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# Helping ESL Students Become Better Readers Schema Theory A

By Maria Boyd,2015-04-04 01:35
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Helping ESL Students Become Better Readers Schema Theory AESL

Helping ESL Students Become Better Readers: Schema Theory Applications and LimitationsNigel Stott

nrstott@teacher.email.ne.jp

You are going to read a passage about a woman's encounter with a bear while hiking in an American national park.

(a) Do bears live in the wild in your country? What kind of bears? (b) How would you feel if you met a bear while hiking?

(c) What do you think we should do if we encounter a bear in the wild? Previewing the text (particularly the title, subheadings and figures) also "helps readers predict what they are going to read" and this, hopefully, activates their schemata (Aebersold and Field 1997:73). For example: Example Two

You are going to read a passage about a man's bad experience on a camping trip in the north of England.

Before reading, do the following exercises:

(a) Write down five problems the man could have had when he was camping. (b) Look at the title of the passage and the list of words. What do you think might have happened?

TITLE: 'Our Terrible New Year'

WORDS (in order): holiday, happy, drove, far, camped, beautiful, night, freezing, snow, morning, engine trouble, help, no phone, ran, ice, slipped, cut, disaster Another relevant point is that, because lower level students may have the schemata but not the linguistic skills to discuss them in the L2, the first language could be used to access prior knowledge but teachers must introduce the relevant vocabulary during the discussion, otherwise a "schema has been activated but learning the L2 has not been facilitated" (Aebersold and Field 1997:77). Although prereading activities, such as those above, are potentially beneficial, there is evidence that their usefulness is limited. This is discussed in more detail below. Limitations in the Use of Schema Theory in ESL Teaching Problems with Schema Theory Applications Despite the current popularity of prereading activities, there may be limits to their use in ESL teaching and they may not always function as intended. Carrell &amp; Wallace (in Carrell 1988a:105-6) found that giving context did not improve recall even for advanced ESL readers suggesting that their schemata were not activated. Hudson (1982:186) claims that, by encouraging students to use the good reader strategy of "touching as few bases as necessary," they may "apply meaning to a text regardless of the degree to which they successfully utilize syntactic, semantic or discourse constraints." The reading process has famously been described as a "psycholinguistic guessing game" (Goodman in Carrell and Eisterhold 1983:74) in which "efficient readers minimize dependence on visual detail" by utilising background knowledge to make predictions and checking these against the text (Goodman 1975:12). Such top-down models have unfortunately given the misleading message to teachers that ESL reading tuition is "mostly just a matter of providing [learners] with the right background knowledge... and encouraging them to make full use of that knowledge in decoding... texts" (Eskey 1988:97). It