AusELT/English Australia Journal Article Discussion – October 2016. “Fluency Development through Extensive Reading”.

11-built-in-bookshelves

Image from http://www.home-designing.com/2012/11/reading-spaces

Access the article here.

Access the transcripts of the discussion here.

(or search “fluency development” on the AusELT Facebook page)


Overview of the article

Paul Brigg and Alice Chik are reporting on a case study research project involving two English language learners, using two forms of extensive reading – 1) reading for language growth, and 2) reading for fluency development. While both forms of extensive reading are useful for second language literacy development, the authors argue that reading for fluency development is often overlooked in second language programs.

The primary purpose of reading is the competent construction of meaning from text, and fluency is a precondition for this. The development of fluency progresses from decoding words to extracting meaning and then on to the smooth and meaningful understanding of texts. Many international students read more slowly and with less confidence in English than in their first language. This is likely to restrict their ability to manage required academic reading and leads to a belief that they can gain more information and knowledge through their first language. (page 51)

In the literature review section, the authors report on exisiting research into the areas of extensive reading and fluency, shared book reading and read-alouds, and modifying books for fluency development. They then go on to outline the research design.

This project used case-study to investigate the possible fluency differences between participants undertaking two forms of ER in separate five-week courses, one participant reading for language growth (Ken), and the other for fluency development (Lin). After the completion of the courses, think-aloud interviews were used to investigate the mental processes of the participants as they read an extract based on their respective forms of ER. The interviews were conducted in a meeting room at their college, and the participants made their own recordings using their mobile phones – this facilitated follow-up discussions. (page 56)

The student participants were a 39 year old Vietnamese man who had recently arrived in Australia to study English, and a 25 year old Chinese woman who was also new to Australia. Both were keen readers in their native language. The findings of the research are presented in four sections:

  1. oral fluency levels (which is related to reading fluency)
  2. the think-aloud matrix (reporting on what strategies the students were using while reading)
  3. procedural development, (Which measures the length of the think-aloud utterances – an indication of fluency development), and
  4. error count comparison (which give an indication of reading difficulties).

Perhaps the significance of the findings is best summed up in the concluding remarks from the authors.

The present study has found significant evidence of fluency development from ER simplified to a 99–100% lexical coverage. Therefore, an enjoyable and relaxing period of easily understood ER will likely project most EAP students towards accomplishing fluency growth in English.

“Simplified to 99-100% lexical coverage” refers to modifications to the book so that readers can understand 99-100% of the words and phrases.

I hope this brief summary will encourage you to read the article and consider how it may inform your own teaching practices with respect to reading. Indeed, this will be the first question that we’ll discuss next week (w/c 17/10/16).

Question for discussion:

How might the findings reported on pages 60-65 lead to changes in how you approach the teaching of reading in your context(s)?

Any comments?

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