Effortless English Archives

Automatic English For The People

Thursday, March 02, 2006


by AJ

The strategy of "narrow reading" has a decent amount of research-support.... as compared to "wide reading"... for use by beginning to intermediate foreign language students.

Put more simply, students acquire more vocab, grammar, language when they read within a narrow range. For example, a student might focus on one series of books... say, The Hardy Boys. Rather than read one Hardy Boys book, then move on to a totally different title/author... a narrow reader will continue on with the series. They might read 5 Hardy Boys books, or 10... or the whole series, before moving on to a different different.

Likewise, a student might focus on a particular subject.. for example, cars. They'd read one car book after the other.. until they were bored with the subject and moved on.

This type of reading seems to be more effective for beginner to intermediate level students. They acquire vocabulary faster, and grammar too. They comprehend more quickly. Their general English skills improve more quickly.

No one is sure exactly why this is the case.. but here are a few guesses: By reading narrowly, the reader increases repetition of key words. They are more likely to encounter these words repeatedly in a series of books than if they randomly switch from book to book. Also, writers have a particular style, voice, and vocab set.... the reader becomes familiar with these... thus comprehension improves more quickly... and so too language acquisition.

I pondered this phenomenon and realized I could better utilize it in my class. Though I have no hard research to support this notion, I believe that movies, audiobooks, and reading could be used together in the same synergetic fashion.

My first experiment with this will start next week. Currently, we are reading "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory". We are also listening to the abridged audiobook. But up till now, Ive been using a totally unrelated movie during our "movie technique" time. It struck me that this was not the best use of time. Instead, why not watch "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"? For example, why not show a scene first... and learn it thoroughly (using paraphrasing, pausing and repetition, English subtitles, etc...). Then, the next day, we could read the chapter(s) that correspond to the scenes we'd viewed. Having watched the scenes, the students could visualize the text more easily. We'd practice pronunciation by reading sections aloud. After that, we'd listen to the same chapter(s) in the audiobook.

That's not all. Once we finish "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory", I plan to use "James and The Giant Peach"... by the same author. I already have the audiobook for this too. And there is an excellent Tim Burton movie version.

By combining media versions of the same story... and by continuing with more than one story by the same author.. I hope to increase the synergetic effects of "narrow reading"... extending them to listening and speaking as well.