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Topic 8A – Foreign written language. Approximation, maturing and improving the reading-writing process. Reading comprehension: techniques for global and specific understanding of texts. Written expression: the interpretation of the text production.

Learning to read and write. Reading comprehension: extensive and intensive reading. Writing: from interpretation to production.


Speech uses phatic substance and writing, graphic substance. Speech is considered to be part of an interaction which both participants are present and the speaker has a specific address in mind. On the other hand, in written language the producer is distant from the receiver and sometimes even do not know who the receiver is. While speech is time-bound and dynamic, writing is space-bound and static.

So writing allows repeated reading and close analysis. It needs careful organisation and structured expression. Some words must be avoided when the meaning relies on the situation.

Ambiguity must also be minimised in writing, as there is no possibility of asking for immediate explanation.

Some constructions might be fond only in writing (formal) and others, in speech (slang, swear words, …)


There are many different methods to teach reading:

· Phonic approaches try to identify the regular sound/letter relationship. Permitted vocabulary is restricted.

· Global approaches try to recognise individual words as wholes without breaking them into constituent letters or sounds. It is based on meaning.

Nowadays there are some mixed schemes, integrating the strength of each.

Fluent reading needs some strategies:

· Rapid and selective techniques (scanning)

· Silent techniques (skimming)

For writing is necessary to acquire the motor skill of sequencing letters, using different shapes and sizes, word spaces, spaces between lines, margins, etc. But writing is more than that automatic exercise, it is the ability to use the structures of the language in an appropriate and mature way.

There are different stages of writing acquisition:

a. Basic motor skill and principles of spelling system are developed.

b. Using the writing system to express what they can already say in speech.

c. Writing and speech split up, and writing develop its own pattern and organisation.

d. Writers can make stylistic choices and develop a personal way of expressing.


Reading is to distinguish the meaning of a chain of words in a text, quite quickly.

English spelling is different from sounds, so words and structures must be worked first in an oral way.

Before reading, children must know most of vocabulary structures and have some knowledge about the topic, culture and situation.

Reading techniques

Children need some techniques in order to get the maximum information from a text with the minimum of misunderstanding:

· Extensive reading: getting a global picture, a clear idea of the overall meaning of the text (skimming)

· Intensive reading: paying attention to the details, getting particular points (scanning)

· Having an interpretation of the text based on reader’s own experience.

· Guessing many unknown words by simply studying the context.

· Predicting what they are going to read next, recognising discourse linkers (although, but,…)

· Inferring opinion and attitude, based on the recognition of linguistic style and appropriate purposes.

After reading comprehension learners must interpret the text:

· Picking the author’s intention

· Distinguishing facts and opinions

· Finding relations with personal experience.

Reading activities (three stages)

· Pre-reading tasks: to familiarise with the topic. Looking at previous knowledge. It is necessary to create expectations in order to increase their interest. They will read to confirm expectations and that is motivating. (describing photographs or covers of the text, informal dialogues about the topic, prediction of the content, giving a tittle, …)

· While-reading tasks:

· Skimming: reading a text to get the gist of it (suggesting the tittle of the passage, matching text tittles with series of short texts,…)

· Scanning: extracting specific information from the text (underlining information required, completing an information form, classifying under different headings, tick in a list of objects already read, …)

· Combining both, skimming and scanning (answering questions, describing main characters physical and emotionally, completing a drawing, anticipate actions,…)

· Making inferences: recognising opinion and attitudes (questions of possible interpretations)

· Post-reading tasks: the main aim of these activities is to internalise the language of the text (crossword, drawing comics, role play, carry out a survey, summarise, change the end, continuing the story, preparing a similar text, boarding games,…)


Traditional methods used writing to fix linguistic forms in memory. There was no intention to teach the learner to express anything of himself through the new language.

Nowadays we need to identify the needs of communication of our pupils. Our pupils will spend most time completing tightly controlled written exercises. Sometimes they might be encouraging to produce free writing.

Writing needs some abilities:

· Graphical or visual skills: includes spelling, punctuation, capitalisation and format.

· Grammatical skills: to use successfully a variety of sentence patterns.

· Stylistic or expressive skills: to express precise meanings in a variety of styles and registers.

· Rhetorical skills: cohesion and links of parts of the text into logical sequence.

· Organisational skills: sequencing the ideas, summarising relevant points and rejecting irrelevant information.

Writing activities might be these ones:

· For practice:

· Making lists, personal vocabulary

· Completing crosswords

· Matching labels to pictures

· Classifying words under headings

· Writing speech bubbles for cartoons

· Explaining surveys or questionnaires

· Correcting mistakes

· Copying sentences that have been matched

· Answering questions

· For communication:

· Writing games (descriptions of famous people)

· Exchanging letters (playing a role)

· Story construction (small pieces of paper)

· Writing reports and advertisements)

Correction of written work can be done by both, teacher and pupil. The teacher must show positive aspects, showing the pupil where the work was effective and where it was not.

The teacher can underline the error and write in the margin the type of error it is: concordance, wrong word order, unclear meaning, …