A general English language program should focus on the four basic skills of reading, writing, speaking, and listening in addition to providing instruction in grammar and vocabulary. How this is done varies from school to school, resulting in different levels of integration. Sometimes a single textbook is used because each chapter addresses multiple skills. Other times a separate book is used for each skill area. Whatever the material is, the main objectives for reading remain the same:
- Read to activate and reinforce other skills (grammar, vocabulary, pronunciation, and writing). In the same way that oral dialogues, short compositions, and listening activities do, reading can put into practice grammatical structures, new lexical items, and elements of pronunciation. Reading can also offer good writing models.
- Reading to become a better reader. Reading is a skill in itself, and the advantage of working with adult language learners is that they are usually literate in their native language. This means that they are able to transfer advanced reading skills to the second language classroom. Reading in English can activate and develop these skills, making the students better readers in both languages. Reading skills include: skimming, scanning, predicting, and reading for detailed comprehension.
- Read to develop critical thinking skills. This is important to address because when teaching English for general purposes, it can be easy to dismiss reading as an activity more suited for an academic environment. In all situations, critical thinking skills aid communication. From having a phone conversation to writing a business plan, people need to prioritize, make conclusions, draw comparisons, make inferences, etc. Reading can provide opportunities to utilize and sharpen such skills.
- Read for enjoyment. Students should ideally discover not only the usefulness but also the pleasure of being able to read in a second language.
If these are the objectives of reading with English language learners, then what are the possible formats to do the reading? I’ll answer this question in my next posting.