- Keywords: Extensive reading, student-centered
- Learner English level: Beginner to advanced
- Learner maturity: High school or university
- Preparation time: 5 minutes
- Activity time: 5-10 minutes per class, full semester
- Materials: Handouts, books
The benefits of extensive reading are clear, but its use with lower level students can present structural and linguistic load problems for many practitioners. This system is a student-centered, scaffolded, and level-flexible form of extensive reading. Communicative goals are weighed as equal to linguistic and comprehension achievability for the students. What is novel about this system is the way the flexible discussion points allow for a focus on fluency rather than on structure. The focus is on students orally explaining what they understand from their chosen book as they read it, and therefore very little pre-teaching of vocabulary is needed. It also allows students to choose what to report on, and gives them support for broad areas to discuss. It lets students with differing abilities succeed at their level as the activity doesn’t adhere to set grammar points or structures. The activity gives the students the benefits of extensive reading without locking them into a rigid set of patterns which might otherwise increase the lexical load, and therefore, limit motivation. For the teacher, it functions as a continuous assessment tool that can gauge the progress of students through an extensive reading program, but without a cumbersome preparation load.
Copy enough handouts (see Appendix) for the whole class and keep a ‘bank’ of extra copies ready in each lesson.
Step 1: In the first lesson, instruct students to choose a book from a library or an online source (graded readers are suggested).
Step 2: Assign them a reading load of 20 pages per week as homework.
Step 3: Pre-teach literature-related terms including: title, author, genre, main/supporting character, plot, and setting.
Step 4: In the next lesson, have them share their books in small groups or pairs by following the talking points on the handout. The listeners should mark the handout on a continuum from great to good to bad, so as to avoid a number which may be mistaken for a grade. Instruct students to skip to the final “Report” for summary comments if they finish their book in less than six weeks.
Step 5: Repeat Step 4 each week, changing books as needed to keep up with the 20-page a week goal.
Step 6: Collect and distribute new handouts when a student has finished a book. Be careful to collect a handout before you give out another one as this will help keep students on the 20 pages per week schedule, rather than trying to read multiple books at the end of the semester.
Step 7: (Optional) At the end of the semester, after 300 pages have been read, have students do a poster presentation on their favorite book or all of the books they have completed.
This system allows the teacher to support and structurally manage a student-centered extensive reading program. While the system can be used with any level, the simplicity of vocabulary and reporting structures allows it to be used with even very low levels. Another benefit of this system is that the preparation time for the teacher is minimal, yet it still upholds the pedagogical benefits of extensive reading.
The appendix is available below.