Review of Rethinking the Role of Reading in Teaching a Foreign Language to Young Learners

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D.W. Dlugosz, Rethinking the Role of Reading in Teaching a Foreign Language to Young Learners

ELT Journal Volume 54/3 July 2000, Oxford University Press 2000

Introduction

It is natural for one to be able to speak before he or she can read. Reading, however, according to Gough and Hillinger (1980), was a kind of “unnatural act”, which needed to be taught. In many schools, reading failure is till the norm, especially in some underdeveloped areas, such as Kenya and Nepal. The reason of this phenomenon might be the consequence of insufficient and unsuitable reading instructions in the classroom. Since the last four decades, there has been a number of research studies presenting the evidence that ‘phonic’ teaching method is the core cause of poor reading (Fletcher et al., 1994; Foorman, Francis, Fletcher&Lynn, 1996; Liberman et al., 1989; Stanovich & Siegel, 1994; Wagner, Torgesen & Rashotte, 1994), because this teaching method encouraged students to recognize words through conscious attempt to break down the words into parts which hinders students’ progress in reading development. By contrast, ‘look and say’ is a more focused context teaching method which allows children to ‘sight read’ the word as entire units, leading to the higher improvement of their reading ability.

Summary

D. W. Dlugosz’s Rethinking the Role of Reading in Teaching a Foreign Language to Young Learners (2002) has done an admirable contribution to the primary teaching field, since it has provided a valuable guidance for both young language learners and elementary school teachers. In the article, he supposes that children will benefit from reading at the very moment they are exposed to language settings, which are testified by a pilot study (The Free Dictionary defines ‘a pilot study’ as the following: a small-scale experiment or set of observations undertaken to decide how and whether to launch a full-scale project). The result indicates that the earlier young beginners get access to reading practice, the more developed of their understanding and speaking skills will be in the future.

The author further presents two major teaching reading strategies---‘phonic’ method and ‘look and say’ method. More specifically, phonics method is a way of teaching students the relationship between letters and sounds. By analyzing the phonic examples and memorizing their pronunciation rules, young language learners are potentially conducive to grasping a large volume of vocabulary. By so, students’ reading ability will be improved. However, this method is especially designed for children who are over five years old. By contrast, ‘look and say’ method is based on the memorization of the spelling of words. This approach is often taught by cards with vivid illustrations, which means it combines word spelling with meaning. Moreover, the study has shown that learners’ understanding ability and reading levels are better enhanced by receiving ‘look and say’ method than phonic method. The reason is that the latter method permits students to read words as a whole unit rather than disintegrating into groups of letters. Also, there is no age limitation for students to follow the latter pedagogy.

This article then presents a case study to demonstrate the hypothesis that children’s progress in comprehension and communication will be sped up as a result of early attending reading classes. In the experiment, six-year-old children were divided into two groups. One was the test group. The other was the control group. This study lasted ten months. Every programme was implemented for one month, including three week’s teaching process and one week’s revision activity. In the first week, both groups of participants were provided with the same listening and speaking practice. During the second week, students in the control group kept on the same task as they did in the first week while the extra written forms of listening texts and graphic notes were presented to...
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