A Thank You to Rocky

This semester I am undertaking to teach a twenty week course in Extensive reading. I am working under the mentoring of professor Rocky Nelson who has over fifteen years experience in both implementing and running Extensive Reading courses. Unfortunately Rocky will retire in December this year leaving a void at my university.

This blog is intended for me to keep a record for not only myself in the future but also any other teachers or students interested in developing or partaking in a solidly designed Extensive Reading course, especially for those in Korea. I will try to provide a weekly plan synopsis as I teach the classes and provide links to materials and other supplements.

I hope this site is useful for those that visit.

Extensive Reading Central -The New Extensive Reading Portal

I want to put at the top of this blog the new main Portal for Extensive Reading developed by Dr Robert Waring. Please click the link below.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Interview with Rocky Nelson

For those visiting this site now and in the future, Jeff Lebow interviews Rocky Nelson, the designer of our Extensive Reading Course and great collector of books and all materials needed for Extensive Reading.

Thanks Rocky for all your help and guidance in helping me teach Extensive Reading this semester. 

The First Week

Our extensive reading classes run for four hours per week usually split into two two hours sessions.

The first thing that we do is give the students an Edinburgh Project on Extensive Reading (EPER) test. The test has copy-write so I can't upload it here but I have included a link in the links list where you can order the test materials. The EPER test lets students know what level of graded readers they should start with.

The next thing we do is a previewing exercise. It is important for students to be able to assess a book quickly so they can choose a book they want to read. The previewing exercise is done as follows:
  • The teacher selects a pile of graded readers (more than he has students in the class).
  • The teacher chooses books of several different genres: mystery, romance, historical fiction and so on.
  • The teacher chooses books he thinks will be an unknown story to his students.
  • The teacher models doing a preview focusing on;
    • looking at the books cover
    • reading the back matter
    • looking at the chapter index
    • flicking through the book noticing any pictures
    • checking for a glossary
    • noticing the genre of the book
    • authors name
  • The teacher must stress the most important thing is to decide if you would want to read the book or not.
  • Students then receive a book from the teacher to preview.
  • After students preview the book they then are given 1-2 minutes to discuss the book in pairs.
  • This is repeated two or three times. 
I found it useful to write several different genre on the board to help students classify the books more. Then I would ask students if their partner wanted to read the book they had. 

After the previewing activity we take the students to the library, show them the graded readers section and explain the levels between different publishers. Students then set up their library cards, borrow some books and start reading.

The next class we do a titles and blurbs activity to let students see that they can read and do activities. It also is a reinforcing exercise for showing different genre of books.  Before we do some Sustained Silent Reading (SSR) students are shown the recording form to track the number of pages they read and how to fill it in. Our students have a goal of 1000 pages over the 20 week program. Finally, let the SSR begin! 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Second Week

It is important for students to understand the principles of extensive reading and how it is different to intensive reading. We use this article 'Why Youngkyu Can't Read' by Dr Richard Day that has a list of 'Ten Principles of Extensive Reading' . We use the list to make a comparison on the board between the two types of reading instruction. A copy of the Extensive Reading Principles in Korean is also provided to further aid our students understanding.

Then we discuss the General Service List of 2000 words that are used by graded readers in the development of their level. Even just this list of 300 sight words covers a lot what good readers need. There are various online level tests from different publishers.
Our students are actually teachers so we recommend two books and discuss some of the contents:
To encourage a reading culture and for a fun reading activity we use Dr Seuss's book 'Fox in Socks'. Students can follow along with the teacher, try the tongue twisters or read aloud to each other. We also show how the pictures in the book relate to what is being said. 

When a fox is in the bottle where the tweetle beetles battle with their paddles in a puddle on a noodle-eating poodle, THIS is what they call...
...a tweetle beetle noodle poodle bottled paddled muddled duddled fuddled wuddled fox in socks, sir!

So now students:
  • should have books for their level
  • know how to record how much they read with a minimum goal of 1000 pages
  • have some idea about the principles behind Extensive Reading
  • enjoyed some in class reading activities
Using this handout on Extensive Reading Assessment we introduce the concept of book reports, conferencing and word lists.

There are many types of book report formats. There is still debate over the best way to handle book reports in an Extensive Reading course. The main thing is that book reports should be short and focus not on just summarizing the book but how the reader felt about the book. In this course book reports are not compulsory for every book the student reads, but they have to choose four reports from the six provided in their Extensive Reading Manual and fill them in at least once. 

Book Report Forms
We also have a vocabulary form that students can use if they want to. However students are reminded NOT to study the book but to READ the book. 

Finally the students are invited to do some Sustained Silent Reading while the first student-teacher conferences get under way. Most students have read between two and four books at this stage as they need to have to be 'on track' for their 1000 page goal. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Third Week

This week we allowed the students to have two hours of Sustained Silent Reading Reading to allow us to complete the one on one conferencing. I found that the conferencing is really important so students get to talk about what they are reading or if they are having any difficulties. The conferencing also allows the teacher to pick up on students that might be 'studying' the books instead of reading them, completing books they are not enjoying or simply are not reading as per the course requirement. The other two hours were split between a video presentation by Dr Richard Day and introducing Timed Repeated Reading through discussion of Dr Paul Nation's book Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing, Chapter 5, Reading Faster.

Part 1: Dr Day's Video

Dr Richard Day: From Intensive Reading to Extensive Reading

We show the above video to students stopping occasionally to reinforce certain points in the video. Also, the person who shot the video didn't actually capture the Dr Day Power Point very well so follow the link. The points reinforced in the video are:
Showing the video and talking about principles in it really helped the students understand concepts about Extensive Reading when talking to them during the conferencing. It is recommended viewing for anyone teaching or using extensive reading. Video done, it is time for Silent Sustained Reading and conferencing. 

Part 2: Dr Nations Text

Expanding the sight words list concept introduced to students in the second week we discuss the actually processes involved in reading. We do NOT read letter by letter but rather by recognizing whole words by sight. To illustrate the point we use this 'fi yuo cna raed tihs' handout. I also discuss why comics are often harder to read for second language learners of English because they are in capital letters giving no tall/tail letter patterns that the mind uses to recognize words. Then we move to the text from Dr Paul Nation. 

Knowing that we recognize whole words rather than letters we discuss the three eye movement processes listed in book:
  • fixations
  • saccadic jumps
  • regressions
Slower readers have longer fixations, shorter saccades and more regressions. Hence fluency activities aim to decrease the time of fixations, increase the length of saccades to an appropriate level and reduce the number of regressions. Good readers therefore read at 250-300 words per minute. If people are reading faster it is termed 'expeditious reading' which is like skimming or scanning. 

Then we discuss the four properties of a fluency activities as discussed by Dr Nation namely:
  1. Fluency activities have a Focus on Meaning,
  2. Fluency activities use material that is EASY,
  3. Fluency activities have a 'time pressure' or an expectation of performing faster, and
  4. Fluency activities must have a 'quantity of practice' 
There are many activities that Dr Nation mentions in his book for increasing reading rate and his 'Asia and Pacific Speed Reading for ESL Learners', available from his website, is shown to students as an example. We use material similar to this in an optional extension course that we run. 

Finally we run a Timed Repeated Reading as described by Dr Day however we use this Timed Repeated Reading Record Form. After the Timed Repeated Reading it is once again time for Silent Sustained Reading and conferencing. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Fourth Week

This week the four hours are basically split into two hours of Sustained Silent Reading, one hour of a reading discussion to build the 'Culture of Reading' and one hour to discuss the work by Beatrice Mikulecky. Additionally there are now two weekly activities and checks that we do, namely:
  • Check page numbers read by students.
  • Timed Repeated Readings (twice a week - takes about eight minutes per time) 
Students are also reminded of the requirement to complete four of the different types of book report from week two by the end of week six. Progress is recorded. 

'Culture of Reading' Discussion

Professor Nelson always stresses the importance of creating a culture of reading so that students will continue to read after the semester is over. To supplement this we use the Reading and You handout. I did the first two questions with the class to model how they can answer the work sheet. The first page was then done as pair work, and students were asked to write short answers. The second page was done as a group discussion exercise with the teacher circulating around groups. The activity is enjoyed by students and makes them think about reading as a culture. 

Beatrice Mikulecky

We have a copy of Mikulecky's 'A Short Course in Teaching Reading Skills' and talk about a lot of the principles in the book. I understand that the book is no longer in print with a revised version called 'A Short Course in Teaching Reading: Practical Techniques for Building Reading Power' being available. We talk about What Reading Is with regards to:
  • Top down and bottom up processing
  • Schema development 
  • Processes of good readers
  • Implications for teachers
For a more in-depth summary of what we discuss about the text refer to Professor Nelson's 'A Short Course in Teaching Reading' power point. Some of the discussion also focuses on reading being 'a psycho-linguistic guessing game'.  We use this passage below (listed as passage 1 in Professor Nelson's power point):

Read the following passage and discover what the topic is.

A newspaper is better than a magazine, and on a seashore is a better place than a street. At first it is better to run than to walk. Also you may have to try several times. It takes some skill but it’s easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it. Once successful, complications are minimal. Birds seldom get too close. One needs lots of room. Rain soaks in very fast. Too many people doing the same thing can also cause problems. If there are no complications, it can be very peaceful. A rock will serve as an anchor. If things break loose from it, however, you will not get a second chance.

The answer to the topic is that it is about flying a kite. 

Finally time for some Sustained Silent Reading after we show students some different Silent Reading Acronyms for fun. 

That is all for week four. Not a lot really. The nice thing about this week is that it is the first week I too actually get to do some Sustained Silent Reading with the students. 

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Fifth Week

This week we do the standard weekly exercises mentioned last week and Sustained Silent Reading as per normal. The other two hours this week would be a little different if you are running just a regular university class, and I know Rocky does other activities with his undergraduates, but our students are actually public school teachers doing a Teacher Training Program. Therefore, this week we focus further on the theory behind extensive reading and how it fits with intensive reading by looking at 'A Piece of the Missing Puzzle' presentation by Dr Robert Waring. Additionally, one of our goals is to encourage the Korean teachers to feel able and empowered to set up Extensive Reading programs in their schools after the complete the training program.

Piece of the Missing Puzzle by Dr Robert Waring

We use two power point presentations by Dr Waring and actually I had the chance to see his Missing Puzzle presentation at an Extensive Reading Special Interest Group Conference about three years ago. I go through the first few slides of his 'Piece of the Missing Puzzle' power point up to the showing the verb and adjective collocations of 'idea'. The focus here is to get our students to understand:

  • You need to meet vocabulary 30-50 times to consolidate it and not forget it.
  • The 2000 word knowledge and the 7000 word knowledge data differences
  • The range of different things that you need to know about vocabulary including:
    • nuance
    • collocations
    • rare versus useful
    • euphemistic versus pejorative
    • discourse domains
  • That all of this is based on 'RESEARCH' not just anecdotal evidence.
We then give trainees a printout of Dr Waring's Easy Extensive Reading power point. Using this we focus on the role of Extensive Reading as the 'required' adjunct to intensive reading coursebooks. I focused specifically on:
  • The poverty of input and review afforded by Intensive Reading texts
  • The battle against the 'Forgetting Curve
  • Focus on NEW rather than USE. The adage 'Learn a little, use a lot' is often reversed in Korea to 'Learn a lot, use a little'
  • Intensive Reading and Extensive Reading are not opposites, they should work together
  • Perils of 'authentic' material
  • Points for starting an Extensive Reading program
  • That all of this is based on 'RESEARCH' not just anecdotal evidence.
Just on a side note, at the last KOTESOL National Conference I had an opportunity to attend Professor Scott Miles' presentation on ESL and Memory which was very good and here is his power point 'Memory and Language Learning'. There is nice information on fighting the forgetting curve in his power point. 

Starting an Extensive Reading Program

Lois Scott has an excellent article on how to set up an Extensive Reading Program  called 'Starting an Extensive Reading Program' The article is fairly self explanatory and so I just go through the article quickly and let students then look through the article together and then have a question time. 

The Extensive Reading Foundation Guide (also available from their website) also has excellent advice on how to set up Extensive Reading Programs so this is also shown to the students as an extra resource. 

I offer to go to their school to help them after they leave our program, distribute my contact card and the contact card of Extensive Reading Publisher representative's name cards, and provide any encouragement I can. 

Finally, we show the students a list of useful websites for Extensive Reading. I will be updating my links list during the next week. 

Don't forget about recording requirements, doing Timed Repeated Readings and then it is time for Sustained Silent Reading.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Sixth Week

This week we continued with the two Timed Repeated Reading activities and 2 Sustained Silent Reading sessions. The rest of the time was involved in discussing some opinion articles about extensive reading, Sakai's '1,000,000 words' book and showing how you can Start with Simple Stories (SSS) a Japanese based system.

These are linked below and the links are fairly self explanatory, making this weeks post fairly short.

Opinion Articles
Sakai's '1,000,000 words' 
Start with Simple Stories