By the end of this section, you should be able to:
- explain what intensive reading is.
- explain what it means to do extensive reading
- describe the nature of intensive and extensive reading
- practise intensive reading effectively, paying attention to signposts as you read.
- distinguish between intensive reading and extensive reading
- the benefits of intensive and extensive reading.
What is Intensive Reading?
Reading extensively becomes necessary as one climbs up the educational ladder. It has been found that extensive reading builds up a student’s confidence because it is a means of acquiring knowledge across the curriculum. Intensive Reading is reading in detail with specific learning objectives and tasks in mind. In intensive reading, you read with extreme concentration and great care, in order to understand exactly the meaning of what you read. This is particularly necessary when, for instance, one is preparing for an examination.
Intensive reading helps you to deepen your knowledge in a specific field or vocation. Therefore,it enables you to grasp the contents of legal documents, financial documents, academic reports or anything to do with business. Intensive reading may involve skimming a text for specific information in order to answer questions. To achieve these, it will be necessary to study minute details and try to squeeze out absolutely every drop of information in a given passage.
Now, before we continue, let us reflect over what we have discussed so far. Do you remember the main ideas of the first part of our discussion today? Find out by doing this short exercise. Take your jotter and quickly do this in about five minutes:
1. Write out in summary four things intensive reading helps you to do: Intensive reading is the reading strategy that helps you to:
Intensive reading does the following:
- It enables you to read with deep concentration.
- It helps you to read with care and with close attention to details.
- It helps you to grasp the contents of legal documents, financial documents and academic reports, among others.
- It helps you answer questions.
Now let us continue with the lesson.
When you are asked to read a short passage and put events from it into chronological order, you are required to do intensive reading. In the classroom, students may be asked to read a text for specific information to answer multiple choice questions or fill in gaps in a passage. In all these, the student will be doing intensive reading.
Intensive reading, may involve you reading selections by the same author or several texts about the same topic. When this occurs, content and grammatical structures repeat themselves and students get several opportunities to understand the meanings of the text. The success of intensive reading on improving reading comprehension is based on the premise that the more familiar the reader is with the text, either due to the subject matter or having read other works by the same author, the greater the comprehension achieved.
What are the Characteristics of Intensive Reading?
The characteristics of intensive reading include the following:
- It could take place either in class or on personal level.
- The reader is intensely involved in looking inside the text.
- The reader focuses on linguistic or semantic details of a reading passage.
- The reader focuses on surface structure details such as grammar and discourse markers.
- The reader identifies key vocabulary.
- The reader may draw pictures to aid him (such as in problem solving).
- Texts are read carefully and thoroughly again and again.
How can you Understand a Text?
There are practical ways by which you can understand any material you read. It is necessary to grasp this skill because the essence of any reading activity is to understand what you read.
What is Meant by Understanding?
There are different levels of understanding. The first level of understanding is recognition. When you recognize an article of property, for example a mobile phone, it means you know the type of mobile phone it is, the model, and its owner. In the same manner, if you recognize a word, it means you can spell it and explain its meaning. A complete recognition of individual words will help you to achieve comprehension when you read a text.
If there is a word in the text which is important but which you do not understand, look it up in the dictionary. This does not mean that you must look out every word you feel you do not completely understand. In fact, it is always better to first deduce meaning from the context of the passage. It is important for you to understand that, the meaning of a word in a text is fixed by the context or environment of that word. This is the sentence in which the word is found, the sentence or immediate sentences that precede the word or come after the word. The meaning derived is what we refer to as the contextual meaning of that word.
The second level of understanding is comprehension. When you comprehend a passage, it means you are clear in your mind about the ideas expressed in it. At this point, we are no longer thinking about individual words but of the text as a whole.
Interpretation is the third level of understanding. Any time you read, you recognize words and comprehend sentences. Expressions, however, do not just have surface meanings. They also have deeper meanings. At other times the context determines the meaning of a word or group of words. As you read, you must make an effort to understand these words in their different contexts and also read meanings into them; these are meanings that may not be directly expressed by the author. So then, interpretation is a continuous effort by the reader to rephrase and explain the passage being read.
In addition, interpretation also involves knowing how parts of the text relate to each other and how the text relates to the outside world. The ability to interpret depends to a large extent on the reader’s knowledge of the world. For a student, interpreting is the start of using your knowledge. You will need your interpretation of events, facts and arguments to write your own essays.
Suggestions for Intensive Reading
We will now focus on how to read intensively and how to study what you read.
1. Read actively: Reading is an active process and not a passive one. What does this mean? Two things are involved in active reading:
a. You must have a purpose for reading. To do this, you:
- must have questions on your mind as you read, and actively search for the information you want, with which to answer the questions.
- must predict. You predict what you expect to find in the text on the topic, so you read actively to find if your prediction is true.
2. Read with an open but critical and inquiring mind. This means that:
while you read, have an open mind; mark out the ideas you may not understand or disagree with. Continue reading and return to these unexpected points in your recall stage.
3. Read to understand, not to memorize : Do not stop to memorize facts as you read. Take down notes or summarize, after every bit of reading. Learn to read as rapidly as you can understand the ideas.
4. Mind your attitude : You must enjoy the task. Always remember that you do better in the things you enjoy doing. Try to understand what the passage is saying.
5. Check your physical habits : Take it easy. It is difficult to comprehend when you are either tired, feeling sleepy, depressed or in pain. Ensure you are comfortable. The reading posture you adopt affects your comprehension. Sit alert and study in an upright position.
6. Organize what you read: If you are to understand what you read, your mind requires organization, logical sequence and order. You need to organize the ideas and the structure of the material in your mind. Group the ideas and details into meaningful blocks. Link the ideas from the section you are reading now with what you read before. Make the material you read easy to picture. Some people use sketches while others organize the material through the way they make their notes. Work out your own way of doing this.
7. Take note of sentence signals : these are also called signposts. Effective reading will be achieved if care is taken to pay attention to certain words and phrases which authors often use to indicate their line of thought or the flow of their argument. Such words often help the reader to organize the ideas being presented and to make sense of the text.
Let us now look at examples of what these sentence signals are:
- signals of addition
besides, moreover, also, and, not only … but also, as well as
- signals of contrast
however, nevertheless, despite, in spite of, yet, but, notwithstanding, although (though), still, even though
- signals of purpose
in order to, so that
- signals of alternative
else, on the other hand, better still, another possibility, either … or, neither … nor
- signals of condition
unless, on condition that, otherwise
- signals of result
consequently, therefore, so, then, so then
- signals of cause / reason
why, the reason, the causes
- signals of reinforcement
above all, most important(ly)
Besides the above, authors sometimes use certain signposts that appeal to our sight. We call them
visual signposts. Some of these are:
- words in CAPITALS
- words underlined
- words printed in bold
- words printed in italics
- words listed in a column
- highlighted items of text
- text printed with more space around it than is usual viii. text in colour
- lines of special type across the page
- numbered paragraphs
- Variation in font sizes of printed items
8. Write as you read: learn to do your recall stage on paper. The better you understand and recall one idea, the more likely you will understand the next.
The benefits of intensive reading include the following:
- Helps to develop reading speed.
- Helps the reader develop the ability to interpret text.
- Helps develop the skill of critical thinking.
- Helps the reader develop a wide range of vocabulary.
- Helps to develop a high level of concentration.
- Helps to develop the attitude of careful and critical reading.
What is Extensive reading?
Extensive reading is another reading technique done to achieve a general understanding of a text. It takes place when students read large amounts of high interest material. It is usually done out of class, concentrating on meaning, reading for gist and skipping unknown words. This type of reading is all-embracing or all-encompassing.
In extensive reading, you read as much as possible, for your own pleasure, at a difficulty level at which you can read smoothly and quickly without looking up words or doing any translation into English as you read. In other words, instead of spending a half hour decoding a tiny part of one book (also known as intensive reading), you read many simpler books that are at or slightly below the level at which you read fluently. This makes it possible for you to get used to reading more complex sentences with ease, reinforces the words you already know and helps you learn new words from context.
Extensive reading is always done for the comprehension of main ideas, and not for specific details.
What are the principles of extensive reading?
Let us now examine some principles we need to follow when involved in extensive reading.
First, it is advisable to begin with stories that are well below your fluent reading level, and while reading, follow these principles:
- Do not look up words in the dictionary.
- Skip over parts you do not understand.
- If you are not enjoying one book, put it aside and get another.
Extensive reading strategy involves:
- Reading for pleasure more than reading for real study: This means that, while in intensive reading, you are expected to read closely for details, in extensive reading the aim is to acquaint oneself with the general theme and major events of the text. Hence the individual who does extensive reading goes out of his way to read materials on issues of wide variety. These may usually be subject areas from which some pleasure is derived.
- Broadening the reader’s horizon: This has to do with the need for a person to acquaint himself with a certain amount of knowledge and make oneself valuable to the society.
- Building reader confidence and enjoyment: When students engage in extensive reading, they read very easy enjoyable books to build their reading speed and fluency. The aim of extensive reading helps you to become better at the skill of reading.
- Choosing your own book at or about your own fluent reading level: This means you have the opportunity to read something different from what others may be reading, and in your own ‘comfort zone’.
- Reading outside your domain of specialty. This is to say you need to read materials on other subjects that may not be in your line of study. Read about science, geography psychology, archeology, medicine, history, politics, sports and entertainment and many more.
- Building vocabulary. Your determination to build up a store of vocabulary is very essential for extensive reading. The more reading you do on a wide range of subjects the more likely you are to build up a rich store of vocabulary.
The Benefits of Extensive Reading
- It develops learner autonomy.There is no cheaper or more effective way to develop learner autonomy. Reading is, by its very nature, a private, individual activity. It can be done anywhere, at any time of day. Readers can start and stop at will, and read at the speed they are comfortable with. They can visualise and interpret what they read in their own way. They can ask themselves questions (explicit or implicit), notice things about the language, or simply let the story carry them along.
- It offers Comprehensible Input.Reading is the most readily available form of comprehensible input, especially in places where there is hardly any contact with the target language. If carefully chosen to suit learners’ level, it offers them repeated encounters with language items they have already met. This helps them to consolidate what they already know and to extend it. There is no way any learner will meet new language enough times to learn it in the limited number of hours in class. The only reliable way to learn a language is through massive and repeated exposure to it in context. This is precisely what Extensive Reading provides.
- It enhances general language competence.In ways we so far do not fully understand, the benefits of Extensive Reading extend beyond reading. The effect spread from reading competence to other language skills such as writing, speaking and control over syntax. Besides, extensive reading brings about improvements in the spoken language. So reading copiously seems to benefit all language skills, not just reading.
- It helps develop general, world knowledge.Many, if not most, students have a rather limited experience and knowledge of the world they inhabit both cognitively and affectively. Extensive Reading opens windows on the world seen through different eyes.
- It extends, consolidates and sustains vocabulary growth.Vocabulary is not learned by a single exposure. Extensive Reading allows for multiple encounters with words and phrases in context, thus making possible the progressive accretion of meanings to them. By presenting items in context, it also makes the deduction of meaning of unknown items easier.
- It helps improve writing.There is a well-established link between reading and writing. Basically, the more we read, the better we write. It is quite obvious that as we meet more language, more often, through reading, our language acquisition mechanism is primed to produce it in writing or speech when it is needed.
Extensive reading will definitely help you acquire a wide range of vocabulary and develop your reading, speaking, listening and writing skills in the language.
We hope you will enjoy your extensive reading from now on!
Let us now consider a comparison of the two kinds of reading: intensive and extensive reading. Take a look at this chart:
|No.||INTENSIVE READING||EXTENSIVE READING|
|1.||Helps you read with extreme concentration and care||Helps you read widely, vast amount of materials for information|
|2.||Helps you to develop reading speed||Helps to develop reading speed|
|3.||Helps you to develop the skill of critical thinking||Helps the reader organize a store of relevantinformation for future use.|
|4.||Helps reader to identify key vocabularyand develop a wide range of vocabulary||The reader develops a wider range ofvocabulary on varied subjects|
|5.||Readers focus on linguistic and semanticdetails of materials||Readers are exposed to a variety ofgrammatical patterns|
|6.||Reading is narrow; a limited amount ofmaterial is read.||Reading is on a wider range of material.Numerous subject areas are perused by the reader|
|7.||Usually, it is classroom based.||It is individualized, since readers choose and read their own books.|
|8.||There is repeated reading of text whichenables familiarity with text.||Several different materials are read,providing a broader spectrum of knowledge|
|It prevents boredom||Removes boredom; it is a form ofentertainment|
|10.||Reader is intensely involved with the text||Reader reads vast amounts of materials|
|11.||Builds some confidence based onknowledge obtained||Builds confidence motivation, enjoyment and love for reading. Students become more effective language users.|
In this lesson, we learnt about the reading strategies called intensive and extensive reading. You saw that
- Intensive reading involves cautious reading to understand and interpret ideas and opinions expressed, in order to make an informed evaluation of the facts presented.
- Intensive reading aids the development of the skill of critical thinking. iii. Intensive reading will help you to acquire a wide range of vocabulary.
You also saw that in extensive reading, you should:
- read many different materials outside your subject area.
- read very fast: that is, skim and scan.
- select simple interesting books.
William Foli Garr, (Rev.) M.Phil.
Prosper Kwesi Agordjor, M.Phil.
John Tetteh Agor, Ph.D.
Modestus Fosu, Ph.D.