FOREWORD 24 students in a fifth form (16 years) were interviewed about their difficulty not only to read a text in English, but also to understand it. To the question « why can’t you understand a text written in English ? » 2/ 3 of the class have admitted that despite having studied English for 4 years at the rate of 3 hours per week, they felt that, though the recognition of some words they had met the previous years, their vocabulary gap was such that it was impossible to establish links between the words themselves to extract meaning. Then, to the question « have you ever met difficulty in understanding a text written in French ? 1/3 of the class responded that they had already misunderstood words and/or misinterpretated what they had read even though the French vocabulary did not pose any problem. We agreed that the difficulty of reading comprehension does not reside solely in the lack of vocabulary but probably in the absence of a method to tackle reading in general. READING COMPREHENSION UNDERSTANDING A TEXT IN ENGLISH To construct the meaning, let’s learn to deconstruct the text. From analytical reading to reading pleasure The barriers to the comprehension of a text • The difficulties of concentrating throughout the reading in an attention to understand. • Lack of vocabulary. • Lack of comprehension of the universe of references. • Lack of methods to understand a text. • Ignorance of the narrative structure and typology of a text. • The difficulty in identifying the logical, chronological connections. l • The difficulty to infer, deduce, speculate. QUESTIONNAIRE for the student Goal : To enable the student to understand how he works and the strategy he makes use of to understand a text. What may help me to understand a text wirtten in English ? a. illustrations b. its title c. a lexical help d. Some pre-reading activities (brainstorming) on the topic, author, To approach the reading of a text, I’d rather a. read silently b. read out c. the teacher reads it What seems most difficult when I approach an unknown text ? a. The words b. the grammar c. the syntax d. the lack of knowledge on the topic What do I do faced with an unknown text ? • 1st reading • 2nd reading a. I spot the words I know. b. I spot the words I don’t know. c. I spot the words that seem important to me. d. I ignore the words/sentences I don’t understand. HOW DO I READ ? a. Very slowly trying to understand every sentence. b. Very quickly paying attention only to main events and/or words I can recognize. c. By making annotations and underlining important sentences. What do « the important words of the text » mean to me ?? a. grammar (verbs, auxiliaries) b. The words that help me to understand the text. c. The words I don’t know. d. I can’t recognize them. HOW TO APPROACH READING • The way of reading depends on the reader’s reasons to read. The reading techniques vary depending on the objectives. • The key is to make the student aware that there are different techniques to approach a text, understant it, starting from what he knows. The different techniques • Reading aiming at a global compréhension (origin of the doc, topic : skimming ranging from the title – anticipation activities – hypotheses - deductions inferences) • search for informations (search reading) • identification of specific elements (scanning) • reading aiming at discovering the author’s message. (responsive reading) PRE-REQUISITE TO READ INDEPENDENTLY - Inter personal skills - Know how - skills Inter-personal skills • I must be able to be concentrating • I must be self-confident and willing to read even if I don’t know all the words • I accept to follow the methodological advice that was given. KNOW HOW • I must be able to : - anticipate from the title, first paragraph, illustration. - identify words or key-sentences - draw the main ideas - cut the sentences into meaning units - connect different pieces of information. - Identify logical links, - Identify the composition of words, derivation methods, - Use the dictionary, - analyze the characters’ behaviour - perceive the implicit SKILLS I appeal to my lexical and grammatical knowledge. - Tenses and aspects - linking words - Personal pronouns - Possessive adjectives - Prepositions - Nouns and compound adjectives, etc… PRE-READING ACTIVITIES They help to make the student confident before approaching a text he does not know and allow him to deploy the vocabulary he knows to approach the unknown. Examples: - Work around the title or paratext (non-languistic elements: illustrations, sources ...) - Work around a word to illustrate the theme (brainstorming and / or heuristic diagram). This activity of anticipation will help the student to make assumptions in questions like : « what do you think the text is about ? » HEURISTIC DIAGRAM GLOBAL COMPREHENSION Before approaching the reading, students have to accept the idea that it is not necessary to understand every word in a text to understand their meaning, but they can guess some of these words according to the context, drawing links. COMPREHENSION SHEET • Time : information on : - time - space time • place : place(s) mentioned in the text. • Characters : - name(s) of the main characters - name(s )of minor characters Identifying essential information is a basic principle in approaching a text. READING COMPREHENSION • Look and anticipate : - Look at the picture : what can you see ? What is the title of the text ? How many paragraphs are there ? What may the text talk about ? • Read and select information : a. Read the text : what kind of document is it ? Justify your answer An extract from a novel – an newspaper article – an extract from a play b. Fill in the grid below WHO WHAT WHERE WHEN DETAILED COMPREHENSION Main characters’ identity cards Name : Firstname : Age : Occupation : Physical description : Psychological portrait : Other features : detailed comprehension Paragraphs 1. 2. 3. 4. place characters Who? What do they do ? What do they feel ? Facts NARRATION Who tells the story ? - His/her name / role in the story / relations with the other characters he/she describes. Who sees what happens ? What are the narrative techniques ? - 1st/3rd person Narration - Direct or Indirect speech - Inner speech WORK ON THE LEXICON • Identification of transparent words • In unknown words, decomposition of the word (identifying a familiar root). • Work on derivation and composition. • Deduce the meaning of unknown words through clues given by the context. GRID : Lexical help Unknown word starving grammatical Context clue (previous /following word) Grammatical category of the unknown word Ing (verbnounadjective) ? adjectiv Our (p) Poor country(s) Word composition Prefix Root suffix starved Hypothesis about the meaning of the word affamé Verification in the dictionary DETAILED COMPREHENSION Paragraphs 1 2 3 4 5 Extract the details Identify the keywords and key sentences. Express the main idea with your own words. Schematic presentation of the text clé dusentence texte présentant le sujet the Key introducing Topic. LINKWORDS ARGUMENT EXAMPLE LINKING WORDS ARGUMENT EXAMPLE LINKING WORDS ARGUMENT EXAMPLE LINKING WORDS ARGUMENT EXEMPLE • This chart can make the student aware that a text is structured, organized (eg newspaper articles, essays ...) CONCLUSION • The students will have learnt to: Work from his skills in his native language. Rely on para-textual clues to identify the nature of the document and formulate hypotheses. Identify significant elements (syntactic, morphological, lexical, cultural), enabling him to reconstruct the meaning of the text. Infer the meaning of which is unknown from what he knows. • - Rely on extralinguistic clues. - Segmenting the text to identify key ideas, logical articulation of the text. To correlate element of information. Pick out information clearly expressed or implied and be able to interpret it. REMARKS Following the questionnaire submitted to students, it is clear that they need methods and tools to approach the reading of a text, whatever it is.The task of the teacher will bring students to learn to ask the right questions to develop reading skills and therefore understanding. The Questions should seek to highlight the organization of the text but also its contents. REMARKS • The study of a text requires several types of questions: - Questions of literal comprehension. - Questions requiring the reorganization of a text or its re-interpretation. - Questions requiring inference. - Questions used to assess the text. - Questions involving personal reflection.