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Teaching Reading (part two)

Teaching Reading (part two)

21 Aug 2014 Masoud Yadi
In the previous part we reviewed some major steps a teacher has to take in an exam class. Here is more about the same topic.

In part one I mentioned that we need to develop task awareness by providing students with a list of specific information a part of which is types of questions. In different exams, test takers may encounter various types of questions prepared by the exam board, yet the ones mentioned here are the most popular forms among test makers:

  • Multiple choice: With which students are probably most familiar, is a text followed by one or more multiple choice items

  • True/False: That includes a text or group of texts followed by a series of statements. The candidate needs to decide whether each statement is true or false based on the information in the texts.

  • Matching. In this type of task, the candidate chooses from a list of prompts. The prompts may include headings, statements, etc.

  • Gapped texts: Which are texts from which single words, phrases, sentences, or paragraphs have been removed and the candidate has to decide how to complete the text.

  • Proofreading. That is finding deliberate errors of various kinds in the text.

Some more information the teacher of an exam class may find useful to pass to his students include the reasoning behind the questions asked. Exam boards intend to measure a variety of things through the questions they design. The list bellow can give you a good picture:

  • Understanding the main ideas

  • Finding specific information and details

  • Recognizing the writer’s attitude and opinion

  • Identifying the tone

  • Understanding implications

  • Identifying the purpose for which the text was written

  • Understanding text structure and organization

  • Understanding cohesion and coherence

  • Understanding the meaning of specific words in context

In addition to what we have mentioned so far, there are some procedures and strategies that are more than worth mentioning in teaching reading. We can put these in two categories namely those which apply to all exam tasks and those from which we can benefit only in specific tasks.

General procedures and strategies

Candidates do need to bear in mind/try to be able to:

  • manage their time appropriately in dealing with several texts and tasks.

  • look at the topic and predict what they are about to read.

  • skim the text to get a general idea.

  • read the test items only after they have skimmed the text.

  • use specific procedures to choose their answers (will be discussed in future posts).

  • spot particular parts of the text to justify their answers.

  • go on to the next question even if they are not sure about their answer to the previous one.

  • pay maximum attention in transferring their answers onto the answer sheet.

Specific procedures and strategies

Knowing general procedures and strategies is not always enough for a candidate to do his best at the reading section of an exam. Below are some suggestions the teacher can give his/her students about different task types in the reading section:

Multiple choice

  • Read the text again carefully.

  • Look at the multiple choice questions one by one and try to answer them in your own words.

  • Look at the alternatives and choose the closest to your own version.

  • Check that the other alternatives are wrong (if there is enough time).

Matching tasks

  • Look at the prompts one at a time and scan the text to find the answer.

  • Underline parallel expressions both in the text and prompts.

Gapped text

  • Read the base text carefully, focusing on the sentences (or words) on either side of the gap.

  • Try to fill in the gap in your own words.

  • Try to figure out what full nouns, possessive adjectives, pronouns and determiners refer to in the text and sentences or paragraphs.

  • Decide on a sentence or paragraph for each gap.

  • Double check in cases when you find one answer appropriate for two gaps.

Proofreading

  • Read the text sentence by sentence to locate the error.

  • Specify correct sentences by a sign of your choice. (a tick, a cross, etc.)

  • Put the correction at the end of the incorrect lines.