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Implementing While-Reading Strategies in the EFL Classroom
by Dorit Sasson


Abstract:

The author shares her perspective about the use of while-reading strategies and activities.


The terminology for reading strategies described in the English Curriculum Israel, in its rationale, domains, and benchmarks, can sometimes be so overwhelming that we as teachers need to cut the terms down-to-size in order to fit our students' needs and apply them in the classroom.

The learning objectives for improving reading skills and understanding texts more comprehensively are general learning strategies that students develop as they perform various tasks and activities--from pre-, while-, post-reading. They are all intentionally structured to broaden the students' background, knowledge and skills, and may also be helpful with other subjects as well, (hopefully!) Many of the same strategies are "re-entered" via different activities allowing students to practice using them with different texts. Therefore, the Benchmarks of Accessing Information are important in terms of acquiring the requisite proficiency level.

Questions to think about: Identifying strategies that you currently use, activities that help teach them, and new ones that you think would be beneficial:
What is your approach to while-reading activities in the classroom?
Which strategies do you already use?
Which new strategies would you like to try to incorporate in the classroom?

While-reading strategies can help the student to improve his ability to become more fluent in English, especially in the areas of speaking and reading. The while-reading activities I use in the classroom vary according to my aim in using a particular text. Hopefully, such strategies will help them cope with problematic and grayer areas of the text, such as identifying the main ideas of a text, which are also problematic for them in their native or first language.

I suppose I use all the activities in the chart, below, but perhaps some more frequently. I must admit, I use the activities and strategies on the right much less! Some activities are also much more involved, requiring the use of a wide array of corresponding tasks to implement them, i.e. summarizing and paraphrasing for projects. In some cases, I ask the students to manage with the text without resort to while-reading activities, in order to see how they cope with the text or in order to explain to them the benefits of using a strategy. By exposing the students to a variety of strategies I keep them on their toes, and I stimulate myself as well.

ACTIVITIES AND STRATEGIES I USE ALREADY TO ACTIVATE STUDENTS ACTIVITIES AND STRATEGIES I WOULD LIKE TO USE (MUCH MORE)
1) guessing word meanings by using context clues, word formation clues or cognates 1) effective dictionary use
2) scanning and skimming for specific pieces of information 2) paying attention to the grammatical function of unknown words
3) predicting text content 3) analyzing connectors and key words
4) identifying topic sentences that contain the main idea of the paragraph 4) using "fix-up" strategies, such as rereading, to repair comprehension when it breaks down.
5) using visual and sensory images such as graphic organizers to identify the main idea or themes of a text 5) paraphrasing for the purpose of summarizing
6) distinguishing between general and specific ideas 6) timing readings for achieving automaticity
7) recognizing connecting ideas via connectors 7) distinguishing between fact and opinion
8) recognizing lexical clues (e.g. reference words)
9) making conclusions and drawing inferences

2. The problematic and rewarding sides of using strategies: What are your concerns regarding while-reading strategies? What are the rewards that students and teacher gain while using them? What are the problems and difficulties that you face teaching them?

While-reading strategies are challenging and sometimes difficult to teach and learn because different students need different strategies and not every student can acquire the same proficiency level. I am not always sure which strategies students need the most in the classroom and those which require more practice at home. Hopefully, I will gain more insight as to which activities are also suitable for each task.

Another concern regarding while reading strategies the rewards, problems and difficulties that I have faced had to do with the fact that those strategies weren't properly taught or were not taught at all in their native language.

A final concern is timing and transition: After years of practice, I still am not sure how much time and practice to devote to each of the strategies. I have reached the conclusion, however, that it is much better to take baby bites and focus on only one (And I mean ONE!) strategy and practice it thoroughly.

Pupils are expected to reach a level of English that enables them to compete in a modern world. The Curriculum recognizes in its principles the need to build on the student's prior knowledge and develop thinking skills necessary for real life communication. The domains ,standards and benchmarks are intended to develop these skills gradually. Since becoming a good reader is vital for the English language learner, the reading strategies I have outlined above are the stepping stones in the skill development for pupils to become fluent in the target language.

Judging from the type of activities I already use with my EFL students, there are many more strategies that are just waiting. So, take your pick and start implementing today!

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