Extensive reading VS Intensive reading

Extensive reading VS Intensive reading

There is no doubt that reading skills are important for language learners as it is the most efficient ways to expand learners’ vocabulary and improve their grammar knowledge. Reading is practical and enjoyable. Two complementary strategies can significantly strengthen reading skills and general language fluency: extensive reading and intensive reading. 

Extensive Reading

What is Extensive Reading?

The author of the categories of reading in ELT, Brown (1989), states that extensive reading is done “to achieve a general understanding of a text.” Extensive reading can be referred to as “reading for fun”. To read extensively means to read simple, enjoyable books to boost reading speed and fluency. A learner can do it at his/her own ability level, with a comfortable speed, choosing longer texts to the taste. The main aim of extensive reading is to build one’s confidence and pleasure.

What are the advantages of extensive reading?

The learners may become more motivated to read and develop such a habit,  they may feel more autonomous in their learning, expand their vocabulary, acquire grammar structures they face in texts and increase their competence in that away.

What are the possible challenges?

Extensive Reading may be time-consuming. Sometimes students may feel discouraged by more difficult texts and meeting unknown words. Learners also may pay too much attention to the number of pages they read instead of on the understanding they achieved. 

What can be read?

As the core demands for extensive reading are authenticity and  simplicity of the materials used, we are to choose from Graded Readers  series (here you can find out more on Graded Readers), texts on the same topic, cultural magazines, books with quite short chapters, stories which include repetition, comic books (here you can find plenty of them). Materials for reading should bring pleasure and minimize frustration for language learners. 

What is the role of a teacher in it?

The teacher recommends on reading materials and appropriate levels of those, guides the learners in setting goals for amounts read, leads pre-reading activities to awake interest in the text and to stimulate curiosity, encourages to read without the use of a dictionary.

What activities may occur?

  • interviewing each other about the reading
  • writing newspaper reports, reviews based on the read material
  • book exchange
  • reading journals                                  
  • retelling of a part of the text to get others interested in reading

Intensive Reading 

What is Intensive Reading?

Intensive reading is short (it is best to limit intensive reading sessions with all activities to 30-35 minutes maximum) and very focused activity with the goal is to understand everything. It requires great concentration and attention to minor details. It’s a type of reading where testing and increasing knowledge are primary. Such reading often includes taking notes. Brown (1989) explains that intensive reading “calls attention to grammatical forms, discourse markers, and other surface structure details for the purpose of understanding literal meaning, implications, rhetorical relationships, and the like.”

What are the advantages of intensive reading?

It provides a base to study definite grammar structures, vocabulary, idioms. Learners can develop greater control of language. It improves reading skills. It gives a teacher an opportunity to evaluate the students and modify his/her teaching methods.

What are the possible challenges?

The text may be not interesting or not to the level of a student as everyone in the class is reading the same material. It is not always fun and can demotivate reading in general. The pace is not graded. 

What can be read?

Everything we have in the coursebooks, reports, news articles, blog posts, short stories (not more than 500 words in length), Wikipedia articles.

What is the role of a teacher in it?

The teacher chooses suitable texts, tasks and activities, gives directions, encourages students without giving answers.

What activities may occur?

  • identifying the main ideas and details
  • answering the questions
  • identifying words that  connect one idea to another
  • discussing particular words and grammar structures
  • looking for the vocabulary on the definite topic
  • true/false statements
  • information transfer
  • sentence completion

As we see, learners would certainly achieve better results with a combination of these two approaches (Intensive and Extensive Reading). If you teach your students how to read for different purposes, you will give them powerful tools in learning the language.

Татьяна Балан

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