To celebrate the launch of Project fourth edition, Domino author, Nina Prentice explores the relevance of extensive reading in the upper primary classroom.
School is generally about hierarchies and rules. The teacher is the authority on and dispenser of the syllabus. Students are novices. Their purpose is to consume and learn the year’s programme of study and satisfy the requirements of the examination system.
But, if we believe that learning is not just about passing exams, our classrooms need not follow this pattern. We can break the traditional roles of ‘teacher’ and ‘student’ following our set tasks and duties quite easily. All we need is a library of graded readers and the enthusiasm and passion to read extensively alongside our class.
The transformation is astonishing. Discussion and debate become the norm. Students, even those who are less able or confident, participate enthusiastically because when people respond to personal reading there is no right or wrong answer. Everyone has a voice and a right to have it heard.
Extensive reading is the opposite of the obligatory ‘intensive reading’ we practice in school, crawling like snails over texts and leaving inky slime trails of annotation over every page. Reading extensively is about consuming large amounts of texts greedily to know the end of the story, not to dissect the author’s style. It is about choice, freedom and pleasure.
When we read extensively, we forget our dictionaries because we are reading well within our comfort zone. Choosing freely what we read (and rejecting it if we don’t like it) for our personal enjoyment and interest is liberating, motivating and empowering.
Extensive reading also frees us from daily textbook routines. The class library not only allows us to explore language together naturally through our reactions to the books we are all reading but provides a endless supply of spontaneous activities with which to animate our lessons and engage our students.
The class library allows us to share our reading experiences communally. This collaborative approach, where the normal, formal routines of the classroom are set aside, creates an environment where learning happens naturally through discussion, the expression of opinions and even disagreement! Extensive reading is real language in real use and demonstrates that books will always be the best and most stimulating teachers!
Some examples of practical extensive reading activities
Graded readers provide prompts for classroom activities in ways that many textbooks or undifferentiated material cannot. Books which students have chosen deliberately and are enjoying reading are self-evidently within their competence. Textbook work can never be quite as accessible or as pleasurable. Additionally, students are usually excited about sharing their current reading with the rest of the class and less able students gain confidence when they can perform and contribute in the same way as more able classmates. Continue reading