There is a lot of talk about Extensive Reading (ER) on the interenets and around me here in South Korea (perhaps one reason for the latter is the tireless efforts of the good people at The Korean Extensive English Reading Association). I think that this talk of ER is mostly a good thing. Really I do. I also sometimes wonder if some ER missionaries take things a little far without fully considering the different contextual factors that teachers might be facing. I sometimes get the sense that ER has a bit of a cultish following. Perhaps this is just my own personal impression. Some friends on Twitter and face-to-face have talked to me about the mountains of data that support ER (and I am not ready or willing to necessarily dispute that) but I feel that it can be difficult for teachers on the ground to implement such programs. Dear reader, you might be thinking to yourself that ER so easy to implement and I’m just being obstinate. While that might be the case, I would like to share a journal entry that my former course participant wrote. This was a journal entry that she wrote for a partner but gave me her kind permission to share here. Let’s see what Ms. C (not her real name) has to say…
What do you do during the extracurricular class? I mean during the ‘club activity’ or, dong-a-ri in Korean. Because the educational office started to stress the importance of extracurricular activity, the system was extended from this year. I take 2 classes a week and the name of the club I am charge of is the ‘extensive reading club’.
I’m sure that you have heard about intensive reading and extensive reading. Many English education experts believe that voluntary extensive reading is an effective way for Koreans to acquire English fluency. So a lot of research papers related to reading are dealing with extensive reading. We, Koreans are learning English as a foreign language (not a second language) in an environment where exposure to the language and culture is rare. In this situation, extensive reading can expose students not only to the language but also to culture and material that would motivate them to study. Through reading books that are rich in linguistic and cultural elements, students can learn how words are used in specific contexts, and enhance critical and creative thinking skills and cultural understanding.
At first, I was too demanding so I designated one book for 2 weeks. But, I expected too much. Most students couldn’t make it and half of them couldn’t read even one chapter. So I started with books that are interesting and super-easy to read. I chose books that are one or two level lower than students’ current one to maintain their interest and motivation.
It was not so easy to make students read books that are all in English(even though it was really easy and simple English). You know students these days don’t like to read Korean books, no wonder English books hold little appeal for them. So I tried making quiz and providing some snacks. But attracting students’ attention is not that easy. Sometimes it was only me who was excited to read a book.
Slow learners have a lot of difficulties reading an English book itself and advanced learners could hardly move to the other chapter without looking up new words and expressions because they want to be perfect and accurate in their use of English.
I think teachers can play a role of a facilitator who can help students select good books and study in good reading environments. So I tried this and that. But still I’m in the dark. Is there any good way to be a better facilitator? If you have any idea, please help me out!
I had some initial thoughts for Ms. C but I would love to see what other people think. (I will be sharing the post with Ms. C as well.)
One thing that came to mind is that perhaps this whole EFL/ESL distinction gets taken too far sometimes and that these days there are can be lots of opportunities for English input for Korean students.
I also wondered about the teacher choosing the books and using quizzes. This sounds like it is getting away from the principles of “Extensive Reading” as I understand them.
What other advice and thoughts might you offer Ms. C?
Is ER feasible in such a situation?
What steps could she take?
(Links are very welcome as well)