Universidad Católica de Santísima ConcepciónDepartamento de LenguasDidáctica del Inglés I Reading Skill Comparative Essay Students: Constanza Muñoz Ignacio Ulloa
Each learning skill has its own strategies. This is a well known fact, especially by teachers,but what kind of strategies? What are the steps to follow in order to teach English, or anyother language effectively? The following comparison and contrast of the texts “How toTeach English” by Jeremy Harmer, “Practical English Language Teaching” by DavidNunan and “Reading Comprehension Strategies” by David Moore will give us a generalidea of how various authors deal with different strategies to help students to learn newlanguages.One of the seven strategies for improving reading comprehension in adolescent readers thatis mentioned by Moore () is asking questions, which he defines as “interrogating texts for avariety of purposes, such as checking one’s understanding, ...” This strategy concords withthe technique mentioned by Anderson (1999) inside his third principle for teaching readingcalled Teach for Comprehension, which “requires that the teacher model the readingbehavior of asking questions in order to make sense of what is being read”. Harmer () alsomakes a brief reference to this aspect when he states “we (teachers) may ask students totease out details of meaning…” The three authors (Moore, & Anderson, 1999) emphasizethe importance of engaging in queries about the text in order to grasp the meaning of whatis being read.The second similarity that we can mention is the fact that the three authors emphasize therelevance of reading in other learning areas, whether it is in developing other skills, asmentioned by Harmer () when he states that “reading texts also provide good models forEnglish writing; or in other learning areas as stated by Anderson () “(reading) ensuressuccess not only in learning English, but also in any content class…” and Moore () “whenreading, …. They (proficient readers) actively engage one another in conversations aboutthe novel and learn from different perspectives.” According to these three authorsdeveloping comprehensive reading enables students not only to become more fluent usersof the language, but also to increase their general knowledge.The third and final similarity we will focus on is the one related to the importance ofteaching reading strategies in order to develop a reading comprehension in students.Moore(), Anderson() and Harmer() make reference to this point, although not all of themprovide the same level of rigorousness in their asseverations on how explicit the teaching ofreading strategies must be. For instance, Moore () thinks that “Effective comprehension
instruction teaches students both what these strategies are and how and when to use them”;Anderson says that “ … students need to learn how to use… reading strategies… Teachingthem how to do this should be a prime consideration in the reading classroom.” finally,Harmer () states that “ They (students) need to be able to scan…Students also need to beable to skim…” .One of the most important differences between the authors is the importance they give toother skills related to reading. Harmer explains that reading can be used to enhance otherlearning skills such as speaking or writing, and exemplifies this with several activities thatstart with reading tasks but finish with other kind of exercises. Nunan says that readingmust be a silent activity, so speaking or writing should be taught in an unrelated way or inanother time. He privileges the fluency of reading and explains that every skill should betaught separately. Moore gives more importance to cognitive processes in order to make thestudent think on what he or she is reading and then realize what he or she learned.Harmer proposes a series of activities in which students must follow instructions given andalso work with creativity. Prediction is a major factor and a tool that encourages students tobe more interested in a text. If students are aware of the context of the piece of reading withthey are about to work then they will be able to use their imagination and try to guess whatthe activity is going to be about. Nunan says that students must read without testing theirskills. Teachers should be more aware on teaching reading strategies than contextualizing.If students are well prepared in strategic reading and fluency, then they will not needcontextualization to understand what the writer is trying to explain. Moore is more assertivein explaining that students use their skills unconsciously, but teachers should deliver direct,explicit instructions and not only tell the students what they have to do, but also show them.He also gives a different importance to strategies by saying that reading is a matter of theappropriate use of them.The most contrastive characteristics of the three different authors are the aims they have forreading. Jeremy Harmer explains that the most important part of reading is to get studentsinterested in texts. To encourage students to read and to work on engage them on reading isone of the main focus of this author. David Nunan is more interested in students’ fluencywhile reading, and also on students’ background knowledge. He explains that a good reader
is not the faster one, but the one who understands what he or she is reading. Nunan alsoexplains that students will learn faster if they are contextualized or have previousknowledge of what the teacher is about to deliver. David Moore’s work explains that theimportance of inferences is determinant in students’ apprenticeship. Learners should beable to question themselves and to create their own thoughts before being guided by theteacher.We might find many similarities and differences between authors, but they all concord inon aspect: reading is compulsory in order to learn a new language properly. We as futureteachers must be completely aware of this in order to deliver to our students enoughknowledge to become proficient speakers of English.