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Reading and Writing by I.S. P. Nation, Book Review Example

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Words: 3374

Book Review

Introduction

Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing by I.S. P. Nation is a guide intended to provide teachers and educators with strategies to use when work with students learning a second language. The book is centered around four strands of learning-meaning focused input, meaning focused output, language focused learning, and fluency development. If all these strands are included, Nation believes that a successful reading program can be designed. The author is a professor at the Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand.

Chapter 1

The way in which a person learns to read in his/her native language is varied. There are several reading strategies that can be used to enhance a student’s desire and ability to read. First, there is guided reading. With this technique the reader can either read aloud or to someone. However, pre-reading is important. In the pre-reading step, the book or reading material is discussed by the reader and the adult. When the reader has a general idea of what the book will be about, he/she has a great percentage rate of self-correcting errors. The reader and teacher may discuss the title and make predictions or even look at the pictures prior to reading. Once the child has mastered guided reading, he/she will be able to read independently. With independent reading, the child chooses a book of interest. Independent reading may be done during class time or at home. Independent readings is also referred to as sustained silent reading and drop everything and read. Research supports that the best age to begin learning to read is around six or seven.

Language Factors

Learning to read another language can prove a difficult task. There are three factors that affect a learner’s ability to read another language: comprehending meaning, being able to convey what has been learned, language syntax, reading with fluency.  With Meaning-focused input, the reader must have a purpose for reading. The reader should be able to choose a purpose appropriate for his/her age and reading level. When the reader chooses the text, it should not be more than 2 percent challenging for them. In other words, more than 98 percent of the text should be of proficient reading ability for the reader. Next, the output should involve listening and speaking skills. A teacher may use the “ask and answer” technique. Finally, language-focused learning helps the reader develop skills that are essential to effective reading. These may include spelling, phonemic awareness, and grammar.

Opinion

Chapter 1 was a very easy read. The chapter was outlined in a way that was easy to comprehend. I believe this would be beneficial to classroom teachers and parents of small children.  This first chapter outlines what the reader will be introduced to in the following chapters. I like the fact that it outlines what will come next because it gives the reader an idea of how the text builds upon itself.

Chapter 2

Vocabulary is an important of aspect of reading skills. Vocabulary can be words that are spoken and written. Often, students are able to decipher the meaning of words they may be unfamiliar with.  Great debates have centered on whether or not reading aloud enhances language ability. The author of this book believes that there must be a balance of all four strands discussed in chapter 1 in order for the reader to become proficient. Not often, but some languages have the same alphabet and that makes it easier for those learning the second language to transition. Once letters and shapes have been learned, phonemic awareness can be taught. This helps the reader to break down sounds and phrases in words. I believe this is the best way to help students learn to speak and write a new language. Being able to sound out words and to understand what letters create which sound is priceless when learning a language. Those who are learner a second language will unlikely need this strategy because they will have learned it when they were learning their first language. Having these phonic skills will allow students to sound out words when they are unfamiliar with them. Nevertheless, it is stressed that phonics have specific roles in a reading program. First, phonics can be used in reading isolated words and also with known words. Next, phonics can be used as an individual strategy or with the entire class as a whole. Also, phonics can be used to help students sound out words. Finally, it can be used to allow students to spell words according to what they hear, even if the creation is outlandish. Many researchers believe that these skills lead to readers creating their own learning systems. Over time, these strategies build upon the knowledge that the reader has. Likewise, over time, the reader is able to use these strategies without even being aware that they are applying the strategies.

Spelling Difficulty

Overall, most people have some difficulty with spelling. Consequently, teaching site words is a great way to build a vocabulary foundation. When students have a working knowledge of site words for their grade level, oral reading will be easier for them.  Spelling in the English language is difficult because there are many rules to remember. I know that reading and writing are interconnected. When a student cannot read well, he/she does not write well. Likewise, students who write well are usually good readers. When students read, they are exposed to various writing styles and variation in sentence length and structure. This fact alone helps the reader to critique and improve his/her abilities. Many teachers and researchers shun memorizing the spelling of words, but this can be a great strategy to help build a reader’s recognition of site words.

Chapter 3 Intensive Reading

After the reader has built a reading foundation by forming awareness of words and letter sounds, he/she may be ready for what is called intensive reading. With intensive reading, the teacher helps the ELL student understand a text by explaining it line for line in his/her native language. This can be an important aspect of a reading program for students who are learning a second language; however, it should not be the only strategy. This strategy has many benefits-comprehension, irregular sounds, vocabulary, cohesion, structure, genres, and the concept of strategies. Comprehension is the most important aspect of reading. Without comprehension, reading is purposeless. Many ELL students have problems with grammar. Intensive reading can be used to practice grammar as well. A student may be asked to identify the subject and verb within a sentence or identify which word the pronoun is referring back to.

Reading Strategies

A great intensive reading lesson ensures that the reader is able to use the same strategies in various texts. So, in other words, these strategies should be generic so they can be applied to various texts in multiple subject areas. The questions being asked must require the reader to read the text and make connection, not just skim for answers. Finally, these lessons must provide feedback to the reader. This feedback is for both the teacher and the reader. Checking the student’s work gives the teacher insight on what gaps the student may have in comprehension, while providing the student with answers to the mistakes that he/she made. However, when teaching students to read, comprehension is not the first focus because these questions focus on specific rather than general strategies. Most comprehension questions are pronominal, yes/no, true/false, multiple choice, and sentence completion. When this is the main focus, the reader is focusing more on meaning of theme of the text rather than the language.

The Focus

In reading classes, it is very easy for educators to focus more on if the reader understands what he/she is reading, rather than focusing on if the reader understands the language concepts. In some many instances, students are fluent readers, but cannot understand what they are reading. However, for ELL students this is not such a bad strategy the beginning.

Chapter 4 Extensive Reading

Extensive reading is a form of meaning focused input discussed in the previous chapter. When there are few unknown words in the text, the student has the opportunity to make meaning focused connections. However, when there are few unknown words the opportunity for fluency development is greater. This chapter focuses primarily on the guidelines for extensive reading lessons. The following must be known prior to extensive reading lessons: existing vocabulary knowledge, interest in the book, large amount of textual material, and support of other types of learning. This chapter stress that reading is a source of learning, but it can also be a source of fun and excitement. However, the enjoyment and excitement of reading come with increased fluency and comprehension. Extensive reading is a form of incidental learning. When reading extensively, the reader does not focus on the concepts to be learned, but the story itself.

Setting Goals

Goals must be sat for extensive reading programs. Likewise, the teacher must keep in mind there are some limitations in using this strategy. First of all, the reader must be interested in what they are reading, so they will not be focused on language. When they read books that interest them, they will hopefully develop an interest in reading.  Readers are allowed to read at their own pace. Research has supported the belief that when ELL read extensively at the elementary and middle school age, they will more likely be on grade level in high school years.

Supporting Text

Extensive reading program is designed to be just one part of a language program for ELL students. Extensive text can be supported in other ways. For example, glossing, computer assisted reading, and elaboration. It helps the students gain speed in proficient reading and vocabulary growth. Over time, the learning becomes more deliberate and less incidental.

Chapter 5 Reading Faster

This chapter focuses on the benefits of speed reading for ELL students. First, information was presented about how speed reading can increase fluency. A study conducted in Korea produced more than 50 percent increase in the readers speed over time. Fluency is a mental process and increases with usage. When the ELL student reads, he/she decodes the information converting it into meaning information in his/her own language.  Fluency begins with recognizing letters and sounds, but ends with the reader recognizing and having a concept of the entire word.  There are several ways to increase speed and fluency in ELL students. First, repeated reading is a strategy that helps the reader reach oral fluency. The reader reads aloud being scaffold by the teacher. The same text is read several times over the next consecutive days. Research has supported that reading the text between 3 and 5 times is most beneficial. Text that is used in repeat reading should be easy and the reader should know the vocabulary being used. Repeat reading should be completed at a faster pace each time by the ELL student. The time is noted by the reader, and he/she tries to beat their previous time on each new read.

Speed/Fluency

Knowing that speed reading increases fluency, several activities have been not to be beneficial. One great strategy is reading aloud. An ELL student can read aloud to the teacher or a peer. Reading aloud prepares the student for silent reading. The teacher can scaffold and correct misconceptions when the child is reading. Eventually, the child will be able to self-monitor and correct themselves. Another strategy is paired reading. The ELL student is prepared with another ELL student who is more proficient. Both readers read a text aloud, but the more proficient reader is leading. The proficient reader models reading the information. Once the ELL student who is less proficient feels comfortable, the more proficient reader will allow him to read alone. This process may last about 30 minutes. Also, 4/3/2 reading has been adapted from a speaking activity. Each member of the class is given a chunk of text to read. The students then rotate from partner to partner reading and listening to text. So, each reader is reading his/her same text repeatedly.

Opinion

All of the strategies presented in this chapter have been good, but my favorite one is 4/3/2 because it combines several strategies into one. The students have an opportunity to read aloud, repeat read, and speed read. This is a great strategy that can be introduced when the students are improving in fluency and comprehension. This chapter also mentions skimming and scanning for information. I like the fact that these strategies were introduced later in the book because these strategies do not help increase fluency. However, they can help to increase speed.

Chapter 6 Assessing Reading

Assessing is important for several reasons. First, it encourages learning. Next, it provides feedback. Then it diagnoses problems. Finally, it measures proficiency. All assessments should be reliable, valid, and practical. The most common use of assessment is to motivate students to study. However, the teacher must be aware of how and when to assess. Teachers must use differentiated methods to assess students learning, just as they use differentiation in teaching concepts. For example, some students may not do well on multiple choice tests. Yet, some students do well on them. A teacher must know his/her students and understand their abilities and weaknesses. Although multiple choice tests are easy to grade, they may not always be the best indicator of a student’s ability.

Diagnosing Problems

Diagnosing the problems that a student may be having requires assessing. However, the diagnostics should be completed on an individual by individual basis. ELL students who are doing poorly may have a lack of vocabulary, which renders them unable to explain what they have knowledge of.  Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, some students may be able to verbally express themselves because they possess a wide spoken vocabulary, but are unable to write what they can verbally express. In cases like these, the results are not valid.

Test Anxiety

Most students are leery of testing because of anxiety associated with not doing well. ELL students are no different. Many feel inferior because of the language barrier they are facing. When teachers test ELL students they should make the environment as less threatening as possible. Students who do not score well should be allowed to re-take tests after information has been re-taught. Students must feel that the program is promoting a process, not a pass failure situation.

Chapter 7 Helping Learners Write

This chapter focuses on how to teach and evaluate writing of ELL students. First of all, each learner has some experience and knowledge that can help them become successful in their task. This can be ensured when teachers make conscious choices on writing topics. There are many types of writing that ELL students will be asked to complete. There are many elements to be aware of when teaching writing. First, different genres use different conventions of writing. Next, the learner should have a message focused purpose for writing. Also, students can use computers to increase language knowledge and speed in their writing abilities. There are four tasks that have be designed to improve ELL writing skills-experience tasks, shared tasks, guided tasks,  and independent tasks.

Text Familiarity

When the learner is familiar with the task it makes it much easier to complete to fidelity. When they are familiar with the task, the learner does not feel overwhelmed by having to complete sever things at the same time. Not being overwhelmed allows the reader to focus on the task at hand. Finally, it allows the learner to attempt the task in the same manner that non-ELL students would.

Topic Experience

Writing tasks should be within the learner’s experience. In other words, the ELL student would not be asked to write about a topic he/she has little or no experience with. If students are presented with a topic they have little knowledge of, information about that topic should be presented to the reader. Readers should then be able to discuss the information with the peer group of ELL students. In this group, they can discuss the information in their first language. This gives them the opportunity to share the task and assist each other.

Making Connections

At this point, I am able to see how all the components mentioned in the first chapter are connecting and working together to transform the ELL student. Earlier, the author mentioned that a reading program was a process that included many steps to bring the ELL student to fidelity. Each of the four strategies should be used on individual basis for each ELL student. Great teachers are aware that the learning process and experience will be different for each student. Differentiation is very important within an ELL classroom.

Chapter 8 The Writing Process

Writing is a part of the reading program, but it has its own significant parts.  After all, writing is composed of listening, speaking, and reading skills. Writing is a part of daily life. Filling out forms, making a list, or a reminder note are all parts of writing. Not all writing is for academic purpose, but it is still necessary. Likewise, the ELL student should be given meaning focused writing assignments.  One way to improve writing and give meaning to ELL students is to have them keep issue logs. With this students write down issues they have encountered with becoming a speaker of a second language. However, they each have to seek to find solutions to the problems they are having.

Processing Writing

Teaching the writing process to ELL students in the traditional sense may be less effective than other approaches. For example, the teacher might write a letter to the student and have the ELL to reply in a letter back. This is a real life situation that allows the ELL hands on experience with writing. Another example is situational composition. ELL students respond or write about things they would experience in everyday life. The reader may be given some information and asked to compile something similar to a newspaper article. Likewise, other steps in the writing process can be exchanged for strategies to help the ELL students.

Opinion

From the strategies presented, cubing was my favorite strategy. It’s a great way to brainstorm. With cubing, the student analyzes the topic from six angles. They have to describe it, compare it, associate it, analyze it, apply it, and argue for or against it. This strategy can be best used when the writer is completing a persuasive piece.

Chapter 9 Topic Types

Informational texts have gained popularity in recent years. Researchers have discovered that informational text is quite beneficial to the readers. It allows for a variety of information to be presented in various ways. However, the teacher can make this easier for the ELL student by teaching them the types of text that present specific types of information. For example, recipes, instructions, lists, articles, and journals are all forms of how to do something informational texts. So, automatically, when an ELL student sees a recipe he will know that it is informational text. Also, using the title of the text is another strategy to help students make predictions about the type of text.

Chapter 10 Responding to Written Work

Assessing written work can be made easier by using rubrics. The assessment can be completed in various ways. The teacher can assess the final product or the writing process. The teacher may choose to do formative assessments and give the reader feedback on several instances before the final product is turned in. Using positive feedback methods can motivate writers to be more thorough. While negative feedback may cause the writer to feel discouraged or feel like he/she should not try anymore. Overtime, the reader may receive feedback from peers as well as learn to self-assess their writing. One way to complete peer-feedback is to remove the student’s name and have the class to correct errors as a group.

Assessing Writing

Some teachers may give separate grades for the same piece of writing. For example, the students may receive one grade for the content and another grade for grammar and sentence syntax.

Conclusion

The book addresses the many issues that ELL students have when learning to read and write a new language. I believe this book would be a great asset to teachers working with those students because it provides many techniques and strategies that can be used to improve the student’s proficiency.  Essentially, it outlines what an effective program should look like. It even gives example and sample of the type of strategies to use. Overall, I believe this book was quite effective.

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