Extensive Reading Using Online Resources: Case Study
Dr. Rasha Osman is an English language and literature assistant professor at the Higher Technological Institute, Egypt. She is a certified teacher from University of Oregon and Cambridge TESOL and avid researcher who presented in many national and international conferences. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
This paper is interested in knowing Egyptian university students’ perceptions about extensive reading using online resources and how to promote it in Egyptian universities. The ultimate purpose of this paper is to further the understanding of the benefits of practicing extensive reading in and outside English classes and find out the best practices to encourage students to read extensively using online resources. Distinction is drawn between intensive reading and extensive reading, online reading resources are presented and the distinct phases of a university extensive reading programme are described. Questions related to strategy training and techniques are tackled. Also, this paper is searching for the issues which impeded the existence of extensive reading in English classes in Egyptian universities. In order to obtain comprehensive data mixed method was employed in this study through combining "interrelated questionnaire and interview" (Dornyei, 2007, p. 24). The data gathered by these methods were used to address three questions namely 1) What are the students’ perception about extensive reading using online resources? 2) What are the factors that impede the implementation of extensive reading practices in universities? 3) How the current extensive reading practices in Egyptian universities could be improved? The findings of the study revealed that students perceived extensive reading using online resources a positive practice that is relevant and effective in enhancing students’ language proficiency. However, there are a number of issues which impeded such important practice. The findings present some practical guidelines to promote extensive reading culture using online resources in Egyptian universities.
Reading is a relevant language skill that plays a definite role in enhancing students’ opportunities. This significant skill is underestimated by students and university teachers do not dedicate enough time to teach this skill and concentrate on teaching syllabi content as the time span is minimal. Intensive reading is the encouraged and practiced approach in EFL classes in Egyptian universities. Extensive reading is disregarded as instructors believe that students will not be interested in reading texts outside the curriculum. As extensive reading play a definite role in enhancing students’ language proficiency, vocabulary range, and sentence structure, this paper sheds light on an extensive reading program that was designed on using online resources. The paper will examine Egyptian students’ perceptions about extensive reading, the factors that impeded extensive reading in Egyptian universities and among Egyptian university students, and some suggested procedures to promote extensive reading using online resources among Egyptian university students are presented. An overview of the Egyptian context, definition of extensive reading and its relevance will be tackled.
In pre-university level in Egypt reading aloud; memorizing difficult words; sentence-level comprehension was practiced in most EFL classes. In Egyptian universities, many students come to university as slow readers of English who use word-by-word translation and who lack comprehension skills. They hate reading assignments, open-ended and critical thinking questions. To support students and help them become fluent readers extensive reading was incorporated as a core component of first-year English courses in the Higher Technological Institute.
Reading is generally divided into intensive and extensive reading. Intensive reading is the practice of definite reading skills and the close study of the syllabi texts. Extensive reading is generally defined as reading large quantity of texts, for attaining comprehension skills, pleasure and knowledge. In university level, reading relevance becomes evident.
Many students may face difficulty in reading at the word level, the sentence level and the paragraph level. Classes of many students make it more challenging for the teachers to ensure a comprehensive development of all skills including reading for each independent student. In Egyptian schools and universities, the time allocated to teaching English is not adequate to enhance students’ proficiency. Most of the time is spent on finishing syllabi content. As for reading, intensive reading is practiced in EFL classes. Egyptian students are not provided with an adequate opportunity to develop their reading skills. Reading passages followed by questions are given as exercise. Students are introduced to skimming and scanning. There is no time allocated to introducing students to the idea of extensive reading, and pinpointing free online resources.
Walker (1997) pinpoints to the factors that hinder the improvement of reading skills in English classes namely time constraint, inappropriate text selection, and the concentration on finishing the syllabi rather than the development of language skills. Egyptian students are not encouraged to work on supplementary material and even if encouraged, many do not have the discipline to do extra activities. Even if advised to read English articles or books for pleasure they underestimate the benefits of reading and find it boring. As such, many Egyptian university students rarely read English books beside their text books. Day and Bamford advocate extensive reading as a practice and reading for pleasure stating: “by addressing the two aims of students reading a great deal and enjoying reading” (1998, p. 4). Hency and Moots (2020) enforce the idea that teachers should enforce the idea of students’ role in improving their language proficiency via doing student centered activities (24). It is part of the instructors’ responsibility to explain that students have to do extra work on their own to develop their language level.
Harold Palmer coined the term “extensive reading” which he defines as “rapidly reading book after book” (Day and Bamford, 1998, p. 5). Day and Bamford further explains the term stating: “…in a second language (L2) as an approach to the teaching and learning of second language reading in which learners read large quantities of books and other materials that are well within their linguistic competence” (cited in Nishino, 2007, p. 1). Loh (2009) explains extensive reading as: “free voluntary reading (FVR), self-selected reading, sustained silent reading (SSR), sustained quiet reading time”. Iwahori explains that the “theoretical frameworks” which give extensive reading ground are the input hypothesis and pleasure hypothesis ( Krashen (1985, 2004), (2008, p. 72)). Melzer (2019) enforces the relevance of introducing students to extensive reading as it the basis of personalized learning.
Waring (2019), Serravallo (2015), and Bamford (1982) recommend introducing students to graded readers as they use simple lexis and structure. Hafiz and Tudor (1989) used graded readers for their extensive reading programme with a group of second language learners in the UK. The research showed their usefulness. Day and Bamford developed ten principles of extensive reading and they named them “the basic ingredients of extensive reading” which rotated on the notions of easiness; variety; learners’ choice, continuity of practice; pleasure, information, and general comprehension of the text; value; speed silence; and teachers’ orientation (2002, pp. 137– 140).
Students’ level is a significant factor in extensive reading. As such, teachers must provide guidance and support students. Nuttall recommends only “1% of unknown words” (cited in Walker, 1997, p. 126). Laufer (1992) raises the percent to 5% (cited in Shen, 2008). So, it is very important to consider students’ level before starting to collect reading materials. Text range and level for advanced learners becomes wider. They can even read graded readers, book chapters or even memoirs. Bamford explains “for all but advanced learners, the best to promote extensive reading is by means of graded readers” (1984, p.218)
Grabe (2019) emphasizes the relevance of extensive reading and explains how it plays a great role in enhancing writing and critical thinking skills. Being exposed to written texts readers get to understand how writes organize ideas and how they present and support their view point. They gain vocabulary and their sense of grammar improves. Harmer (2007) enforces that even extensive reading should be guided, facilitated and assessed by the teacher. One method to do this is oral or written reports to check students’ progress on their reading. Throughout life, adults exercise choice over books and articles they read. They browse through different titles online, in libraries and bookshops and choose topics of personal interest. The same is true to learners who can use online resources for extensive reading.
In the Higher Technological Institute, first year students were oriented to online resources and were asked to spend at least half an hour a day outside class reading. They chose the articles they wanted to read. They were asked to fill the forms to self-assess what they understood and to show the teacher their progress. The forms encompassed KWL , Reading Reflection, Writer’s Message, and Cause and Effect forms.
Internet online reading resources
Researchers who conducted experimental studies enforced the benefits of extensive reading (Takase (2007)). The current research was interested in using free online resources in extensive reading. There are a number of free online resources that include free pdf books, free articles and texts that students can be oriented to (Moots 2020). Students can eventually choose interesting material to read and practice extensive reading.
Horton et al (2003) explains the relevance of introducing students to e-tools and technologies to support them in their personalized learning efforts. Nation and Waring (2019) enforce the effectiveness and value of online recourses and recommend using them in the EFL classroom. Toole (2019) emphasize the relevance of online resources in engaging students and attracting their attention. Spector et al. (2019) explain that online resources engage students and support the teaching and learning process (55). Fisher (2020) Parsons et al. (2019) illustrates that students’ engagement is a defining factor in students’ learning (23). The following e-resources are really helpful:
ReadWorks is a website for comprehension passages and vocabulary in context. The website is interesting and includes featured articles. The website material discuss heated issues and interesting material.
Khan Academy is a non-profit organization that started by creating videos on Math and Science. It has a huge number of training exercises, reading texts from K1 to university level. Teachers can choose texts or videos and send the links to students. They can even start classes and enroll students on them. The readings on Khan Academy are ready useful. They can be used for intensive or extensive reading. Many of them are followed by discussion ideas and forums.
English Test Store
English Test Store is a free website aiming at supporting English language teachers and students. It includes exercises and exams on the four skills. The reading section is very rich and abounds on texts on every walk of life. Another useful website which works like English Test Store is English Tests Online. The passages on both websites can be used for both intensive and extensive reading.
Voice of America website includes interesting articles on all walks of life. The website updates the articles on daily bases and it has voice icons in which students can listen to the audio and follow the text with their eyes. All readings are followed by a forum. Some articles are followed by quizzes.
British Council Learn English
British Council Adult website is governed by British Council. It includes free resources on reading, writing, listening and speaking. The reading texts can be read without answering the questions that follow the texts. Questions are close-ended and open-ended to enhance discussion and critical thinking. Answer key for the close-ended questions are provided. There is a forum on each reading. There is another website for teens: British Council Learn English Teen and a third website for kids: Learn English Kids.
Project Gutenberg is an online library with downloadable books, and books that can be read online. The books covers all fields. The website also include original manuscripts to some famous books.
Encyclopedia Britannica | Britannica The online website is really helpful, easy-to-use and free. All articles include hyperlinks to ideas and topics the reader may want to know more about. Some articles are followed by quizzes.
WikiHow is a website that aims at teaching people. It encompasses articles on all topics. These articles are written by voluntary authors dedicated to supporting others. There is a forum after every article.
Wikipedia, the renowned online encyclopedia is a good start for learning about anything. One interesting aspect is that articles include hyperlinks to terms and ideas presented in each article.
Excellent ESL 4u includes resources on reading, writing, listening and speaking. The reading resources are ready helpful and cover all walks of life. Students can read the reading texts without answering the following questions or participating in the forum.
English Worksheets (englishforeveryone.org), the website includes well-chosen reading texts. The readings are divided according to grade levels. The website also encompasses resources for all skills. Close-ended and open-ended questions and discussion forum follow each reading text.
SmithsonianTweenTribune is a great website that includes featured articles on many subjects. Each article is followed by discussion questions and videos on the same topic.
DOGO News is a website that includes articles basically on science. The articles can be used for ESL students in elementary and intermediate levels.
National Geographic and National Geographic for Kids
National Geographic, the website definitely abounds in edifying articles. Articles are continuously added to the website.
My English Pages
My English Pages website includes helpful resources on the four skills. The reading resources are really helpful.
EBooksCart is a free website for downloading free up-to-date books. The books cover all subjects. Books are perfect for extensive reading. Teachers can ask students to write reviews on the books they read.
Open Library is a website for downloading books. The books are organized by subject matter. New books are continuously updated.
Google play store
Books on Google Play is a resource for free e-books written in different languages. Original and translated copies are also available.
PDF Books World
pdfbooksworld.com include infinite number of free e-books that cover all university students interests.
Manybooks is a website that has more that 50,000 free pdf book that can be read online or downloaded.
The Library of Congress
The Library of Congress, Read.gov encompasses an infinite number of reading resources that include literary texts for renowned writers.
The aim of this study is to find the answers of four fundamental questions, which will support the implemention of extensive reading programme in Egyptian universities. These questions are: (1) What are the students’ perception about extensive reading using online resources? (2) What are the factors that curb the implementation of extensive reading using online resources? (3) How to promote extensive reading among Egyptian and Saudi university students? (4) Can the use of reflective forms enhance extensive reading?
In the first week of the course students were oriented to free online reading resources. They were asked to have a thorough look on these resources and order them from the most interesting to the least interesting as they will use them in improve their reading skills. Every week each student reads half an hour a and fills in two forms either KWL, Reading Reflection or Writer’s Message, and Cause and Effect. These forms support the teacher in assessing students’ progress. In the beginning students read slowly, concentrated on reading word by word and understanding the meaning of every word. By time, their reading speed increased and they guessed words meaning from context.
As mentioned above, the goal in conducting this study is to investigate the practice of extensive reading using online resources in the Higher Technology Institute, Egypt. The study was concerned about the effective procedures for practicing extensive reading in Egyptian universities. The researcher employed mixed method through combining “interrelated questionnaire and interview” (Dornyei, 2007, p. 24). Mixed method raises the validity of the study and strengthens the quantitative data (Dornyei, 2007). The researcher also used “convenience sampling” and the subjects were chosen “on the basis of their availability and willingness to respond” (Gravetter and Forzano, 2009, p. 141).
The interview was conducted at the beginning of the year before practicing extensive reading. The interview was semi-structured as it included a mixture of open and closed questions, and final open question, which was developed specifically for the option of allowing the interviewees to add comments (Drever (1995). The questionnaire was (see appendix 2) electronic and was sent to 300 students in the four General English classes in the Higher Technology Institute, in which students practiced extensive reading using online resources.
Findings and discussion
As for the frequency of how much students read extensively 40% of the students practiced extensive reading. 60% of the respondents practiced extensive reading before joining university, and they read texts written in the mother tongue. As for the relevance of reading, students explained that reading is an important gateway to knowledge, exposure to ideas, and a way to understanding different ways of ordering ideas. As for the question concerning their knowledge about online reading resources, most students stated Wikipedia and Encyclopedia Britannica. Concerning enhancing extensive reading among students, students enforced that orienting students to free, continuously updated online resources would be a motivation to students as they used the internet on hourly basis. This goes in line with Sadiku (2019) who enforces the relevance of online resources and its definite role in engaging students. Students also explained that making university students get the habit of reading via giving them interesting and easy to do reading assignments would on the long run make them get the habit of reading.
As for the end of term questionnaire, 70 % of the students enjoyed extensive reading. 80 % reflected on what they read. 70 % enforced that the practice is time consuming, but should be encouraged in universities. 80 % emphasized that students would learn better if they practiced reading extensively and enforced that online resource really help in practicing extensive reading. 50% of the respondents expressed their confidence in choosing material to read extensively. Finally, 75% enforced that that they liked learning how to use technology to improve their reading skills. As for the relevance of the practice, 70 % enforced that extensive reading helped students in learning English. 65% of the respondents stated that using online resources in extensive reading motivates students’ to learn independently. 68% liked the idea of reflection.
Conclusion and recommendations
Extensive reading is a relevant method of language acquisition that develops vocabulary, inferencing, and general understanding. It also improves writing skills as students understand how to organize and develop ideas. This paper has discussed the relevance of extensive reading specifically for university level students, the planning and introduction of an extensive reading program based on online resources. The implementation of the program led to enhancing students’ language proficiency, reading confidence and fluency. Students developed more effective reading strategies. Students needs orientation to the relevance of extensive reading and their role in enhancing their educational and professional opportunities. Teachers should dedicate time to give students a thorough idea about online reading resources and be there for questions and guidance. To make a purpose for extensive reading reflective reading forms should be filled.
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Appendix 1:Students’ Interview questions:
- Do you read extensively?
- How often do you read extensively? - Always- Often- Sometimes- Rarely
- Did you practice reading extensively before enrolling in university?
- What are the causes that restrict students from reading extensively?
- Why is reading relevant?
- Do you know free online reading resources?
- How could we enhance reading extensively among students?
End of Term Questionnaire
Dear students, this questionnaire is a part of research project. The research is about implementing extensive reading programme in Egyptian universities. The data gathered will be used for serving the purpose of the research only. The purpose of this research is to investigate students’ perceptions about extensive reading and the best ways to implement an extensive reading programme in Egyptian and Saudi universities. Your cooperation is highly appreciated.
l=disagree totally 2= disagree 3=not strong opinion 4=agree 5= strongly agree
For each indicator, please select the rating that best represents the current state of your practice. Use O (often), U (usually), S (sometimes), R (rarely), or N (never).
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