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Teaching Ideas

July 31, 2003

Reading Strategies for the TOEIC® Test

Johannes C. Razenberg

TESOL teacher

Introduction
If your learners, regardless of their TOEIC proficiency level(s), are having trouble understanding the context, purpose, sociocultural usage, and so on of the texts which appear in Part VII of the TOEIC test, then you may be interested in utilizing this text-based syllabus. You may decide to include the units of work in your current TOEIC framework, adopt some of the ideas, or use this text-based syllabus as intended series of lessons which focuses on developing seven reading strategies across ten text-type categories.

Aim
To improve learners' TOEIC scores in Part VII of the TOEIC test

Outcome
Learners will have acquired seven reading strategies for improving their reading comprehension skills.

Objectives
Learners will:

  • Use authentic texts to learn and practice the reading strategies.
  • Use TOEIC preparatory texts to practice the reading strategies under test conditions.
  • Think about the text-type of a given text.
  • Think about where a given text is used (social and situational contexts).
  • Think about the purpose of a given text.
  • Think about the main point(s) of a given text.
  • Think about the writer and/or source of a given text.
  • Think about the audience of a given text.
  • Think about the written expression of a given text.

Units of Work

Forms
Faxes

Tables
Memos

Charts
Bulletins

Indexes
Letters

Advertisements
Miscellaneous reading passages

Each unit of work follows the same genre-approach methodology and addresses each of the seven reading strategies. See Figure 1 for a list of the seven strategies and how they correspond with questions frequently encountered on the TOEIC test.

Sequencing
It is highly suggested that learners first learn the strategies with very straightforward text-types such as forms and tables and gradually work up to the more difficult text-types categories such as letters and miscellaneous reading passages.

Reading Strategies for the TOEIC Test

Strategy 1: Think about the text-type

  • What kind of text this?
  • What type of text is this?
  • What is the text-type?

Strategy 2: Think about where this text is used

  • Where would you likely find this ____(text-type)?
  • Where would this ____(text-type) most likely appear?
  • Where would this ____(text-type) most likely be found?
  • Where would this ____(text-type) appear?

Strategy 3: Think about the purpose

  • What is the purpose of this ____(text-type)?
  • What is this ____(text-type) used for?
  • What is this ____(text-type) for?
  • Why was the ____(text-type) written?

Strategy 4: Think about the main point(s)

  • What is this ____(text-type) about?
  • What is the main subject of the ____(text-type)?
  • What is the main topic of this ____ (text-type)?
  • What is the main idea of this ____(text-type)?
  • What is the topic of the ____(text-type)?
  • What do the listings feature?
  • What does this ____(text-type) compare?
  • What is the focus of this ____(text-type)?
  • What does the ____(text-type) concern?
  • What is the ____(text-type) promoting?
  • What is the ____(text-type) suggesting?
  • What is the primary focus of this ____(text-type)?
  • What are the contents of this ____(text-type)?
  • What is this list of?
  • What is the ____(text-type) showing?

Permission to copy

Strategy 5: Think about the writer/source

  • What does the writer expect from the reader?
  • What is the writer's intent?
  • Who would most likely use this ____(text-type)?
  • What can be said about the writer of this ____(text-type)?
  • Who would publish this ____(text-type)?

Strategy 6: Think about the audience

  • Who would most likely read this ____(text-type)?
  • Who would most likely respond to this ____(text-type)?
  • Who would find this ____(text-type) valuable?
  • Who would benefit from this ____(text-type)?
  • Where is this ____(text-type) most likely being sent to?
  • Who is the audience?
  • Who will read this ____(text-type)?
  • Why might people respond to this ____(text-type)?
  • A person doing what would read this.
  • For whom is this _____(text-type) intended?
  • Who would most likely use this ____(text-type)?
  • Who is this ____(text-type) intended for?
  • For whom is this ____(text-type) important?

Strategy 7: Think about the written expression

  • How is the ____(text-type) organized?

(Source Longman Preparation Series for the TOEIC Test)

(Fig.1)


Methodology

Opening

  1. Write "READING STRATEGIES FOR THE TOEIC TEST" at the top-left of the whiteboard
  2. Explain that a strategy is something which makes reading easier
  3. Inform learners that they are going to learn seven strategies for making reading easier and for improving their TOEIC scores.

Strategy 1: Think about the text-type

  1. Write "Strategy 1: Think about the text-type" underneath the main heading.
  2. Introduce an authentic model-text (teacher's use only)
  3. Broadly highlight and explain the language and sociocultural features that reveal the text-type.
    For example:
    This text displays two addresses, contains the salutation 'Dear ___', consists of paragraphs (introduction, body, closing), and has a signature at the bottom of the page. The writer, a salesperson, is communicating in writing with the addressee. Therefore this is a letter.
  4. Put the features in note form up on the whiteboard or OHP to aid retention.

    Text-type: Letters

    • Return address
    • Date
    • Inside address
    • Salutation
    • Introduction
    • Body
    • Closing
    • Signature
    • Footnotes (Cc, Attachment, P.S.)
    N.B.: You may prefer to do a brainstorm activity in steps three and four with higher level learners.
  5. Place a number and variety of TOEIC text-types on the table (see Units of Work)
  6. Make sure that there are at least three target text-types
  7. Write "How many letters (text-type) are there?" on the board
  8. Get learners work together as a class to reach a consensus by isolating the target text-types
  9. Remove the other text-types from the table
  10. In the report-back phase, using a suitable function e.g. a knowing function, ask learners to highlight the language and sociocultural features which revealed the text-type to them.
    We know (that) this is a letter because there is a salutation: 'Dear Mr. Snapshot'

Strategy 2: Think about where the text is used

  1. Write "Strategy 2: Think about where the text is used" underneath Strategy 1
  2. Go back to the teacher's model-text
  3. Highlight and explain the language features that reveal the situational and social context
    For example:
    This is a business situation. We can see this from the letter head 'Smith's Camera Sales'. At the bottom of the letter there appears the name 'Sam Pic' followed by her job 'Sales Representative'. As we can see from the use of a picture of a new product and the words '50% discount for the first 100 buyers', this is a sales situation. Socially, Sam and Mr. Snapshot are not close friends so a formal level of language is used: 'Dear Mr. Snapshot' instead of 'Hi Mike'.
  4. Guide learners in practicing the strategy with another authentic model-text (Learners' controlled practice sample)
  5. Use the text-types which are on the table from Strategy 1. You are aiming for students to develop speed in understanding where texts are used. Say a question-answer exchange. The questions come from Strategy 2 (see Fig. 1) and the answers must correspond to the authentic texts on the table.
    Where would you likely find this sales letter? - This letter would likely be found in a target customer's office.
    N.B.: If your class dislikes flash card activities, you could write a question on the whiteboard for each text and ask learners to write down their answers. Then pool the answers in the report-back phase and discuss areas of agreement and disagreement until an acceptable level of comprehension is achieved.

Strategy 3: Think about the purpose

  1. Write "Strategy 3: Think about the purpose" underneath Strategy 2
  2. Go back to the teacher's model-text
  3. Highlight and explain the language features that reveal the purpose.
    For example:
    • Color picture of a new camera (Smith 7ZX)
    • 50% discount for the first 100 buyers
    The purpose of this letter is to sell the new camera.
  4. Guide learners in practicing the strategy with the learners' model-text
  5. Go back to the texts which are on the table. You can have a game show complete with points and prizes or a multiple-choice quiz. You are aiming to teach learners to quickly identify the purpose of a text. If you want to incorporate a listening task, go for the game show, if you want to incorporate a reading task, go for the quiz. Use the questions from Strategy 3 (see Fig. 1).

    Game show:
    Hold up the text. Say: "What is the purpose of this sales letter?" Read out the four options: 'Is it (a) to sell a product (b) to instruct customers how to use the product, (c) to ask customers to stop buying the company's product, or (d) to send a written message by telephone? Choose your answer...And the answer is (a) to sell a product'. Check answers and award points.

    Multiple-choice quiz:

    What is the purpose of this sales letter?
    a) To sell a product
    b) To instruct customers how to use the product
    c) To ask customers to stop buying the company's product
    d) To send a written message by telephone

Strategy 4: Think about the main point(s)

  1. Write "Strategy 4: Think about the main point(s)" underneath Strategy 3
  2. Go back to the teacher's model-text
  3. Highlight and explain the language features that reveal the main point(s). Show these points as they appear in context as sentences/clauses.
    If you are one of the first one hundred buyers to purchase the Smith 7ZX, you will receive a 50% percent discount. Hurry, while the offer still lasts!
  4. Guide learners in practicing the strategy with the learners' model-text
  5. Go back to the texts which are on the table. Have cards with the main points written down (in abstract point form otherwise learners will simply engage in a matching activity) and include three non-relevant points.
  6. Learners have to work together as a group to match the points with the appropriate text.
  7. Tell learners that they are finished when they are left with three non-relevant points.

    new camera

    50% discount for first 100 buyers

    best movie


  8. In the report-back phase, ask learners questions from Strategy 4 (see Fig. 1) and get them to give you grammatically and syntactically complete spoken replies.
    What is this letter suggesting? - It's suggesting that people buy the new camera in a hurry in order to receive a 50% discount.

Strategy 5: Think about the writer/source

  1. Write "Strategy 5: Think about the writer/source" underneath Strategy 4
  2. Go back to the teacher's model-text
  3. Highlight and explain the language and sociocultural features that provide information about the writer
  4. Guide learners in practicing the strategy with the learners' model-text
  5. Go back to texts which are on the table. Use the questions from Strategy 5 (see Fig. 1) to get learners to exchange opinions about the writer and the source using a function for exchanging opinions. Record the ideas on the whiteboard so that learners get a spoken and written medium to absorb the information, and to allow for a quick de-brief flash card quiz. If you want to incorporate writing skills, a nominated leaner can write down the opinions.

    Question-answer pattern:
    What does the writer expect from the reader? - I think (that) the writer expects the customer to buy the new product. What do you think is the writer's intent?
    Record:

    Letters

    Text 1

    Text 2

    Text 3

    The writer expects the customer to buy the new product

     

     


    De-brief flash card quiz using the recorded notes from the whiteboard:
    The writer expects the customer to buy the product. (Answer: Text 1)

Strategy 6: Think about the audience

  1. Write "Strategy 6: Think about the audience" underneath Strategy 5
  2. Follow the same methodology as in Strategy 5. Only this time, use the questions from Strategy 6 (see Fig. 1).

Strategy 7: Think about the written expression

  1. Write "Strategy 7: Think about the written expression" underneath Strategy 6
  2. Go back to the teacher's model-text
  3. Highlight and explain the language expression features. Draw a table on the board. Then transfer those features in words onto the table.

    Written expression used in letters

    Formal

    Informal

    Personal

    Official

    • Company letter head
    • Word processed
    • Formal font (e.g. courier new)
    • Signature
    • Job titles
    • Full block format
    • Bold typed subject

     

     

     

    N.B.: Use your own appropriate headings depending on the authentic text you are exploring.
  4. Guide learners in practicing the strategy with the learners' model-text
  5. Go back to the texts which are on the table. Get learners to think about the expression features. Use question such as:
    How does the layout make you feel? Do you think this is a rich company? Is the product appealing because of the picture?

Revising the seven strategies

  1. Go back to the teacher’s model and show a completed summary sheet.

    Summary

    Strategy 1: Think about the text-type

    Sales letter

    Strategy 2: Think about where the text is used

    To reach target customers

    Strategy 3: Think about the purpose

    To sell the new Smith 7ZX

    Strategy 4: Think about the main point(s)

    New camera
    50% discount for the first 100 customers

    Strategy 5: Think about the writer/source

    The sales rep expects the customer to buy the new product in a hurry

    Strategy 6: Think about the audience

    Photo camera stores

    Strategy 7: Think about the written expression

    Use of a picture of the new product
    Smith's Camera Store letter head
    Signature of sales rep
    Formal font


  2. Get learners to fill out a summary sheet for the learners model.

    Summary

    Strategy 1: Think about the text-type

     

    Strategy 2: Think about where the text is used

     

    Strategy 3: Think about the purpose

     

    Strategy 4: Think about the main point(s)

     

    Strategy 5: Think about the writer/source

     

    Strategy 6: Think about the audience

     

    Strategy 7: Think about the written expression

    Permission to copy

     

Getting learners to use the strategies by themselves

  1. Learners each need to select one authentic text, have a blank summary sheet, and refer to copy of Reading Strategies for the TOEIC Test.
  2. Explain to the learners that they have to apply what they have just learnt. Mnemonically revise the strategies which are on the whiteboard.
  3. Get learners to refer to their selected texts. They need to practice the seven strategies and fill out the summary sheet. Use the summary sheet to see how well they have understood the text.

Optional text-building activity

  1. Adhering to the notion that memory works best when learners learn through reading, seeing, hearing, and doing (A series of lectures on memory, School of Education, Southern Cross University 1996), you could now get learners to use their knowledge to construct texts based on the variety of models which they have encountered. This is purely optional and not included in this methodology because not everyone has elaborate resources or computer labs. You might also choose to set this as a homework task.

Incorporating preparatory TOEIC test materials

  1. Have a list of pages in learners' test preparation books that have questions that are the same as or similar to the strategies which learners practiced
  2. Get learners to practice answering the questions under test conditions
  3. Mark the answers and go over any errors.
  4. De-brief by asking learners what they found easy and hard? See if they can offer reasons why they found some texts hard (e.g. I have never read a letter inviting someone to be a guest speaker at a seminar). Take the opportune moment, should it arise, to encourage further reading.

Assessment

  1. Take careful note of which questions in Part VII of a TOEIC practice test correspond with the reading strategies. Note how many learner errors are made and revise the strategies/units as necessary.

References and Further Reading



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