What is Happening in Our Young Language Learners' Minds When They are Reading?
Reading, like listening, is a receptive skill that can be introduced into the language classroom step by step and in different ways, depending on the age and level of the language learners.
We need to create meaningful reading activities for our learners.Though this takes thought and preparation, we know that children learn best when they are interested in what they are doing. If we create tasks that have no purpose and are not linked to the sort of reading tasks the learners carry out naturally, then very little language will be acquired, revised and consolidated. We have to make sure that the reading activities we plan are natural, relevant andinteresting so that learning will take place.
Let's think about what is going on in the learner's head when he or she is reading. Look at Figure 6.1 below.
Figure 6.1 Processes involved in reading as a young language learner
Helping our learners to read
When planning reading tasks for the language class, it is valuable to think about what kind of reading our young learners actually do in theireveryday lives (in their first language) and see if we can design similar tasks for the language class. Keep in mind that our young learners carry out a lot of reading each day by reading things like words on doors (Push/Pull) or notices on walls, or signs on buildings. Look at Figure 6.2 for a list of everyday reading materials for our young learners. (Perhaps you could add to this list.)Figure 6.2 Types of reading materials our students will likely encounter each day
By looking at this list, we can recognize that the opportunities for reading are everywhere, not just in textbooks or on worksheets. We need to ask ourselves if we are offering this wide variety of reading to our young learners in the language class. Often we are not. We should try our utmost to have a wide range ofreading materials in the classroom for our language learners and to use language activities that involve this range of materials, too.
Characteristics of Texts and How We Can Help Learners Read These
What are the characteristics of most of the reading samples that we listed in the last chapter? In considering these text types, we can say that reading is often:
√ presented in short chunks(involving just words or phrases);
√ connected with an activity;
√ used for a clear purpose;
√ linked with a picture, activity or thing (such as a Push sign on a door);
√ used to gain or get information;
√ used to interact with others about something practical;
√ involved with something related to the world at large, beyond the classroom.
This list of characteristics is a good checklist andguide for us when we are looking for reading texts for our language learners. We should ask ourselves if the reading we are considering for our young language learners in the target language includes any of the above characteristics. If it involves several of these characteristics, then the text will likely be useful for our young language learners.
Creating a rich reading environment
Reading ineveryday life is often involuntary. By this, I mean that young learners are reading everything all around them without even realizing it, such as street signs, T-shirt slogans, and so on. Thus, it is very important to create a rich literate environment in our language classroom (supported by pictures, illustrations and realia) to help motivate our students to read.
This type of environment canalso have a positive effect on children who are not yet fully competent and confident in their reading, as it will help familiarize them with the target language in written form, especially if it involves a different script than they use in their first language. As a result of such exposure, the students will not be so fearful about using the language when they formally start to read and write....