Most of teachers do not read research papers. There are several reasons for this. First, many teachers do not have enough time to study. Second, these papers are usually pretty difficult to read and understand. And third, they contain a lot of statistics and language teachers are not very good with numbers.
To be honest, I love language teaching research. I try to follow the latest papers and compare their results with my experience and I try to adjust my teaching on the basis of their results. And here I would like to share the most interesting papers with you in a simplified form.
Is extensive reading dead – Research
The first paper which I would like to discuss is called “Retention of new words: Quantity of encounters, quality of task, and degree of knowledge” and it was written by Batia Laufer and Bella Rozovski-Roitblat. It was published in Language Teaching Research 2015, Vol. 19(6) 687 –711. The name sounds a bit complicated but the paper examines what the learners must do to learn new vocabulary.
For a long time, research suggested that extensive reading is one of the best ways to learn new vocabulary. It was supposed that the more often students meet a word the more likely they are to learn it. Therefore, it was recommended that students should read a lot and it was expected that in the end they would know a lot of vocabulary.
This new research took this expectation and put it to a test. They asked the following questions:
- Is it enough to read a lot to improve my vocabulary?
- How many encounters are enough to learn a word?
- Is extensive reading the most effective way to learn new vocabulary?
And what did they find out? If you do a vocabulary exercises you will learn many more words than if you just read. Even if you read and look the unknown words in a dictionary it does not help much (some tests even show that it does not improve your knowledge of vocabulary at all). Put simply, if you memorize the words, you will save time and you will know much more. In fact, the tests showed that you will know up to 20 times as much.
So, does it mean that extensive reading is dead? It depends: If you have used it for teaching vocabulary (and I did), it is time to think again and abolish this practice. However, if you need to improve students’ reading, I am sure that extensive reading is a good means to achieve this.
To sum up, the research paper “Retention of new words: Quantity of encounters, quality of task, and degree of knowledge” shows that it is better to use vocabulary exercises than extensive reading for vocabulary teaching.