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Reading: sentence level or text level 
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Post Reading: sentence level or text level
When you are working with readings, do you focus on the sentence or text as a whole? one first and then the other?

I always work with the text as a whole or as chunks. With my kids classes, I never translate or dissect single sentences. I generally ask the students some comprehension questions or questions where they have to infer the answers from the picture or the text. This shows me that they understand what they read for the most part. I'm happy with that and I tell them they should be too.

I do it for two reasons. One is to increase their reading speed. If they aren't translating everything, they can move much faster. Also, in the translate everything mode, one unknown word can really slow you down.

The second is to train them to see the reading as a whole and not a group of single sentences. By seeing it as a whole it makes more sense and the parts you didn't understand so well become easier to guess at their meaning. Students become less dependant on the single words and more focused on what the reading is trying to say.

However, I know that it's mostly the pendulum swinging the other way. Japanese schools stay focused on the sentence level even in long readings. They break down every sentence, dissect and translate. They do this all through English education (6 years) and never seem to get past the single words or single sentence.

I hope to train my students to see the bigger picture and I'm fortunate enough to have someone else who does the dirty work for me :D

I don't introduce longer texts (4+ sentences or readers) until my students language competence and their phonics skills are good enough to understand to some extent the text they are reading. I spend that initial time, no readings, building phonics skills, so they can read the reading on their own, not repeat after me. I try to make reading an autonomous activity. I'm just there for a little support and to give some reassurance.

I do focus on structure and sentence level grammar in my lessons and in my speaking activities, but not in the readings. I also will explain the meaning of single words during the reading exercise if the students ask me.

It seems to be very positive for my Japanese students. They feel less pressure when attempting a reading. It also helps them at school. They can understand what the reading is about and so working with the single sentences in their public school lessons is easier for them. (I teach at my own private language school.)

What do you do with readings (not dialogs) and why? Do you approach it at a text level or a sentence level? How has that worked out for your students?

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Tue May 13, 2008 9:41 pm
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Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:38 am
Posts: 128
Location: Italy
I agree that plodding through a reading sentence by sentence (or even word by word) isn't a great way to spend lesson time.

Unfortunately, some students seem to like that plodding - heads down gazing at the text. It's safe, and seems productive, as it usually generates plenty of new vocabulary to write down in their notebooks.

What I sometimes do is allow this plodding approach for shortish texts, but keep interrupting, using ideas that come up as a basis for a series of short conversations.

I find this can sometimes work well with students who are otherwise reluctant to speak. In one sense they're getting their way - narrowly focused language work. But they're also speaking with the safety net of the ostensible reading task. There's no pressure to speak, because at any time we can go back to the reading - it can seem that we're not doing a speaking activity, we're just digressing a little from a reading task.

But to answer your question, I don't so much focus on the text as a whole. I find a lot of texts kind of answer the questions they throw up, not leaving a whole lot to discuss.

So I tend to use them for language analysis of the parts, and as a springboard for discussing wider issues related to the topic.


Sat May 17, 2008 6:41 am
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