian. Examples: teach/teacher; science/scientist.
c) Verb-forming suffixes such as -ize; -ify; -ate. Examples: organize; specify.
d) Noun-forming suffixes such as ration; -cation; -tion. Examples: organization, specification.
3. Have students use what they read in order to perform a task. Following is an example of such an activity from the Nucleus series (see Appendix A, Resources):
"In a given system the chances of a component failing after the first five thousand hours are one in a thousand. During the next three thousand hours the chances of failure uniformly decrease until after eight thousand hours the chances are one in two thousand. The failure rate remains constant for the next four thousand hours. It then enters the wearout period and the chances of the component failing in the next three thousand hours increase uniformly to one in eight hundred.
Now draw a graph to plot the changes in failure rate as a percentage. Make the vertical axis the failure rate and the horizontal axis the operating hours."
(From Engineering by T. Dudley--Evans, T. Smart, and J. 'Hall. Copyright 1978. Used by permission of Longman Group, Ltd.)
Exercises can be developed which help make explicit the organizational pattern and/or main idea of the author. The outlining exercise .e in Chapter Four, Program Design, is an example of this.
5. Encourage students to read extensively by asking them to report on material they have read outside of class which is relevant to the topic under consideration.
6. If time permits, incorporate some time for silent reading into your instructional program.
Figure 5. From English for Computer Science by Norma D. Mullen and P. Charles Brown. Copyright ° 1983 by Oxford University Press, Inc. Reprinted by permission.
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