Topic 8B – Foreign written language. Approximation, maturing and improving the reading-writing process. Reading comprehension: techniques for global and specific understanding of texts. Written expression: the interpretation of the text production.

Topic 8B – Foreign written language. Approximation, maturing and improving the reading-writing process. Reading comprehension: techniques for global and specific understanding of texts. Written expression: the interpretation of the text production.


In this unit, I am going to explain the reading-writing process.

In first place, I will explain some aspects of this process in general, the relationship that exists between both of them and how can be develop this process in order to acquire the English language.

In the last part of the unit, I will explain both skills, reading and writing. In addition, all its features like the importance of the authentic or non-authentic material which is used to do the exercises.

Another important aspect that I am going to be in mind in the last part is the techniques and activities, which can be carry out in class to improve both skills.


In the first part of the unit, I am going to explain the relationship that exists between the reading and writing skills. Both terms are narrowing linked because these skills are present from the first stages in the approach of the foreign language. The language is firstly heard and then it is read.

Reading, is an important skill, which can contribute to the accomplishment of a language in posterior stages. This skill can be useful in order to achieve vocabulary, or it can be a motive to read for pleasure. The additional lecture, which is read in a voluntary way, offers the opportunity to learn in an unconscious way aspects like culture from the foreign language. The main advantage of the reading for the students is that it improves their general English level. We have as teachers to encourage the complementary readings, which has to be chose by the students.

We have to realise that, when we are going to teach a language in the first stages, our students do not have knowledge about grammar or syntax. Due to that, the teacher will be the guide in the learning. Teachers will have to use some strategies like the comment of the illustrations, the chose of easy situations… In the first stages, it would be advisable direct to our students with patters, which has the same structure.

In order to improve the reading-writing process, we can use a great variety of activities and techniques. It is obvious that we have to start from easy to texts that are more complex.

We will try to offer to the students short tales with familiar situations related to their daily life, alternating with fantastic stories like adventures with monsters.

In class we have to exploit the illustrations, because they are very important in order to understand the context of the situation. In a great variety of activities, the introduction of the teacher will help the students to understand the aim of the activity.

Then, the teacher can ask some questions to check if they have understood what is pretend in the activity. After that, we can do the reading. In the first curses, the texts are read aloud to continue to silent reading, and later, to the summaries. Then, we can do the comprehension exercise:

questions made by the teacher, from open to more close answers,

judgements made by the teacher, which can be true or false and

summaries of texts using synonymous and paraphrases of a text.

It is advisable that, whenever possible, the teacher relates the current situations that is carry out to more familiar situations.

In more advanced levels we can use:


questionnaires and surveys where the object is to interview a classmate, for example according to their likes, dislikes, preferences,

role-plays: these activities are connected with dialogues and performances. The students are appointed a certain role and they must ask according to it.

In these advanced levels, it would be advisable:

– the use of the dictionary and

– the preparation of their own vocabulary in personal dictionaries.

In the last cycle is advisable that the students try to infer the meaning from the context.


Now, it is time to discuss the reading comprehension. Reading in the foreign language must start from the first year when the language is studied.

We have to interact with the text in order to understand the message, even where the text contains language which the students are not able to produce.

One aspect of reading that concerns many teachers, is the difference between authentic and non-authentic texts.

The authentic texts are designed for native speakers, not for language students. This kind of material can be newspapers, advertisements or radio-programmes.

A non-authentic text in language teaching terms is one that has been written especially for language students. Such texts sometimes concentrate on the language they wish to teach. In these texts appear some particular grammatical structures, vocabulary or some particular tenses.

When teachers choose the right kind of material and the students are successful, then the benefits are obvious. What we need, therefore, are texts where the students can understand the general meaning of, whether they are truly authentic or not.

The job of the teacher is to train the students in a number of skills which they will need for the understanding of reading and listening texts. These skills can be divide into two groups.

a) Type one skills, are those operations that students perform on a text when they tackle (enfrentar) it for the first time. The first thing the students are asked to do with a text concerns it treatment as a whole.

Thus, students may be asked to look at a text and extract specific information. They might read or listen to perform a task to confirm or check expectations they have about a text. Type 1 skills are:

Predictive skills: efficient readers or listeners predict what they are going to read and hear.

Extracting specific information: students have to focus on the specific information they are searching for. This skill, when is applied to reading is called “scanning”.

Getting the general idea: we often read or listen to things because we want to “get the general idea”. When applied to reading this skill is often called “skimming”.

b) Type 2 skills are those that are subsequently used when studying reading or listening material and they involved detailed comprehension of the text.

They are practised after type 1 skills have been worked on. They are:

Extracting detailed information like: what does the writer mean? What precisely is the speaker trying to say? How many…?

Recognising functions and discourse pattern. To recognise some discourse markers are an important part of understanding how a text is constructed. We need to make students aware of these features in order to help them to become more efficient.

Deducing meaning from context.

It is convenient that in class, the student gets used to extensive and intensive reading.

For the intensive readings, the students will work with short texts, from which they understand basically all the words.

In the extensive reading, students make the effort to understand the message using all kind the strategies. These are some ideas of reading activities:

PRE QUESTION: A question is given before reading, to find out a piece of central information.

DO IT YOURSELF QUESTIONS: Students compose and answer their own question.

PROVIDE A TITTLE: Students can suggest an alternative tittle.

SUMMARISE: Students summarise the content in two or three sentences.

CONTINUE THE TEXT: Learners suggest what might happen next in a text.

PREFACE: Learners suggest what might happen before.

GAPPED TEXTS: Gaps are left which can only be filled in if the texts have been understood.

MISTAKES IN THE TEXTS: Towards the end of a text, there can be some mistakes. Students have to know in advance how many mistakes there are in the text.

COMPARISON: There are two texts on similar topics, students note points of similarity or difference.

RESPONDING: The text is a letter or a provocative article and the students discuss how to respond to the letter or write an answer to the article.

RE-PRESENTATION OF CONTENT: The text gives information and students represent its content through different graphics mediums.


In the last part of the unit, I am going to explain the written expression. Frequently, writing is relegated to the status of homework. This is a pity since writing, especially communicative writing, can play a valuable part in the class.

Reading has a notable influence in the writing expression, the more we read the better we write. It can be said that, there is a better level in the written expression in those students who use a more variety of written texts in their daily life.

When we are going to planning the written activities, we have to consider the following aspects:

a) Contextualization: when we write a message in real life, we always do it within a context or situation, because who writes presupposes certain aspects determined by the situation. We have to be in mind aspects like the type of the register.

b) Aim: writing has always a purpose, according to this, there will be determined the expressions, vocabulary, etc. The purpose has to have a meaning for the student. Due to that, the students need to know different kind of writings and practise them in order to connect with the possible reader.

c) Creativity: it seems convenient to provide the student with occasions where they can create their own texts and feel that it is the product of their will and personal effort.

d) Motivation: the essential objective in language production is to provide the student with motivation to learn. If the activities are motivating, the students will feel an inner satisfaction to learn, to communicate with others and carry a task they like.

e) Integration: in a communicative approach of writing, it is necessary the integration with other skills which contributes to several purposes:

– allows the practise of the some linguistic or functional contexts in the same skills,

– develop two or more linguistic skills within the same context and

– approximates the use of the language to the real world.

A receptive or an oral activity can precede the writing activity.

The types of writings can be divided in two groups:

Personal texts:

¨ for personal use: shopping lists, dates, recipes

¨ direct to other people: messages, letters, invitations…

Institutional writings: commercial letters, information request, magazines…

Another kind of division can be:

a) Activities where it is only necessary to copy a written text.

b) Activities designed to encourage student’s creativity.

To practice handwriting, spelling and new vocabulary at word level we can:

a) Make lists.

b) Make personal dictionaries.

c) Completing crosswords.

d) Classifying words under headings.

In addition, under the sentence level students can:

a) Write tittles for pictures.

b) Write speech bubbles for cartoons.

c) Matching halves of sentences and copying.

d) Sequencing sentences and copying.

e) Correcting mistakes in written sentences.

f) Answering questions.

There are a lot of techniques to help students to develop their writing expression, from the very controlled expression to the free writing. Some techniques are:

Writing guides with model and visual stimulus (description of a person). We can use photographs, drawings, magazines…

Writing guides from a stimulus. Transferring information from the oral to the written language, (the elaboration of questionnaires can be an example).

Writing guided by the establishment of a situation and give instructions to write a text. Leaving or taking messages can be an example.

Free writing, in order to develop the student’s imagination (creation of novels, short tales, stories, diaries about the English class…).

Diaries can be interesting for the teacher. Thus, the teacher can obtain interesting data about the student’s attitude.