Teaching reading to secondary school pupils

Autor: prof. Preda Cristina Ramona
Școala Gimnazială Bertea, jud. Prahova

Lately, I have noticed that secondary school pupils, especially those from grades 6 to 8 (12 to 14 yearsold) do not show a real interest in English texts, be them of general interest, or related to the British culture and civilization. Their general cultural knowledge is quite limited, and their reading comprehension skills are not manifested at the standards that I have imposed on them, as an English teacher.
I have noticed, over the years, the fact that my pupils encounter difficulties in filtering and understanding the information they get when they have to read a text, regardless of its nature or field of interest. Whether they read the text aloud or in silence, the problem is the same: the pupils read like robots, executing some commands, without processing the read information, so that they can answer my questions or to be able to do the follow-up exercises.
Most of my pupils’ problems are related to vocabulary, due to the fact that they have a limited vocabulary in English, not wanting to assimilate the words taught by me in class, finding this activity boring. Thus, my students are incapable of deciphering the message of the texts or of understanding certain phrases and expressions. The problem is astringent, and that is the pupils’ incapacity to understand the texts read and studied in class and implicitly to do the exercises adherent to the texts.
This way, the assessment cannot be done accordingly to the performance descriptors and this thing is both to the students’ prejudice and mine, as a teacher, because I can seldom include texts in my test papers, in order to assess the reading comprehension skill. This skill is usually assessed during classes, when the students read the texts from the textbook and solve the exercises from the textbooks.
As a consequence, reading should not be regarded as a burden for my pupils, but it should be a constitutive, natural part of the teaching-learning process. Moreover, reading should continue outside the classroom, encouraging pupils to explore, to assess and to decide for themselves what kind of texts they would like to read, encouraging, thus, not only extensive reading, but also intensive reading. This self-oriented approach should give pupils a greater autonomy regarding the learning process.
The pupils must be capable of understanding, interpreting and criticizing what they read, expressing their own views and opinions. This way, the assessment process will be easier and more productive. (fragment)