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Reading comprehension for EFL / ESL

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Making the most of written texts in the English class


Ideas for developing reading and other language skills in the English class


Index : The classic approach to reading comprehension Ten more ideas for working with written texts
► See also: Thematic exercise and classroom activity index for advanced English reading texts.


Approaching the written text -
The classic reading comprehension technique

The classic technique for developing students' reading skills is the classroom activity known as "comprehension".  And the classic method of testing students' comprehension of a text is through "multiple choice questions" (MCQs)
   However classic "comprehension" activities can be used for two entirely different purposes: and  classic MCQs are mainly used because marking them is very quick and simple; they can even be marked by machine, if set up for this.

Multiple choice questions, however, are by no means the only way of testing students' comprehension of a document, and are certainly not the only, nor necessarily the best, way of using texts in a learning, rather than a testing, context. There are many others, as outlined below.

"Comprehension" is thus an activity that is used for two quite different purposes, which are all too often confused :
   In practical terms, when comprehension activities are being used as a learning technique, rather than a testing technique,  the process generally involves reading a document at least three times, often in different ways. The three basic ways of reading a document are: a) individual silent reading, b) teacher reading the document to the class, and c) students reading the document out loud, taking turns.
  Each method has its advantages; but combined in succession, the result should be even better.  Many teachers find it hard to know what to do during the silence that reigns (hopefully) when students are asked to silently read an article which may take them five to eight minutes, even more. For this reason, it is often best to begin any reading comprehension task, by asking students to read an article at home or by themselves, before coming into class. The teacher can then be more usefully employed piloting students through the two other stages of the reading process - students reading the document in turn, and finally the teacher reading the whole document back to the class.
   Between the different reading stages, students and teachers can explore and elucidate any vocabulary and grammar issues, so that by the time the teacher makes the final reading, the document and its content are now familiar, and the main difficulties have been ironed out.

    The above procedure can be applied to virtually any reading resource ; but it is just a start. There are many more ways of getting extra value out of a written document, and by doing so developing students' skills not just in comprehension, but in expression, memory, grammar, deduction, and a lot more.
   What to do next depends on the nature, the difficulty and the content of each document. It will also depend on the type of learners, and the classroom context. Reading, by itself, is just the first part of any use of written documents in the English class.
    Each article in the Linguapress archive comes with one or more - sometimes several - classroom exercises or activities, including interactive exercises that students can do on their computer - even on their mobile phone. See thematic exercise index to choose advanced EFL texts in function of specific classroom activities.

    Here are some more ways to make best use of written documents in the English class.

Ten more ideas for working with articles and stories in class.

Here is a list of  different ways of working with articles and stories in the language class. Each is suggested as a classroom exercise activity for one or more of the articles in the Linguapress archive; but each can be suitably used with many other articles.
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A selection of teaching resources in graded English
from Linguapress
Selected pages
Advanced level reading :
Charles Babbage, the father of the computer
Aeroponics - food for tomorrow?
Who killed Martin Luther King?
USA - Nevada's Extraterrestrial highway
London's Notting Hill Carnival
Stephen Hawking - the world's greatest brain
America's drive-in movie theaters
Some advanced level short stories:
For Elise  (USA)
A Few Good Reasons   (USA)
Blue Gum Tree  (New Zealand)
The Car  (Britain)
More: More advanced reading texts  
Intermediate resources :
Mystery - the Titanic and the Temple of Doom
Who is James bond ?
Sport: Sports, American style
Big red London buses
USA: Who was Buffalo Bill?
USA: The story of blue jeans
Dialogue: Talking about fast food
USA: Close encounters with a Twister  
More:   More intermediate reading texts  
Selected grammar pages
Online English grammar
Noun groups in English
Word order in English
Reported questions in English
Miscellaneous
Language and style 
Word stress in English
The short story of English
Other useful websites

Publications:

A Descriptive Grammar of English

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