Lesson 1: What is Reading?

A Holistic Approach to Reading

The curriculum described here is called a holistic curriculum, following Miller (1996). Holistic education is concerned with connections in human experience—connections between mind and body, between linear thinking and intuitive ways of knowing, between academic disciplines, between the individual and the community.

A holistic curriculum emphasizes how the parts of a whole relate to each other to form the whole. From this perspective, reading relates to speaking, writing, listening comprehension, and culture.

Pedagogical Stages of Reading

Ideally, each text used in such a curriculum should be pedagogically staged so that learners approach it by moving from pre-reading, through initial reading, and into rereading. This sequence carefully moves the learner from comprehension tasks to production tasks. In addition, these tasks should build upon each other in terms of increasing cognitive difficulty.

  • Pre-Reading: The initial levels of learning, as described in Bloom's Taxonomy, involve recognizing and comprehending features of a text. As proposed here, pre-reading tasks involve speaking, reading, and listening.
  • Initial Reading: Initial reading tasks orient the learner to the text and activate the cognitive resources that are associated with the learner's own expectations. For example, discussions of genres and stereotypes may help the learner to identify potential reading difficulties and to strategize ways to overcome these challenges. Simple oral and written reproduction tasks should precede more complex production tasks that call for considering creative thinking about several issues at the same time.
  • Rereading: In rereading, the learner is encouraged to engage in active L2 production such as verbal or written analysis and argumentation. These activities require longer and more complex discourse. At this point, the language learners' critical thinking needs to interact with their general knowledge. Ideally, cultural context and the individual foreign language learner's own identity emerge as central to all acts of production.

Before you watch the following clip, brainstorm about what kinds of cognitive demands are involved in the following activities: pre-reading, initial reading, and rereading.


Cognitive development and the reading curriculum.

Duration: 06:43

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When the stages of reading are repeated over the course of a semester or year, learners tend to improve not only their language skills, but also their cultural literacy. Multiple stages in reading engage the learners by returning to the language of the text from different points of view. A curriculum built around such stages is considered holistic if they involve practice that integrates language various kinds of language acquisition and fills multiple cognitive demands in interlocking activities that spiral learning. For example, a pre-reading for sub-topics of a subject, an initial reading to identify how topics are described, and a rereading to modify those descriptions by inserting them into a new genre or describing them for a different audience.