Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sustained Silent Reading: Let's Revisit the Research

Sent to Education Week, September 29, 2015

In "A Teacher Revisits the Sustained Silent Reading Debate," (Sept. 28), Liana Heiten asks how educators have solved the "silent reading conundrum" of holding students accountable for their reading without making reading less enjoyable.

There is no conundrum. There is massive, well-documented evidence that sustained silent reading (SSR) works very well for both first and second language acquirers with little or no accountability as long as certain common-sense conditions are met, e.g. a long enough duration (short-term SSR programs are not as effective as long-term programs), access to interesting reading material, a comfortable physical environment, and no anxiety over evaluation. (For evidence, please see Krashen, S. 2011. Non-engagement in sustained silent reading: How extensive is it? What can it teach us? Colorado Reading Council Journal 22: 5-10. Available at www.sdkrashen.com.)

This evidence is documented in articles in the Phi Delta Kappan (volumes 83(2), 2001, 86(6), 2005), in recent meta-analyses (Nakanishi, TEOL Quarterly, 49(1), 2014; Cho and Krashen, International Journal of Humanities & Social Science 5(7), 2015) and in several of my books (The Power of Reading, 2004; Free Voluntary Reading, 2011).

I have also published detailed responses to the National Reading Panel's incorrect conclusion that there is insufficient evidence to support sustained silent reading. Several of these responses have been published in Education Week (May 10, 2000; March 13, 2002; April 10, 2002), Reading Today (Aug/Sept. 2006) and in the Phi Delta Kappan, cited above.

As we "revisit the sustained silent reading debate," let's also revisit the research.

Stephen Krashen

1 comment:

  1. I am a ESL teacher at a University in Lima, Peru. My book, the directors, the exams, the other teachers, and the students are indoctrinated in the grammar based system, and I am the lone "comprehensive input" rebel. (But actually I have to play both sides because of the pressure to conform.)
    First, my advice.
    We need to teach L2 to thought translation which probably includes L2 to L1 translation.
    Most teaching is either thought to L2 translation, or L2 grammar and L2 production which is often void of clear meaning.
    Example 1 -- "She is like Lady Gaga" She likes Lady Gaga"
    Example 2 -- "She would dance" "She wants to dance" "She enjoys dancing"
    In example #1, most of my students decode both sentences as having the same meaning. We worry about output mistakes becoming habits, but we never worry about input mistakes becoming habits. As a result, reading becomes more difficult.
    Example #2 is to show that L1 to L2 translation is very difficult, it is based on grammar, and requires extensive grammar instruction. (Why not "would to dance")
    L2 to L1 translation requires little or no grammar, and it is 100% meaning based.
    I am currently using matching exercises with L1 and L2 sentences that focus on meaning, not grammar rules, or production. It seems to work very well, but I've only been using it for a month. But there are still bugs in my new system. (I teach L1 to L2 translation just before the exams, but only to conform to the system.)
    Eliminating the workbook and grammar instruction has given me a lot more free time in class, which I use for silent reading.
    I also show and narrate Charlie Chaplin movies. These movies are almost 100% comprehensible without sound, and very interesting. As a result, my narration, (which is sometimes reinforced by pausing the movie and writing on the board) is also usually both comprehensible and interesting. Charlie's best movies for ESL are probably "The Kid", "Modern Times", "The Circus" and "The Immigrant".
    My Problems-
    Besides the fact that most of my students only care about completing Elementary English to get their degree, and don't give a damn about learning English, here are my problems.
    1. Students aren't used to the input approach, and are often scared of failing the exams, don't believe that they are learning, or just confused.
    2. Lack of good reading material. The website www.english-e-books.net is probably the best source. They have free graded readers for download. But I find that I have to modify the books to make them more interesting and easier to read.
    3. Going from a grammar based method to a input based method does NOT produce instant results. The thought process is totally different and their is a lag in learning.
    4. I love Krashen, but most of his information of heavy on theory, and I often don't know how to put it into practice when I'm in front of the class.