I’ve written a lot (some would say I’m obsessed) about the major role input plays in language acquisition. Here’s one previous post outlining this precious focus / principle. But I’m not a fan of extensive reading. Yes, it works but I don’t think it is the input students really need. Let me explain.
As part of EnglishCentral, I’m a proponent of the new video realm in teaching English – Extensive Watching. It is a multi modal type of learning and aligned with the interests and motivations of more digitally minded learners. I think one day, we’ll be talking about the four skills of language as Speaking | Listening | Writing | Watching . Video and especially for language learners, videos with subtitles IS the new textbook and new way to learn English.
Reading is much like watching a foreign (non English) video with subtitles. But imagine watching an English video with English subtitles to support the context and meaning. It is much more powerful and you get phonemic awareness, reading, sound/listening and direct visual support/context.
But you can even make extensive watching more powerful. Krashen (the father of input, input, input) advocates “narrow reading”. Read more about it here but essentially it is reading one author, one genre and controlling a lot of the semantic nuance so learning is narrowed and focused. Context is bridged and learning becomes easier. Like if you read only the Hardy Boys novels to learn English. Very similar to Kieran Egan’s “Learning In Depth” or “deep” learning concept. But I think narrow reading falls short of what I’d advocate. I think “narrow watching” is the thing.
We all have heard of students learning so much English so quickly from watching TED videos or 7 seasons of Friends. They “narrow” the learning corridor and make great progress. That’s what our courses, our topical approach on EnglishCentral is – Narrow Watching. Students can watch commercials and learn English. Or they can follow VOA news reports to learn English. What about learning English with “How to” videos? Even just listen to Obama and learn English. Or what I think is stellar – learn English with videos about food and recipes! If they do – I can bet they’ll make Krashen’s narrow reading progress X 2.
So my advice to learners and teachers? Narrow in. Find out what your students like. Focus in on that, go deep, not wide. It will pay off big time.