Before the introducing and after you’ve already planned the ER program, you will need to decide how to introduce the reading to the student.
A MAJOR reason ER programs fail is that they introduce the reading too fast and too suddenly. Despite the teacher’s good intentions, the students resist and fight back when they are suddenly asked to do too much too soon.
Therefore teachers should ensure the students know
- why they are reading
- what levels they should be reading at
- what books are available
- how to borrow and return books
- the goals you set (how much to read etc) and how they will be evaluated
Introducing Extensive Reading – ‘Step-by-Step is Best’
One reason Extensive Reading programs sometimes fail is teachers do not introduce the idea carefully to their learners. Learners are usually busy people who may have other homework, a full-time job, or a family (or all of these!). Many students have never read a whole book in English. The teacher needs to introduce Extensive Reading carefully and not scare the learners.
There are two main steps:
- Introducing Extensive Reading with class readers, and
- Individualized reading.
The first step – Whole Class Reading
It is important that the teacher chooses a book the lowest ability learner in the class can understand, so as to increase confidence and make all students included. Start with all learners reading the same very easy book – a Class reader. The aim is to make the reading easy and focus on enjoyment and quick reading.
1. In the last 20 minutes of class show the book to the students and hand out the class set – either one copy for each student or one between two. Ask them to look at it. You may want to point out any important features of the book. You may wish to ask
- What kind of book is this?
- What are these things on the cover?
- What do you think is going to happen in the story?
2. Read a few pages slowly aloud for them as they read along with you (or they can listen to the book’s CD). Their reactions show how much they understand. Close the books before an exciting moment in the story.
3. Write some simple questions on the board (even in their own language) such as
- Who are the characters?
- Where does the story take place?
- What is happening?
- What will happen next?
- and so on.
4. Ask them to ask their partner, and then answer them as a class.
5. tell them they will find out in another class. Take back the books.
6. Remind learners of the story from the previous class.
7. Read a few more pages with then, and follow up with a few simple questions.
8. Continue this for a few classes until the book is finished.
9. Ask what they thought of the story and this type of reading.
10. DON’T GIVE THEM A TEST. Learners should not associate this type of reading with testing! If you need to test them, wait until later in the term.
Then do the same again with another two or three books so they get used to these books.
The second step – Individualized reading
When you feel learners are getting used to the reading it’s time to introduce them to individualized reading. This may take one whole class (40 minutes), or parts of two classes, as there are several steps.
Stage 1 – Learner orientation
This stage allows the teachers to explain to learners why this type of reading is important. This is a good time to emphasize that the textbook and the Extensive Reading should work together, and to explain that they need to read for fun so they can put the language they learn in their English classes into practice. Here are some ideas
In the first class, you will then need to explain to the learners why extensive reading is important and convey this to learners as often they cannot see the need and just see it as more homework. Not doing this well is the leading cause of failure of ER programs. They need to see that their course book provides them with the new language but their conversation and writing classes assist them in building their fluency with already known language as output. Extensive reading helps learners to build their reading speed and automaticity in reading of already known language in a pleasurable way. If they do not read or listen extensively then they cannot build reading speed and gain all the benefits that come from it.
Show them the graded readers you’ve been using. Show then the course book you are using. Ask:
- Which reading is easier? (graded reader)
- Which reading is more difficult? (course book)
- Which reading is more enjoyable? (graded reader)
- Which reading is for studying? (course book)
- Which reading is for building your reading ability? (graded reader)
The following table can be very helpful for explaining extensive reading to students
ADD ER IR TABLE
Stage 2 – Learner’s first book
Put a selection of the easier books on a table for learners to look at, and let them look through them. Explain to the learners that they can choose any book they want to read. Here are some ideas about how they can find their own comfortable reading level.
At this early stage point out the following about your cataloging system:
- How the books are leveled (for example, using a colour coding system).
- The numbering system used to catalogue individual readers.
- How learners borrow and return readers.
How learners decide what levels they should be reading at
Once learners have decided their reading level and chosen a reader. If you are starting with in-class reading time, then they read silently in a Quiet Reading Time for about 10 minutes while the teacher goes around the class quietly asking questions. ‘How is the book?’ ‘Is the level OK?’ ‘Is it easy for you?’ ‘Is it enjoyable?’ ‘Do you understand it?’ and so on. If it’s not suitable, allow them to change their book.
Then ask learners to check out the book. They can bring it to every class (you may find a few minutes at the end of a class which you can use as a Quiet Reading Time). In schools, some teachers start their classes with a five-minute Quiet Reading Time.
Key points for INTRODUCING Extensive Reading
- Start with easier readers to build confidence.
- Learners choose a reader according to their level and interest.
- Slowly increase the amount of reading each week, until learners read one book a week.
- Do not test learners as this is not the objective of this kind of reading.
Stage 3 – Out of class reading
After learners have read a few books in class explain that they need to read out of class too. Initially this can be for a very short period, for example 20 minutes a week. Slowly increase the amount of reading each week until they are reading one book a week. This could take a year to build up to. But in the following school year they know they need to read as it’s required and they will just accept it.
You may wish to include some ER activities in your program too.