Extensive Reading Info for English Majors (2015)
Welcome, or if you are repeating, welcome back to the Intensive first and second year program. One of the important parts of the English Department’s intensive program is Extensive Reading.
For first years (although second years might find this interesting too) -
Starting in Intensive I,IIB in first year, one of your assignments will be Extensive Reading. You will go to the library, borrow books that have been written for people learning languages and are divided into levels (your teacher will tell you your level), and take quizzes on mreader, a university on-line site. For each book you read and pass the test, you will be credited with the number of words in the book. During each semester you will need to get a certain number of words to pass the course. What makes Extensive Reading different from the style of intensive reading many of you studied in high school is that you don’t concentrate on each word or piece of grammar. In Extensive Reading it is important to-
- Read books that are just below your level, so it is easy.
- Read books you choose that you think are interesting. If a book is not interesting, then stop reading it and get another book.
- Read a lot - and then read more. The more you read, the better you get.
- Don’t use a dictionary. If you find a word you don’t know, use your imagination to guess it. If you still don’t know, keep reading and concentrate on the story - not on just one word or phrase. You will find you understand the general meaning. This is what is important.
In first year, the goals of Extensive Reading are -
- To give you more time with English. One of the reasons study abroad is so good is students have much more time living with English. Reading English gives you more English time.
- To help you develop a reading habit. Reading English is a great way to review the English you know and to learn about other countries and ideas. However, to make it work you need to read regularly. Not just at the end of the course. That is why there are limits to how often you can take a reading test on Moodle.
In first year, most of you will probably read books written for English language learners from publishers like Oxford, Cambridge, Penguin, Macmillan or Cengage. The vocabulary and grammar in these books are carefully controlled to help you read quickly and easily. This is good. However, there are also some books for native speaker children in the program - for example, Step into Reading, which is a series of books for native speaker children to learn to read. We also have a number of series built into the different levels that are longer chapter books for young native speakers. Perhaps you will read one or two in your first year. Before reading them, look at ‘Important points about reading native speaker literature’ below.
Finally, holidays during the year are a great time to get ahead on your reading and reading is a great way to keep your English level up during these long breaks. During the summer holidays in first year you can read for the fall semester class, and during the spring holidays at the end of first year, you can read for the second year spring class. The more you read, the better your grade. The more often you read, the faster you get. This makes the books easier and more interesting. Keep on reading, talk to your teacher if things are too difficult or you are worried about something, and enjoy!
Important points about reading native speaker literature (first and second years) -
When reading literature written for young native speakers, it is important to remember the following -
- There will be a lot of slang. Often, it will not be in your dictionary. Try to guess the meaning but don’t worry if you can’t - just keep on reading. If you see a word or phrase you don’t know many times in your book, ask your teacher. It is probably a very useful word or phrase to know!
- There will be a lot of ideas that are strange or new. This is what makes reading this material so interesting! You can learn a lot about school, society and life in other countries. However, it can make you confused. Once again - don’t worry, guess what it means or what is happening, and go on reading.
- There will be jokes, irony and sarcasm. Understanding jokes, irony and sarcasm is an incredibly important skill that takes a lot of practice. One reason literature for young people is so good is that children are learning to understand it too, and so it is often clearly explained. If it is difficult to understand, don’t worry and keep on reading.
- There will be images - similes and metaphors. Simple words may seem to have strange meanings, or more difficult words may be in your dictionary but the meaning in the sentence may be strange. A good imagination is more important to understand these images than a dictionary, and if you don’t know, just keep reading!
- There will be a lot of words that were made up for just that book or world. Think about Harry Potter. ‘Quidditch’ (a sport for witches and wizards played on flying broomsticks) and ‘Muggle’ (a special word for someone who is not a witch or wizard) are words that will not be anywhere else. To understand them, you just need to keep reading the book and not worry. Often the writer will not tell you at the start what they mean - they want you think, “What is that?” It is part of the story and the mystery!
- Conversations will be written in a way to show how people really speak. This means that spelling and grammar may be strange. In Harry Potter, the French wizards do not say, “What is this?” They say, “Vot is ziss?” This is to try to show English with a French accent. To understand, you need to guess, and if you don’t understand, as we’ve said all along, keep reading!
For second years -
In second year, the Intensive III,IVB class focuses on reading and writing. Just like in first year, you will be doing Extensive Reading, and there will be a minimum number of words you have to read to pass the course. Many teachers will have set class books but you will still have to borrow books from the library to read enough to pass the course. Other teachers will bring in a wide range of material that does not have tests. For all teachers, you will need to write a report sheet for each book you read (although if you fail the mreader test, you do not need to). The report sheet helps you to think about your reading and develop analytical skills. The goals of extensive reading in second year are:
- To encourage you to continue reading regularly.
- To introduce you to a wider range of material.
- To help you develop the ability to think about books, what the book means to you, and what possible messages the writer might be trying to give.
- To show you one way to keep your English - and to improve it all through your life.
There are still many more books written for English language learners that you have not read in first year and they are good. But we would also like you to start having a look at material written for native speakers. This will help you cross the bridge from reading books for English language learners to reading books for native speakers. Reading English is a skill that will help you keep and develop your English after second year, and on through your whole life. Being able to read material for native speakers will give you access to a whole new world of information, ideas and stories. However, when you read the native speaker literature, you will find that there are many words and phrases you do not know. To help you handle this, please look at “Important points about reading native speaker literature ” above. It will help!
Just as in first year, we still think holidays during the year are a great time to get ahead on your reading and reading is a great way to keep your English level up during these long breaks. During the spring holidays at the end of first year, you can read for the second year spring class, and during the summer holidays in second year you can read for the fall class. Just like in first year, the more you read, the better your grade. The more often you read, the faster you get. This makes the books easier and more interesting. Keep on reading, talk to your teacher if things are too difficult or you are worried about something, and enjoy!