Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Extensive Reading through the Internet: Is It Worth the While?

Academic journal article International Journal of English Studies

Extensive Reading through the Internet: Is It Worth the While?

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

Reading materials written in English is the prime goal of many reading programs around the world. Extensive reading (ER) has for years aided new students at my institution to gradually acquire large vocabularies and other sub-skills that are needed to read fluently. To continue to do that effectively, a new scheme involving the use of internet - called w-ERP- was set in place in collaboration with the students. The main focus of this article is to describe the 3-phase, gradual process that led to the current design of the web-based ER scheme. The paper begins with a brief discussion of ER, reading on line (RO) and self-directed learning as part of the rationale for the new scheme. Participants' preliminary data on the benefits and potentials for learning to read and reading for learning other things are discussed.

KEYWORDS: extensive reading (ER); w-ERP; reading online; self-directed learning.

I. INTRODUCTION

Extensive reading (ER) has gradually grown into a world-wide accepted practice in both ESL and EFL reading instruction programs. Researchers and practitioners have been closing ranks thanks, in part, to the initiative of a group who have put up a website (www.extensivereading.net) and a discussion group (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/ExtensiveReading/), in which more than 200 members share and debate everything from new ideas about how best to manage an ER program, to research findings. In recent years, ER has begun to add the Internet to its traditional reading material sources: graded readers and, to a lesser extent, magazine articles. This comes at a time when the concept of reading online is increasingly gaining currency, as is particularly evident in the collection of papers on the theme in a special issue (Vol.3, N° 3, 2003) of The Reading Matrix, an on-line journal.

The aim of this article is to describe a Web-based ER program (w-ERP), which evolved from an earlier paper-based version (p-ERP) (See, Pino-Silva, 1992), both carried out with college students enrolled at Universidad Simón Bolívar, Caracas, Venezuela. The article begins with an overview of what extensive reading and reading online (RO) entail and a rationale for incorporating them to ESL/EFL reading programs. Secondly, a brief description of the program's paper-based predecessor is presented, followed by the design and procedural details of the w-ERP. The fourth part presents and discusses preliminary data on the benefits or gains perceived by participants in the w-ERP. The article concludes with comments on the pedagogical potential of reading online extensively, on the adjustments to be made to the w-ERP on the basis of experience and students' comments and suggestions for further research.

II. EXTENSIVE READING: A BRIEF BACKGROUND

Extensive reading has been defined in several ways. For instance, Hafiz and Tudor (1989) defined ER as "the reading of large amounts of material in the second language over time for personal pleasure or interest, and without the addition of productive tasks or follow up language work" (p.4). Likewise, Grabe and Stoller (2002) in a comprehensive discussion of L2 reading stipulate that ER is an "approach to the teaching and learning of reading in which learners read large quantities of material that is within their linguistic competence" (p.259). The latter definition appears to implicitly recognize Krashen's (1982) Input Hypothesis, a cornerstone of many ER programs in place today. In theory, this means that students are to read materials that are a little beyond their current reading skills levels.

Most ER procedures also capture the essence of "students learn to read by reading" slogan (Smith, 1983). In addition, ER has been defined by contrasting it with intensive reading, the reading of fewer texts in detail accompanied by linguistic activities of all sorts, teacher's explanation of discourse, vocabulary exercises, and grammar and text analysis, among other things. …

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