|Teaching Additional Languages (IAE - IBE - UNESCO, 28 p.)|
Students should be given practice in comprehending natural texts.
The ability to read ordinary texts in an additional language is a crucial skill that students should master. Reading, like listening, is an interactive process. Students need to master bottom-up skills: recognizing letters, understanding words and phrases, and comprehending sentences (see Principle 5). At the same time, top-down knowledge is important in reading comprehension. Background knowledge enables readers to understand a passage, and to make a sensible guess when a word or phrase is not understood. Efficient readers make use of both top-down and bottom-up strategies; they use one to compensate for lack of knowledge of the other. Therefore, teachers need to provide instruction in both types of strategies in a comprehensive reading programme.
Skilled readers can also adapt their speed to their purpose and the text. Sometimes they read an entire passage carefully and slowly seeking the main ideas, detailed information, and inferences and implications. Sometimes they quickly scan a text to find out the major points or to answer a single question. Such tasks need to be taught. To acquire them, students need to read a wide variety of naturally occurring texts: both literary and non-literary, academic and non-academic, formal and informal. Thus, a reading programme should not only use traditional reading passages, but also contain such things as maps, schedules, menus and signs. Finally, a course in reading should include both intensive reading, which is done in classroom situations and emphasizes specific reading skills, and more extensive reading done by students outside of class, which provides additional reading opportunities.
In the classroom
Following from these research findings are several general teaching strategies:
· Teach bottom-up reading skills, such as rapidly processing common words and phrases, and call attention to rhetorical markers such as however and therefore.
· Refresh background knowledge before reading a passage.
· Use natural language texts and select material that corresponds to the various types of readings that students will encounter.
· Teach appropriate reading strategies that correspond to the texts and real-life tasks: reading for general meaning, recalling specific information, understanding inferences and implications, skimming, scanning, etc.
· Provide numerous opportunities for reading, both inside and outside of classes.
References: Aebersold & Field, 1997; Anderson, 1999; Day & Bamford, 1998.