I was a master’s level student at Kathmandu University when one of my teachers, one day all of a sudden, said to me, “Suman Jee, do you know the difference between ‘lavatory’ and ‘laboratory’?” I was not sure about the meaning of lavatory, so I told him honestly “Sir, I do not know what lavatory is but I know what laboratory means.” To my surprise, he commented harshly that nobody would employ me as an English language teacher, and he could guarantee of it because I did not know the difference between two words having similar pronunciation. I don’t know if my colleagues listened to what he said, but I did listen to him very clearly. It hurt me as it was demeaning, and I lost my confidence for a while. Nonetheless, after the class, on the way back home, I ruminated over his comments, and thought that he could be true because as an aspiring teacher of English language, I was supposed to be ready to answer simple questions related to different aspects of English. Hence, I committed to myself I would prove him wrong, and I would do that on my own rights.
It was that commitment that initially fueled my journey on academia and professionalism. Though I could have felt satisfied and stopped on my journey of professional development many years back, when I started working as the head of department of languages at a school, I realized that I have miles to go, before I called the day off. I had already abandoned my ego and feeling of proving my teacher (or any other person for that matter) wrong. Rather, it was and has been a journey for personal satisfaction. This journey, so far, has added good stories to be told to people.
I feel satisfied of what I have been able to accomplish thus far and I credit all of this to my love; reading and writing. Never is it easy to manage time for reading and writing after arduous work at school for hours, but there is no alternative to it if you want to become a good teacher or if you want to outstand your colleagues and buddies. Indeed, there is no easy recipe or short-cut to success. Actually, success follows those who do strive tirelessly (this is very well know, isn’t it?).
To this end, this issue of NELTA ELT Forum is brought out to sparkle little rays of hope and motivation in you. This issue shares some tips for teachers on reading and writing. Although, in this issue, we wanted to stick to why and how teachers should read and write, our contributors had other interests, which we could not deny of. Hence, apart from reading and writing, we also share with you a piece on English for Specific Purpose (ESP), and a student’s reflection on attending a training session delivered by a foreign national.
Professor Patricia Reynolds, in her article ‘Deep Reading: Is Comprehension Enough???’ explains what “Deep Reading’ is and takes it further by discussing what teachers can do for effective deep reading in an EFL classroom. She discusses how an EFL teacher can ensure ‘reading like detective’ habit, and what clues should be in place for that to happen.
In the same line, the second article by C. R. Adler on Strategies to Teach Students Text Comprehension shares some handful classroom tips to ensure text comprehension. Adler shares what sets of skills teachers can teach to their students to help them make sense of what they are reading. If these skills are tried out in early classes, in EFL contexts, pupils would overcome most of their problems related to text comprehension and become independent readers.
Likewise, in the third article, Professor Curtis Kelly, discusses how EFL students’ writing skills develop through different stages, what challenges they face at each stage, and what methods of instruction teachers could follow to help students overcome those challenges. In the fourth write-up, Mr. Suman DC and Mr. Radheshyam Malla briefly present their understanding of ESP, and how it differs from general English. Then, they share about how they have tailored designed an English class to cater for the needs of Nepal Army, and what impact they have made. Finally, in the last article of this issue, Sangita Sapkota, an aspiring EFL teacher, shares her memoir of attending a teacher training by a teacher from Wales, UK.
We hope you will be able to take something to your classroom from this issue, and be motivated to read, write and teach more for your own good. Happy Reading Folks!
Deep Reading: Is Comprehension Enough?
Patricia E. Reynolds
When a teacher considers the ideas behind the concept of deep reading often they default to the idea that this provides students with a more robust way to comprehend a difficult text. Yet, upon further examination of this way of viewing deep reading of text, the teacher working in a second language classroom has to be aware that because of a student’s lack of control of the vocabulary a “deep reading” of any text requires an enormous amount of preparation and development before the total comprehension of the text is even possible. When we ask students to “read like a detective” we have to be sure that they have all the clues in place to be able to solve the puzzle.
The Information Process of Deep Reading
In order for students to be able to engage in deep reading, they must have control over the six types of information that are essential to the comprehension task we set them to accomplish. Second language learners require these skills to be able to comprehend any text whether they are deep or surface reading and often it is the case that while these skills are initially instructed so students can begin to acquire information and knowledge in the second language, the development of the six types of information processing are not fully processed and practiced so that deep reading can occur.
To accomplish any reading task, the six types of information that have to be actively processed are sound knowledge, semantic and lexical word knowledge, syntactic or word order knowledge, prior knowledge and pragmatic knowledge. For a second language reader, there may or may not be a complete development of these systems depending on the amount of time in the language as well as the quality of the development programs they have been exposed to as they learn a second language. It then becomes the responsibility of the teacher to assess and determine the ability of the student to use these skills to accomplish a deep reading task. Teachers focus on the Semantic and Lexical word knowledge and seem to forget that the other systems may not be in place for effective deep reading in a second language. If the metalinguistic knowledge is not in place in all of the six areas of information processing, then deep reading is hindered and students are unable to fully comprehend the text. Continue reading →
Seven Strategies to Teach Students Text Comprehension
Comprehension strategies are conscious plans — sets of steps that good readers use to make sense of text. Comprehension strategy instruction helps students become purposeful, active readers who are in control of their own reading comprehension. These seven strategies have research-based evidence for improving text comprehension.
- Monitoring comprehension
Students who are good at monitoring their comprehension know when they understand what they read and when they do not. They have strategies to “fix” problems in their understanding as the problems arise. Research shows that instruction, even in the early grades, can help students become better at monitoring their comprehension.
Comprehension monitoring instruction teaches students to:
- Be aware of what they do understand
- Identify what they do not understand
- Use appropriate strategies to resolve problems in comprehension
Metacognition can be defined as “thinking about thinking.” Good readers use metacognitive strategies to think about and have control over their reading. Before reading, they might clarify their purpose for reading and preview the text. During reading, they might monitor their understanding, adjusting their reading speed to fit the difficulty of the text and “fixing” any comprehension problems they have. After reading, they check their understanding of what they read.
Students may use several comprehension monitoring strategies:
- Identify where the difficulty occurs
“I don’t understand the second paragraph on page 76.”
- Identify what the difficulty is
“I don’t get what the author means when she says, ‘Arriving in America was a milestone in my grandmother’s life.'”
- Restate the difficult sentence or passage in their own words
“Oh, so the author means that coming to America was a very important event in her grandmother’s life.”
- Look back through the text
“The author talked about Mr. McBride in Chapter 2, but I don’t remember much about him. Maybe if I reread that chapter, I can figure out why he’s acting this way now.” Continue reading →
Teaching EFL Writing in Accordance with Stages of Learner Development
* Curtis Kelly
This study examines the development of EFL students’ writing skills through four stages: a) the Word Level, b) the Sentence Level, c) the Composition Level, and d) the Academic/Professional Level. These levels are organized around one major challenge each, and as a result, one or more methods of instruction relevant to that challenge. At the Word level, training in phonics is critical. At the Sentence Level, learning sentence grammar is important. At the Composition Level, the emphasis changes to expository organization. At the Academic/Professional Level, learning the rules of genre for different types of writing is the key challenge.
Keywords: orthography, sentence combining, organization, methods
One of the biggest challenges every writing teacher faces is deciding what to teach. Ask your peers and one might tell you to teach grammar, while another might say rhetoric, and another, academic writing skills. You might be advised to teach translation, summarizing, test practice, paragraph writing, diaries, or e-mail writing. So how does even an experienced teacher choose among this complex set of options?
From my own 30 years of teaching writing in Asia, writing composition textbooks, and after reading some of the key research, I have developed a simple framework for deciding what to teach in writing class. The kinds of classes and learners I am talking about range from those starting to write single words to those about to write a dissertation in English, a rather large span of learners. The framework puts learners in four developmental stages. In the first stage, the learners need to learn the system of changing stray symbols into words, in the second stage, learners must gain proficiency in sentence writing; in the third stage, composition writing; while in the fourth, academic or professional ESP writing. Each stage requires a different approach, which is the main topic of this article.
Stages of Learner Development
• Word Level
• Sentence Level
• Composition Level
• Academic/Professional Level
1. The Word Level
Children gain an interest in looking at books and videos from age 1. They begin showing signs of understanding the notion of letters from age 3 (Chow, 1986). At the beginning of this level, they are in a pre-phonic stage. Some of their drawings might contain some proto-letters of circles and shapes with a linear direction and arrangement like the example in Figure 1. While most of the examples below come from native speakers, Early’s research (1976) found the same stages in L2 children. Continue reading →