I’ve been doing a lot of reading and thinking about extensive reading (ER) lately, and whether or not I should incorporate it into my reading classes. I’ve read a number of posts by Rose Bard, which initially inspired me, followed by this great post by Kevin Stein, and this post by Geoff Gordan on vocabulary learning which ties into ER. These all came up around the same time on Twitter, so I naturally gravitated towards the ideas.
After reading and thinking about ER, I have some questions, and I thought I’d pose them to the wider community to get a clearer picture of what ER could look like in my situation.
What I Usually Do/My Context
Typically, I will teach one or two different reading classes 5 days a week for 50 minutes each day. In these classes, all students are roughly of the same level, and the levels range from beginner to advanced (pre-university). We focus a lot of short academic readings and different reading strategies, but higher levels (about high-intermediate and up) typically also read a novel or short text throughout the term (8 weeks). Supplementing that and the textbook readings, students at the high-beginner and up level also independently read articles from Breaking News English (though I think I will switch to Newsela or News in Levels next time). Students choose whatever article they want, read it, extract interesting vocabulary, and complete activities offered on the site.
What I Am Thinking of Doing
I am thinking of setting 1 day a week (50 minutes) aside for extensive reading. We have a set of graded readers, but I also have some funds to get some more (I am currently looking into the Zombies in Tokyo books). Depending on the level, I might also take students to the university library, which has a large children’s books section, but these may be both too childish and too difficult for them. One other idea, if the level is high next term, is to assign a novel (which is against the spirit of ER) and leave the extensive reading time for them to reread parts of it (to build reading fluency) or buy some novels (we have a wonderful used book store in town) and let them choose one to read throughout the term (with dictionaries in hand?).
- Which of the above ideas sounds practical/effective?
- Can extensive reading and silent reading be the same thing?
- Can a textbook with many readings be used to replace graded readers?
- Can dictionaries be used before reading to look up unknown words so that they can read mostly uninterrupted?
- How can short novels be used in the extensive reading classroom?
- What are suitable texts for ESL university students at beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels?
- What are some ways to measure the effect of extensive reading? In other words, how can I measure whether the skills picked up during extensive reading are transferring over to other areas of reading?
- Can/should vocabulary be learned during extensive reading, or is the focus solely on reading fluency?
- With that in mind, what is the goal of extensive reading? In extensive reading, students are typically reading things that pose little challenge to their skills. With lack of challenge, how does it actually affect language learning?