American University of Beirut
Education 324: "The Problems of Teaching Reading & Literature"
Instructor: Dr. Ghazi Ghaith
Fall 2000
"Nada's ESL Island"
Nada's Online English Materials- You're the most Welcome!
Teaching Second Language Reading
 From An Interactive Perspective
By Nada Salem Abisamra
 What Every Teacher Needs to Know 

Group for Discussions on Facebook: Nada's ESL Island.(Join us there! Post your questions)


1- Approaches to Teaching Reading
A- The Top Down Approach
B- The Bottom Up Approach
C- The Interactive Approach
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2- The Reader
A- How do we, teachers, help the reader to build his schema or background knowledge?
1- Content: How to improve knowledge of content? How to activate appropriate background knowledge?
a- The Language Experience Approach (LEA)
b- Extending Concepts Through Language Activities (ECOLA)
c- Directed Reading-Thinking Activity (DRTA)
d- Experience-Text-Relationship method (ETR)
e- PreReading Plan (PReP)
f- Survey-Question-Read-Recite-Review method (SQ3R)
2- Text structure: How to improve knowledge of text structure?
2.1. Strategies to use in expository texts:
a- Networking (Dansereau et al., 1979)
b- Mapping (Anderson, 1978)
c- Flowcharting (Geva, 1980, 1983)
d- Top-Level Rhetorical Structures (Meyer 1975; Bartlett 1978)
2.1. Strategies to use in narrative texts:
In narrative texts, students should focus on the elements of story grammar (Mandler, 1984) or the story map. In expository texts they should focus on the identification of main ideas (Baumann, 1986).
B- How do we, teachers, help the reader to develop a positive self-concept as a reader?
1- Interests
2- Motivation
3- Learning styles
4- Self image as a reader
5- Sustained Silent Reading
C- How do we, teachers, help the reader to acquire good Reading Strategies?
1- Characteristics of good readers
2- Test taking strategies
3- Improving retention
5- Graphic Aids & KWL Chart
6- Organizational techniques
a- Note taking
b- Outlining
c- Summarizing
d- Locating info
e- Retrieving info
7- Comprehension
a- Comprehension strategies
b- Levels of comprehension
c- Questioning strategies
d- Promoting comprehension skills
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3- The Text
A- Word Recognition Strategies
1- Sight words
2- Phonics
3- Content clues
4- Structural analysis
5- Configuration
6- Dictionary
7- Applying various forms of word recognition strategies to text materials
B- Techniques of Vocabulary Instruction

C- Text structure knowledge

1- Networking (Dansereau et al., 1979)
2- Mapping (Anderson, 1978)
3- Flowcharting (Geva, 1980, 1983)
4- Top-Level Rhetorical Structures (Meyer 1975; Bartlett 1978)
4- Related Links  (Very comprehensive)
Reading Comprehension: Learning Strategies Database
Parents Can Foster Their Child’s Reading Comprehension
Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension
Reading Strategies Notebook
81 Generalizations about Free Voluntary Reading- S. Krashen

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Definition of Reading

"Reading is a receptive language process.
It is a psycholinguistic guessing game (1967).
There is an essential interaction between language and thought in reading.
The writer encodes thought as language and the reader decodes language as thought."
Kenneth Goodman (1988).

1- Approaches to Teaching Reading 
Based on "Interactive Approaches to Second Language Reading"
Edited by Carrell, Devine, & Eskey (1988)
(All the pages referred to are in this book)
"The ability to read the written language at a reasonable rate with good comprehension has long been recognized to be as important as oral skills, if not more important." (Eskey 1970) (p. 1)

Reading research is just a little more than a hundred years old. Serious attempts at building explicit models of the reading process have a history of a little more than forty years. (Samuels & Kamil, p. 22)

That reading is not a passive, but rather an active, and in fact an interactive, process has been recognized for some time in native language reading but it is only recently that second/foreign language reading has been viewed as an active rather than a passive process.
Early working second language reading assumed a rather passive, bottom-up, view of second language reading. It was viewed primarily as a decoding process of reconstructing the author's intended meaning via recognizing the printed letters and words, and building up a meaning for a text from the smallest textual units at the bottom (letters and words) to larger units at the top (phrases, clauses, links). Problems of SL reading and reading comprehension were viewed as being essentially decoding problems, deriving meaning from print.

In the early seventies, Goodman's psycholinguistic model of reading (later named the top-down or concept-driven model) began to have an impact on views of second language reading. In this model the reader is active, makes predictions, processes information, and reconstruct a message encoded by a writer.

The top-down processing perspective into SL reading had a profound impact on the field, to an extent that it was viewed as a substitute for the bottom-up perspective, rather than its complement.

However, as schema theory research has attempted to make clear, efficient and effective reading (in L1 and L2) requires both top-down and bottom-up strategies operating interactively => Interactive model (Rumelhart 1977). Both top-down and bottom-up processes, functioning interactively, are necessary to an adequate understanding of second language reading and reading comprehension. (Carrell, 1988- pp. 1-4)

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2- The Reader
A- How do we, teachers, help the reader to build his schema or background knowledge?
1- Content: How to improve knowledge of content? How to activate appropriate background knowledge?

Methods & Approaches:

a- The Language Experience Approach (LEA)

"The Language Experience Approach (LEA) to teaching reading in English as a second language uses the student's own experiences, vocabulary, and language patterns to create texts for reading instruction and make reading a meaningful process." (Dixon & Nessel, 1983)

"Students dictate stories to the teacher or share orally a common experience. When written down by or in collaboration with the teacher, these experiences and stories become texts for initial reading instruction. The stories are accessible because they reflect the language and experience of the learners. This approach is excellent for creating reading texts for beginning-level ESL students whose command of vocabulary and structures in English is limited, as well as for those
who are learning to read for the first time. (See Dixon & Nessel, 1983; Rabideau, 1991; Taylor, 1992 for descriptions of the LEA.) D'Annunzio (1990) describes a bilingual version of the LEA." (Rabideau, 1993)

The LEA instructional procedures are designed to be applied according to levels of use rather than age or grade level.

b- Extending Concepts Through Language Activities (ECOLA)

Setting a communication purpose for reading...
(under construction)
c- Directed Reading-Thinking Activity (DRTA)

Developed by Stauffer, the DRTA is a group comprehension activity that features prediction of the story events prior to reading, reading to prove or modify predictions, and the use of divergent thinking.

A. Group DRTA using fiction:

     1. Show or read the title, first illustrations, or opening part of the story. Ask questions like "What might this story be about?" or "What might happen in this story?" to elicit first predictions. Accept each one noncommittally and jot it on the board. When you have two or more different ideas, review them and have students read silently read to the first stopping point (selected beforehand) to see if any of the predictions are confirmed.
     2. While reading, help students with difficult words. At the stopping point, have the students turn over their books or close them and not read ahead.
     3. Ask volunteers to summarize the selection just read and point out predictions that no longer seem probable; erase them or change them on the board as students suggest new ideas. Be noncommittal in your responses using expressions like "possible" or "likely". Elicit predictions about events in the next section and press for justification or predictions. Read the new selection with the new predictions in mind.
     4. Predict, read, and prove to the end of the selection.
     5. At the end ask volunteers to summarize the whole story, put events in order, discuss the characters' motives and feelings, and review the ways the group used story information to make predictions. Add any additional comprehension questions or follow-up activities.

B. Nonfiction Material:

     1. Prepare your prereading questions beforehand by determining what types of information the passage contains and how it is organized. Develop a set of general questions that will help children determine what they already know (or think they know) about the topic. If you were going to read about the building of the first transcontinental railroad, you might begin by asking:

· What do you think was special about the Union Pacific railway?
· Where did it begin? Where did it end?
· How long do you think it was?
· How long do you think it took to complete?
· What might the Golden Spike be? Why do you think it was important?
· What problems do you think the railway builders encountered?
· In what ways might the railway have changed the area in which it was built?
     2. Have the class quickly scan the material or look at illustrations and headings, your choice. Pose your prereading questions, encouraging the students to disagree with one another and provide as much specific detail as they can. Jot their guesses on the board, accepting all non-committally. Read silently watching for information they had predicted.
     3. After reading have volunteers point out confirmed predictions, modify those that were not confirmed and add new information not predicted. Ask more comprehension questions or follow-up activities.


     · Students themselves set reading purposes by making predictions and reading to prove or refute them.
     · They generally read more actively and enthusiastically because they are more interested in finding out what happened.
     · They often remember more information, even after much time has passed. One reason for this accomplishment may be their increased curiosity.

(Adapted from Taffy Raphael, The Reading Teacher, Volume 36, no 2, November 1982.)

Another link:
Strategies for Improved Reading Comprehension:
Directed Reading-Thinking Activity

d- Experience-Text-Relationship method (ETR)

A teaching procedure of advance speculative organization on the teacher's part, who selects texts in relation to what he thinks may interest his group of learners.

The basic element of the ETR method is discussion of a text and topics related to the text, especially students' own experiences.

Teachers conduct discussion of stories in three phases:

First, they guide students to activate what they know that will help them understand what they read, make predictions, and set purposes. This is the Experience phase.
Next, they read the story with the students, stopping at appropriate points to discuss the story, determine whether their predictions were confirmed, and so on. This is the Text phase.
After they have finished the story, teachers guide students to relate ideas from a text to their own experiences. This is the Relationship phase.

Teachers facilitate comprehension, model processes, and may coach students as they engage in reading and comprehension activities.

e- PreReading Plan (PReP)
Purpose:  To diagnose students' prior knowledge and provide necessary background knowledge so they will be prepared to understand what they will be reading.

Rationale:  A diagnostic and instructional procedure used when students read informational books and content area textbooks.

                   1.  Introduce key concept to students using a word, phrase, or picture to initiate a discussion.
                   2.  Have students brainstorm words about the topic, and record their ideas on a chart.  Help make connections among brainstormed ideas.
                   3.  Present additional vocabulary and clarify any misconceptions.
                   4.  Have students draw pictures and/or write a quickwrite about topic using words from the brainstormed list.
                   5.  Have students share quickwrites and ask questions to help clarify and elaborate quickwrites.

Strengths:  To help the students learn about a subject before starting a lesson.

Weaknesses:  Classroom management.

f- Survey-Question-Read-Recite-Review method (SQ3R)

How does the SQ3R method work?


Survey means to scan the main parts of the text you are going to read. This includes looking at the title, headings of paragraphs, introduction and conclusion, first lines of each paragraph, and any extra information that may be presented in boxes on the page. Doing this gives you some basic understanding of what the text is about and helps you know what to expect when you read in more detail.


Questions are very helpful when you read a text. Most of the time, people read first, and then look at questions at the end of the text. However, this is not the best way to read. If possible, read the questions provided for you FIRST. This will help you know what specific information to look for. Questions (those that are provided with text and those provided by your teacher) are designed to focus on the main points. Therefore, if you read to answer these questions, you will be focusing on the main points in the text. This helps you read with a goal in mind - answering specific questions.

     3 R's:


Once you have some idea of what the text is about and what the main points might be, start reading. Do not be afraid if the text has many words you cannot understand. Just read!

          Follow these suggestions:
               Do not use your dictionary the first time through the text.
               Try to understand as much as you can from the context.
               Take notes as you go.
               Make a note of places that you do not understand, or
               words that are unclear.
               Go through the text a second time.
               Try to answer the questions.


Studies have suggested that students remember 80% of what they learn, if they repeat the information verbally. If they do not repeat verbally, they often forget 80%. Writing down the answers to questions from the text and saying these answers will help you remember the information. One good way to do this is to discuss the information with a friend or classmate, or with the professor. Try to summarize the main points you have learned from the reading and add to your knowledge from the comments and responses of the person you are talking with.


Review means to go over something again. In order to remember information, you cannot simply memorize it one day and then put it aside. After you have read and discussed and studied your information, it is important to review your notes again a few days or weeks later.
     This will help you keep the information fresh in your mind.

(SQ3R was developed in 1941 by Francis Robinson)

Other Sites that Explain this Method:

2- Text structure: How to improve knowledge of text structure?
Early Fluent and Fluent Readers can use their increased awareness of the structure of words (word parts) to help figure out new words. They can be helped to notice roots and endings (play, played, playing; fast, faster, fastest) and suffixes and prefixes (un / help / ful). They also can learn about "compound words" (some / thing, every / body).

Text mapping strategies are used nowadays to increase the reader's awareness of rhetorical structure of texts. These strategies are based on research on text analysis of both expository/informational & narrative texts.

"In general, text mapping involves selecting key content from an expository passage and representing it in some sort of visual display (boxes, circles, connecting lines, tree diagrams...) in which the relationships among the key ideas are made explicit." (Carrell, 1988)

2.1. Strategies to use in expository texts:

a- Networking (Dansereau et al., 1979)

"In networking Dansereau suggests that learners be trained to recognize six types of links between nodes of information. These are: Part links, Type links, Leads-to links, Analogy links, Characteristic links, and Evidence links.
Learners read a passage of text, then create a "node-link map" on paper. They can then relate or link information nodes on the map by classifying them as one of these link types. Links represent the way the ideas represented by the nodes are interrelated. Clearly this strategy relates closely to the link types identified in this study. It may be that experts in a content domain or in working in hypermedia environments would exhibit link types more closely related to those suggested by Dansereau. Although McKeachie (1984) suggests that this networking strategy is difficult and time-consuming to learn and employ, it would be well worthwhile to examine how well it works in hypermedia environments."
Description of the networking
b- Mapping (Anderson, 1978)
"Mapping is a process of reorganizing and rearranging (moving) the most important ideas and information from your reading or textbook and converting it into a diagram with your own words to help you understand and remember what you read."
(Excellent site)

Text Mapping Strategies

Concept Mapping and Curriculum Design

c- Flowcharting (Geva, 1980, 1983)
A flowchart is a diagram that shows step-by-step progression through a procedure or system especially using connecting lines and a set of conventional symbols.
d- Top-Level Rhetorical Structures (Meyer 1975, 1985; Bartlett 1978)
Meyer (1985) proposes a set of five 'top-level' rhetorical structures in order to systematize the structure of the major expository text genres: collection or list, description, causal, comparative, problem/solution.
2.1. Strategies to use in narrative texts:
Even though narrative text structure may be taught using any number of models (e.g., story grammars, causal networks, conceptual graph structures, scripts and plans), story grammars are the oldest and most studied
(Graesser et al., 1991). Moreover, they have been validated as benefiting reading comprehension (e.g., Gurney et al., 1990; Newby et al., 1989; Pearson & Fielding, 1991) and predicting readers' performance (Graesser et al., 1991). Additionally, they have been viewed as unifying several research trends in narrative text structure into one theory (Graesser et al., 1991).

Story grammar instruction usually includes a simplified version of story grammar components as well as practice in identifying category-relevant information (Pearson & Fielding, 1991). Pearson and Fielding (1991) found strong support that instruction in a story grammar resulted in improved reading comprehension of stories beyond those used in the studies' interventions and "real" stories (i.e., stories not adapted to fit narrative text structure).

In Gurney et al. (1990), students were taught four major story grammar components: (a) main character and main problem/conflict; (b) character clues (e.g., characters' actions, dialogue, thoughts, physical attributes, and reactions to other characters and events); (c) resolution; and (d) theme. In the Newby et al. (1989) study, students were taught the following story grammar components
(a) main character, (b) problem encountered by the main character, (c) setting, (d) events or attempts by main character to solve the problem, and (e) solution or resolution of the problem.
We should not forget to focus on the goals,
motives, thoughts, and feelings of the characters in stories.

Additional Link:
Text Mapping Reading Strategies:
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B- How do we, teachers, help the reader to develop a positive self-concept as a reader?
Arouse Student Interest & Motivate
In the reading classroom, the teacher is a motivator/stimulator. The teacher should foster student expectations about the reading and arouse their interest to read. This can be done by asking them warmup questions or giving them a purpose for reading. In this way, students will enjoy learning language and develop a positive attitude towards reading.
Respect Student's Learning Style
Learning Styles

Personal Learning Style Inventory

Personality: Character and Temperament

Respect Student's Self Image as a Reader
Use Sustained Silent Reading
What is Sustained Silent Reading?
Sustained silent reading (SSR) is a time set aside in the class-room for students to read on their own. Even 15 minutes of SSR is worthwhile.
Students select something suitable and interesting to read, preferably a whole book. Teachers may or may not have students keep dialogue journals on what they read. Teachers’ responses to the journals afford individual attention.
Research has suggested that SSR is valuable in helping students progress in reading and in helping second language students
acquire language proficiency.
Having students read on their own allows brief periods for teachers to work on portfolio assessments or to have individual
conferences with students.
Tips for students
C- How do we, teachers, help the reader to acquire good Reading Strategies?
Good Readers
           Good readers are active readers. From the outset they have
           clear goals in mind for their reading. They constantly evaluate
           whether the text, and their reading of it, is meeting their goals.
           Good readers typically look over the text before they read,
           noting such things as the structure of the text and text sections
           that might be most relevant to their reading goals. As they read,
           good readers frequently make predictions about what is to
           come. They read selectively, continually making decisions about
           their reading -- what to read carefully, what to read quickly,
           what not to read, what to re-read, and so on. Good readers
           construct, revise, and question the meanings they make as they
           read. They draw upon, compare, and integrate their prior
           knowledge with material in the text. They think about the
           authors of the text, their style, beliefs, intentions, historical
           milieu, and so on. They monitor their understanding of the text,
           making adjustments in their reading as necessary. Good readers
           try to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words and concepts
           in the text, and deal with inconsistencies or gaps as needed.
           They evaluate the text’s quality and value, and react to the text
           in a range of ways, both intellectual and emotional. Good
           readers read different kinds of text differently. For example,
           when reading narrative, good readers attend closely to the
           setting and characters; when reading expository text these
           readers frequently construct and revise summaries of what they
           have read. For good readers, text processing occurs not only
           during ‘reading’ as we have traditionally defined it, but also
           during short breaks taken during reading, and even after the
           ‘reading’ itself has commenced. Comprehension is a consuming
           and complex activity, but one that, for good readers, is typically
           both satisfying and productive.
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Strategic Reading

            Before Reading

                 1. Preview

                      a. Brainstorm: What do we already know about the topic?
                      b. Predict: What do we think we will learn about the topic when we
                      read the passage?

            R E A D (the first passage or section)

            During Reading

                 2. Click and Clunk

                      a. Were there any parts that were hard to understand (clunks)?
                      b. How can we fix the clunks? Use fix-up strategies.

                           (1) Reread the sentence and look for key ideas to help
                           you understand the word.
                           (2) Reread the sentence with the clunk and the sentences
                           before or after the clunk looking for clues
                           (3) Look for a prefix or suffix in the word.
                          (4) Break the word apart and look for smaller words.

                 3. Get the Gist

                      a. What is the most important person, place, or thing?
                      b. What is the most important idea about the person, place or thing?

            R E A D (Do Steps 2 and 3 again, with all the paragraphs or sections in
                 the passage.)

            After Reading

                4. Wrap Up

                      a. Ask Questions: What questions would show we understand the
                      most important information? What are the answers to those questions?
                      b. Review: What did we learn?

Sample Reading Strategies
(based on Auerbach and Paxton,1997)

Pre-Reading Strategies
 Accessing prior knowledge
 Writing your way into reading (Writing about your experiences related to the topic)
 Asking questions based on the title
 Making predictions based on previewing
 Identifying text structure
 Skimming for the general idea
 Reading the introduction and conclusion first
During Reading Strategies
 Skipping unknown words; guessing from context
 Predicting the main idea of each paragraph
 Drawing pictures to show what you see in your mind’s eye
After Reading Strategies
 Revising prereading expectations
 Making an outline, chart, map, or diagram of the organization of the text
 Retelling what you think the author is saying
 Relating the text to your own experience

1- Characteristics of good, proficient readers
"Proficient readers are both Efficient and Effective.
They are Effective in constructing meaning throughout the reading process, and this meaning bears some level of agreement with the original meaning of the author. 
They are Efficient in using the least amount of effort to achieve effectiveness. To accomplish this they maintain constant focus on constructing the meaning throughout the process:
  • they always seek the most direct path to meaning;
  • they always use strategies for reducing uncertainty;
  • they are always selective about the use of the cues available and...
  • they use their own knowledge about language and their experiences to predict and construct meaning as they read;
  • they minimize dependence on visual detail.
  • Any reader's proficiency is variable, depending on the semantic background brought by the reader to any given reading task."

    Kenneth Goodman (1988)

    Skilled Readers:
    Reflect on their reading processes:
    Why are we reading this particular text?
    What information do we need to glean from it?
    How closely do we need to read?

    Skilled readers practice, develop, and refine their reading over their lifetime.

    2- Test taking strategies (& Study Skills)
    3- Improving retention
    4- SQRQCQ
    Survey: quickly for a general idea or understanding of the problem
    Question: What is the problem asking for?
    Reread: to identify facts, relevant information, and details
    Question: What mathematical operation(s) do I apply?
    Compute: solve the problem
    Question: Is the answer correct? Does the answer make sense?
    5- Graphic Aids (tables, headings, bold print, graphs, charts, cartoons and pictures)

    & KWLChart

    K • W • L
    K  What I KNOW
    W What I WANT to learn
    L   What I LEARNED

    It Begins with students‘ knowledge and ideas
    It Provides reasons for learning
    It Adds new information to knowledge base
    It Involves students in learning
    It Empowers students to create their own knowledge

    6- Organizational techniques
    a- Note taking
    b- Outlining
    c- Summarizing
    d- Locating information
    e- Retrieving information
    7- Comprehension
    a- Comprehension strategies
    b- Levels of comprehension
      Grade Levels of Reading Books- How Can You Tell?
    c- Questioning strategies (excellent!)
    d- Promoting comprehension skills

    3- The Text
    A- Word Recognition Strategies
    1- Sight words
    2- Phonics
    3- Context clues: Students learn to quickly find the main idea by skimming and surveying the text for headings, graphic materials, and terms in boldface that can provide context clues.
    4- Structural analysis
    5- Configuration/ Visual clues
    6- Dictionary
    It pays to be patient. Don't reach for the dictionary as soon as you see an unfamiliar word. Read the whole sentence. The meaning of the unfamiliar word may become obvious from context or you may conclude that you have comprehended enough not to have to bother with looking it up. There is always a good chance that clues to a word's meaning may appear later in the paragraph because writers often try to help their readers understand by giving additional explanations, definitions, and clarifications.
    7- Applying various forms of word recognition strategies to text materials
    B- Techniques of Vocabulary Instruction
    C- Text structure knowledge
    1- Networking (Dansereau et al., 1979)
    2- Mapping (Anderson, 1978)
    3- Flowcharting (Geva, 1980, 1983)
    4- Top-Level Rhetorical Structures (Meyer 1975; Bartlett 1978)

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    Page created on Jan. 13, 2001 | Last updated on Sep. 29, 2007
    Copyright © 2001-2009 Nada Salem Abisamra

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