September 2005
Volume 9, Number 2

Contents  |   TESL-EJ Top


Extensive Reading Activities for Teaching Language

Author:Julian Bamford and Richard R. Day (Eds.) (2004)
Publisher:Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Pp. xii + 220 0-521-01651-7$23.99

The extensive reading approach emphasizes students reading a quantity of materials that are easy for them to read. This approach presents challenges for teachers beyond identifying the right kind of books and locating sources for them. Because the approach de-emphasizes language and skills work, teachers may find their repertoire of activities needing supplementation. This resource book compiles the activities from many practitioners in different parts of the world and gives teachers the tools to make extensive reading work better.

Most activities that succeed involve students in doing much of the work. Teachers take care of managing the everyday details. So the book's activities implement a pedagogy of student centeredness by engaging students in activities that have a strong possibility of success because teachers have used the activities and refined them. Consequently, Extensive Reading Activities for Teaching Language makes many practical resources for the different aspects of an extensive reading program available for teachers.

The editors, Julian Bamford and Richard R. Day, have compiled activities from many classroom practitioners and organized them into five different parts: Organizing Extensive Reading, Oral Fluency, Writing, Reading, and Vocabulary. Within each part are subsections which address more specific issues teachers face in implementing extensive reading in their classes.

Each activity is described in at least six parts: the level, aim, preparation, procedure, tip, and contributor information. Some activities include extensions and further comments by other teachers who have used or adapted the technique. Also, several activities cross-reference related activities the teacher might use before, after, or in addition to the activity described. The descriptions written by teachers with additional comments by teachers who do a similar activity are presented in clear and understandable language. The comments benefit teachers who may have been skeptical of an activity at the beginning or can anticipate what might go wrong.

Organizing extensive reading consists of five sections: getting started, introducing reading material, motivating and supporting reading, monitoring reading, and evaluating reading. The activities include ways for engaging students in discussing their attitudes toward reading, introducing them to the books, helping the students find the most appropriate level of books for them to read, and for teachers to identify and organize the reading levels. This section also includes ideas for arranging, monitoring, and evaluating materials and student progress. In addition, teachers can find suggestions for setting up a classroom library or identifying extensive books by level, keeping records of student reading, and ways to introduce books to the learners. Since extensive reading does not involve heavy duty testing, the section on evaluating includes activities like one-minute reading, cloze test, one-sentence summary test, and speed answering.

Part two, Oral Fluency, includes oral reading reports, drama and role play, and having fun. In this section, oral activities are generated from the reading with learners drawing and explaining, turning sections into dialogues, sharing characters or ideas, or making sections of the book into drama or role plays. The having fun section suggests using guessing activities, musical chairs, dictations as ways to make interacting with the books appealing.

Two more skills, reading and writing, gain attention in parts 3 and 4. Writing is treated in two sections: Written Reading Reports and Writing Creatively. The writing activities tend to be short and focused often leading to interaction among the students in addition to the interaction with the books the writing activity already involves. The two sections, Developing Reading Awareness and Increasing Reading Rate in part 4, Reading, target two areas more fully in a book already devoted to reading. These activities focus on skills traditionally taught in reading classes such as recognizing different genres and improving reading speed, and reinforced with an activity for identifying metacognitive reading strategies through using a think aloud protocol. The final part, Vocabulary, concerns different approaches to building vocabulary while not interfering with the incidental vocabulary learning occurring. The activities range from a word a day note card through collocation activities. The final section of the book answers 12 frequently asked questions about extensive reading that cover some of the nuts and bolts of setting up a program, finding materials, getting students involved, assessing without testing, and further resources.

The contributors cover both EFL and ESL settings and encompass a wide range of teaching situations. Several activities include comments from other contributors who have used a similar activity which provide adjustments that teachers can make to fit their classroom constraints. Also, the book reinforces through the types of activities that extensive reading should be fun with several activities included that promote enjoyment to say nothing of one section titled "Having fun."

This is a user-friendly resource book. The activity divisions are logical and clear while activity titles and submitters are clearly identified. In the activity descriptions, the steps are consistently followed, comments by both the teacher describing the activity and other teachers who have done the activity or some variation are invariably concise and pertinent. Supporting or similar activities are cross-referenced. The index makes it easy to find activities, submitters, or key ideas such as juvenile literature, checkout system, or newspapers that may not be evident from the activities titles.

This is a very handy book for its primary audience, teachers engaged in teaching an extensive reading curriculum. It supports each step in the process from initiation through implementation to developing student awareness and assessing student performance. Moreover, it is a handy book for teachers who use a book or two in teaching a, shall we say, more traditional reading class. Teachers will find activities that will enhance the reading experiences of their students and ideas to expand upon in-class and out-of-class reading. Finally, this book adds an important hands-on component to extensive reading teaching showing teachers how to implement the theoretical and curricular notions in the classroom.

John M. Graney
Santa Fe Community College

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