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Literacy Theory and Practice in Teaching Reading Report (Assessment)

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Working out Activities Modeled on Reading-to-Learn Program: Description of Learners

I am a teacher at the College of Technology. I have been training students for careers in commercial and technical fields for 10 years. Due to the fact that the English language prevails in the sphere of international business and technology, it is important for students to have a sufficient command of language. Therefore, students should take additional courses in the English language where the main focus should be made on computing technologies.

It is reasonable to evaluate students’ language proficiency with regard to the problems students often face at the college of technology. The age of students ranges from 19-23 years and the number of students in the class is about 30-35. This age category of ESL learners has week note-taking skills, week test preparation skills, insufficient language study skills, and improper exam-taking skills. In addition, nearly 25 % of students have difficulties with using a dictionary.

Judging from the above, the majority of my students are at the rudimentary stage. The problem is that most of the English textbooks are of lower-intermediate and upper intermediate level and the newcomers can hardly reach the elementary level. Judging from the exam results and my classroom observations, I have concluded that the problem is the most explicit when it comes to reading and literacy.

The situation is even more serious since it is first necessary to conceive cultural and social peculiarities because most students have English as their second language (Martin and Rose, 2007:2). Additionally, the cultural environment considerably influences the students who have to deal with various texts (Freeboy and Luke, 1990:9).

Regarding students’ grammar, most freshman students cannot construct a simple English sentence, except for standard expressions and phrases. The English language tenses and aspects provide students with serious problems. In particular, they often confuse Present Perfect, which is possibly predetermined by grammatical differences between English and Arabic, a students’ mother tongue. In general, students lack knowledge of grammatical structures, vocabulary, and functional words of English.

In order to level up students’ skills and abilities, it is advisable to implement the stages of the Reading-to-Learn program, specifically, it’s three stages that are more focused on reading and comprehension. Each stage is carried out with the help of a scaffolding learning cycle (prepare-task-elaborate) that enhances the final results.

Choosing a Text for Reading Activities

Due to the specifics of courses taken by ESL students, particularly courses on computing technology, it is reasonable to choose a text on a relevant topic. For this reading activity, I have chosen the text entitled What is inside a PC System that contains many terms and abbreviations related to computing technology. This text has been chosen from the textbook Infotech: English for computer users, (Santiago, R. E. 2007:12).

Judging from the above-mentioned problems, the chosen text is appropriate for reading and comprehension, although its level exceeds the students’ language level. The designed tasks will help students to better understand the grammatical peculiarities, structure, and meaning of an extract. While accomplishing assignments, the emphasis will be placed on reading, but writing and listening will be included as well to enhance the text comprehension.

The chosen abstract is accompanied by visual images and pictures. According to Stenglin and Iedema (2001), visual images “are social and culturally constructed products which have a culturally specific grammar of their own” (p. 194). In this regard, visual images, including their structure, events, and objects play a significant role in comprehending the text under analysis. In addition to the above, the text fully corresponds to the genre and sphere of students’ specialization.

Identifying the segment of the text that will be used for detailed reading

For practicing reading activities and comprehending the information presented in the text, I have chosen the segment entitled RAM and ROM. The extract begins with the words: “The programs and data which pass through the processor…” and end with the sentence: “The BIOS (Basis Input/output) system uses ROM to control the peripheries” (Santiago, 2007:12). This extract encompasses a lot of specific terms and abbreviations and, therefore, it will be quite challenging for students to read it. At the same time, the presented passage has a logical and clear explanation of the notions.

Highlighting the wordings for students to analyze

Once the text segment has been identified, it is necessary to recognize and underline the meaningful wordings and phrases within each sentence. The text can be divided into the following meaningful parts.

Taking into consideration the above approaches, the Reading-to-Learn program encapsulates a mixture of those methods where the top-down approach is mostly used at the first stages and the bottom-down approach is applied largely at the final stages. With regard to this, let us split out texts into meaningful parts that comprise the cues and symbols:

  1. “The programs and data which pass through the processor must be loaded into the main memory in order to be processed” (Santiago, 2007:12).
  2. “Therefore, when the user runs a program, the CPU looks for it on the hand disk and transfers a copy into the RAM chips” (Santiago, 2007:12).
  3. “RAM (Random Access Memory) is volatile – that is, its information is lost when the computer is turned off” (Santiago, 2007:12).
  4. “However, ROM (Read Only Memory) is non-volatile, containing instructions and routines for the basic operations of the CPU” (Santiago, 2007:12).
  5. “The BIOS (Basic Output/Input System) uses ROM to control communication with peripherals” (Santiago, 2007:12).

The highlighted parts are the ones that bear a sense load and that construct the semantic framework of the entire text segment. These words serve as the keywords bearing the main information about each sentence.

The Script of Questions and Explanations

In order to pursue the steps of teaching reading, it is necessary to present a detailed analysis of the first sentence. Before proceeding with the scaffolding reading activities, I have organized a situational “conversation” disclosing concrete questions that will be asked during the classes:

Teacher (Preparing): So, what are the main keywords in the first sentence? This part describes the process of information monitoring. What do you think about which word includes this process?

Student (Select): Probably the processor and the main memory?

Teacher (Elaborate): What about programs and data? Do they refer to the technical terms?

Students (Select): Yes because data and programs are a part of software and computing technologies.

Teacher (Affirm and Preparing): Ok, that is right. While reading the next sentence, which words are going to choose as keywords?

Students: I believe these are abbreviations because they are also specific.

Teacher (Underlining): Yes, they are specific.

As our learning task will be based on the Reading-to-Learn program, the stages of literacy acquisition will be presented as follows:

  1. First, students should accomplish an assignment on recognizing the genre and the purpose of the text.
  2. The next assignment will be dedicated to reading each sentence in a highlighted sentence for students to understand the main meaningful parts of the sentence.
  3. Then, I will ask students to recognize the keywords in a sentence, namely the ones that construct its meaning. For instance, if to take the first sentence, the meaning words will be programs and data, processor, and main memory. It should be noted that the last word combination is a specific term and, therefore, reading these words separately will change the meaning completely.
  4. At the final stage, I will advise students to write down briefly the main idea of an abstract with regard to the keywords found in a sentence. The new text should coincide with the meaning of the original text.

Pertaining to the top-down approach of teaching reading and to the text chosen for analysis, it is necessary to work out a list of questions and situations that will take place in the course of a lesson with regard to scaffolding the learning cycle scheme.

Designing a Sequence of Activities in Accordance with Reading-To-Learn Program

Learning Task # 1: Preparing for Reading

This assignment is aimed at defining students’ understanding of the genre of the text. For this assignment, it is necessary to revise the main characteristics of each genre, placing an emphasis on the usage of terms.

The task:

  1. Put the following sentences in the correct order (See Appendix 2). Which words can be used as links between sentences? For doing this assignment, it is necessary to choose the keywords and identify the way they are connected with each other.
  2. Read the proposed passage and decide the genre with regard to its application in the social sphere (See Appendix 1).

Learning Task #2: Detailed reading and analysis of the text

  • Read each sentence attentively and try to single out the words that seem to be the most difficult for you. Try to find an explanation for each word presented below:
    • the central processing unit, read-only memory, random access memory, volatile, control and communication, environmental pollution, wild nature, biological sex, corporate governance, the processor.
  • Split the following words and word combinations into groups of similar nature of social sphere:
    • the central processing unit, read-only memory, random access memory, volatile, control and communication, environmental pollution, wild nature, biological sex, corporate governance, the processor.

Learning task 3: Detailed Reading, part 2

Read each sentence attentively to grasp the main idea. Correlate them with visual images presented in Appendix 1. In what way textual information corresponds to what is depicted in pictures? Try to explain in your own words what you have learned from the passage (See Appendix 1). Pay attention to the spelling of such words as the processor, access, volatile, etc.

Learning task 4: Preparing for the writing

  1. Accomplish the exercise from Appendix 3. Try to revise the main peculiarities of the English tenses and those of grammatical structure of the English sentence.
  2. Accomplish the spelling exercises from Appendix 4 to get a better idea of the meaning of some specific words. Remember the words you have unscrambled and note them down into separate cards. After completing the assignment, make up meaningful sentences using the unscrambled words.

Analysis of Designed Activities with Regard to Reading-To-Learn Program and Related Theories

The presented three stages of reading activities are subjected to the theory of scaffolding learning cycle including preparing for a reading, detailed reading phase, and preparing for the writing stage. Each is predetermined by theoretical concerns and patterns established by the Reading-to-Learn program.

A special consideration deserves the second stage that includes identifying the meaning parts and patterns of each sentence. This process is followed by text marking where a student should highlight the main points. This is the stage where ESL students master the process of note-taking. The detailed reading phase also presupposes the usage of a three-step pattern, including preparing, identifying, and elaborating (Rose et al. 2003: 45).

The identification of the patterns is important because students should be able to independently deduce the meanings and chief words in the sentence. This can be achieved through discussion and elaboration. The results will be considered as great if students demonstrate a high level of abilities in rewriting the text of their sets readings.

In the course of the learning process, it is imperative to establish favorable relationships between a teacher and a student to foster the process of literacy acquisition. According to Rose (2006:3), the best method to achieve this goal is to devise an effective theoretical method of teaching reading as being a viable basis for practice. The scholar argues the necessity to make a considerable shift in teaching practices (Rose, 2006:3).

Apart from the main principles and stages of this program, other models of teaching reading have been taken into account. Hence, while compiling the first learning task, Martin’s genre-based approach has been analyzed (Martin and Rose, 2007:3). According to this pedagogy, the language is composed of several systems such as lexico-grammatical, semantic, and stylistic ones. In this regard, the clause can be presented in various dimensions. Hence, one dimension can depict different processes that involve things, places, and people whereas another dimension introduces a flow of information by means of interactions, relations, and attitudes.

The genre-based approach is also essential at the stage of understanding and rewriting a text. Hyland (2004:5) believes that genre methods provide great benefits for writing teachers since this concept allows them to analyze the broader context of textual forms. In this respect, writing and reading processes can be viewed as attempts to communicate with readers. A reading process, therefore, is aimed to understand the purpose and to achieve some results and this helps learners to complement some literacy gaps (Hyon, 1996: 696).

While compiling the writing task, special attention has been focused on the learning theories of closing the gaps through scaffolding (Rose, 2007:4). Applying to this approach, the students should use their background knowledge to recall the missing parts of readings while writing a new text. At this stage, a teacher’s main task is to provide support for students. In addition, these theoretical concepts have considerably contributed to designing a set of learning tasks where the main emphasis is put on reading.

The above-presented curriculum has also been highly influenced by Berstein’s ideas on the principles of classifying knowledge (1975: 86). Although the studies are dedicated to the analysis of the learning process in general, it has provided a solid platform for classifying the reading objects and events. In particular, the scholar presents a three message system allowing to determine the structure of a text and its context. Such an approach also permits the definition of the boundary relationships between the known and unknown patterns. Such a relationship can be analogous to those between a teacher and a learner.

Conclusion

In conclusion, numerous approaches and theories have been considered for working out viable strategies of literacy enhancement among ESL students who specialize in computing technology. The text chosen for reading and analysis corresponds to students’ grade level and abilities. It is aimed at understanding and recalling the main terms as well at checking the level of students’ listening and reading comprehension.

The learning tasks designed specifically for the group ESL students are largely based on the Reading-to-Learn program that involves several stages of the text analysis. But I have chosen the first three steps for my teaching reading activities because of the target students’ insufficient reading skills. The presented program includes three learning tasks whose main purpose is to check students’ understanding of grammatical and spelling peculiarities of the English language.

In addition, the program is also focused on developing students’ writing and narrative skills. The text under consideration is evaluated in accordance with genre, stylistic, semantic, and grammatical aspects. According to this learning program, students can better comprehend the material if going through such stages as listening, reading, writing, and recalling.

It should be noted that the designed task will be successful if a teacher manages to establish favorable interrelations with the learners because it will allow knowing the actual level of their abilities and skills. In addition, a teacher should take into consideration all the social and cultural aspects of the learning process. He/she should be aware of the main stages of the reading process that make a successful reader. A teacher’s main task is to foster the reader’s penetration into the cultural and social context of the text. Therefore, this process should be supported by the teacher’s knowledge of actual students’ competencies.

Reference List

Bernstein, B. 1975. Classification and Framing of Educational Knowledge. Changes in the coding of educational transmissions. London: Routledge. pp. 85-144.

Freebody, P. & Luke, A. 1990. ‘Literacy’ Programs: Debates and Demands in Cultural Context. Prospect. 5(3), pp.8-16.

Hyland, K. 2004. Why Genre? Genre and Second Language Writing. US: University Press. pp. 4-23.

Hyon, S. 1996. Genre in Three Traditions: Implications for ESL. TESOL Quarterly, 30, pp. 693-722.

Martin, J. R., and Rose, D. 2007. Interacting with Text: the role of dialogue in learning to read and write. Foreign Studies Journal.

Rose, D., Lui-Chivizhe, L., McKnight, A., and Smith A. 2003. Scaffolding Academic Reading and Writing at the Koori Centre. Australian Journal of Indigenous Education. 32, pp. 41-48.

Rose, D. 2006. Towards a reading based theory of teaching. 33rd International Systemic Functional Congress.

Rose, D. 2007. Preparing for Reading and Writing. Reading to Learn.

Santiago, R. E. 2007. Infotech: English for computer users. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Sterling, M., &Iedema. R. 2001. How to analyze visual images: a guide for TESOL teachers. Analyzing English in a global context. London: Routledge, pp. 194-208.

Appendix 1: Text for Reading

Text for Reading
Text for Reading

Appendix 2: Putting the sentencing in a correct order

  1. “The BIOS (Basic Output/Input System) uses ROM to control communication with peripherals” (Santiago, 2007:12).
  2. “Therefore, when the user runs a program, the CPU looks for it on the hard disk and transfers a copy into the RAM chips” (Santiago, 2007:12).
  3. “The programs and data which pass through the processor must be loaded into the main memory in order to be processed” (Santiago, 2007:12).
  4. “However, ROM (Read Only Memory) is non-volatile, containing instructions and routines for the basic operations of the CPU” (Santiago, 2007:12).
  5. “RAM (Random Access Memory) is volatile – that is, its information is lost when the computer is turned off” (Santiago, 2007:12).

Appendix 3: Correct grammatical mistakes (including tense and voice usage and prepositions) in italics

  1. When the user runs a program, the CPU looks after it on the hard disk and is transferring a copy on the RAM chips.
  2. The programs and data which pass through the processor must be loaded in the main memory in order to process.
  3. RAM (Random Access Memory) is volatile – that is, its information is lost when the computer is turned off.

Appendix 4: Spelling exercises

  • Unscramble the words:
    • Ropessorc, moryme, litevola, ramsgpor, psich, sibac poreanoits.
  • Insert the right word into the sentence:
    • … is volatile – that is, its information is … when the computer is turned off. However, … is non-volatile, containing instructions and routines for the basic … of the CPU.
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