Teaching efficient efl reading

Studying of a foreign language is a complicated but at the same times an interesting and absorbing process. It takes time and passion. Any nation has its own differentiating features in culture, in the way of living and in the way of life seeing. Native language unites all those features and reflexes them in sounds, constructions, traditional comparison and allegories. Programs and methodic for teaching to any language take that into consideration and help foreigners to find the right way for learning the language. That is way the system of teaching includes grammar understanding, listening and realizing the idea of speakers, speaking unit which develops the speaking skills and abilities.

What is efficient EFL reading? According to the organization to Reading in a Second Language: Hypotheses, Organization, and Practice, ESL reading is understood in terms of «matching flexibility of the educated native speaker as he performs all reading-related tasks presented in his environmentThese include reading and understanding newspapers and popular magazines, personal letters, business correspondence, official documents such as driving application forms, stories, academic textbooks, and scientific and technical reports». This means that the objective of an ESL reading course is to produce efficient ESL readers who, like educated native speakers, have flexibility in performing all reading-related tasks in their environment [2, p. 32].

Flexibility in reading includes flexibility in speed as well as comprehension. Edward Fry discusses this in detail in his book Teaching Faster Reading: A Manual. According to Fry, educated naive speakers of English generally need at three different speeds, depending on their purpose, the difficulty of the material, and their background on their edge. The first type of speed is study speed (200-300 words per minute). This is the slowest speed, used for reading textbooks and difficult materials such as legal documents, when the reader desires a high rate of understanding as well as good retention. In this type of reading the reader studies the material carefully in order not to miss a single point.

The second type of speed is average reading speed (25-500 wpm). This course is the speed that educated native speakers native speakers use to read everyday materials such as newspapers, magazines, novels, and stories. At this sped the rate of comprehension is lowered (usually about 70%). They sometimes even skip over paragraphs or pages that don’t interest them.

The third type of speed is skimming speed. This is faster speed that native speaker’s use, when they wish to cover the material in a hurry and high comprehension is not required. Generally speaking the skimming speed of educated native speakers is at least twice as fast as their average reading speed. Some of them can skim more than 800 wpm. At this speed they intentionally accept a much lower comprehension [6, p. 38].

So we can see that, like the two sides of coin, speed and comprehension are inseparable in efficient reading. An efficient reader can not only read slowly with good comprehension, but can also read fast with needed comprehension when circumstances require. Therefore, the major objective of an EFL reading course should be to improve the average and skimming speeds of our students, and to help them cultivate the ability to vary their speed in reading different materials for different purposes.

What is the rationale for efficient EFL reading?

Efficient reading is based on the psycholinguistic models of reading proposed by Goodman and Smith. According to Goodman, reading is a «a psycholinguistic guessing game» that involves an interaction between thought and language. According to Smith, two types of information are necessary in reading: visual information (which we get from the printed page) and non-visual information (which includes our understanding of the relevant language, our familiarity with the matter, our general ability in reading, and our knowledge of the world).

The psycholinguistic models of reading can be summarized as the following process:

The reader approaches a text with expectations based on his knowledge of the subject. He uses only minimal sampling of the text in deriving meaning by relying on his knowledge of the language and the subject, as well as his background knowledge. On the basis of sampling, he makes predictions as to what message he expects to get form the text. As he progresses into the material, he tests his predictions, confirming or revising them, and makes still more predictions on the basic of what he has been reading. By making use of minimal orthographic, syntactic, and semantic clues in the material, he internally re-creates a replica of the textual message. Once such reconstruction has taken place, he will test its accuracy against previous information, which includes the information extracted for the text, as well as the store of information in his long term memory relevant to the topic. Based on the psycholinguistic models of Goodman and Smith, Coady has developed a model of efficient ESL reading. According to Coady, efficient ESL reading depends on the successful interaction among three factors: higher-level conceptual abilities, background knowledge, and process strategies, which he diagrams as follow:

Conceptual abilities refer to intellectual capacity such as the ability to analyze, synthesize, and infer. Background knowledge includes, in particular, socio-cultural knowledge of the English-speaking communities. Process strategies refer to the abilities and skills to reconstruct the meaning of the text through sampling based on the knowledge of grapheme-morphophonemic correspondences, syllable-morpheme information, syntactic information (deep and surface), lexical meaning, contextual meaning, and cognitive strategies [1, p. 50].

Through diagnostic tests and observation student have the following five major reading problems:

Reading word by word, relying too heavily on their visual information, this greatly impedes their reading speed and hampers their comprehension. Focusing too much attention on form at the expense of meaning. Playing too much attention to details, with the result that they often miss the main ideas and see only the trees instead of the forest. A small reading vocabulary and heavy reliance on the use of the dictionary for word meaning. The task before the teacher, then, is to help her students change their reading habits by teaching those efficient reading skills. An effective way to do this is through guided reading. The tem guided reading reeds to timed reading conducted in class under the control and guidance of the teacher. In guided reading not only can students learn how to read I different ways at different speeds for different purposes, but the teacher can observe how her students actually read so that she can give them prompt help by correcting reading habits such as sub vocalization and pointing at the words they read. What is more, in guided reading the teacher can teach different efficient reading skills [3, p. 50].

We know that we don't read everything in the same way with the same attention to detail. Some reading activities require deep attention, and others don't, but students don't always know this. They go about reading in the exact same manner, no matter the goal.

Here are some strategies that you can model and suggest when assigning reading that will help students to be more efficient and effective in their reading.

Skimming getting the gist of something, getting a broad overview. This involves looking at chapter and section headings, reading the first sentences in paragraphs, summary sections, or the first and last paragraphs of the chapter. Readers should be ignoring details and reading just for the main ideas.

  1. Scanning looking through a text for specific information. Think of the way you look up a phone number in the phone book. You look in a much focused way for specific pieces of information, ignoring everything else so you can quickly find the info you are looking for.
  2. Surveying this strategy is great at the beginning of a semester, or when students are gathering materials for research papers. Students look broadly at the text, its table of contents, the index and bibliography, any abstract information available, introductions, forewords, or reviewer's comments in order to get a general idea of the scope and purpose of the text.
  3. Detailed Reading actively reading in great detail to learn new material. This is covered in more detail in the next section, Reading to Learn.
  4. Word –attack skills. These skills enable the reader to work out the meaning of unfamiliar words and phrases without looking them up in the dictionary.
  5. Reading in meaningful units. One of the factors that determine reading speed and comprehension is the number of words the eyes can see at one glance. The more words students can see and comprehend at one glance, the greater will be their reading speed and the better will be their comprehension. Students should be able to read in meaningful units instead of isolated words [5, p.142].

A useful way to train students to read in meaningful units is to break up a sentence into sense groups and have students focus their eyes on the middle of each sense group arranged in separate lines and try to see words on each side of the middle line, e.g.

Prediction: According to the psycholinguistic models of reading efficient reading depends, to a large extent, on making correct predictions with minimal sampling. This ability will greatly speed, and enhance our comprehension. Therefore, it is a very useful skill.

Students can learn to make predictions based on the title, subtitles, and their knowledge of the topic, the linguistic context, and the nonlinguistic context, such as diagrams, graphs, tables, pictures, and maps, which serves the same purpose as gestures facial expressions in conversation.

distinguishing general statements from specific details: General statements usually contain main ideas, and specific details are usually explanations and examples that support the general statements. Therefore, general statements are more important to comprehension. Very often they are introduced by signal words such as in general, above all, in conclusion, and it can be seen that. Students should learn to direct their attention to these signal words. They should also learn to identify expressions of probability, frequency, and quantity that indicate different levels of generality. Some of these can be shown in the following table:






















Inference and conclusion: Comprehension involves understanding not only what is stated explicitly but also what is implied. That is to say, the reader has to make inferences based on what is stated. To do so require the ability to analyze and synthesize For example, for the sentence Age affects hearing, we can infer that with age hearing either increases decreases, or changes. Conclusion is different from inference in that the former is based on putting stated facts together, whereas the latter is based on deduction of what is implied from what is stated. For students learning English, reading is more useful than the other skills because all of them will have to read in their future work although only a small percentage will use the other skills. Therefore, the teaching of EFL reading is more meaningful, and its improvement more urgent and worthwhile [4, p. 35-38]

Reading unit which unites grammar knowledge, vocabulary and the ability to understand the sense of words in the sentence and in the context. Learning to read is an important educational goal. It opens up new world and opportunities. It is the way to gain new knowledge by reading newspapers, magazines, instruction manuals, belles-lettres, historical literature and other. Reading helps to learn the language from the inside, to see the world as the native language speakers see. Besides reading develops the vocabulary and enrich it with the flavor of comparisons and rhymes, proverbs and sayings and other winged words which are so clearly understandable for native speakers and so complicated in understanding for foreigners. Therefore reading unit takes an important place in the language teaching process and needs the correct techniques. It should be based on the goals which are ought to be gained. But the goals in their turn are different. The strategy should be chosen taking into account the age of learners. At primary school for instance the goals are simple. They are the following:

  • To learn to read aloud pronouncing the words correctly correspondently to the phonetics of the language;
  • To understand the idea of short text like children stories and fairy-tales with childish vocabulary.

At the secondary school there appears one more aim which is to understand more difficult texts, retell them briefly and be able to speak about them. New vocabulary goes as self-evident. But at a high school and universities the tasks of learners are more complicated. They should be able to review long texts, get the main idea and additional information which helps the author to form that main idea, be able to answer the tangled questions and discuss to the theme of the text. That is studied in the unit which is called “critical reading”. Critical reading is necessary part of language learning in the institutes of higher education. It teaches people to analyze in the studding language [7, p. 78].

Quality assurance helps to support teachers and build expertise and capacity in the education system to deliver positive outcomes for children and young people. Through sharing, understanding and applying standards and expectations, quality assurance helps to raise standards and expectations, and levels of consistency across teachers and schools. It is important in the planning and coordination of professional development activities that a partnership and inter-establishment approach is adopted to ensure cross-service and crosssector working on standards and expectations. Quality assurance in education is part of the day-to-day work of pre-school centre’s, primary, special and secondary schools, services and local authorities. Staff uses a wide range of activities to ensure that high standards are maintained and outcomes improved for children and young people. These include monitoring, self-evaluation and planning for improvement. Since assessment is integral to learning, teaching and the curriculum, these quality assurance approaches apply equally to assessment.

Moderation helps to raise standards and expectations and levels of consistency across teachers and schools. This ensures that there is an appropriate focus on outcomes for learners, that learning is at the appropriate level and that learners develop the skills for learning, skills for life and skills for work, including higher order thinking skills, which will allow them to be successful in the future.

Teachers being involved in developing their assessment approaches through participation in moderation activities is a highly effective form of professional development.



  1. Coady, James. 1979. «A psycholinguistic model of the ESL reader. In reading in a second language 1979», c. 46-55
  2. Fry, Edward. 1981. «Teaching faster reading», c. 29 – 41.
  3. Goodman, Kenneth. 1982. «Reading», c. 50.
  4. Mackay R.Barkman B., and Jordan R.R, eds 1979. «Reading in a second language Hypotheses, organization, and practice». Rowley, Mass.
  5. Moore, John ET al. 1979. «Reading and thinking in English», c. 134-152.
  6. Saville-Troike, Muriel, 1979. «Reading and the audio-lingual method. In Reading in a second language», с. 74
  7. Smith, Frank. 1978. «Reading. Cambridge University Press», c. 78-80
Year: 2013
City: Almaty
Category: Philology