When students convince each other of what to read.
As I did not grow up in Norway, I lack the experience of being a student at an elementary level. I can reflect however on my experience as a teacher at Lower Secondary School.
If learning a foreign language opens doors, then reading texts opens windows on the world seen through different eyes, especially when we would agree that these lower-level processes partially form the basis for Reading (Arnsby, 2013:13)
Insufficient time at school and at homeIt seems that students' weaknesses in English reading proficiency is due to different factors. It seems that Norwegian teenagers have a lot of extracurricular activities nowadays and they only have enough time to get their homework done, or go to their sport training, music/dance rehearsals, and when they finally have a break or even while they eat something before going to bed, instead of reading a book or a text, an app installed on a screen is more interesting. This is not only a local phenomenon but worldwide.
The Internet cultureHow can reading a piece of paper compete with electronic diversions? Or is it Game Over?
I have students who love reading literature both in Norwegian and in English. These students come from families that have a reading culture. Reading is one of their priorities. These are students that are motivated in all aspects of their studies, not only because of the motivation they get from their teachers at school, but also from their parents. I have no problems in recommending them a difficult-reading text in English. The challenge teachers face in the classrom is how to deal with students who have little motivation in reading both in Norwegian and in English or those students that have some kind of disability when it comes to reading. I always provide the latter with easy reading material.
Teachers find it impossible to stop teaching?I always get students to decide for themselves what their difficult level of the reading material will be by choosing what they are interested in learning.
When we read in the English class, we have different reading projects. Only once in a while I choose the reading material for our reading projects, and we all work on that chosen material. I will name shortly another reading project we have in our English class which motivates them in reading literature or texts in English.
There are a lot of students that have preconceived notions about reading literature. It seems that many students have decided before they grab a book that reading literature is boring. My job in that case is to convince them that reading literature can be actually fun.
We have created groups (actually, 4 groups) for each grade (8th to 10th). Their tasks are to read texts we can label under literature, such as novels, short-stories, poems, movie scripts, song lyrics, comic books, literary magazines, and so on. All of the literature reading and the reading difficulty (skimming; scanning; careful reading) is up to them to choose. My goal as their English teacher is to establish a reading habit in them.
We measure their reading not by how many pages they have read in a given period, but how many minutes the different groups have read. On a Thursday all students have to stick on a wall a favorite quote from their reading during the previous weekend or the last three days. Obligatory assignments for all students are follow-up activities based on their reading, for example being prepared to tell (in English) their classmates about their favorite quotes based on their reading experience.
Finding an effective way to develop learner autonomy Another favorite English pre-reading activity is to choose a book we will have for a reading project and four groups of students choose the material reading each. Then, these four groups have to convince each other about reading the texts they have chosen. They have to present their arguments clearly and convincingly in class. Students love this kind of activity and they engage themselves in deciding what reading materal we are going to have in the next four weeks.
REFERENCES - further reading:
• Arnsby, Elise Sivertsen (2013). How do Norwegian beginner students experience the reading of English course material at university? A mixed-methods study. (Master), University of Oslo, Oslo. (Read on September 2014)
• Day, Richard; Bamford, Julian (2002) Top Ten Principles for Teaching Extensive Reading , Reading in a Foreign Language, Volume 14, Number 2, October 2002
• Hellekjær, Glenn Ole (2005). The Acid Test: Does Upper Secondary EFL Instruction Effectively Prepare Norwegian Students for the Reading of English Textbooks at Colleges and Universities. University of Oslo, Oslo.
• Hellekjær, Glenn Ole (2012). Fra Reform 94 til Kunnskapsløftet: en sammenligning av leseferdigheter på engelsk blant avgangselever i den videregående skolen i 2002 og 2011. In T. N. Hopfenbeck, M. Kjærnsli & R. V. Olsen (Eds.), Kvalitet i norsk skole (pp. 153-171). Oslo: Universitetsforlaget.
• Hellekjær, Glenn Ole (2008). Lesing som grunnleggende ferdighet: En utfordring for engelskfaget. Språk og språkundervisning. ISSN 0038-8521. (4), s 10- 15
• Hellekjær, Glenn Ole (2008). A Case for Improved Reading Instruction for Academic English Reading Proficiency. Acta Didactica Norge - tidsskrift for fagdidaktisk forsknings- og utviklingsarbeid i Norge. Vol. 2 Nr. 1 Art. 3
• Richards, Cameron (2000) 'Hypermedia, Internet communication and the challenge of re-defining literacy in the electronic age.' Language Teaching and Technology. 4 (2,) 59-77.