The Definition of Intensive Reading

This article is about Intensive Reading. Intensive study of reading texts can be a means of increasing learners’ knowledge of language features and their control of reading strategies. It can also improve their comprehension skill. It fits into the language focused learning strand of a course. The classic procedure for intensive reading is the grammar-translation approach where the teacher works with the learners, using the first language to explain the meaning of a text, sentence by sentence. Used on suitable texts and following useful principles, this can be a very useful procedure as long as it is only a part of the reading programme and is complemented by other language-focused learning and by extensive reading for language development and extensive reading for fluency development.

                   At its worst, intensive reading focuses on comprehension of a particular text with no thought being given to whether the features studied in this text will be useful when reading other texts. Such intensive reading usually involves translation and thus comprehension of the text. So, one goal of intensive reading may be comprehension of the text. The use of translation makes sure that learners understand, and when the learners do some of the translation themselves, it allows the teacher to check whether they understand.
Intensive reading may also have another goal and that is to determine what language features will get attention in the course. That is, the language features that are focused on in each text become the language syllabus for the course. This has several positive aspects. First, the language features are set in the communicative context of a text. The text can be used to show how the language features contribute to the communicative purpose of the text and this can be good preparation for subsequent writing activities. Second, choosing features in this way is likely to avoid the interference between vocabulary items or grammatical features that  when topic-centred syllabus design is used.
There are also negative aspects to letting texts determine the language features of a course. First, the features given attention to may be an uncontrolled mixture of useful and not very useful items. That is, high frequency and low frequency vocabulary, frequent grammatical items and very infrequent or irregular grammatical items may get equal attention. Second, the topic of the text determines the salience of the items and the teaching gets directed towards this text rather than what will be useful in a range of texts.

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