G is for Gist

27 11 2011

A couple of weeks ago Patrick Huang, a teacher trainer in Toronto, wrote to me:

I was hoping you could help with this notion of ‘gist’ tasks, which I’ve always thought as helpful in the ESL classroom.  … A colleague in Seoul recently met Michael Swan, and he mentioned that Michael has reservations about the use or usefulness of gist tasks for students. I also seem to remember seeing an article along the same lines.

What’s your current view on this? Do you include / recommend this in your MA TESOL course? Would you be able to refer me to sources where I can do more reading on the topic? I might then be able to give my students and trainees more useful and helpful ideas and practice.

Reading for gist is conventionally associated with the idea of skimming, which, in turn, is typically mentioned in association with scanning. In An A-Z of ELT these terms are defined like this:

  •  skimming (skim-reading, reading for gist): rapidly reading a text in order to get the gist, or the main ideas or sense of a text. For example, a reader might skim a film review in order to see if the reviewer liked the film or not.
  • scanning: reading a text in search of specific information, and ignoring everything else, such as when consulting a bus timetable for a particular time and destination.

Setting skimming and scanning tasks in the language classroom rose to prominence with the advent of the communicative approach, and its promotion of the use of authentic texts. Authentic texts were considered to be more in tune with a functional (i.e. non-structural) view of language, and lent themselves to a task cycle in which different skills were integrated in order to achieve a communicative outcome. Arguably, the only way to deal with such texts – especially at lower levels – was to skim and scan them. “You don’t have to read every word!” the long-suffering students were exhorted.

Very quickly, skimming/scanning became an end in itself, and teachers were misled into thinking that, by having students skim or scan texts, they were developing the skill of reading. How often do you see this expressed as an aim in examined lessons: “To develop the sub-skill of skimming a text for its gist…”

This overlooks two basic facts: (a) most students already know how to skim/scan texts in their L1, and will transfer these skills to their L2, when faced with texts whose purpose  precludes a closer reading; and (b) the skimming and scanning of texts (in the absence of a more intensive reading) is a characteristic, not of good readers, but of poor ones.

(These, I suspect, are Michael Swan’s arguments too).

Of course, it’s true that students, faced with a text in class, tend to ‘park’ their L1 reading skills, assuming that the text is a linguistic object, rather than a communicative one, and adopt a one-word-at-a-time strategy. Setting gist tasks, initially, is one way of discouraging this tendency. Giving students a time-limit to identify what the text is about, who wrote it, to whom, and why, seems an excellent way of ‘peeling off the first layer of the onion’, as it were. But this is less a skill-teaching strategy than a text-attack one. And, unless it is followed up by a more detailed reading, including some kind of focus on the linguistic features of the text (e.g. its lexical, grammatical, or discourse features), it would seem to be a singular waste of time and resources.

It’s also true that L1 reading skills don’t transfer automatically to the L1 if the text is beyond the learners’ present linguistic competence – particularly if it contains a relatively high proportion of unfamiliar words. This is what is sometimes known as the ‘threshold effect’. As Catherine Wallace (2001, p. 22) puts it,

L2 readers need a minimum threshold level of general L2 language competence before they can generalise their L1 reading abilities into L2. Where proficient L2 learners are good readers in their L1, the consensus view (based on a wide range of research studies and teachers’ observation) is that reading abilities can, indeed, be generalised across languages even in the case of differing scripts.

This would suggest that, in order to optimise skill transfer, the teacher should either pre-teach the unfamiliar vocabulary, or choose (or create)  texts whose lexis is within the students’ present competence. Researchers suggest that familiarity with 95% or more of the words in a text is the cut-off point. (The Vocab Profile tool on the Compleat Lexical Tutor website allows a highly useful test – based on word frequency data – of a text’s readability).

But pre-teaching vocabulary or using graded texts is not ‘teaching reading’. It is simply allowing learners to transfer existing skills into their L2 reading.  Why do it, then? Because texts are a useful springboard into other activities, including speaking and writing, as well as offering the opportunity for a more detailed analysis of the text’s grammatical or discourse features. Failure to exploit texts in these ways, by simply skimming or scanning them, teaches nobody nothing.


Wallace, C. 2001. ‘Reading’.  In  Carter, R.,  & Nunan, D. (eds.) The Cambridge Guide to TESOL. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



60 responses

27 11 2011
Oleg Nesterenko

Thank you for this article!! I agree with you that reading should be used in combination with other activities.

At the same time, teachers still need to give many reading for gist acitivities, because at most exams (TOEFL, IELTS in particular) you have to show how well you can scan and skim the text even if there are many unfamiliar words.

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Oleg, for the comment. I’m wondering, though, if the abiltiy to cope with unfamiliar words in a text is really solved by skimming/scanning. Surely, in order to work out the meaning of unfamiliar words, a very close (i.e. intensive) reading of the co-text is required. Skimming and scanning (to my way of thinking) avoids the problem of unfamiliar vocabulary; reading intensively addresses it.

27 11 2011
Cristina Ciuleanu

Hi Scott,

I was happy reading the post on “gist” because I had many times planned on having a reading-based lesson and I was struggling on finding the best approach.

I am a teacher in a private language center and we follow the same teaching stream, most of our trainings were actually based on conversational guidelines:teach conversation, pre-teach vocabulary through visual aids and have our students naturally perform the language.

Reading and writing were to be taught later on, when the students had the proper skills to do so.

So skimming and scanning were, indeed, commonly used while reading texts. But, just as I found out here, skimming is just a part of a “bigger plan”;the first step is cut out the gist of the “story”, but reading is more than understanding the main idea. As we do it in our native language (if that is not English:), the perfect skill is to interpret the written information, ask ourselves questions, transform the “story” into our story- the way we felt and understood the message.

In order to do so, you need to read the text entirely, to reflect upon it and be able to extract not only the idea, but the “affective intentions of the narrator”.

So my question would be: How should we plan a lesson in order to set an understanding and interpreting task,receive the wanted response from the students and keep the “entertaining, vivid, stress-free learning process”?

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Cristina, for the comment. It’s a good question – how to get the most out of a text without placing unreasonable (and potentially stressful) demands on the learners? I like the metaphor of the onion (my trainees are sick of it by now!) which suggests that the process is one of successively ‘peeling off’ of layers of meaning – like the layers of the onion. As each layer is revealed, the task becomes both more intensive, but also easier. So, start with some gist tasks, then move in a little closer, and then closer still, and so on.

Another analogy this is sometimes used is the aviation one. At first you have the students view the text from 10,000 metres – i.e. just getting the very general ‘mountains and valleys’ picture. Then you come closer to land, say 5.000 metres, and start picking out key details. And so on – until you are practically at ground level. This ‘gradual approximation’ (to use Widdowson’s phrase) increases comprehension while minimising stress, if handled sensitively.

Note that the final – ground-level – reading could be done (if all learners share the same mother tongue) by means of translation.

30 11 2011

Isn’t it just like you, Scott, to prefer an analogy not only related to food – those lunches on twitter – but also one that incorporates ‘uncovering’? 🙂

Another analogy might be human relationships as my students commented yesterday how the cover a book they had read was less than enticing to them. This of course led into the idiom about judging a book by its cover and a discussion of why and how we do just that with books and people. The discussion included the need to get to know some books (by reading beyond the first few pages) before we can really appreciate them, as with people. So it’s not just the cover that can hinder motivation but also the text itself.

I always find multiple encounters with text beneficial for me and my students, one of whom commented on the book, which he was reading a second time, how satisfying it was to have a ‘deep reading’ of the book.


27 11 2011
Nick Bilbrough

I have similar reservations with the gist tasks typically found in coursebooks applied to listening texts, and in fact with the whole idea of giving people a reason to listen. Questions of the type, ‘Who are the two speakers?’ etc make me cringe and can be very patronising to learners. Can’t texts be interesting enough, or learning rich enough for learners to find their own reasons for reading or listening to them?

Increasingly I’m finding that what learners seem to be most engaged with are stages which challenge them to process the language of listening texts, such as stopping the tape at different points and asking the class to write down the last sentence of what was said (an idea which I think comes from the work of John Field), or reading the tapescript during a second or third listening, underlining chunks of language that they’d like to be able to use themselves, and then writing a short dialogue which incorporates these chunks.

28 11 2011

Hi Nick! Nice to see you on here again!

“Can’t texts be interesting enough, or learning rich enough for learners to find their own reasons for reading or listening to them.”

This reminds me of Ken Wilson’s idea to get students to write notes/comments/sthg they know/questions on a post-it and stick it in a page in their course books at the beginning of a course. Genuine student-produced interest… exactly! 🙂

Wouldn’t it be fun to get the students to decide what the task was?

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Nick – yes, everything I’ve said about gist reading could equally apply to gist listening – although, given the impermanence of the audio signal, the mental processing and, by extension, the methodological implications are slightly different,

30 11 2011

Related to ‘aural reading’ vs. looking at the page, is this section of the NYT Book Review, which discusses, within the context of a couple, how some of us prefer audio books while others still want to read (with their eyes) books. Howard Gardner is interviewed: http://tinyurl.com/742xwy2

Should we be offering learners options when it comes to how they are exposed to text, ie aurally vs. visually?

30 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Should we be offering learners options when it comes to how they are exposed to text, ie aurally vs. visually?

Well, you known what I think about the learning styles literature, Rob, so I won’t answer that one, except to say that in ‘real life’ they won’t always get that choice, so they might just have to get used to developing the less preferred channel. But I think more could be done to relate the aural and the visual channels, by, for example, reading aloud to the students texts that they have first skimmed, in order to help ‘chunk’ the text into its meaningful (phrasal and clausal) units.

27 11 2011
Pearson Brown

I come at this from more of a Business English point of view than you. When I was in the classroom, it was quite common to find people with low levels of English in jobs where they had to deal with lots of complex documents in English. Obviously, the aim was to improve their levels of English as quickly as possible but we also had to help them to COPE with this material as best they could at present. Skimming and scanning are useful strategies to know in this context.

Hope you are well. I am spending the winter in Catalunia, but on the French side of the border 😉


27 11 2011

“Skimming and scanning are useful strategies to know in this context.”

Let’s see if I understand. Your approach was to say: ‘You don’t understand a lot of the language in this text, but for your purposes, you don’t need to. Just remember to do what you always do when you need to read in a hurry in L1’

If I’m right, the word ‘know’ is surely misused. You are simply reminding students to not forget to do what they already know how to do. It’s a crucial reminder for sure, but once that message goes in, and students stop panicking and start skimming and scanning (i.e. reading efficiently in their terms), there is little else for the teacher to do surely.

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Agreed, Pearson – skimming and scanning are coping strategies. But coping implies a minimal level of achievement, and therefore should be a short-term measure. At some point, learners will be challenged (in real life) to do more than simply cope, and I think we need to prepare them for that eventuality by, for instance, having them engage with texts at a deeper level.

27 11 2011
James Quartley

Given the savaging that Swan gave both the communicative approach (1985) and, its ‘spiritual successor’, task-based learning (2005), it is of no surprise that he would find tasks that deviate from ‘traditional’ ones as suspect.

Implementation of many teaching ideas is poor in some course books, but that shouldn’t be held up as a reason to reject them out of hand. Just adapt the task or miss out completely (besides, we could start a whole thread on just the topic of clumsy or poorly designed course book tasks).

Notwithstanding the criticisms, reading for gist can be useful as a coping strategy, as Pearson notes above. It can be used as a proxy for demonstrating subject specific vocabulary knowledge or lack of it (my primary interest). Or as a ‘priming’ strategy (to answer a couple of general questions or start a discussion) prior to more detailed reading/tasks.

Additionally, making learners use or develop a skill (even if they may already have it) means they are actively aware of the process or using the method. In many aspects of life and especially with the sheer volume of texts now available worldwide, searching for whether a text is relevant to our needs is a critical skill and often one conducted under a time constraint. Why not practise it?

Whether it is ‘real’ reading or not, differential exposure to texts is pursuant to increases in cognitive ability (Stanovich and West 1989). So , should be encouraged even if the immediate goal is unclear or the skill to be realised comes to fruition much later.

27 11 2011
James Quartley

Sorry, it is the informal development of cognitive skills that is linked to differential exposure to texts. Should not have reviewed my post by reading for gist!

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, James… yes, as I said to Pearson, reading for gist has strategic value, but should not be considered as ‘teaching reading’ so much as ‘preparation for reading’ (or from some other skill activity, as you suggest, such as speaking).

27 11 2011

I think reading has two main purposes: one functional, the other educational. Just as learners need to focus on both fluency and accuracy – with fluency being more important, we also need to practice both functional and educational reading – with functional being largely pre-eminent.

In real world communication, skimming, scanning and listening for the gist, are vital skills. So for teachers to challenge learners with content slightly above their competence is a good way to challenge people and build their skills.

Focussing on every single word is what adults like to do, but children often find unnecessary. Adults can be overly anal when faced with things they don’t understand, no matter how small these might be. Children want to see the bigger picture so they guess more and appreciate what they do know as being more important than what they don’t. Is it any coincidence that children are superior language learners to adults?

For L1 or L2 learners, skimming, scanning and listening for the gist are not lazy. They are very useful strategies for gleaning the meaning from often complex or convoluted content. The trick is in taking risks to predict meaning from context. Risk taking and fearlessness in making mistakes are very healthy qualities to instill in learners. Quick learners usually possess these characteristics so I think it’s a bit of a misnomer to claim that slow readers are good readers.

27 11 2011

I think I should add to that comment by clarifying that fluency is usually considered to be more important than accuaracy because it cares about the overall meaning of language rather than the details or the form that language takes. This in a way chimes with the inventor’s paradox, which states that you solve a specific problem by solving a larger, more general one. If learners can grasp the overall meaning of a text, it makes it much easier for them to predict the difficult words within. This is why scanning, skimming and listening for the gist should definitely be encouraged in language learning.

Functional texts are important for language learners because they are about conveying transitory, practical meaning rather than deeper, more ruminatory and richer meaning. I wrote that functional texts are more important for learners but I should further clarify that by saying that they are most important for learners who are at an intermediate level and below. While more educational and knowledge-rich texts, which require detailed and repeated reading, are more important for the learner who has surmounted an intermediate stage and is on the less steep but far longer, lifetime learning part of the curve.

27 11 2011
Willy C Cardoso

Hi Scott

“Why would I read this text?” could be the first question to be answered before choosing the strategy. I find that, mostly, people read to be informed and perhaps do something with the information; in that case they should read in a way that they can accomplish this intention. E.g. you can skim an exquisite recipe, make sense of it, how it would taste, and then cook it; myself on the other hand would have to do a bit of intensive reading to accomplish anything edible ;-); which means even looking up a dictionary for items, utensils and methods foreign to me.

Point being: I find it unnatural to give someone a text and tell them “how” to make sense of it; I can’t expect that by saying ‘don’t read all the words’ the learner will not read all the words. She will read whatever her experience tells her it is worth reading in order to understand it, and when she doesn’t, she uses resources, human and material, ask the teacher and peers or use a dictionary, and then asks again to confirm understanding, and then talk about it, whatever works… I think there’s too much prescription in skills-based instruction whereas processing language is so dependent on the “who” (who reads and who’s around), that it’s just way too hard to come up with an overarching decoding method (like gist first, etc).

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks for the comment Willy… lots of matter to chew on, but if I could just endorse – and qualify- your point, viz. “I find it unnatural to give someone a text and tell them “how” to make sense of it; I can’t expect that by saying ‘don’t read all the words’ the learner will not read all the words. She will read whatever her experience tells her it is worth reading in order to understand it…”

But she will do this only assuming that (a) she is motivated to read the text, and hence not treat it (initially at least) as a linguistic object, but as a ‘vehicle of information’ (to use Ray Williams’ terminology) and (b) she has that critical mass of linguistic knowledge (mainly lexical) to get her through the ‘transfer threshold’.

The first objective can be faciliated by the teacher, either by cranking up the requisite interest in the text, and/or setting tasks that encourage the transfer of the most appropriate reading strategies for that kind of text; OR by the learners choosing their own texts and purposes.

The second objective (i.e. crossing the transfer threshold) can be faciliated either by selecting texts that are within the learner’s present competence (or adapting them so that they are), and/or by vocab pre-teaching (of doubtful efficacy), or dealing with language issues at the point of need, e.g. by providing vocabulary hyperlinks (if the text is digital) or some sort of gloss, or by just ‘being there’ to deal with learners’ in-flight comprehension issues.

27 11 2011
Simon Greenall

Thank you as usual for this perceptive post.

In 1986 I co-wrote a book called Effective Reading with Michael Swan in which we explored about thirteen (I think) discrete reading skills, including skimming and scanning. I could never remember which was which, and in seminars they sometimes came out as skinning and scamming, so we called them – perhaps inaccurately – reading for main ideas and reading for specific information. The reviewer in the English Language Teaching Journal wrote something like ‘really good book, but I’m not sure if my students could read any more effectively when they’d finished it.’

At the time, we really did believe in the discrete skills analysis of reading. We weren’t even the first, as Catherine Walter wrote Authentic Reading in 1984 which included a similar analysis of discrete reading skills, and there may have been other books. But the ELTJ review of our book really made me reconsider. In other books the skills of listening, speaking and writing were similarly analyzed, although much less satisfactorily – speaking skills ended up being described in terms similar to functions.

I’ve found that many teachers in the countries where I work still expect a discrete skills analysis, and no series I’ve written since then has avoided it. I should say I’ve regretted this, but what I have found is instead of the activities providing practice in the skills, I now feel that that the skills generate some interesting and, I believe, motivating activity types.

But I’ve been very aware that there’s a danger of robbing the reader of the pleasure of a passage by this kind of analysis. Jumbled sentences (Understanding text organization) of a Shakespearean sonnet – which a grand ELT scholar once did in a seminar I attended at the time – just misses the point.

Not quite what we intended 25 years ago – but there we go. We live and learn.


29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Simon, for that fascinating historical perspective on reading materials (I had unforgivabely forgotten your association with Michael Swan, and remember well using Effective Reading in my classes quite, well, effectively).

I’m not against a discrete skill approach, per se. For a start, there are learners who don’t have well developed text-attack skills in their L1, so teaching them to read for gist, or to make predictions, or to make inferences, etc, could be considered a form of learner training (but we should be cautious about assuming that all L2 readers are poor readers in their L1 – a view I have actually heard expressed by the occasional trainee). Teaching learners to read and write for academic purposes may involve a degree of discrete-skill teaching too, for the same reasons. Quite a few native speakers benefit from similar training, after all.

Also, as Willy ponts out, certain text types, and certain classroom purposes for texts (e.g. as a springboard to discussion) presume a specific strategy, such as skimming, and it might behoove the teacher to make this explicit, and/or set a task that both induces that particular strategy and obviates a more intensive reading. But to treat ALL texts as appropriate material for skimming/scanning seems to miss the point.

27 11 2011

I wonder if anyone has looked into learners’ reactions to gist exercises. Could there be something motivationally interesting for them in the works? In my own experience as a second language learner I can remember having feelings of encouragement and satisfaction with my progress when I began to actually read newspaper headlines. I could predict what the story was about, even though the rest of the text was over my head, and that was enough motivation to keep trying. My intuition is that gist tasks are not appropriate for all learners, (definitely condescending at upper levels!) but I tend to view them as a tool for parting of the clouds of obscurity in the early stages of recognition. Could there be a point in language learning where giving gist tasks can motivate learners to build much needed attentional stamina required for more sustained efforts?

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Delpha, for the comment,. Yes, I think there is a motivational function in setting tasks that permit (lower level learners, typically) a foothold into a text. But, by the same token, it might be de-motivating, having given learners that foothold, to then withhold a deeper understanding of the text by putting it aside, and moving on. A bit like presenting someone with a pizza, letting them nibble on a corner of it, and then tossing it in the bin!

27 11 2011

On our CELTA we teach that skimming and scanning are “approaches to reading” rather than “sub skills of reading” which are things like “working out meaning of lexis from context” and so on.

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Hi Steph. I might go further and say that skimming and scanning are less approaches TO reading than preparation FOR reading (see some of my previous responses to comments). Just a thought.

27 11 2011

Another interesting blog entry, Scott. I like that you’ve shared your inspiration for this one (ie, a teacher’s query).

I find it easy to agree with the gist of what I’ve read in(to?) Willy’s post, which reminds me of a brochure of essays, sent to me by Dennis Newson, that criticizes the current trend of turning children into literary critics rather than enthusiastic readers. Whatever happened to the joy of reading? Is it education to pass on skills? No, that would be training. Education would be learning beyond the text, as Cristina seems to be mentioning, to ask how we readers relate to the writer(s), their ideas, and their meanings.

As for non-fiction, although it could be argued that every text is a fiction of some sort – which is why statements about ‘basic facts’ make me uncomfortable 🙂 – I’ve taught my share of Business English courses, and I take Pearson’s point about helping students cope with the task at hand – perhaps even to avoid losing their jobs! – but it can be equally important for them to ‘read between the lines’ of a memo or email message, in order to learn what can’t be extracted by merely skimming or scanning.

On a pedagogical note, because reading (as with writing) can be such a significant part of our lives, I’ve often thought Dogme should be text-driven (as opposed to conversation-driven), which would of course include the oral texts of conversation. To me, that makes for a more holistic approach that incorporates activities like the ones James Q. mentions.

As we all know, so much depends upon the learner when it comes to learning. Does she like to read? What does reading really mean to him? A group of learners will comprise a collection of individual attitudes and singular lives, and, typically, traditional expectations about what language learning (and learning in general) should look and feel like. So we inevitably negotiate the institutional agenda, which appears to be more and more about training and skills, with an education approach that, I hope, provides room for creativity and critical examination of our lives, the narratives we live by, inextricably tied to the texts we meet and create every day.


29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks for another insightful comment, Rob. I agree – instilling the will to read (and to read purposefully and fixedly), rather than simply ‘doing a reading’ would seem to be the ultimate goal of classroom approaches to texts. Does skimming and scanning support this worthy aim? Maybe temporarily, in terms of motivation (as has been pointed out by a number of comments above). But, ultimately, I think it’s counterproductive, encouraging as it does superficial – and not deep – engagement.

Interesting point – about dogme being ‘text driven’. Perhaps, but that, to me, sends a mixed message, and conjures up the worst excesses of the ‘explication de texte’ approach so beloved by French pedagogues!

28 11 2011

Hi Scott,

Thank yo so much for this post. This idea of reading for gist or scanning also made me aware of the importance of making students aware of the benefits or nature of each skill. Do you do something like that? that certainly increases your TTT, right. And that is perhaps another interesting point. Many teachers seem to be afraid of talking too much and don’t realize the importanceof appropriate TTT and how much it aids learning and strategy awareness. What do you think?

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks for the comment, Jannan. By TTT I assume you mean teacher-talking-time, and I agree that teachers can actively support learners’ understanding of a text by the use of appropriate questioning strategies – a form of scaffolding, perhaps. But my argument is that the questions needn’t stop once the gist of the text has been established, but should probe more deeply. I also think the students could be involved in asking the questions, and that the question ‘What does this word mean?’ shouldn’t be discouraged, as it often is in skimming/scanning-type lessons, by the injunction that ‘You don’t have to understand every word!’

28 11 2011
Marisa Constantinides


For myself, I don’t for sure know what I ought to believe, although in a joking fashion, I have often said similar stuff as Simon, “Scumming” and and “Steaming” etc. Is that an unconscious negative stance? Not sure.

If we look at the great long taxonomy of language skills by John Munby, we will see a host of other subskills (or miscroskills as some would prefer to call them). Most of them are ignored by most materials writers apart from very few – Simon included ( I have seen his more recent material).

Can we train these separately, is always a big question.

I think we take it for granted that we do need to offer our learners some training in the various subskills of reading; in ELT we have embraced the view that we are not only involved in working on our learners’ goal to achieve linguistic competence, but also, strategic competence for dealing with text etc.

It looks like we have taken it upon ourselves to do more than just offer up opportunities for language work to our learners (but perhaps this is a whole other discussion).

But back to your discussion point, I do believe that the introduction of skimming and scanning serve a different purpose, that of leading our early readers to the goal of acquiring some tolerance of ambiguity, freeing them from the need to understand every single word in order to be able to read with understanding.

It seems to me that in order to acquire the habit of reading in the foreign language and develop a love for reading, it is not a bad idea to get students to lose fear of challenging (to their level) text, so that they can go on to reading large quantities of text for information, for pleasure and at the same time for language acquisition.

This may be particularly important for beginning readers, and it may be less important later on.

As an intermediate reader of languages I only half know, I am fearless and can deal with text way above my own level of production. So, I can keep acquiring in those languages.

But my inability to do this at beginner level in a foreign language – I am specifically thinking of Turkish in which I am a beginner – has stopped me from reading in that language.

All I am saying is that here I am, a fast reader with a range of good reading strategies in place, which however do not automatically transfer themselves into an L2 at early level without some encouragement and support so I can learn to do in that language what I can do in mine.

Of course, I also recognise the fact that I don’t have enough vocabulary to be able progress much beyond that level. Which makes that a bit of a vicious circle of an argument with lots of holes in it :-).

Thanks for starting this discussion. It’s always great to stop here and comment – it clears the head, occasionally 🙂


29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Hi Marisa!

There are two points in your thoughtful comment that I just want to pick up on:

1. “….freeing them from the need to understand every single word in order to be able to read with understanding”. Yes, but with what kind (or quality) of understanding? If I skim the instructions on the hot-water heater, and get a very general level of understanding, but then blow myself up because I didn’t read closely the instruction about when to apply the match, did I really understand the text? That is to say, there is understanding and understanding, and skimming/scanning tasks only aim at the most superficial of understandings. In the end, perhaps only the reader is the best arbiter of whether they have understood the text or not, so maybe we should (a) choose texts that the learners want to understand, and (b) allow them to decide at what level they need to read in order to maximise comprehension?

2. “…it is not a bad idea to get students to lose fear of challenging (to their level) text”. Yes, I would agree with you here – that setting general tasks and then proving to the learners that they have achieved them, can be very motivating, and a lot of what we do with texts in the classrooms is aimed at motivating them to read texts outside the classroom, so this can only be a good thing. But again, I would say that this is not ‘teaching reading’ but ‘preparation for reading’. And our trainees should know this.

28 11 2011

Very interesting again Scott! I kind of think that one of the causes of the overprevalence of skimming and scanning for the sake of it has been exam courses such as IELTS, etc.

I taught IELTS for a few years and for reading papers I would do the test before my students and then share my methods with them. Most of the time, I would be able to answer the questions without reading the texts from start to finish. This led me to practise a lot of reading ‘strategies/techniques’ with students. For example, skimming the first lines of paragraphs for ‘gist’ of what was in that paragraph (without reading the paragraph in its entirety) or scanning for numbers, dates, names to locate the section of text where the answer to the infamous Yes, No, Not given question might be.

However, I soon began to realise that while this may indeed get them a decent score in the IELTS reading it did not really produce effective readers but merely effective test takers.

Teaching general English a bit more now, I have the luxury of time (and reduced stress levels) in classes to focus more on reading ‘skills’ allowing students to even (shock, horror) read a whole text in the classroom. I can now really exploit the texts for linguistic/discourse patterns, discuss the topics, promote genuine discussion, as well as teach them strategies they may later use. Yes, I tried to do this in exam classes, but often, honestly, I never really had the time to go beyond the ‘what you need for the exam’.

I worry how little exam classes and arbitrary skimming and scanning tasks without authentic follow-up activities actually prepare students for real reading, understanding real written English discourse and even more importantly, the ‘joy of texts’.

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Great comment, Emma. You make the (depressing) point very well, that exam preparation runs to counter to effective skill development, which doesn’t say a lot about the exams. See, also, my comments to Rob on the theme of ‘the joy of texts’.

29 11 2011

I have been wanting to comment on this, so thanks for providing the ‘angle’ to get in on! I too have taught IELTS classes, focussing on discrete skills, and watched participants reading marks actually plummet. Now, they don’t have to read, which is hard, there is a trick they can use to find the answer! Except, they can’t. And, if you ask them afterwards what they read, they have no idea – can’t even remember the titles. That is not a good sign of understanding, which is, presumably, what an exam is meant to test.
Lexical Lewis had a couple of great frames for responding to text, eg: “It was about x and how y…” which are first on my list for exam reading classes now. Then, if students don’t know, at least they are formulating their own questions to try and find out. As all the questions in an exam will be about information based around the topic, it should help if they know what it the topic is.

28 11 2011
Josh Kurzweil

Hi Scott,
Thanks for this very thought-provoking blog. I was particularly interested in the part in which you talked about skimming in the context of a longer reading process. You say, “Giving students a time-limit to identify what the text is about, who wrote it, to whom, and why, seems an excellent way of ‘peeling off the first layer of the onion’, as it were.” I completely agree with this and wanted to offer a few additional thoughts about reading strategies, intentionality, and awareness.

First of all, I think it is key to make clear that skimming is a first run at a text so as to decide what to do next. When I read in English, my native language. I often skim as a first step so that I can decide 1) if I want to read this article 2) what interests me 3) how much time I may need to read it 4) what questions I want to answer 5) what the organizational structure is so that I know how to read it (Ex. is cause/effect, compare/contrast, option/reason. When I teach reading, I usually try to elicit/share these types of reasons so that students can build up their own set of strategies for reading in the real-world and for texts that they choose. In this way, I hope to raise student awareness about reading so that they can read with intentionality, understand that reading often involves several ‘runs’ at a text, and use strategies appropriate to the text and their purpose.

You also talk about how L1 reading skills don’t always transfer to L2 reading. I certainly have seen many students plod through a text word by word with a dictionary, writing translations above every unfamiliar word. While skimming can provide an alternative approach to reading, it may also just seem like this ‘thing the teacher makes me do’ before I can get to the ‘real reading,’ which involves looking up each word.

Given this attitude that students may have, it is important to consider ways of making skimming (and other reading skills) relevant and meaningful to students. One thing that I try to remember is that many of my students are young adults (18-22) and may not have developed sophisticated reading skills yet or an understanding of what really happens when we read (I know that I hadn’t at that age!). From this point of view, it makes sense to think about the development of L2 reading as connected to the exploration of reading, in general. The L2 classroom can include discussions about how to become more effective readers in any language. By eliciting and discussing approaches to reading and sharing techniques, students can become involved in thinking about how to read more effectively.

Lastly, I wanted to suggest that for students to develop cognitive skills such as reading, they not only need awareness but also focused practice. One set of books that I have found to be extremely useful is Beatrice Mikulecky’s series “Reading Power.” Mikulecky and her co-authors have a multi-level series that focuses on many reading sub-skills including skimming and scanning. However, she goes much further and explores areas such as making inferences, guessing meaning from context, and looking at patterns of organization. In each case, there is an introduction that builds awareness/ relevance of the sub-skill, and then there are exercises that practice that particular sub-skill. Without this type of focused practice, I find that students often end up being tested on reading skills rather than getting opportunities to develop them.

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Josh, for a very comprehensive and balanced approach to developing reading skills. You have answered the questions posed by Patrick (in my original post) better than I could have, and this point, in particular, is very succinctly expressed:

I think it is key to make clear that skimming is a first run at a text so as to decide what to do next.

28 11 2011
Josh Kurzweil

Hi again!
I wanted to add that there is a great exercise that can be used to address the idea of skimming from more of a cognitive point of view that shows how the mind makes meaning. The idea is that if a reader does not have schema activated prior to reading, the text can be very difficult to understand or remember. Since skimming provides the reader with such schema activation, its cognitive purpose can be clarified for students.

Dan Willingham, in his book “Why Students Don’t Like School,” reports on an experiment (Bransford and Johnson. 1972) that uses the following text/exercise:

Read the following text and then try to explain what you read to another person (or to yourself):

“The procedure is actually quite simple. First, you arrange items into different groups. Of course one pile may be sufficient depending on how much there is to do. If you have to go somewhere else due to lack of facilities, that is the next steps; otherwise you pretty well set. It is important not to overdo things. That is, it is better o do too few things at once than too many.”

Willingham goes on to analyze the problem of reading this text saying, “It’s not that you’re missing vocabulary. Rather, everything seems really vague. Not surprisingly, people couldn’t remember much of this paragraph when asked about it later. They remembered much more, however, if they had first been told that passage’s title was ‘Washing Clothes’” (pp 28-29).

I have actually used this exercise (and a simplified version of it for lower level students) to help raise student awareness of the role of prior knowledge in reading and how meaning is constructed. In the above exercise, the title is enough to activate schema, but oftentimes the title is not sufficient to get the main topic and skimming is required. In this context, skimming has a very real cognitive purpose; it helps readers figure out the topic so that they can activate their own schema and read more effectively.

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, again, Josh. Yes, I’m familiar with that Bransford and Johnson text – although I think it is a tiny but over-used (and therefore there’s a danger that trainees may have come across it before, spoiling the point of the task). I actually wrote my own version of this task (it was published in The CELTA Course, a book I co-wrote with Peter Watkins (CUP, 2007). Here’s how it goes:

Before they start, conditions are less than ideal and security is at risk. But the problem is soon resolved as each of their adjacent arms repeatedly describes the same short arc, the one in time with the other. In this way the impediment is removed, thus avoiding the need to stop and perform the operation by hand. The process continues until such time as a change in conditions renders it unnecessary.

I’ll let you try and guess the ‘schema’!

29 11 2011
Richard Ingate

I am enjoying this discussion and to be honest have just done gist reading activities without consideration. One of the main themes here seems to be, “skimming and scanning are coping strategies. But coping implies a minimal level of achievement, and therefore should be a short-term measure”. I teach international students preparing for university study where they will need to ‘get through’ a lot of material and understand it well enough to decide whether or not to use it for essays. Gist reading seems quite useful to me, especially when combined with paraphrasing and referencing skills? I am very open to more useful alternatives!

29 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

“I teach international students preparing for university study where they will need to ‘get through’ a lot of material and understand it well enough to decide whether or not to use it for essays”.

Yes, this seems to be perfectly legitimate – just as we might remind learners that it pays to read abstracts, blurbs, chapter headings etc, in advance of making choices about what texts – or what parts of texts – they should pay attention to – again, assuming they have an ulterior purpose for reading the text. Establishing that purpose from the outset might preclude the need to be explicit about which skills and strategies they should enlist.

29 11 2011
Jeremy Harmer

Hello Scott,

I enjoyed this and it mirrors, to some extent, my own shifting feelings about reading skills and sub skills and all that. When I started – and started, without enough knowledge of what i was doing, I am sure – teacher training, sub skills were all the rage (Marisa has referred to that time above, I think). Our trainees at the Instituto Anglo Mexicano where I taught became experts in listing the various jargon terms for all this.

Interestingly (for me anyway) when I came to write methodology, I focused not SO much on that, however, as on the methodology of teaching reading, dividing the process into what I called ‘Type 1 and Type 2’ skills – which basically meant (I think, in retrospect) that you often get students to read(and/or yes listen) first with some kind of general mission (probably skimming or scanning) before getting them to go back into the text for more intensive attention of some kind (type 2).

I dropped this when i got to the 3rd edition of the book which occurred in 18 years after the original (I can’t remember now why), but re-instated it a few years later.

Why? Because the role of intensive reading in a lesson is about what texts can do for you, not what you do with the texts!. They can stimulate discussion, move you, help you practise reading in English (something you maybe don’t do much of outside the classroom – though you should…extensive reading rules, OK), make you feel able to read for gist – not understanding every word etc. But above all they are wonderful parcels of evidence, language evidence for avid and voracious consumption. I call it (I am sure this is not original since nothing I do ever is), text ‘mining’. Even the shortest text (a point you have made so elegantly in talks I have seen) is worth mining in this sense, working out how and why the language works like that.

And of course intensive reading texts can serve as models for future writing.

So (takes a deep breath) I have come to feel that reading for gist is not a skill that has to be ‘drummed into’ students, but rather enabling methodological procedures which gets us to the real point of CLASSROOM reading, namely language focus.


29 11 2011

Hi Jeremy,

I agree with what you’re saying about the importance of text for situating or contextualizing language “in it’s natural habitat”. This makes far more sense than teaching grammar McNuggets in naked isolation.

Authentic text in discourse analysis has to be one of the richest and most effective way of studying language whether it be what we traditionally term “grammar” or “lexis”. As long as the text is authentic or authentic sounding!

It seems to me though, before reaching that point, it’s useful to guide learners through the text through activities which engage at the level of meaning. To stimulate discussion about pictures around the text and work with questions which mean that learners can engage with their understanding of the text, so revisiting the text time and time again with different tasks and reasons for doing so.

So perhaps we’re saying the same things – but maybe I would take longer and work with the text in more ways at the level of meaning before revisiting it to look at form.

30 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks for the comment, Jeremy, and it was interesting to read how your own treatment of ‘reading sub-skills’ (or whatever we want to call them) has evolved over the years. What seems to emerge from this ongoing engagement with the role of texts in language teaching is that, just as there are different types of texts and different ways of reading them in ‘real life’,there is also more than one purpose for using a text in class, and that, by extension, there is more than one way of ‘unpacking’ it.

29 11 2011

Hi Scott,

Thanks so much for putting this topic on your blog.

The original impetus of my writing to you mainly had to do with my recent reflection on how I could best help my CELTA trainees cope with learning how to be more effective in guiding their students in developing their reading and listening skills. With that in mind, plus my own experience in various classrooms – e.g. general English, FCE/CAE and IELTS classes – here are a few points I’d like to respond to and make after reading (skimming!?) through the replies above…

Student background: I’ve always understood that students can transfer their L1 reading skills (whatever they might be) into the ESL classroom, but I also know that many of them are very well-trained as test-takers – they launch into the text the moment they get their hands on it and want to read and understand everything because that means a good test score (then a good univerisity, job, life, etc.).

Strategy vs Skill: Depending on the tasks students need to learn to cope with in the IELTS or the Cambridge suite exams, students need and want helpful strategies, so I’ve found that they value having a set of tools for that purpose. They do initially see how using skimming and scanning skills can make some difference for some tasks, but they also realise very quickly they won’t do as well as they want without deeper comprehension of the text, i.e. intensive reading / listening. Language skills and knowledge then come in more prominently at that point.

Teaching and Training: With the above in mind, I try to emphasise to trainees that skimming and scanning skills really are means to an end – comprehension and language development. Trainees need the skills to analyse course book tasks and supplement their own where needed, and then plan and implement appropriate stages and tasks that employ skills in the right balance to get to the goal of comprehension and language development. They also need to understand how their students cope and respond to receptive skills practice vis-a-vis learner background and needs. Hopefully by the end of the course the trainees will have a set of skills (classroom management, materials use, exploiting context and learner interest, staging, feedback, text-to-language, learning gap, meaningful language practice etc.) to do that.

As a trainer I’m constantly amazed by how such a feat can be accomplished by a majority of trainees (albeit to varying degrees of success) in 4 short weeks (I’ve only run intensive courses so far). I guess that’s why I enjoy what I do, and appreciate a space like this to share ideas and learn from, so that I can continue to be as helpful to my trainees as I can.

Thanks again Scott!

30 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks for joining the discussion, Patrick (and thanks for having initiated it, in your email to me!).

Regarding the approach to take on CELTA courses, there’s nothing I would want to add to what you are already doing, except to emphasise that the multi-purpose use of texts (both spoken and written) in the classroom is probably one of the most useful skills that the novice teacher can develop, since the capacity to read/listen for meaning AND to read/listen with one eye cocked on form is probably the single most effective learning strategy learners can acquire.

I would also add that – in the training context – exposing trainees to the kinds of reading experiences that learners have when reading an unfamiliar language is a useful way of raising awareness about the processes of reading, such as guessing meaning from context, and/or predicting the text’s topic, purpose and content. In The CELTA Book (Thornbury and Watkins, CUP, 2007) we use a text in Esperanto – a language that most traineess won’t know but also one that is tantalisingly recognisable because of its many Latinate cognates – to highlight these processes, while not necessarily implying that the relatively superficial understanding of the text that is thereby gained is ‘the end of reading’.

29 11 2011
Luiz Otávio Barros

Dear Scott,
There’s not much to add after all these very insightful and thought-provoking posts and in common with lots of people here, in recent years my pendulum has also swung a bit away from too much emphasis on gist tasks towards better thought-out bottom-up tasks (and texts that lend themselves to it, of course). Two things that crossed my mind:

1. The role of cognates
I think it’s a sad thing that ELT has placed so much emphasis on false cognates, when real cognates can go such a long way towards enhancing comprehension. Speakers of Portuguese, Spanish, French and Italian are, to a degree, already “pre-primed” to understand a good deal of what they read (not necessarily listen to in this case), and this, in itself might be yet another reason why comprehension tasks ought to go beyond skimming and scanning and move into other realms (comprehension + noticing)

2. Online reading
I think it would be fair to argue that most of our students do most of their reading online these days and, though I could be wrong, I’ve always felt that reading a webpage or an e-mail sort of invites people to skim and scan more. So here’s another reason to emphasize bottom-up processing in class, I think.

30 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Hi Luiz, nice to have you back!

Regarding cognates – see my response to Patrick above about the way texts that are rich in cognates can be used to raise awareness about reading processes (while at the same time it might be worth pointing out that an over-reliance on cognates could blind learners to other features of language – such as syntax and morphology- that they may need to pay attention to).

On online reading, let me quote from Nicholas Carr’s recent book, The Shallows (2010): “When we go online and, we enter an environment that promotes cursory reading, hurried and distracted thinking, and superficial learning. It is possible to think deeply while surfing the Net, just as it’s possible to think shallowly while reading a book, but that’s not the type of thinking the technology encourages and rewards” (Carr, p.115-16). And, later:

“Skimming is becoming our dominant mode of reading … We are evolving from being cultivators of personal knowledge to being hunters and gatherers in the electronic data forest” (p.138).

Carr, N. 2010. The Shallows: how the Internet is changing the way we think, read and remember. London: Atlantic Books.

29 11 2011

I’m afraid I’ve only been able to skim through these responses… I’m not sure I can add much until I’ve gone back for a much closer reading…

However, there is some discussion along these lines in this recently published paper from Philida Schellekens: http://www.cambridgeesol.org/about/news/2011/first-second-lang-learners.html
and you can see Philida’s session on approaches to teaching reading from this year’s IATEFL in Brighton here:
http://iatefl.britishcouncil.org/2011/sessions/2011-04-16/reassessing-principles-teaching-reading .

30 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Phil, for those very useful – and pertinent – links. Philida is well worth listening to, since she has actually researched the difference between L1 and L2 literacy skills in English, and, by extension, the problems of treating both sets of learners as if they were homegeneous.

30 11 2011

Hi all,
Fascinating reading throughout and I find particular resonance in Wily, Simon and Rob’s posts.

The related question that I’ve been meaning to explore recently and haven’t got around to yet, which is part of Patrick’s question, is whether training our CELTA trainees or asking our own students ourselves to approach texts through gist and then detailed tasks (as I do everyday at the moment) is a valid way of teaching reading.

I have long advocated authentic tasks as being more important and relevant than ‘authentic’ texts, but would like to question further how authentic gist tasks are/can be and ditto detailed reading tasks. Shouldn’t we be encouraging our trainees and students to be approaching texts in the way we do in our L1s? And how practical is this within the confines of a course book driven syllabus or a pre-service training course.

Reading the first paragraph of a course book article to decide whether or not we want to read the whole thing would be an authentic gist task (but what do we do when the answer is no?). But reading an article and choosing which is the best title for it wouldn’t be.

The problem with authenticity seems to be the lack of text quantity and therefore choice in course books, which surely leads to the need for more student-selected texts – i.e. they do the gist reading before they come to class, through choosing texts they want to read as a class and deciding what to do with them. This just leaves the other students in the class with an authentic task to do to engage with that text once it’s been selected. But it also creates many problems for training courses such as CELTA. Can anyone help me with my conundrum?

30 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Hi Neil, don’t start me on coursebooks (!) but one reason why skimming and scanning tasks are so favoured may be that the texts in textbooks are NOT self-selected, and hence the only way to make them accessible and/or palatable is to treat them in a fairly superficial manner. And, after all, since many coursebook texts are superficial in terms of their content, the most logical approach to them might be that of the reader of the inflight magazine (to which coursebook texts bear an uncanny resemblance), i.e. the most cursory skim and flick.

As for your final question – maybe I’ll leave that one to the many pre-service trainers more experienced than I am who read this blog.

30 11 2011
Paul Gallantry

Hi Scott, what do you think of using scanning/skimming with students who have very low or non-existent literacy skills in their L1? We have a small cohort of learners in our college to whom we have to teach how a text is oriented.

Talking of textual orientation, I feel that skimming and gist reading are useful for lower-level learners who use a different writing system, e.g. Chinese or Arabic, as it helps them learn the skill of predicting where information is placed in a text. It also helps where students cultural expectations of the significance of what is written down are different – for example, I’ve dealt with learners whose only experience of reading is from holy scriptures, and who thus labour over every single word in a text!

30 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Hi Paul – thanks for the comment. As I mentioned earlier (not sure where), teaching reading strategies to learners who don’t yet have developed strategies in their L1 seems perfectly legitimate – so long as we are sure that their reading problems are caused by a lack of strategies rather than by a lack of vocabulary. (Because there’s not much point in teaching the strategies if they don’t have the critical mass of language that is necessary in order to apply them).

The same reasoning might apply to the learners you mention with different cultural expectations about a text. You cannot skim a text intelligibly if you don’t know what the key words mean, and the key words in a text are almost invariably not in the top 1000 or even 2000 band.

30 11 2011
Bill Harris

Good to see you turn your beady eye on reading skills Scott and as usual you are informed and informative as well as being provocative and iconoclastic. And great to get Simon adding his historical perspective.

As someone who trains CELTA candidates to trot out definitions of reading sub-skills in their skills based tasks assignment, I feel there Is some merit in giving students an initial confidence building encounter with a text before a more careful reading and analysis. I’m not too concerned whether you would call this the promotion of reading sub – skills or to use your term ; ‘ text – attack’ strategies and I agree that there is little value in getting the big picture without looking at the fine print later.

In fact , I have several issues with the design of the CELTA skills assignment I’d like to share. The design criteria precludes any specific language focus, the rationale for this being that there is a separate task focussing on language. This is a bit of a nonsense as any text will have lexical or grammatical items which make it a useful ‘linguistic object’ to use your phrase.and the language issues couldn’t be avoided in an actual lesson.either during or post reading. A further complication is that, while it’s not a requirement to make the text authentic, most centres do so and this of course means the text often falls below the 95% ‘threshold’ level you mention to make it comprehensible and therefore exploitable for reading skills.

The answer to this would seem to be, as you say, to encourage candidates to select graded texts , especially for use with lower level classes but this would require a sea change in attitude and a reappraisal of the well-worn maxim ‘ Grade the task and not the material ‘

I’m not happy with your other option of pre-teaching vocabulary, Scott! My IATEFL talk was ‘ Pre-teaching vocabulary – what is the point? ‘ and there is plenty of ineffective teaching of decontextualised lexis going on in CELTAs without promoting it any further. But I still have a question of whether it is worthwhile to use ‘ lexis rich’ text with learners who would need a lot of effort and support to both deal with the lexis and the message of the text.

I know that CELTA is only a small part of the world of ELT but initial training can have pretty long-term effects on teachers’ perceptions and approaches and this is certainly true of attitudes to receptive skills teaching.

30 11 2011
Scott Thornbury

Thanks, Bill, for your comment.

You write. “I’m not happy with your other option of pre-teaching vocabulary, Scott!”

Nor am I happy with the idea of pre-teaching vocabulary as a strategy for helping reduce the processing load (I think I mentioned earlier that it was of ‘doubtful efficacy’). How many times have you pre-taught words X, Y, and Z, all of which occur in a text, whereupon at least one learner asks – mid-reading – what does X mean?

But (as an alternative) I do think there is some merit in getting learners to brainstorm the vocabulary related to the topic of a text, in advance of reading it, if only because it activates the relevant schemata by means of which overall comprehension is made easier.

30 11 2011
Cherry M Philipose (@cherrymp)

Hi Scott n Others
Thanks for another interesting n informative post n all the successive comments. 🙂

First of all Scott I would like to tell that both the metaphors that you’d used I loved – one, that of peeling onion n the other, the aviation one. Then I particularly liked the ‘text-attacking’ kind of reading. Whenever I’d to teach reading, this was something that I encouraged my students to focus on, reiterating my own personal view that reading is of course an active skill that can be as interesting as a mind game.

Your points that reading is not skimming n scanning because it’s more than that n should create readers who enjoy reading exercise need to be shouted from rooftops since many teachers still blindly adhere to what they’d been told or read in the methodology related materials.

As Jeremy rightly put it, as we live we learn n when we learn n when we learn – we sometimes unlearn n let ourselves to relearn. It happens to me n reading this post and ‘skimming’ through the many comments have given me enough to chew for a while.
Best, Cherry.

6 12 2011

windscreen wipers?

6 12 2011
Scott Thornbury

Well done, David! (David’s reply relates to the text from The CELTA Course, alluded to in a reply to Josh earlier on in this thread).

16 06 2020

Would this not be different for Young learners ? As in those cases you probably are teaching them how to scan and read for gist, skills they may not have developed in their L1 yet. They may also be from a culture which does not put much emphasis on reading for gist or detail even in their mainstream education.

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