There is a great text by Francoise Grellet titled "Developing Reading Skills: A Practical Guide to Reading Comprehensive Exercises" (Cambridge, 1981),
where she describes the reading process as clearly as I have ever seen it done. One key aspect of reading, according to Grellet, is anticipating or
guessing what is coming next, and then checking our hypotheses, modifying them, and forming new ones as we move through
How do we get English language learners who are literate in
their first language to approach reading in English this way?
This is much the same challenge teachers face in promoting
the traditional reading skills referred to as "skimming" and
"scanning." Even if learners are able to do these things in
their first languages, it can be really tough to persuade them
that they need to look beyond every individual word sometimes
to get "the whole picture" and the general concepts from a reading
I have found that it can help to create a convenient fiction, along the lines
of "...I saw this great article in today's newspaper, but the
wind blew it out of my hands and I had to run down the block
and stomp on it, which is why it got all crumpled up like this.
However, it is such a great article that I still wanted to share
it with you today, so I made these copies of what was left. Let's
see if we can make sense of it together."
Anyway, at this point, the teacher and the students are
in a predicament which forces them to do some serious skimming
for the main idea (hopefully the crumpled paper or paper with
big ink blots still has at least a partial graphic to help).
After brainstorming the main idea and discussing some of the
visible vocabulary, it is time to put together a list of
pre-reading or preview questions. But now these have a certain
urgency to them because there really are some big gaps to fill in.
The teacher can determine when to pull out the full article,
or at least a few more pieces of the puzzle, so that students
can do some scanning to find answers to their questions and
to check their guesses about the main idea.
As a little 15 or 20 minute exercise, this can give your
students some verifiable experience with guessing strategies
which are so crucial to building their reading skills and
their confidence in English.
Story by Robb Scott, Hays, KANSAS
2003 ESL MiniConference Online