Unquestionably, every one of us has the ability to read. Although it seems easy and familiar to students, Reading is a complicated process that includes a number of steps and processes which gather to form effective and meaningful reading. Generally, high school students are guided by their teachers, most of the time, to what is required for them to read. However, when they move to study in the university, they are expected to show better Reading skills and to do a considerable amount of Reading since the academic style of teaching motivates students to become more independent than they were in the high school. Hence, it seems essential for them to be acquainted with a number of Reading styles and approaches so that they improve their Reading skills. Academic students manifest an urgent need to effective Reading because all what they are going to learn in the university highly depends on the amount of Reading they perform.
Most of the Syrian university students do not read as much as they are required to do for fear that Reading a lot will be just a waste of time and will not help them to pass the exam. Moreover, the amount of Reading is so huge that it may not provide crystal clear information from the first reading. In fact, these students are affected to a considerable degree of the old style of Reading they have had in their high school; they are not required to read behind the courses, and if they were asked to do so, they were given very short and direct papers that did not require much effort to be read. Learning about some techniques which facilitate the Reading process is a priority for them and will be a good start that will pave the way for future Reading tasks. Before rendering any text, students should be familiar with the three stages that they should pass through in order to achieve successful reading: A- Pre-reading Stage: This is the most significant stage. Since the majority of the Syrian academic students have only general knowledge about reading, the first stage will give them a hand to start well. Before they attempt to read a text, an article, or a book they should anticipate about the nature of the text and what it is about. Every student should direct these questions for himself:
1- What is the reason behind the Reading this text? 2- What do I need to look for in this text? 3- Does the text provide me with information which is new for me? In so doing, the student will much time and his Reading is likely to be organized since all what comes next will contribute his demands.
B- While- Reading stage: Because Reading involves visual operations, the reader can benefit from a practical technique while he is reading. He can use different colours to classify different types of information. Our students can benefit from the fact that university libraries allow them to borrow books and take them home for. So all what they need is to photocopy the pages that seem most influential and most relevant to their studies. After that, they colour the pieces of information desired, each coloured according to its particular domain. By applying this technique, students will be more interactive during reading, which will be developed later to be more analytical. The results will take shape not only in more comprehension than before but also in getting the maximum benefits of the information. If a student is Reading an argumentative essay, he expects to read different points of view and different types of evidence that support each point. To make it easier for them, students may highlight the main points in a colour , the supporting points in another, and the opposite points in one different colour. Another useful method that students may resort to is to colour the concepts which they are in favour of in a light colour and the others which they disagree with a dark colour. These methods allow students to have an easy access to the information of the text. Also, it s much time especially when students want to reread the text in future. C- Post- Reading Stage In this stage, students will have the chance to discuss what they have read, for example, discussing the writer's point of view and compare it with theirs, or they may check for the validity of the information mentioned They can benefit from rereading the text focusing on certain language aspects such as plural forms or irregular verbs. Also, they might have the chance to learn new words and terms that may help them in Reading other texts. This requires them to make some lists that organize these words according to its particular field.
Understanding vs. Memorising
The majority of Syrian students read very little beyond their courses because all what they want is to pass their exams. This entails that their attention is shifted from understanding what they read into memorising a great deal of it. Furthermore, they do not achieve actual or complete learning from the input because they try as much as they can to learn only what contributes to their subjects. Doing an analysis of the work being read is not a good choice for them. Books or texts that give clear cut information, ready-made answers and facts are what most students prefer. All what is mentioned before leads to a conclusion that students do not prefer to read extra materials. They need to be active shifting their focus from memorising into understanding. Teachers should set it clear to the students that, while reading, they have to make use of their background knowledge and try to make connections between what is mentioned previously in the text and whether it is supported or not later on. These procedures will activate the students mental abilities and ensures that they will not be passive readers. Also, while reading, students should be asked to make their own conclusions of what they have read. After that, they should make comparisons and contrasts between their previous knowledge and the new one stating clearly whether or not they have got useful information from their Reading and whether they agree or disagree . What helps them in this respect is to stop at some points and reflect on what is being read, whether beneficial or not, compatible or incompatible with the reader's expectations. Following what is stated earlier means that students are applying deep Reading processes. Also, it helps them to interact with the text and take the initiative towards full comprehension
How to Get Information from a Text A lot of students mistakenly think that to get what they need from a text, they are required to read the whole text word by word. Of course, this is not what Reading is intended to be because in following this old-fashioned style of reading, it may take several weeks to finish a book, which at the end will provide no relevant ideas to the subject of study. The best solution for this might be to teach students some Reading styles which they can apply in order to reach at purposeful reading. Some of these styles are:
1- Skimming It is a very practical style of reading. It is performed by the reader to gather as much information as possible from the text in the shortest time possible. It is used to get the overall gist of a text, chapter, or essay…..etc. During this process, the eyes of the reader move from left to right but not in the same way along the line as when Reading word by word. The reader should focus on titles and sub-titles skipping large amount of information. This style seems to be useful for students which attempt to do some research. Some libraries available in our universities are disorganized, so this requires the student to read a lot for helpful resources. If he skims the titles of these books, this will facilitate such a complicated process and will much time.
How to skim text (Example of eye movements during skimming) 2- Scanning This style of Reading is most successful when the reader is searching for a specific piece of information. Tricia Hedge (2000) says: "Scanning involves searching rapidly through a text to find a specific point of information, for example, the relevant items on a time table, items in a dictionary, or key points in an academic text". This style gives a helpful hand for Syrian academic students because whenever they have a Reading exam, they do not have much time to read the whole texts, so they have to look for every required item and scan the text quickly to find it. Reading the full text might be time consuming and difficult at the same time because most texts in the exam are unfamiliar to the students. Applying this style in similar situations will be effective and give the promised results. 3- Intensive Reading Hedge (2000) defines it as : "Intensive Reading involves looking carefully at a text, as a student of literature would look at a poem to appreciate the choice of words, or as a solicitor would study the precise wording of a legal document". This is exactly what a student of literature needs when he is asked to write comments on novels, plays or selected lines, which is what he is required to do in many subjects. Before attempting to write, students should look carefully at the text focusing and Reading between the lines. They also have to study the vocabulary and the purpose behind using them. To be successful in this type of writing, they should examine and re-examine the text in order to break down its components, which is a process only accessible through intensive reading. Suitability of the text Suitability here does not mean just that books or journals chosen are suitable for the subject or assignment which is being rendered. Moreover, it means that the materials which are expected to help the student doing his subject match his level of proficiency both in language and background knowledge. Reading a text which contains a lot of unfamiliar terminology will make the student look for the meaning of the new words only, which is a time consuming and complicated task. Therefore, it is of ultimate importance for the reader to choose texts which are relevant to his subject and close to his level of proficiency at the same time. In so doing, the student will be able to understand the maximum of his reading. In other words, Reading will make the research easy for them, not complicated. The student should be able to differentiate between texts which provide general knowledge of what he needs and those of particular information. He needs also to check whether the information he reads is up-to-date or not. This does not mean that all books published years age may not contain something useful i.e. the topic of the student's work will determine if a book, though published years age, is helpful or not. The SQ3R Reading Method This is a convenient method which allows students to have easy and quick access to long texts especially if they do not have much time to read. It is of five steps: 1- Survey the text:the student, in this step, skims the text in order to get the general impression of it and to have an idea about what it is. 2- Question: the student asks himself why he is Reading and what he needs to get out of the text. This requires him to read with absolute focus on the relevant points. The application of this method will activate the mental abilities of the reader more since he is always sceptical about what he reads. 3- Read:what is necessary here is not Reading only but Reading carefully looking for the main ideas. 4- Recall:while reading, the student goes deeply in the text and choose what points serve his needs most. Some points may not be convenient for him, so he isolates or skips them. 5- Review: after finishing Reading the whole text, the student revisits what he has picked out and checks whether they are really supportive to what he intends. The greater the amount of the relevant points, the better the text is. Critical Reading Because academic students are always asked to give their feedback about topics they study, being a critical reader is a priority. They have always to be skeptical about whatever they read. Critical Reading highly depends on what questions the reader want the text to answer, and on the principles through which he interacts with the text. To be accurate, teachers should provide students with the right definition of critical reading. The University of Southampton defines critical Reading as: To read critically is to make judgements about how a text is argued. This is a highly reflective skill requiring you to "stand back" and gain some distance from the text you are reading. You might have to read a text through once to get a basic grasp of content before you launch into an intensive critical reading. The same university provides a set of procedures that help to improve students' Reading skills and pave the way for them to be critical readers. It suggests: Ask yourself the following: Can I believe everything I read? Are experts always right? What makes me take more notice of one academic writer and less of another? What makes a scholarly, rigorous piece of research, and what makes research findings weak or strong? Efficient Reading To be an efficient and active reader is one of the basic characteristics of academic students. The following points might lead the reader towards achieving more efficient reading. They need to: 1- Increase their Reading speed. 2- Find what is suitable for the subject and for what purpose it was written. 3- Take the initiative and make their own points about what they read. A lot of students might think that Reading slowly will facilitate their understanding of the difficult points in the text. Others may resort to Reading the text more than one time thinking that they will have the chance to grasp all ideas and achieve full comprehension. However, these are not good techniques in that slow Reading might hinder the understanding the overall meaning of the text because the reader will be busy in Reading word by word, focusing on the meaning of separate words not on the whole utterance. Moreover, the texts rendered might be above the students' background knowledge, so Reading the text over and over will give no beneficial results. So the level of difficulty plays a major role in raising or slowing the Reading pace, and, consequently, the efficiency of reading. Active Reading In order to follow up with their curriculum, students are in need of achieving active interaction with it. If not performed appropriately, Reading is not expected to increase the students' knowledge. While reading, students should take notes so that they keep connected with the text and stay alert to every thing valuable mentioned. Taking notes in necessary for them while Reading because it ensures that they keep focusing as possible as they can avoiding backtracking. The main headings have to be determined and key words are selected to refer back to these headings. Then the reader is expected to read through the text guided by the headings determined in advance. After that, he may summarize what he has read and check the validity of his summary.
The Author's Directions are helpful. The reader can benefit from the order of information the author used. While attempting to write, a lot of authors tend to sequence their ideas and organize them in a gradual manner. If an author uses "There are three effects of …….", the reader should expect and prepare himself for the following markers:" the first effect" which will be followed later with " the second effect" and at the end "the last/third effect". Moreover, authors generally tend to start with a general sentence, and after it they move to mention the specific points. They organize their ideas in a certain order intentionally, so readers should be aware of this order because it may direct them towards the most important or unimportant points. So, by sequencing information , it will be easier for writers to convey their ideas, and, at the same time, it helps the readers to receive that. Appendix Reading Activity In this activity, students are presented with an unfamiliar text. In less than two minutes, they are required to answer two questions. The strategy used is that students do not have to read the full text to answer questions. After giving them the definition of "skimming" and "scanning", students will look for the questions first, not read the text. After knowing that the first question is about the general idea of the text, they are to read skimming the text in order to get the answer. The second question requires looking for a particular idea, so they are to scan the text in order to answer. What is intended mainly in this activity is to enable students to deal with similar texts and answer questions even though they have no background knowledge about these texts. The effective point intended for this activity is to answer correctly and on time
In two minutes, read the text and answer the questions. Carbon tetrachloride is a colourless and inflammable liquid that can be produced by combining carbon disulfide and chlorine. This compound is widely used in industry today because of its effectiveness as a solvent as well as its use in the production of propellants. Despite its widespread use in industry, Carbon tetrachloride has been banned for home use. In the past, Carbon tetrachloride was a common ingredient in cleaning compounds that were used throughout the home, but it was found to be dangerous: when heated, it changes into a poisonous gas that can cause severe illness and even death if it is inhaled. Because of this dangerous characteristic, the United States revoked permission for home use of Carbon tetrachloride in 1970.the United States has taken similar action with various other chemical compounds. 1- what is the main idea of the text? A- Carbon tetrachloride colours B- Inflammable liquids used in the USA C- Carbon tetrachloride in allowed in industry but banned at home D- Carbon tetrachloride is used in factories and homes. 2- How can Carbon tetrachloride cause death? A- When heated B- When used at home C- When used in industry D- When inhaled