Lesson 2: From Pre-Reading to Intitial Reading

Reading as a Process

Many students believe that they must know every word in a text before they can read proficiently. Given our definition of reading as a process, this widespread belief presents a problem for teachers. How can we show students that they are able to draw meaning from a text even when they don't know all the words and much of the grammar?

Put yourself in the place of a beginning language student trying to read a foreign language text for the first time. Take a look at the first page of a Norwegian Online newspaper text about the most recent Batman movie and an English-language text from the New Yorker magazine on the same topic.

Norwegian movie review

English movie review

What meaning can you discern from the foreign language text? As you read through the text, think about the following:

  • How might your students respond to such a text? Would they be overwhelmed by the amount of new vocabulary?
  • What is an appropriate pedagogical goal for such a reading?
  • How could you prepare students to tackle this reading?

The teachers discuss possible objectives and outcomes for this reading task.

Duration: 04:48

Reading experts assert that only about half of what people understand when they read in any language has to do with knowing that language's vocabulary and its grammar. The other half involves factors such as:

  • background knowledge about the topic or the medium (e.g. what kind of a hero Batman is, and what an action movie looks like)
  • knowledge of a genre (e.g. what information is in a movie review and what importance is attached to who writes the review and where it's published)
  • strategies for guessing and working with uncertainty ("I don't know this term, but it has been mentioned twice so it's probably important and I'll continue reading to see if I can figure it out.")
  • strategies for identifying cognates and other textual clues (illustrations, subtitles, etc.).