There is no way we can teach a language without teaching reading skills. Reading is a very important skill and we need to prepare our students for this. Finding relevant texts adapted to our students, ensuring comprehension and evaluating this skill can be extremely challenging but it can also be easy it done step by step.
When teaching reading skills we also teach numerous other skills. For instance we wouldn’t use the same technique when reading advertisings or novels. We use different ways according to the type of texts we face and this is what we need to teach our students as part of reading.
- Skimming for gist
We need first of all to train our students to skim texts for gist. In other words we need to teach them how to get information in a text through a quick look. Students browse for information without looking for details. They have a look to the type of document for one minute maximum and they should be able to give you answers to some very general questions such as
What kind of document is it? Is it an article, an ad, a short story?
Who is author? Who is the audience? What is the aim of such a piece of writing?
What is the layout, font like? What do we learn from this?
- Scanning for details
We need to choose texts with vocabulary and grammar that are adapted to your audience in terms of content, age, motivation and ability. If you are not too sure about the type of texts, start first with texts you can find in textbooks, they are generally relevant and if you would like to stretch some of your students you could easily write another paragraph to the text. Alternatively if you have weaker students bring them some support by giving them the vocabulary they need before they start reading.
Scanning is what we do when we look for a specific bit of information. For example when you receive an email, you will look for the topic and main issues. You scan the text without processing it, you just look for specific information. Once you have the information you are looking for only then do you start reading extensively. For this skill, you may ask questions about the characters in the story (their relationship), any relevant date or stages in the plot but you are not at that stage asking specific questions.
- Intensive reading
Scanning is what we do when we look for a specific bit of information.
- Extensive reading
Extensive reading is not the type of reading that we use very often in classroom as extensive reading also means reading for pleasure. For instance when we read magazines or novels we have chosen to focus on the plot and we may chose to leave some facts because we are not interested in them. Extensive reading should be more developed in schools through books reviews or reading programs to incite our young learners to read.