Exploring second language reading
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Exploring Second Language Reading. Kari Miller, M.A.L.S. Centro de Educación Continua Escuela Politécnica Nacional kmiller@cec-epn.edu.ec. Why do some L2 learners hate reading in English?. Lack of Motivation Fear of failure Lack of confidence Read too slow No clear purpose for reading.

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Exploring Second Language Reading

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Exploring Second Language Reading

Kari Miller, M.A.L.S.

Centro de Educación Continua

Escuela Politécnica Nacional


Why do some L2 learners hate reading in English?

  • Lack of Motivation

  • Fear of failure

  • Lack of confidence

  • Read too slow

  • No clear purpose for reading

What factors help students develop L2 reading skills?

Personal Teaching Maxims: L2 Reading

  • Good readers are fast readers

  • With enough exposure, all learners can become proficient at L2 reading

  • Meaning is more important than structure or word recognition

  • Learners should be allowed to choose their own reading texts

In the 1980s

Activate prior knowledge first

Build on learners’ L1 reading schemata to foster development of L2 reading skills

Focus mainly on meaning


Recognize that not all L2 learners will become proficient at L2 reading

Achieve bottom-up skills (linguistic processing) first

Focus first on literal comprehension of the text

A Brief History of L2 Reading Trends

Learners are instructed to read a text. Afterwards, the teacher asks them to go through the article and underline the sentences that indicate hypothetical situations (conditional sentences).

Learners are given the topic of a text and asked to make a list of everything they know about the topic. After reading the article, they are asked to get into groups and talk about a time they had a similar experience.

Study these two activities. What are differences between them?

Bottom-up Approach

  • Word recognition (visual appearance)

  • Phonological processing (sound-letter relationships)

  • Visual information from the text

  • Influenced by Behaviorist Psychology

Top-down Approach

  • Relies on Schema Theory

  • “Meaningful” learning (as opposed to rote learning)

  • Reading constitutes a dialog between reader and text

  • The reader’s experience and background knowledge is considered important

  • Influenced by psycholinguists

Schema Theory

  • interested in the connections between the background knowledge of the learner (including his/her interests) and the text.

  • past experiences help us understand new experiences, and are crucial to deciphering a text

Formal schemata

The structure of a text

How texts are organized, (e.g. a recipe, a scientific article, a postcard, a letter to an editor, etc.).

Content schemata

What learners already know about the topic.

The more familiar a learner is with the subject in the text, the better they understand the text.

Prediction, brainstorming, and semantic mapping



  • Bottom-up approach is influenced by top-down approach

  • Top-down approach is influenced by bottom-up approach

  • The two approaches are compensatory

  • Use together

  • Best for learners who read slowly and use word-by-word decoding








*Relating a text to the learner’s own experience*Asking learners how they feel after reading a text and why*Asking learners to give opinions about what they’ve read

What is Extensive Reading?

  • Have you ever used extensive reading in the classroom?

  • What are the benefits?

  • What is the teacher’s role?

  • How can teachers increase learners’ motivation for L2 reading?


  • Write two things you would like to try in your classes in order to help learners improve their L2 reading skills.

  • Share your thoughts with a partner.


  • Anderson, Neil. Exploring Second Language Reading: Issues and Strategies. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1999.

  • Correia, Rosane. “Encouraging Critical Reading in the EFL Classroom”. English Teaching Forum. Vol. 44, No. 1, 2006.

  • Hinkel, Eli. “Current Perspectives on Teaching the Four Skills” . TESOL Quarterly. March, 2006, pp 120-123.

  • Scarcella, Robin C. & Rebecca L. Oxford.The Tapestry of Language Learning: The Individual in the Communicative Classroom. Boston: Heinle & Heinle, 1992

  • Villanueva de Debat, Elba. “Applying Current Approaches to the Teaching of Reading”. English Teaching Forum. Vol. 44, No. 1, 2006.

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