Intensive reading – Reading for a Detailed Understanding

By Jenny Hardacre
TEFL teacher and trainer with 30 years experience

My last couple of blogs have dealt with predicting content vocabulary pre-teaching and skim reading. Now you have reached the stage where less successful reading lessons tend to begin – reading for more detailed understanding.

Encourage students to react to the text

Again, set the questions before students begin to read so that they know what they are looking for while they read.. The questions don’t have to be just aimed at picking factual information out of the text, such as ‘How long has Anna been doing her present job?’. While this type of question may be appropriate for lower levels, the answers are often easy to find, not particularly interesting and don’t necessarily indicate overall understanding.

You don’t have to use questions in the course book!

You might set questions that are aimed more at getting students to react to the text ‘Do you think you would enjoy Anna’s job?’, or interpreting attitudes in the text ‘Do you think the writer approves of Anna’s job?’

When the students have finished reading ask them to compare their answers in pairs or small groups – you can go round the class and listen to them (monitor) to see how well they have managed. This will help you decide whether you need to go through all the answers as a whole class,  just focus on two or three they found difficult, or maybe not not bother at all. Of course, if you have set questions requiring students to think about their own response there won’t be a set of right or wrong answers to go over. This stage is a good time to give students the opportunity to ask questions. If it is likely they will be about vocabulary  it will be useful for you to have predicted which items they might ask about and have planned quick simple definitions.

Follow up writing or speaking activity

Finally, give the students a follow up writing or speaking activity on the same or a related topic, which is aimed at giving the student freer practice using English. Hopefully they will use some of the new vocabulary you have taught in the lesson, but don’t feel surprised or disappointed if they don’t; people usually need some time to absorb new language before they use it. If they are writing, collect in their work for correction – or ask them to finish it for homework. If they are speaking you should monitor and make a note of any bits of language they use well and common errors so you can give them feedback  (without drawing attention to who made the mistakes) at the end of the lesson.

I welcome comments, questions and suggestions for future blogs so don’t hesitate to get in touch on the comment form below.

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