Investigating different approaches to reading in a multi level class
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Investigating different approaches to reading in a multi-level class. Jenny Field [email protected] Background. Foundation Focused Training Opportunities course 2013 TEC funded

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Investigating different approaches to reading in a multi-level class

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Investigating different approaches to reading in a multi level class

Investigating different approaches to reading in a multi-level class

Jenny Field

[email protected]



  • Foundation Focused Training Opportunities course 2013

  • TEC funded

  • 37 week course of 30 hours per week

  • Operated within Waikato Institute of Technology in the Centre for Languages

Countries of origin in ffto class

Countries of origin in FFTO class



  • 22 students ,range of ethnicities

  • Age range 18 – 53, mainly in 20’s and 30’s

  • Mainly refugee backgrounds

  • Mostly lived in New Zealand for less than 2 years

  • Range of educational backgrounds 3 -10 years schooling

  • Range of L1 literacy from Starting Points Level 1 through to High School Certificate

  • Three students already had part time employment

Some literature about reading

Some literature about Reading

…. the ability to read well makes an enormous difference to one’s school performance, career potential and personal success.

(Kearsley, 2002; Lo Bianco & Freebody, 1997).

Investigating different approaches to reading in a multi level class

  • Reading in a second language involves adapting the schemata already developed in the first language to the second language

  • Controlled texts assist this process

  • Second language readers have greater metalinguistic and metacognitive awareness which enables them to readily transfer their L1 skills when reading in another language

    Nation (2009) p.7

The ffto programme

The FFTO programme

  • Aimed to support English language development so that students can gain employment or move to further training

  • TEC funded (discontinued in December 2013) had contractual outcomes

  • Level 1 Certificate in Training Opportunities (Wintec)

  • Balanced reading programme (Nation 2009)

Reading programme

Reading programme

Activities outside the classroom

….Activities outside the classroom

Research questions

Research questions

What are the students’ perspectives in relation to:

  • methods and approaches used in the programme that are helping them to read better?

  • Reading methods or approaches that are more helpful than others?

  • other factors that influence gains in Reading?

Class survey 3 times july sept nov

Class survey 3 times (July, Sept, Nov)



  • Two interviews with the tutor and a bilingual assistant

  • The students were interviewed in a group with others with the same native language

  • What aspects of the Reading programme have helped you to read better?

Survey results

Survey results

Very helpful

Quite helpful

Not very helpful

Results from interviews

Results from Interviews

  • Although high correlation that all approaches were useful there was a wide variety of responses for each approach about why they were useful

  • Silent reading – divergent responses “prefer to read aloud so I could be corrected.” Others said that they like reading silently as “reading aloud is too difficult.” “ I prefer reading silently as it helps me to focus.”

  • The value of reading a wide range of texts had a high level of correlation, although half of the class thought reading easy books was most helpful

Range of students perceptions about what helps with reading

Range of students’ perceptions about what helps with reading

I like reading long books. I like fiction and mystery and I read at home.

Every morning I read at home. I read the paper from New World, Forlongs and Countdown. I read the specials.

Reading the books that the tutors give us is really helpful. When I read them I think “Oh, this is how they write.”

I remember the words I forgot when I write.

Silent reading is good but I prefer to read aloud so I can be corrected.

Reading silently helps me because reading aloud is too difficult , but when its silent it helps me to focus.

We can’t understand too much. Too much vocabulary.

Other resources also highly valued

Other resources also highly valued

  • the Picture Dictionary

  • “In Words of one syllable.” “The green book helps me to understand reading better. Now I can just look and understand.”

  • The computer based FLAX programme “FLAX is really good because sometimes I miss the word. It helps to develop skills for reading and thinking about the meaning.”

  • Confident dictionary users. “When the teacher tells me a story I use my English-Burmese dictionary to find out the meanings of words.” They also used Google Translate.



  • No clear themes emerged as to what approach was most helpful so data was re-examined

  • Allwright(2006) ….. a change from a precision approach to a scattergun approach to teaching is a promising directions in Applied Linguistics

  • “if we accept the notion of the essential idiosyncrasy of humanity, then there are two possible responses that can be made. Either we match the individual differences of the people around, or we decide to offer a scattergun approach whereby you offer a multitude of learning opportunities and expect them to select according to their needs.”

Some literature on learner autonomy

Some literature on learner autonomy

  • ..the capacity of the learner to take control of one’s own learning.” (Benson, 2003, p.50)

  • “measuring autonomy is difficult” (Benson, 2003)

  • measuring autonomy is difficult in that autonomy is a multidimensional construct (p. 51)

  • behaviours can take numerous different forms depending on their age, how far they have progressed with their learning, what they perceive their immediate learning needs to be…..Autonomy in other words can manifest itself in many different ways.” (Little,1991,p. 4)



  • Students developed their reading skills over the 37 week course.

  • A strong possibility that students took from the programme what they needed

  • They were able to verbalise what had helped them to read better

  • Each approach received a positive mention from students

Multi level classes

Multi-level classes

  • Many ESOL classes have learners – diverse literacy, educational, orthographic backgrounds

  • Meeting individual needs can be daunting

  • I suggest that focusing on a broad approach that satisfies individual goals, but involves working together cooperatively in pairs and groups as a community of learners



aligns with Freeman, Freeman and Mercuri (2002)

1. Engage students in challenging theme-based curriculum to develop academic competence

2. Draw on students’ backgrounds - their experiences, cultures and languages

3. Organise collaborative activities and scaffolding – to build their academic English proficiency

4. Create confident students who value themselves as learners

Investigating different approaches to reading in a multi level class

FFTO learners graduating with a Certificate in Training Opportunities for Speakers of Other Languages Level 1



Benson, P.(2011). Teaching and Researching Autonomy. (2ndEd.). Harlow,UK:Longman Pearson

Holec,H.( 1988). Autonomy and self-directed learning present fields of application. Strasburg: Council of Europe

Nation, I.S.P. (2009) Teaching ESL/EFL Reading and Writing. New York: Routledge.

Allwright ,D. (2006) Understanding the Language Classroom New York, Palgrave Macmillan

Freeman, Freeman and Mercuri (2002). Closing the achievement Gap: How to Reach Limited- Formal Schooling and Long Term English learners: Portsmouth, Heinemann,

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