Topic 8 – 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 8 – 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.


As a way of introduction is worth considering that the effectiveness in the use of a language requires we have different skills, which are, called “linguistic skills”.

We can find two kinds of skills. On one hand, the skills which are acquired by means of oral interaction, listening and speaking, and on the other hand, the skills acquired by means of visual interaction, reading and writing.

If we want to achieve a communicative competence among our students, we must work simultaneously the four skills.

In relation to the written foreign language we have to bear in mind we can find three different styles according to writing purpose; the expressive style focuses on the expression of the writers personal feelings; the transactional style focuses on logical statements and the poetic style which expresses imaginative experiences. In the same way, we can find a series of stages in reading.

They will be the preparatory stage where principles of the spelling system are acquired; the consolidation stage in which children begin to use the writing system to express what they can say in speech; the differentiation stage where the students diverge from speech and develop their own and finally, the integration stage where they have a good command of language and they can vary their stylistic choices.

Along the Primary Education we pretend students get basics necessities of written language. Moreover, they must be able to answer in usual situations of written language; they must express communicative intentions and recognize the characteristics in each situation.

As for the approach to reading-writing it is convenient to begin to develop the reading-writing capacity of the foreign language through simple and superfluous texts, descriptions and brief narrations, class instructions, children and popular songs, tales encouraging the pleasure to interpret the written texts and enjoy with the reading.




The functions of both are different, in fact, following WIDDOWSON AND DAVIES:

“Two media of communication fulfils different social functions” .Also remark that in written language can be of two main types:

  • -The addressee is not accessible because he is physically absent but we know him.
  • -When the writer does not know exactly who the addressee actually is.


When we are writing, we are also reading. It is necessary to do so, because we go on writing, we often read what we have already written.

Even before writing, we usually read to look for information which is going to be included in our composition.






“Reading is translating from written symbols to a form of language to which the person already can attach meaning”.

It is important to make the learner be aware that it is essential to read different kinds of material, at different rate, and with amounts of attention.

The students must learn to recognize written characters for what they are.

Venezky has subdivided this stage:

Decoding, connecting the written symbol to what they stand for.

Combine first words and them sentences, to make structures.

Interpret, what he is reading.


In the first place, many of them want to be able to read text in English either for their careers, for study purposes or simply for pleasure.

Reading text also provides good models for English writing. When we teach the skill of writing, we will need to show students models of what we are encouraging them to do.

Also provides opportunities to study languages: vocabulary, grammar, punctuation, and the way we construct sentences, paragraphs and texts.

The reading of a text provides an example of the type of text which students should produce.

Language forms and their function are presented in a text. The texts can provide a type of language which students need to read and write.

Also the reading of a text can provide the basis for reading comprehension exercises. It will focus on the way in which a text is organised and structured.

  • -Skimming or to identify the principal ideas
  • -Scanning or looking for specific details

What kinds of skills are required to learn to read?

Students need to be able to a number of things with a reading text.

They need to be able to scan the text for a particular bit of information. Also students need to be able to read for pleasure.

Reading requires phoneme awareness, phonics, reading fluency, and reading comprehension skills. Each of these skills is necessary and none are sufficient on their own. They must be integrated through consistent and frequent practice. Learning to read is not a natural process–it requires systematic instruction.

Finally We will say a few words on reading comprehension: reading comprehension failure may be due to one –or a combination – of the following factors: (1) the child concentrates on individual points and does not succeed in getting a clear idea of the overall meaning; (2) the child reads too quickly and does not pay attention to details and (3) the child interprets the reading text in the light of his/her own experience, in other words, these children cannot separate what the writer says from they think.

Since our pupils will be able to read in Spanish before they start reading in English, what we need to do as English teachers is to re-activate the reading skills that they have acquired in their mother tongue.


  • -Reading is not a passive skill, so we have to understand what the words mean, see the pictures the words are painting.
  • -Need to be engaged with what they are reading.
  • -Students should be encouraged to respond to the context of reading text, not just to the language.
  • -Prediction is a major factor in reading.
  • -Match the task to the topic.
  • -Good teacher exploit reading text to the full.



It’s not enough to tell student to ‘read a lot’, so we need to offer material, guidance, tasks and facilities.

Extensive reading materials: they should read material which they can understand. Also they can need simplifications of established work of literature.

Setting up a library: we need to build up a library of suitable books.


The role of the teacher.

In order to get students to read enthusiastically in class, we need to work to create interest in the topic and the tasks.

  • Organiser: The student exactly needs to know what their reading purpose is.
  • Observer: Given on their own we need to give the space to do so. Retraining ourselves from interrupting that reading.
  • Feedback organiser: When they have finished the task, we can lead a feedback session to check that they have completed the task successfully.

We use intensive reading sequences in class for a number of reasons. For example, if we want students practise specific skills such as reading to extract specific information or reading for general understanding.

Reading is often a prelude to speaking or writing activity.

Reading activities can be divided into three groups: Pre-, while- and post-reading. Pre-reading activities include, for example, preliminary discussion of the topic, and brainstorming, paying attention to illustrations, sequencing pictures related to the text they are going to read, etc. The main while-reading activities are skimming and scanning, and the teacher should provide adequate exercises for these sub skills. For example, we can show students that understanding just a few words is often sufficient to get the message. Other while-reading activities can have as their aim, for example, deducing the meaning of unfamiliar words. Post-reading activities can be very varied: From making a drawing based on what they have read to participating in a role-play based on the text, or doing a crossword based on vocabulary taken from the text, etc.

We will now focus on WRITING

Why teach writing?

  • -Reinforcement, as a benefit from seeing the language written down.
  • -Language development: helping the learners to go on in the mental activity.
  • -Learning style: Some students are great at picking up language just by looking and listening but for the rest writing is appropriate.
  • -Writing as a skill: student need to know how to write letters, etc.

Writing is a basic language skill. Like reading, it requires knowledge of the written form of the language. Like speaking, it is a productive and creative language skill. We use it to communicate our own ideas and feelings to others. But writing is also a physical skill. Young children need to be able to handle pens and pencils and correctly form those strange marks on paper that adults call writing.

To do this, children must develop their fine motor skills: the small muscle movements that occur in the fingers, in coordination with the eyes. These skills don’t develop overnight. Teaching them to children requires patience — and it needs to be fun, too! Of course, children can develop their fine motor skills in other activities too, such as cutting out outlined shapes, placing and pasting shapes into outlines, tracing, colouring, drawing and doing puzzles.

Since writing is much more than the production of graphic symbols, our pupils need to master (dominar) certain sub skills, just as in the case of reading. The main types of writing sub-skills are the following:

Graphical or visual skills, including graphemes, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, etc. Stylistic or expressive skills. This implies being able to express precise meanings, using adequate vocabulary, etc. Organisational skills include, for example, sequencing ideas and division into paragraphs. Grammatical skills, for example, using a variety of sentence patterns or constructions. Rhetorical skills. These include using cohesive devices such as connectors, to link different parts of a text.

Writing practice should begin at the word level. For example, making lists, completing crosswords, matching labels to pictures, classifying words under headings, or making personal dictionaries. These activities will also re-inforce the learning of spelling and vocabulary.

The sentence level comes next. At this stage, the following types of activities can be used: writing captions for pictures, and writing speech bubbles for cartoons, matching halves of sentences and copying, answering questions, correcting mistakes in written sentences, writing sentences based on questionnaires, etc. These types of activities will enable our students to construct sentences in English.

For the next step, the paragraph-level, it is convenient to start by providing “model paragraphs”, so students see a text and then use it as a basis for their own work. Hammer (1983) calls this “parallel writing”. We must also help our students organise their writing clearly and coherently, using cohesive devices.

Dictation is a useful writing activity. Although it is not a creative activity, it is useful to re-inforce spelling, among other things.

We will now briefly look at writing as a communicative activity. Harmer divides written communicative activities into six groups (tomado de magister): Exchanging letters and emails, constructing stories, relaying instructions, fluency writing, writing games, writing reports and advertisements

But we can add some others. For example, writing a personal diary, or even keeping a class diary. The most common type of writing activities is perhaps composition writing. At the end of the 6th year of primary education children should be able to write short compositions on topics that are relevant to their interests.


Widdowson and Davies ask themselves an interesting question: At what stage does writing become difficult? The answer we give to this simple question may depend, to some extent, on how we envisage the task of teaching this skill. It seems that with L2 learners the difficulties arise at structuring stage and a lot of books are available on composition at the sentence level.


We must take into account several factors at this stage , the small amount of language that learners has at his disposal and which to a large extent will probably have been acquired orally. We must introduce tasks which demonstrate that writing can be used communicatively. We could consider as our goals at this stage writing activities which serve as practice of the language they have learnt orally.

Our tasks as teachers at this stage should be mainly to decide how to present the activity to the class, helping the students by doing a certain amount of the writing on the blackboard with them


At this stage it is essential to ensure that our students retain the feeling of making progress. According to BYRNE “ the writing programme must be carefully planned to develop a mastery of new skills, which the learners can use for continually expanding range of tasks”

In order to achieve this aim, the writing programme should continue to provide opportunities for reinforcing language learnt orally but a greater range of the resources of the written language should be included , such a rhetorical devices used in comparison and contras , definition , exemplification, etc


It is, maybe, at this stage when the importance of integrating skills becomes even more evident. We have already seen how speaking and writing may be linked through communication tasks from the early stages.

At this stage BYRNE advises to link reading and writing too , “through various kinds of comprehension tasks” This means , that will be designed in such a way that one activity can lead on to the next so as to form a natural sequence of learning situations.

Finally, it is often assumed that once the learners has acquired a reasonable proficiency in written expression, further practice can be given mainly through tasks in the form of compositions. The students are given a topic to write about and are expected to express themselves at some length on it in order to demonstrate their ability to write.

A final point to keep in mind is that as the learners are allowed increasingly more opportunities for self-expression through writing, it is logical to expect them to envisage this task as an attempt to communicate something.



At the early stages we can suggest reinforcement activities, meant to give the learner practice in writing material which has been orally learnt, activities to practise sentence linking and sequencing. We will start with words, sentences and those short dialogues.

Activities to practise sentence linking and sequence could include giving students sentences which they have to combine, for example:

Today I ……… tennis, and you …… football.

Communicative tasks can be very motivating because they can show the learners how the language they are learning and the activities they are carrying out can be used to express themselves through writing.


By this stage the student are already familiar with writing informal letters but we can give them practice in writing letters of a more formal kind , such a letters of complaint or excuse , sending congratulations , etc. showing how such task require different uses of language on different occasions and depending on the relationship between the writer and the addressee.

At this stage students can be set what BYRNE calls ‘reproduction exercises’ and RINVOLUCRI ‘alternative dictations’. In them, the students have to listen to a text which is read aloud to them, but instead of taking it down segment by segment, they listen to the complete text a number of times, take notes and then try to reproduce it as accurately as possible, but they may use their own words where they do not remember the original ones.


At this stage, it is time for free writing, but we should try providing activities to help the student to cope with this difficult challenge. Role plays and simulations are essential at this stage as they provide a framework for variety of writing tasks which is motivating and helps ensure the involvement of the class in them.

As far as free writing is concerned, it includes compositions and essays.


Learning to read and write is a critical achievement in life. Research reveals conclusively the link between early literacy and later academic and career success. To ensure that every child becomes a competent reader and writer is a responsibility shared by teachers, families and communities. The role of educators in early literacy instruction is to teach basic skills and to provide rich, meaningful, engaging learning environments supported by appropriate teaching practices. Each child comes to the classroom with different literacy experiences and abilities, and teachers need to consider each child’s needs and to provide balanced programs with explicit instruction and meaningful reading and writing tasks.