Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Reading Silently vs. Reading Along Revisted

A few months ago I asked students to listen to read the first part of a text and then read the second part of the text while listening to an audio recording of the text which was created by Ayu, Cube, Eri, and Gami. The post was titled Reading Silently vs. Reading Along. Three people did the exercise and all three wrote that the text was easier to understand when they could read silently to themselves. I tried a similar exercise at a teacher's workshop and the majority of the teachers said it was easier to follow along and read the text while someone else read it aloud because:

  1. The intonation of the speaker helped them understand the passage.
  2. If they saw words they did not recognize they could quite often recognize them after the speaker said the correct pronunciation.
  3. Having to follow along at the pace of the speaker forced them to ignore the words they did not understand and focus on the main idea. They did not get stuck on many words.

I used to be bothered that most schools do not give students the opportunity to read silently in English and in most classes students read the passage aloud and then analyzed it. Many classrooms still translate a text word for word and Torikai Kumiko mentions in her book TOEFL/TOEIC to Nihonjin no Eigoryoku (TOEFL TOEIC and the English ability of Japanese) that many Japanese students lack the Top-Down reading skills necessary to do well on the reading sections of TOEFL or TOEIC tests. I thought that reading aloud might be contributing to this problem but I changed my mind.

Through my experience at the teacher's workshop I realized that there are some benefits to reading aloud. For example, reason 3) is good for Top Down Reading Skills and Reason 1, or using intonation to help you understand a long utterance, is an important listening skill. However, I worry that if students are always dependent on someone else reading the text, they will not become independent silent readers.
Also, 3 of the contestants mentioned that they prefer to read at their own pace and there was a relatively large minority of teachers at the teacher's workshop who said they preferred to read at their own pace and could not follow the passage at someone else's pace. So, my opionion is that the reading class should have a balance of reading aloud and reading silently. There are benefits to both approaches.

Ayu, Cube,and Eri. What kind of reading activities did you do when you were a high school student and how did they help your reading skills?

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