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The aplicaion of critical thinking in teaching English reading

This article covers the optimization of the application of innovative techniques and technologies in teaching reading in English lessons. The use of problem teaching methods and technologies of critical thinking e nters learners to reading texts in a foreign language because it expands students‘ educational horizons and forms their critical thinking. The results say about the correctness of the choice of the technology as one of an effective means of increasing the interest and the quality in learning the English language.

The first thing, most EFL teachers discover when they begin to teach English reading is the lack of critical thinking skills of most students. Most teachers in turn are not themselves generators of questions and answers of their own, that is, are not seriously engaged in thinking through or rethinking through their own subjects. They usually use questions and answers of a textbook.

Unfortunately, most students ask virtually none of thought-stimulating types of questions. They tend to stick to dead questions like ―Where does the story take place?‖ questions that imply the desire not to think. Dead questions reflect dead minds. We must continually remind ourselves that thinking begins within some content only when questions are generated by both teachers and students. No questions equals no understanding. Superficial question equals superficial understanding. Most students typically have no intellectual questions. They not only sit in silence; their minds are silent as well. Hence, the questions they do have tend to be superficial, ill-formed and self-serving. This demonstrates that most of the time they are not thinking through the content; they are presumed to be learning.

Reading is one of the most important skills of a foreign language that is aimed to be taught to students in EFL courses. Also it is not an easy course to comprehend for the foreign language students because reading is a complex process. The first definition of the reading is from Goodman (1988). It claims that reading is interaction between writer and the reader.

Reading is a receptive language process. It is a psycholinguistic process in that it starts with a linguistic surface representation encoded by a writer and ends with meaning which the reader constructs. There is thus an essential interaction between language and thought in reading. The writer encodes thought as language and the reader decodes language to thought.

When beginning to teach critical thinking skills to EFL students in Asia who don't have them, we should begin with something not too challenging or something that requires them to bring their own information to class, but begin with a reading exercise. To read a passage in an English book out loud, then to have students read it out loud themselves, then to discuss it. We know that effective readers monitor their comprehension by activating background knowledge prior to reading and questioning, clarifying, predicting, and evaluating during their reading. For English language learners, deep comprehension often depends on background knowledge. Using comprehensible texts, including short stories, extracts from larger works and adolescent novels, and finally, using complex texts such as novels nonfiction would challenge well their thinking and speaking abillities. The goal is for students independently to choose and use strategies for different purposes, and to be able to critically analyze, in writing or in speech, the texts they read strategically and to teach the processes of literary and stylistic analysis. While ELLs may come across basic narrative elements (plot, character development, author‘s message and setting), they need access to more complex components of writing such as tone, theme, author's attitude, and word-choice like stylistic devices.

So as to have students motivated teachers need to build a variety of experiences relevant to the topic of study and use a variety of materials in their classrooms to better accommodate the individual student needs, interests, and abilities (Shelley, 1997). Students who do not have a strong foundation in basic decoding and comprehension skills become struggling readers. Remedial readers never see reading as something they could do it was something to be avoided (Collins, 1997). Their poor reading ability denies them access to the content of papers they have to study. Thus, reading will be viewed as an activity where we construct meaning for ourselves, it is an active, cognitive and affective process that involves complex thinking.

Furthermore, the capability of being able to comprehend what has been read is a requirement for success in all aspects of learning including beyond the educational years. Thus, in order to reach a qualified identity in their fields students should learn to build English language. Also students need to research about lots of subjects in English. While doing this, they have to read in English since most of the sources are written in that language, just because of this, the university students need to improve their reading abilities.

Reading is a systematic process for the students to learn, so they face different problems when reading in English. However, the problems are very different from each other and also the problems are different according to different departments, classrooms, courses and so on. To cope with these difficulties students need to make connections between prior knowledge and new information to assist the construction of meaning and comprehension. This is to make sure that the students build confidence and interest about reading. A pre-requisite to improve the performance of the reader is assisting and motivating students. Educators want students to read information, make critical decisions about it, form their own opinions and respond intelligently (D"Archangelo, 2002).

Good readers are extremely active as they read, as is apparent whenever excellent adult readers are asked to think aloud as they go through text" (Pressley & Afflerbach, 1995). Good readers are aware of why they are reading a text, gain an overview of the text before reading, make predictions about the upcoming text, read selectively what they already know, note whether their predictions and expectations about text content are being met, and revise their prior knowledge.

The goals we set in education are both effective and cognitive. We want to see our students developing socially, emotionally and intellectually. Nevertheless, as teachers we are not always successful in integrating our effective and cognitive goals, whether in our educational thinking or our practice. It is noticeable in how many chapters in the book contributors are concerned to stress that neither skills without meanings, nor meanings without technical competence, will do on their own. But we must remember also that in speaking, listening, reading and writing different skills, techniques and understandings are inevitably involved. The spoken and the written languages are not mirror images of one another; they differ significantly both in nature and in function. What we hope to give our students is more than just a feeling for the unity of all their learning; rather, a realistic insight into its diversity.

What is Critical Thinking?

No one always acts purely objectively and rationally. We connive for selfish interests. We gossip, boast, exaggerate, and equivocate. It is "only human" to wish to validate our prior knowledge, to vindicate our prior decisions, or to sustain our earlier beliefs. In the process of satisfying our ego, however, we can often deny ourselves intellectual growth and opportunity. We may not always want to apply critical thinking skills, but we should have those skills available to be employed when needed.

Critical thinking includes a complex combination of skills. Among the main characteristics are the following:


We are thinking critically when we:

  1. rely on reason rather than emotion,
  2. require evidence, ignore no known evidence, and follow evidence where it leads, and
  3. are concerned more with finding the best explanation than being right analyzing apparent confusion and asking questions.


We are thinking critically when we:

  1. weigh the influences of motives and bias, and
  2. recognize our own assumptions, prejudices, biases, or point of


We are thinking critically when we recognize emotional impulses, selfish motives, nefarious purposes, or other modes of self-deception.


We are thinking critically when we:

  1. evaluate all reasonable inferences
  2. consider a variety of possible viewpoints or perspectives,
  3. remain open to alternative interpretations
  4. accept a new explanation, model, or paradigm because it explains the evidence better, is simpler, or has fewer inconsistencies or covers more data
  5. accept new priorities in response to a reevaluation of the evidence or reassessment of our real interests, and
  6. do not reject unpopular views out of


We are thinking critically when we:

  1. are precise, meticulous, comprehensive, and exhaustive
  2. resist manipulation and irrational appeals, and avoid snap


We are thinking critically when we:

  1. recognize the relevance and/or merit of alternative assumptions and perspectives
  2. recognize the extent and weight of evidence

Summing up, it is obvious that critical thinkers are by nature skeptical. They approach texts with the same skepticism and suspicion as they approach spoken remarks.

Critical thinkers are active, not passive. They ask questions and analyze. They consciously apply tactics and strategies to uncover meaning or assure their understanding.

Critical thinkers do not take an egotistical view of the world. They are open to new ideas and perspectives. They are willing to challenge their beliefs and investigate competing evidence.

Critical thinking enables us to recognize a wide range of subjective analyses of otherwise objective data, and to evaluate how well each analysis might meet our needs. Facts may be facts, but how we interpret them may vary.

By contrast, passive, non-critical thinkers take a simplistic view of the world.

  1. They see things in black and white, as either-or, rather than recognizing a variety of possible
  2. They see questions as yes or no with no
  3. They fail to see linkages and complexities.
  4. They fail to recognize related

Non-critical thinkers take an egotistical view of the world

  1. They take their facts as the only relevant
  2. They take their own perspective as the only sensible
  3. They take their goal as the only valid

How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills through Reading?

Why critical thinking? Why literature reading? ―Literature-based reading has an important effect on the development of critical thinking. A reader must recognize patterns within text, fit details into these patterns, then relate them to other texts and remembered experiences‖ (Critical Thinking and Literature-based Reading, 1997, p. 1)16 Does your brain feel sluggish at times? New research suggests computer use and video games could be blamed. As technology plays a bigger role in our lives, our skills in critical thinking and analysis have declined according to research by UCLA professor, Patricia Greenfield (see: Is Technology Producing A Decline In Critical Thinking And Analysis?). Luckily, the mere act of reading for pleasure can save our brains from turning into mush. "Studies show that reading develops imagination, induction, reflection and critical thinking, as well as vocabulary,"

Professor Greenfield said. "Reading for pleasure is the key to developing these skills." Therefore, how to reverse these students‘ learning habits and sets of minds by helping them develop critical thinking skills and nurture disposition toward critical thinking is of great importance.

Literature reading is eminently congenial to the essential traits of critical thinking for the following reasons. First, the mental process of literature reading requires critical thinking skills. Literature reading is a complex process that requires readers to recall, retrieve and reflect on their prior experiences or memories to construct meanings of the text. While they are doing so, they need to demonstrate the following capacities: to differentiate facts from opinions; to understand the literal or implied meanings and the narrator‘s tone; to locate details related to the issues discussed; to find out the causal relationship or the connections between the events or actions; to detect an inferential relationship from the details observed; to be perceptive of multiple points of views; to make moral reasoning and fairgrounded judgments; and most of all, to apply what they have learned from this process to other domains or the real world. In a sense, readers are exercising what the CT experts termed ―explanation,‖ ―analysis,‖ ―synthesis,‖

  • ―argumentation,‖ ―interpretation,‖
  • ―evaluation,‖ ―problem-solving,‖ ―inference‖
  • ―logical reasoning,‖ and ―application‖ (Brunt, 2005; Facione, 2007; Halpern, 1998; Lazere, 1987). All these abilities, in sum, are critical thinking skills.

Finally, the effective result and the success of this activity depend upon three factors:

  1. the usage of Socratic questioning skills to help students elaborate their thoughts;
  2. an experienced teacher to provide students with a safe environment for critical inquiries;
  3. the choices of the reading texts to provide students with believable contexts for developing critical thinking and problemsolving

These three factors as strongly recommended by some researchers to be fixed into curriculum to improve the efficacy of critical thinking instruction.



  1. Madison W.I. ―Critical Thinking and Literature-Based Reading‖. // The Institute for Academic Excellence, 1997. (pp. 15),
  2. Brunt B.A. ―Critical Thinking in Nursing: An Integrated Review‖// Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing, 36 (2005), pp. 60-67,
  3. Facione A. Critical Thinking: What It Is and Why It Counts. Milbrae: The California Academic Press, 2007,
  4. Lazere D. ―Critical Thinking in College English Studies,‖ ERIC ED 284275, 1987.

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International relations

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Philology is the study of language in oral and written historical sources; it is the intersection between textual criticism, literary criticism, history, and linguistics.[

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