Extensive Reading for Beginning ESL students


Initially, when teaching in IEPs, I used extensive reading with intermediate students.  These students were already accustomed to reading some in English, although they usually only did so for class purposes.  Day (2011) has found several benefits of using extensive reading--it can improve reading comprehension, help students employ greater use of reading strategies, increase reading speed, and increase writing proficiency and vocabulary.  Plus, because students usually enjoy it, they become more excited about reading in general.

The idea behind extensive reading is simple, but it is often hard to get students on-board. This might be because many recommend not grading work that is done for extensive reading purposes.  Fortunately, the first book that I selected for my students, A San Francisco Story by Penguin, was the appropriate level for my class.  I think that because my students finally had materials in their hands that they were able to understand easily, they were almost immediately supportive of the idea of extensive reading.  

I created a Reading Log that would be very fast for students to fill-in each day.  This way, students could be accountable, and I could make sure that they were actually reading. This worked fairly well, but I needed to remind students of this task constantly to get them to do it. We would agree as a class when they should aim to finish the book (usually within 2-3 weeks), and when they finished, we would have a class discussion about the book.  The most successful way of approaching the class discussion part of extensive reading is as follows: I would make a "story" with pictures from the book.  Next, I would add text to go along with these pictures, but there would be inaccurate information within this text.  Finally, I would review the new "story" I created with the students.  We would go through the slides of pictures and text, and students worked together to find the errors and re-tell the story according to what they read.  They always seem to get a kick out of "correcting" the way that I told the story.  This has been a great way for me to check their comprehension without giving formal assessments.

Do you think that extensive reading programs are worth it?  Should graded readers be used, or do you rely solely on authentic texts?

P.S. A presentation on using web 2.0 tools with Extensive Reading and Resources for Reading Students


Photo by Flickr user: Starzyia