Extensive Reading in Practice
JALT 2002Conference No. 271
Nov. 23, 2002
Baika H.S./Kansai Univ.
The Effects of Extensive Reading on Japanese High School Students
Extensive Reading enables students to "learn to read by reading" (Smith, 1985), and it is the most effective way for L2 learners to improve vocabulary and reading competence. More importantly, reluctant students grow positive affect on reading and studying English. However, many high school teachers are reluctant to employ the extensive reading strategy. Their major reasons are: (a) class time is limited, (b) students cannot read well enough to enjoy the books, and (c) there is not enough evidence of its effect (Hashimoto et al., 1997).
Here are some suggestions to those teachers:
(a) If class time is limited, students can read books outside of the classroom.
(b) If students cannot read well enough to enjoy the books, they can start from picture books and easy graded readers.
(c) If there is not enough evidence of its effect, why not find one yourself?
Extensive Reading Program at Baika High School (1998-2002)
Second year students in a private girls' school in Osaka.
The number of students varies every year (40-110) depending the number of
enrollment to school. Reading proficiency tests are administered at the beginning and
the end of the course. Students' English levels are from high beginner to low
intermediate (see Table 1 & 2).
Graded Readers (Oxford, Longman, Heinemann, Penguin, and Cambridge: 200-1800 word levels), easy-reading books from several Japanese publishers, and children's picture books (e.g., Curious George)
Until 2000, books were kept in each classroom, because they belonged to the English
department. Now all the books are kept in the school library, and approximately
100-150 books are purchased every year.
The duration of Extensive Reading Course is one year. It is carried out in English II (English Reading) class. Class meets twice a week. Students read books mainly outside of the class, but in-class reading is also employed whenever possible. Students are required to fill in the book reading record and write a short summary or impression of the book. In-class activity includes speed reading practice and some other reading skill practices. Questionnaires are administered at the beginning and the end of the course in order to examine their changes in motivation. Interviews are also carried out.
Gains in reading proficiency, gains in affect and self-confidence.
The following are some of the opinions elicited in the interviews with participants.
- "I had never thought that I could read an English book before."
- "I never knew that reading a book could be considered as a part of an English study."
- "Without this course, I would have never read even one book in English."
- "I had thought grammar-translation was the only way to study English."
- "I was surprised that I was able to understand English without translating it into Japanese."
- "It was wonderful that we could choose books of our own, instead of being given materials by teachers."
- "I was very much impressed when I understood the story without using a dictionary."
- "I felt very proud of myself when I was reading an English book."
- "Wow, I could read English!"
- "Reading different materials from our friends was at first strange and I felt worried, but later I found it encouraging.
- "Before this course, I could not continue reading English sentences if it contained even one single word I didn't know, but now I can read them without stopping to look them up in the dictionary. It was very helpful in the exams."
- "I think I learned many new words by reading many books. It was helpful in the tests."
- "I was very much afraid of chobun (long passages used for reading comprehension in
- exams),but now I am no longer afraid of them, because compared to a whole book, the
- chobun on an entrance exam are short, only one or two pages long."
- "As I have now become used to reading English without translating them into Japanese, I cannot translate English sentences into Japanese well any more."
- "I have become lazy and do not consult with the dictionary."
How did their motivation change?
All the participants from 1999 to 2001 were divided into three groups based on the amount of reading they did during the course, approximately 11months including the summer and winter vacations. Tables 3 and 4, Figures 1 and 2 show the group difference in reading amount and gains in reading proficiency. The middle group gained a great sense of achievement (e.g., I am reading to be more knowledgeable.) and attitude toward extensive reading (e.g., I want to become a better reader.).