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Re: [ExtensiveReading] My ER course crashed and burned

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  • David Hill
    I am not quite sure where this topic started, so the following may be out of order. Testing of ER is a relatively untried area. This is partly because many
    Message 1 of 17 , Sep 26, 2003
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      I am not quite sure where this topic started, so the following may be out of order.
       
      Testing of ER is a relatively untried area.  This is partly because many feel that testing undermines the ethos of ER which in theri view is reading for pleasure.  Philip Prowse (editor of Cambridge English Readers) is the champion of this view, hence the absence of questions at the end of CER.  But people want evidence and so tests are necessary. 
       
      I believe that a test of ER must replicate the process of ER  and test the ability to read fluently for global comprehension.   EPER developed two batches of tests at each of the 8 EPER levels requiring e.g. at an intermediate level the reading of a booklet of 1000 words and the answering of  questions testing global understanding.  EPER offers these tests as a sample.  It should not be beyond the powers of teachers to create their own perfectly adequate tests along the same lines. 
       
      Certainly such tests do show up students who say they can read at a certain level but cannot finish reading the text in the allotted time.  And we who receive Japanese students onto undergraduate and postgraduate courses find that whatever their IELTS score, very few  can read quickly enough when they get here to complete their course reading.
       
       
      David R Hill
      EPER (Edinburgh Project on Extensive Reading)
      IALS (Institute for Applied Language Studies)
      University of Edinburgh, 21 Hill Place, Edinburgh EH8 9DP
      Tel:  0131 650 8211/6200  Fax: 0131 667 5927
      Website:  www.ials.ed.ac.uk/eper.html
      ----- Original Message -----
      Sent: Friday, September 26, 2003 3:33 AM
      Subject: Re: [ExtensiveReading] My ER course crashed and burned

      Thanks.
      Yeah, we hit them with how marvelous it was, and we have readers going easier than level one in the bookworms series. We encouraged them to grade the readers and talk about them to other students to recommend books. We devoted some class time to reading the readers too. I think maybe your first point got it, knowing that we would have to pass them anyway...
      I suppose we could reassess the class, so that it is possible to pass on classwork and the exam alone, with the reading as extra points, but,
      AAAARRGG this is so frustrating! This is a reading class! Yes, in the class we covered intensive reading techniques and great they could pass the exam but... I have always been a critic of exams as the be all and end all of assessment. Passing an exam does not mean that you KNOW the stuff or can APPLY the skills.. It just means you know enough to pass an exam.
      You know, it wasn't all doom. I had some students in the class whistle through the readers and read more than the requirement, moving up through the levels. I had one student who was so excited to be able to read real classic books without constantly referring to a dictionary.

      Thomas Robb <trobb@...-su.ac.jp> wrote:

      It's clear that somehow your students got it into their head that the
      reading wasn't necessary.  Perhaps they know something that you don't --
      that the school has a policy of passing everyone anyway.  There are quite a
      few institutions in Japan that do not allow students to fail, particularly
      if it means not graduating in the normal number of years.

      In my school, as well, we have an outside reading requirement.  For quite a
      few years it was absolute.  If the students didn't do the required number
      of pages, they failed.  We had one student who took 7 years to graduate due
      to this requirement!  Out of a realization that there are SOME students
      whose learning styles simply do not agree with an extensive reading
      approach, we now simply penalize the students' grade if they haven't done
      the reading! .  If they are strong in other aspects of the course, they can
      still pass.

      I wonder how the reading program was introduced to the students.  A "sun"
      rather than "wind" approach can work wonders.  Were the students introduced
      to the program in class and the merits of extensive reading introduced?
      What attempts were made to build a "community of readers"?

      While it might not help for this term, it might be useful to spend a bit of
      time IN CLASS with the readers so that the students will at least get a
      start.  If they manage to crack the book open and read a bit, perhaps they
      might (well, some of them) decide to continue.

      Another factor might be the difficulty level of the books.  Were the books
      at a suitable level?  My guess is that they might need Level 1 or Level 2
      in the Bookworms series. Anything higher than that might be too
      frustrating.  You might also try another series.  Bookwo! rms are excellent,
      but consist mainly of re-written adult literature.  The Penguin series
      containing book versions of movies might tweak the interest of the students
      more.  The Cambridge series offers stories specially written by ELT
      specialists for a student audience.

      One more consideration is the amount of work that YOU are giving them
      vis-a-vis other instructors who are teaching the same course.  If the
      students feel that, relative to the other instructors, you are demanding
      too much work, then they might rebel.

      ER programs will always work better if the administration has determined
      that outside reading is an essential part of the curriculum.  The going is
      much rougher when a single instructor attempts to implement an ER program
      unilaterally. You might consider giving your administrators/supervisors a
      copy of Rob Waring's "Guide to Graded Readers" available in Japanese and
      English from OUP Japan.

      Finally, if the students have to resit the examination, why not make the
      question "Tell me what you learned from a graded reader that you read this
      term." :-)

      Cheers,
         Tom Robb


      ** Thomas Robb, Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan  <trobb@...-su.ac.jp> **
      **  Visiting Scholar, La Trobe University, Faculty for Education 2003-04  **
      **         Homepage:  http://www.kyoto-su.ac.jp/~trobb/index.html         **

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    • Brett Reynolds
      I ve been at my new position for about three months now. There was no ER going on at all when I arrived. I brought in a bunch of readers and told students that
      Message 2 of 17 , Sep 26, 2003
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        I've been at my new position for about three months now. There was no
        ER going on at all when I arrived. I brought in a bunch of readers and
        told students that I really thought that this was among the most
        important things they could be doing. I then offered to lend them my
        own personal books if they promised to take care of them and return
        them to me promptly.

        Despite the fact that many of the EAP students claim to be
        overburdened, they ate it up. Almost to a person, they are now reading
        a book a week with absolutely no requirement to do so. I now have a
        commitment from my program coordinator to put about C$1,400 into GRs
        and a commitment from my associate dean to match that funding.
        Everything just clicked.

        The one hurdle we've come up against is a $6 cataloguing fee that the
        inter-college library system wants to charge us. We're currently
        considering ways to get around this.

        -----------------------
        Brett Reynolds
        English Language Centre
        Humber Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning
        Toronto, Ontario, Canada
        brett.reynolds@...
      • James Swan
        On Saturday, Sep 27, 2003, at 00:13 Japan, ... I hold a pariah view among the listas here, it seems, and my own failure to convince my Japanese colleagues of
        Message 3 of 17 , Sep 26, 2003
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          On Saturday, Sep 27, 2003, at 00:13 Japan,
          ExtensiveReading@yahoogroups.com wrote:
          >

          > Topics in this digest:
          >
          > 1. My ER course crashed and burned
          > From: "Michael Abberton" <mykbex13@...>

          > _______________________________________________________________________
          > _
          > _______________________________________________________________________
          > _
          >
          > Message: 1
          > Date: Fri, 26 Sep 2003 01:01:31 -0000
          > From: "Michael Abberton" <mykbex13@...>
          > Subject: My ER course crashed and burned
          >
          > Hello. Well, the er course I introduced for the ichinensei and
          > ninensei students here at the senmon gakko was a total failure. Over
          > 60 percent of the students failed the course, the principal insists
          > that they resit the exam, but most of the students PASSED the exam -
          > they failed because they did not read ANY books. Not one.
          >
          > Time and again we reset deadlines. Chance after chance was given.
          > Time and time again they were reminded that the main part of the mark
          > was the reading they did and the book reports. One student did all
          > the reading over the summer and handed in the reports on the day of
          > the exam, and so passed. Others did not. Some aced the exam - as it
          > was based on classwork - but failed the course.

          I hold a pariah view among the listas here, it seems, and my own
          failure to convince my Japanese colleagues of the merits of ER have
          been documented here. Nevertheless, I will sally forth.

          I do not test my students, as I find the very concept of "testing" ER
          utterly reprehensible and totally inimical to the philosophy behind ER,
          not to mention entirely lacking in validity.

          I do not require my students to write book reports, do oral
          presentations, or engage in any kind of song-and-dance group exercises,
          as the range of ability levels is so wide as to make any of these
          exercises essentially meaningless in a mixed classroom of 40 or more.

          I use the SRA Reading Lab as classwork and require self-selected free
          reading for homework. Each class session I wheel my travelling "Swan's
          Library" into the classroom and give them time to change their reading
          materials for the coming week. I try to keep the library stocked with
          a wide selection of materials gathered from wherever I can find them,
          ranging in difficulty from very easy children's stuff to NS junior-high
          level books to the daily JAPAN TIMES, western and romance novels, and
          other authentic materials. There are also some student-targeted
          materials and some graded readers thrown into the kitty, but my school
          doesn't give me enough budget for a very big selection of them, so
          mainly its simply scrounge up what I can.

          I do not use the students' SRA level as a grading factor. I tell them
          that SRA is purely for their own benefit, not for grading purposes.
          But I do require their attendance and limit their final grade based on
          the number of times they are absent.

          I do not spend much time on lecturing to the class about reading
          strategies, etc. as few of them listen when I speak anyway. Instead I
          use the opportunities presented by the SRA to provide one-on-one advice.

          Rather than book reports or journals on their daily homework reading, I
          ask the students to keep accurate records -- title, number of words,
          number of minutes, average reading speed in WPM, the difficulty level
          (rated HARD, OK, EASY), and the interest factor ("Did you enjoy it?" -
          rated Yes or No). Students who are caught falsifying their reported
          homework reading will automatically fail the class, but such
          discoveries are rare and only made accidentally, since make no overt
          effort to check up on their honesty. I refuse to play the role of
          policeman, as I think willingness to cheat is a character flaw that I
          really can't do much about.

          I collect their reading records monthly and tally up the totals. At
          the end of the semester, I grade everyone by rank-ordering them on how
          many words they report having read during that time frame, limited by
          how many class sessions they missed. Students who report having read a
          lot outside of class and match that report with a good class attendance
          record get good grades. Those who don't, don't. Those who attend the
          bare minimum number of classes set by university attendance policy will
          pass the class within the bare minimum passing range of 60 - 64, no
          matter how much or how little they claim to have read outside.
          Students whose attendance record more closely approximates perfection
          are able to earn a grade more accurately reflecting their true
          rank-order.

          Overall attendance is pretty good and, in my experience, few students
          miss enough classes to limit the score they earned with their homework
          ranking. That is to say, generally speaking, the students who report
          reading a lot at home also have the best class attendance records, and
          the final grades of the students with poor attendance records aren't
          much affected by their absences simply because they didn't report much
          homework reading in the first place. Few students miss enough times to
          fail the class entirely.

          Some students do well with this approach, others don't do so well.
          Every year I have some students who make it all the way to SRA GOLD
          (the highest level of Set 2a) or beyond, into Set 2b or even Set 2c.
          And, at the other statistical tail, every year I also always have a few
          who can't seem to break out of 2a BROWN, the lowest level, even after
          one school year of practice. Whether their problems involve dyslexia
          or whatever I don't know, but in my experience, these students are
          beyond my limited ability to help within the structure of a
          40-or-more-member class.

          Pariah view? Well, there you are.

          Out for now.

          Jim
        • michael abberton
          I think you need to read your post again there! You talk about the whole idea of testing being anathema, and then you go on to outline your method of testing!
          Message 4 of 17 , Sep 28, 2003
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            I think you need to read your post again there! You talk about the whole idea of testing being anathema, and then you go on to outline your method of testing! Which seems even more strict than anything I did!
             
            How do you make sure that the students are doing the reading? This is perhaps a fundamental problem. And one that I started the whole thread with, as it happens. They should be reading for pleasure. But we are all teachers in academic systems that require grading and checks.
             


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          • rube39_@eml.cc
            ... Actually, all that is required is dedication, principles, and balls. Rube
            Message 5 of 17 , Sep 29, 2003
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              > They should be reading for pleasure. But we are all teachers in
              > academic systems that require grading and checks.

              Actually, all that is required is dedication, principles, and balls.


              Rube
            • Juan Pino Silva
              Hi everyone, In Latin American countries it is almost impossible to teach a a reading course without a test. In the where I university I teach, only three
              Message 6 of 17 , Oct 2, 2003
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                Hi everyone,
                In Latin American countries it is almost impossible to teach a a
                reading course without a test. In the where I university I teach,
                only three colleagues do ER and we know it works because our
                students are passing those exams, and because they tell us (in
                questionnaires) over and over again that their progress is mainly
                due to their work in the extensive reading program. They also value
                the follow-up tasks and the teacher's feedback they receive for
                every text they read. Unfortunately grades are needed to make pass
                or fail decisions. I wish there was a way to avoid exams.
                Best wishes,
                Juan

                --- In ExtensiveReading@yahoogroups.com, "David Hill"
                <david.r.hill@e...> wrote:
                > I am not quite sure where this topic started, so the following may
                be out of order.
                >
                > Testing of ER is a relatively untried area. This is partly
                because many feel that testing undermines the ethos of ER which in
                theri view is reading for pleasure. Philip Prowse (editor of
                Cambridge English Readers) is the champion of this view, hence the
                absence of questions at the end of CER. But people want evidence
                and so tests are necessary.
                >
                > I believe that a test of ER must replicate the process of ER and
                test the ability to read fluently for global comprehension. EPER
                developed two batches of tests at each of the 8 EPER levels
                requiring e.g. at an intermediate level the reading of a booklet of
                1000 words and the answering of questions testing global
                understanding. EPER offers these tests as a sample. It should not
                be beyond the powers of teachers to create their own perfectly
                adequate tests along the same lines.
                >
                > Certainly such tests do show up students who say they can read at
                a certain level but cannot finish reading the text in the allotted
                time. And we who receive Japanese students onto undergraduate and
                postgraduate courses find that whatever their IELTS score, very few
                can read quickly enough when they get here to complete their course
                reading.
                >
                >
                > David R Hill
                > EPER (Edinburgh Project on Extensive Reading)
                > IALS (Institute for Applied Language Studies)
                > University of Edinburgh, 21 Hill Place, Edinburgh EH8 9DP
                > Tel: 0131 650 8211/6200 Fax: 0131 667 5927
                > Website: www.ials.ed.ac.uk/eper.html
                > ----- Original Message -----
                > From: michael abberton
                > To: ExtensiveReading@yahoogroups.com
                > Sent: Friday, September 26, 2003 3:33 AM
                > Subject: Re: [ExtensiveReading] My ER course crashed and burned
                >
                >
                > Thanks.
                > Yeah, we hit them with how marvelous it was, and we have readers
                going easier than level one in the bookworms series. We encouraged
                them to grade the readers and talk about them to other students to
                recommend books. We devoted some class time to reading the readers
                too. I think maybe your first point got it, knowing that we would
                have to pass them anyway...
                > I suppose we could reassess the class, so that it is possible to
                pass on classwork and the exam alone, with the reading as extra
                points, but,
                > AAAARRGG this is so frustrating! This is a reading class! Yes,
                in the class we covered intensive reading techniques and great they
                could pass the exam but... I have always been a critic of exams as
                the be all and end all of assessment. Passing an exam does not mean
                that you KNOW the stuff or can APPLY the skills.. It just means you
                know enough to pass an exam.
                > You know, it wasn't all doom. I had some students in the class
                whistle through the readers and read more than the requirement,
                moving up through the levels. I had one student who was so excited
                to be able to read real classic books without constantly referring
                to a dictionary.
                >
                > Thomas Robb <trobb@c...> wrote:
                >
                > It's clear that somehow your students got it into their head
                that the
                > reading wasn't necessary. Perhaps they know something that
                you don't --
                > that the school has a policy of passing everyone anyway.
                There are quite a
                > few institutions in Japan that do not allow students to fail,
                particularly
                > if it means not graduating in the normal number of years.
                >
                > In my school, as well, we have an outside reading
                requirement. For quite a
                > few years it was absolute. If the students didn't do the
                required number
                > of pages, they failed. We had one student who took 7 years to
                graduate due
                > to this requirement! Out of a realization that there are SOME
                students
                > whose learning styles simply do not agree with an extensive
                reading
                > approach, we now simply penalize the students' grade if they
                haven't done
                > the reading! . If they are strong in other aspects of the
                course, they can
                > still pass.
                >
                > I wonder how the reading program was introduced to the
                students. A "sun"
                > rather than "wind" approach can work wonders. Were the
                students introduced
                > to the program in class and the merits of extensive reading
                introduced?
                > What attempts were made to build a "community of readers"?
                >
                > While it might not help for this term, it might be useful to
                spend a bit of
                > time IN CLASS with the readers so that the students will at
                least get a
                > start. If they manage to crack the book open and read a bit,
                perhaps they
                > might (well, some of them) decide to continue.
                >
                > Another factor might be the difficulty level of the books.
                Were the books
                > at a suitable level? My guess is that they might need Level 1
                or Level 2
                > in the Bookworms series. Anything higher than that might be
                too
                > frustrating. You might also try another series. Bookwo! rms
                are excellent,
                > but consist mainly of re-written adult literature. The
                Penguin series
                > containing book versions of movies might tweak the interest of
                the students
                > more. The Cambridge series offers stories specially written
                by ELT
                > specialists for a student audience.
                >
                > One more consideration is the amount of work that YOU are
                giving them
                > vis-a-vis other instructors who are teaching the same course.
                If the
                > students feel that, relative to the other instructors, you are
                demanding
                > too much work, then they might rebel.
                >
                > ER programs will always work better if the administration has
                determined
                > that outside reading is an essential part of the curriculum.
                The going is
                > much rougher when a single instructor attempts to implement an
                ER program
                > unilaterally. You might consider giving your
                administrators/supervisors a
                > copy of Rob Waring's "Guide to Graded Readers" available in
                Japanese and
                > English from OUP Japan.
                >
                > Finally, if the students have to resit the examination, why
                not make the
                > question "Tell me what you learned from a graded reader that
                you read this
                > term." :-)
                >
                > Cheers,
                > Tom Robb
                >
                >
                > ** Thomas Robb, Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan <trobb@c...> **
                > ** Visiting Scholar, La Trobe University, Faculty for
                Education 2003-04 **
                > ** Homepage: http://www.kyoto-
                su.ac.jp/~trobb/index.html **
                >
                > To unsubscribe from this group, send an email to:
                > ExtensiveReading-unsubscribe@yahoogroups.com
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              • Clive Lovelock
                I ve been following this thread about those who suffer under an unsympathetic administration. Here s an explanation of an angle on assessment in our ER
                Message 7 of 17 , Oct 3, 2003
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                  I've been following this thread about those who suffer under an
                  unsympathetic administration. Here's an explanation of an angle on
                  assessment in our ER programme. Much of it may not be relevant to
                  others, but it gives bit more background information as to what angles
                  one might make use of.

                  Japanese universities naturally demand that students be graded for any
                  course for which credit is offered - a pretty reasonable requirement,
                  I'd say. Many of them leave it to teachers to decide whether to base
                  the evaluation on an exam, on assignments, on coursework, or some
                  combination of these. Others require an exam to be set, but the method
                  of calculating grades is still left to each teacher's judgment in most
                  cases. Few universities impose inflexible regulations about this, as it
                  is deemed an infringement of the principle of "academic freedom".
                  Personally, as far as teaching languages (as oppposed to research) is
                  concerned, I think "academic freedom" is a convenient sacred cow that
                  releases university professors from the responsibility of giving
                  students good value for their tuition fees, but that's another story.(I
                  just don't want anyone to think I'm defending academic freedom in the
                  wrong context or opposing it when it's appropriate). But now I'll get to
                  my point.

                  Even where a university states that teachers are expected to give an
                  exam, as long as it's understood that the teacher can then decide how to
                  interpret the results, there's no need to let exams have undue influence
                  on teaching and learning. The percentage of the overall grade that is
                  allotted for the exam is the key point. Even in courses where I believe
                  an exam plays a significant role (and many of my courses fit this
                  category) I only apportion 20~30% of the total marks for the exam. If I
                  thought that an exam was totally superfluous to a particular course, I
                  wouldn't hesitate to award only 5% of the total grade for it. I wouldn't
                  award 1% or 0%, as that might be viewed as disrespectful to the
                  administration (!). On the other hand 5% is hardly going to make a major
                  difference to the overall score.

                  I give the greatest weighting to coursework (i.e. varying proportions of
                  classwork and homework). I also give a small, but significant amount
                  (10%) for attendance, because the (very important) classroom practice is
                  impossible without attendance. The logic of this apparently simple
                  causal relationship seems to escape some of my students - hence the 10%,
                  a form of instrumental motivation. I don't give more than 10% because I
                  want to emphasize that mere attendance, though a minimal requirement
                  hardly amounts to much without efforts to achieve the course objectives.
                  That's my general approach for all courses. Now, about ER courses ...

                  The role of exams or other forms of assessment - even the role of
                  assessment itself - of course depends on the course objectives. The ER
                  programme at my university is exeptional among our English language
                  courses, in that the objective and the pedagogical approach are imposed
                  on teachers. I hasten to add that this is with the assent of the
                  teachers, and that they organize their extensive reading in different
                  ways. Anyone who's not interested in teaching reading through ER is not
                  scheduled to teach in this particular programme. We have a separate
                  reading programme for professors who want to use other methods - notably
                  the traditional "yakudoku", which means page-by-page explication
                  (translation) of text by the teacher. This keeps them off the backs of
                  ER teachers.

                  There are two main objectives for the ER programme. The main one is
                  that, since the ER courses constitute one third of the 1st and 2nd year
                  English language programme, the ER courses are intended to promote the
                  learning of English. To be more specific, we see this as mainly
                  consolidating partially-learned language and also to introduce (raise
                  awareness of) other common and useful words and expressions. The second
                  objective is to promote the enjoyment and habit of reading. That's a
                  second priority, though still an important one. To reverse those
                  priorities might raise unwelcome questions from other departments about
                  the vaidity of our approach in terms of the amount of time and money
                  that we lavish on Extensive Reading. We want to avoid such bureaucratic
                  distractions.

                  Given that progress in English (however little) is a requirement of our
                  programme, we want to remind our ER students that this is an important
                  reason for getting them to do all this reading. We don't actually
                  believe that progress in English proficiency and progress in reading
                  efficiency are the same thing, but we think they are sufficiently linked
                  to justify the claim that progress from one (EPER) reading level to the
                  next, is a valuable aim that supports our course objectives. Not only
                  does ER help deepen students' understanding of English in general, but
                  giving level check tests to decide when a student should move up to a
                  higher (or occasionally down to an easier) reading level is a good
                  motivator. Students want to move up and they get a satisfying sense of
                  achievement when they do so. If they're struggling at a particular
                  level, we can take the pressure off them by recommending a lower level,
                  providing there's nothing to indicate that it's a bad reading habit
                  rather than language level, that's holding a student back.

                  We give up to 10% for students who raise their reading level over the
                  course of a year. We give 6 points (a passing grade) to somone who moves
                  up just one level, 1 to 5 points for someone who achieves less than
                  that, and 10 points for someone who moves up three levels (or more).
                  This is not a big enough percentage of the overall grade to make
                  progress a big deal or to add significantly to stress, but like the 10%
                  for attendance, it's a reminder that they should try to make at least
                  SOME progress. To the students, these are tests, taken at intervals
                  throughout the year, when the teacher (or they) feel they are due for a
                  change of level. We don't leave it to our intuition or that of students,
                  to decide when to change levels. We confirm, or contradict our
                  intuitions with a level check. Students can be over eager to move up,
                  and teachers sometimes unwisely encourage them in this over-eagerness. A
                  level check test can ring an alarm bell for us if we are over-estimating
                  a student. Other students lack self-confidence, and a strong test result
                  can be instrumental in persuading them to try more challenging books, or
                  in supporting a teacher's hunch about this. SO, as far as the students
                  are concerned, these are CHECKS (like health checkups), not exams. As
                  far as the administration is concerned, these tests can easily be called
                  "exams", if that will satisfy them. And if all classes have to take an
                  "exam" on a given day, the final level check can be scheduled in that
                  period. So it's a matter of semantics as much as one of reality. Just
                  treat the tests as "checks", and tell students they're "checks", too.

                  In conclusion, forgive me for suggesting this, but I get the feeling
                  that some contributers to this list seem to be leaning towards a kind of
                  political correctness in this discussion. To me, political correctness
                  is the same as a kneejerk reaction. "ER is for promoting reading as a
                  pleasurable activity. The word 'exam' necessarily means something
                  unpleasant or painful. Therefore exams are inimical to ER". But one
                  person's exam can be another person's health checkup.

                  The same kind of knee-jerk semantic conditioning is attached to the word
                  "stress". EXCESSIVE stress is associated with dangerous mental illness
                  or depression which causes serious mental and / or physical incapacity.
                  But in the interests of brevity (linguistic laziness?) the expression
                  gets abbreviated to just "stress". So: "(Excessive - deleted) Stress
                  causes illness and inhibits learning, therefore we need to eliminate
                  stress from the classroom." But, in fact, we can't live healthy lives
                  without a bit of stress. It's what keeps us on our toes, alert, eager to
                  achieve, able to react quickly in emergencies, etc.. Most people who
                  don't feel stress at all are either in a coma, or under sedation, or in
                  some way mentally handicapped. Entertainment (or pleasure) is a way of
                  easing excessive stress, or even of avoiding it, but entertainment can
                  also be a kind of drug that induces the couch potato syndrome. It
                  distracts people from striving to realize their ambitions - including
                  the ambition to learn English.

                  But please don't accuse me of being against pleasure. I'm only against
                  the misuse of pleasure to the extent of suppressing effort.

                  CL

                  Juan Pino Silva wrote:
                  > Hi everyone,
                  > In Latin American countries it is almost impossible to teach a a
                  > reading course without a test. In the where I university I teach,
                  > only three colleagues do ER and we know it works because our
                  > students are passing those exams, and because they tell us (in
                  > questionnaires) over and over again that their progress is mainly
                  > due to their work in the extensive reading program. They also value
                  > the follow-up tasks and the teacher's feedback they receive for
                  > every text they read. Unfortunately grades are needed to make pass
                  > or fail decisions. I wish there was a way to avoid exams.
                  > Best wishes,
                  > Juan
                  >
                  > --- In ExtensiveReading@yahoogroups.com, "David Hill"
                  > <david.r.hill@e...> wrote:
                  >
                  >>I am not quite sure where this topic started, so the following may
                  >
                  > be out of order.
                  >
                  >>Testing of ER is a relatively untried area. This is partly
                  >
                  > because many feel that testing undermines the ethos of ER which in
                  > theri view is reading for pleasure. Philip Prowse (editor of
                  > Cambridge English Readers) is the champion of this view, hence the
                  > absence of questions at the end of CER. But people want evidence
                  > and so tests are necessary.
                  >
                  >>I believe that a test of ER must replicate the process of ER and
                  >
                  > test the ability to read fluently for global comprehension. EPER
                  > developed two batches of tests at each of the 8 EPER levels
                  > requiring e.g. at an intermediate level the reading of a booklet of
                  > 1000 words and the answering of questions testing global
                  > understanding. EPER offers these tests as a sample. It should not
                  > be beyond the powers of teachers to create their own perfectly
                  > adequate tests along the same lines.
                  >
                  >>Certainly such tests do show up students who say they can read at
                  >
                  > a certain level but cannot finish reading the text in the allotted
                  > time. And we who receive Japanese students onto undergraduate and
                  > postgraduate courses find that whatever their IELTS score, very few
                  > can read quickly enough when they get here to complete their course
                  > reading.
                  >
                  >> David R Hill
                  >>EPER (Edinburgh Project on Extensive Reading)
                  >>IALS (Institute for Applied Language Studies)
                  >>University of Edinburgh, 21 Hill Place, Edinburgh EH8 9DP
                  >>Tel: 0131 650 8211/6200 Fax: 0131 667 5927
                  >>Website: www.ials.ed.ac.uk/eper.html
                  >> ----- Original Message -----
                  >> From: michael abberton
                  >> To: ExtensiveReading@yahoogroups.com
                  >> Sent: Friday, September 26, 2003 3:33 AM
                  >> Subject: Re: [ExtensiveReading] My ER course crashed and burned
                  >>
                  >>
                  >> Thanks.
                  >> Yeah, we hit them with how marvelous it was, and we have readers
                  >
                  > going easier than level one in the bookworms series. We encouraged
                  > them to grade the readers and talk about them to other students to
                  > recommend books. We devoted some class time to reading the readers
                  > too. I think maybe your first point got it, knowing that we would
                  > have to pass them anyway...
                  >
                  >> I suppose we could reassess the class, so that it is possible to
                  >
                  > pass on classwork and the exam alone, with the reading as extra
                  > points, but,
                  >
                  >> AAAARRGG this is so frustrating! This is a reading class! Yes,
                  >
                  > in the class we covered intensive reading techniques and great they
                  > could pass the exam but... I have always been a critic of exams as
                  > the be all and end all of assessment. Passing an exam does not mean
                  > that you KNOW the stuff or can APPLY the skills.. It just means you
                  > know enough to pass an exam.
                  >
                  >> You know, it wasn't all doom. I had some students in the class
                  >
                  > whistle through the readers and read more than the requirement,
                  > moving up through the levels. I had one student who was so excited
                  > to be able to read real classic books without constantly referring
                  > to a dictionary.
                  >
                  >> Thomas Robb <trobb@c...> wrote:
                  >>
                  >> It's clear that somehow your students got it into their head
                  >
                  > that the
                  >
                  >> reading wasn't necessary. Perhaps they know something that
                  >
                  > you don't --
                  >
                  >> that the school has a policy of passing everyone anyway.
                  >
                  > There are quite a
                  >
                  >> few institutions in Japan that do not allow students to fail,
                  >
                  > particularly
                  >
                  >> if it means not graduating in the normal number of years.
                  >>
                  >> In my school, as well, we have an outside reading
                  >
                  > requirement. For quite a
                  >
                  >> few years it was absolute. If the students didn't do the
                  >
                  > required number
                  >
                  >> of pages, they failed. We had one student who took 7 years to
                  >
                  > graduate due
                  >
                  >> to this requirement! Out of a realization that there are SOME
                  >
                  > students
                  >
                  >> whose learning styles simply do not agree with an extensive
                  >
                  > reading
                  >
                  >> approach, we now simply penalize the students' grade if they
                  >
                  > haven't done
                  >
                  >> the reading! . If they are strong in other aspects of the
                  >
                  > course, they can
                  >
                  >> still pass.
                  >>
                  >> I wonder how the reading program was introduced to the
                  >
                  > students. A "sun"
                  >
                  >> rather than "wind" approach can work wonders. Were the
                  >
                  > students introduced
                  >
                  >> to the program in class and the merits of extensive reading
                  >
                  > introduced?
                  >
                  >> What attempts were made to build a "community of readers"?
                  >>
                  >> While it might not help for this term, it might be useful to
                  >
                  > spend a bit of
                  >
                  >> time IN CLASS with the readers so that the students will at
                  >
                  > least get a
                  >
                  >> start. If they manage to crack the book open and read a bit,
                  >
                  > perhaps they
                  >
                  >> might (well, some of them) decide to continue.
                  >>
                  >> Another factor might be the difficulty level of the books.
                  >
                  > Were the books
                  >
                  >> at a suitable level? My guess is that they might need Level 1
                  >
                  > or Level 2
                  >
                  >> in the Bookworms series. Anything higher than that might be
                  >
                  > too
                  >
                  >> frustrating. You might also try another series. Bookwo! rms
                  >
                  > are excellent,
                  >
                  >> but consist mainly of re-written adult literature. The
                  >
                  > Penguin series
                  >
                  >> containing book versions of movies might tweak the interest of
                  >
                  > the students
                  >
                  >> more. The Cambridge series offers stories specially written
                  >
                  > by ELT
                  >
                  >> specialists for a student audience.
                  >>
                  >> One more consideration is the amount of work that YOU are
                  >
                  > giving them
                  >
                  >> vis-a-vis other instructors who are teaching the same course.
                  >
                  > If the
                  >
                  >> students feel that, relative to the other instructors, you are
                  >
                  > demanding
                  >
                  >> too much work, then they might rebel.
                  >>
                  >> ER programs will always work better if the administration has
                  >
                  > determined
                  >
                  >> that outside reading is an essential part of the curriculum.
                  >
                  > The going is
                  >
                  >> much rougher when a single instructor attempts to implement an
                  >
                  > ER program
                  >
                  >> unilaterally. You might consider giving your
                  >
                  > administrators/supervisors a
                  >
                  >> copy of Rob Waring's "Guide to Graded Readers" available in
                  >
                  > Japanese and
                  >
                  >> English from OUP Japan.
                  >>
                  >> Finally, if the students have to resit the examination, why
                  >
                  > not make the
                  >
                  >> question "Tell me what you learned from a graded reader that
                  >
                  > you read this
                  >
                  >> term." :-)
                  >>
                  >> Cheers,
                  >> Tom Robb
                  >>
                  >>
                  >> ** Thomas Robb, Kyoto Sangyo University, Japan <trobb@c...> **
                  >> ** Visiting Scholar, La Trobe University, Faculty for
                  >
                  > Education 2003-04 **
                  >
                  >> ** Homepage: http://www.kyoto-
                  >
                  > su.ac.jp/~trobb/index.html **
                  >
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                • Clive Lovelock
                  I forgot to mention in the message I just sent about exams that our students are primarily graded according to the amount of reading they appear to have
                  Message 8 of 17 , Oct 3, 2003
                  • 0 Attachment
                    I forgot to mention in the message I just sent about "exams" that our
                    students are primarily graded according to the amount of reading they
                    appear to have done, based on short reports they file about these, and
                    on their active participation in class in reading, and in writing about
                    or discussing their reading. The latter may have little effect on
                    improving their reading, but it does get them to recycle language they
                    have read through other mental processes, thereby reinforcing language
                    acquisition. I believe writing about and discussing reading can be
                    enjoyable activities and build students' confidence in their ability to
                    communicate in English.

                    CL
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