Integrating Extensive Reading with EAP Writing

Extensive reading (ER) has been heavily researched, with numerous studies pointing to a multitude of benefits of the approach, ranging from improvement in vocabulary, reading fluency, and even writing skills. As Park points out, despite the evidence in favor of ER, it has not been used in many EAP contexts, often due to the intensive nature of such programs. Nevertheless, there are some who have found ways to integrate the two. Park’s article describes an experimental design that measured the effects of ER in an EAP writing course. Her experiment, which set ER homework and 10-minute writing activities based on ER, showed that there was a large increase in scores for content and other subskills

Article

Park, J. (2015). Integrating reading and writing through extensive reading. ELT Journal, 70(3), 287-295. Retrieved from http://eltj.oxfordjournals.org/content/70/3/287.

Study

  • Participants
    • 56 students at an in-sessional EAP program at a US university
    • 28 students to a control group (“traditional writing class), 28 students to an ER writing class group
  • Instruments
    • Pre- and post-test writing utilizing same prompt
    • Each essay rated by 2 ESL teachers
  • Treatment
    • 16-weeks of 75-minute classes, with 32 class meetings
    • 1.5 hours of writing homework each week
    • Traditional Group:
      • 15 minutes of free writing and five minutes of pair discussion
      • Homework from textbook (reading, writing, grammar)
    • ER Group:
      • 15 minutes of ER and five minutes of pair or class discussion
      • Homework:
        • Continue ER
        • 10-minute writing extensions that included specific EAP writing prompts:
          • “Summarize the theme of the story along with the main events and characters” (summary skills)
          • “Briefly describe characters you either like or dislike” (description skills)
          • “Guess what will happen next” or “Write alternate
            endings for the story”
            (creative writing and comprehension skills)
          • “Write about cultural aspects [in the book] that you found different from yours” (critical thinking skills)
  • Data Results
    • Pre-test: no significant difference between either group before treatment
    • Post-test: mean increase of ER group over treatment group (14% increase)
      • Greatest gains made in content and organization as analyzed on a subskills rubric

Discussion

This research showed that there may be a connection between extensive reading and improvement in writing skills. While both groups improved, the ER group had the largest improvement. However, the author did not state whether this improvement was statistically significant. While the improvement may have come from extensive reading itself, it is also possible that the improvement came through the types of writing homework assigned. The ER group got more text-based writing assignments than the traditional group. Had the traditional group had text-based writing assignments, or had the writing assignments of the ER group been the same as the traditional group, the results may have been different. Still, this study gives another possible glimpse at the benefits of ER and an opportunity for future research. It also shows the importance that writing from reading has on EAP writing skills.

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Anthony Schmidt
English language Instructor at University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Anthony Schmidt is editor of ELT Research Bites. He also has his own blog at anthonyteacher.com. Offline, he is a full-time English language instructor in a university IEP program. He is interested in all aspects of applied linguistics, in particular English for Academic Purposes.

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