Welcome to the second edition of English For Health Sciences, Reading Skills, Intermediate Level! This new edition is the product of constant revision and evaluation, not only by myself, but by the many instructors who, along with their students, have used the previous edition and have contributed valuable suggestions and comments. The success of the previous edition has been due, in large measure, to the honest and careful appraisal given by instructors and their students.
English For Health Sciences, Reading Skills is the second in a series of English language texts constructed for use in health colleges and institutes and adult English language training programmes. The aim of the series is to prepare students to participate in medical science courses. This text is structured at the intermediate level of students of English as a Foreign Language (EFL). As with the first (elementary) text, it focuses on reading skills with the aim of facilitating the leap from basic English to academic English and preparing students to handle health science materials with confidence.
The topics have been selected from a wide range of authentic writings including health science curricula, as well as medical journals and textbooks to serve as vehicles for developing reading with its associated skills in an interesting and informative way. The rationale for selecting authentic materials is to ease the students’ passage from the “safety” of ‘EFL English” to confronting the English of the “real world” in a manner that makes students aware of the control they can exercise, even with texts which are, at first sight, beyond their level of language competence. Thus, despite the daunting appearance of the readings, the tasks based on them are designed to be within the students’ abilities to carry out. This approach should encourage students to move through the book with a growing sense of confidence and accomplishment as they discover that they can find the main ideas and important details, understanding much of the new vocabulary without a dictionary and successfully applying critical thinking to their reading.
Because the book’s primary purpose is to develop the reading process, it offers a large variety of exercises and activities directed at reading. Individual teachers are left to make the choice of which sections best suit the specific needs of their students. Each of the sixteen units consists of a brief pre-reading exercise and an exercise on skimming or scanning. Following the reading itself, there are post-reading exercises that focus on important reading skills that include:
l Getting the main idea of a text
l Guessing meaning from context
l Understanding reading structure
l Understanding details
l Finding the topic sentence
l Understanding cause and effect
l Recognizing contextual reference
l Understanding expressions and idioms
l Interpreting the author’s point of view
l Making notes
l Understanding stems and affixes
l Using a dictionary
l Increasing reading speed
l Discussing questions that relate the reading selection to the students’ own
lives, allowing for some conversation
l Understanding comparison and contrast
l Understanding chronological order
l Understanding general and specific information
To the Teacher
Having some idea of the subject matter is clearly an important aspect of active reading. To this end, students need to be encouraged to look at and discuss the pictures in the Before You Read and Getting Started sections, and to attempt to answer the accompanying questions.
When tackling the reading selection themselves, students should read silently. This speeds up their reading and also closely parallels the established approach to the reading of academic texts. Encouraging the students to “unhinge” their minds from their lips, i.e., not to pronounce words as they read – is an additional means of increasing their reading speed. Not allowing them a dictionary for the initial reading will force them to extract the meanings of words from their context in the passage itself. Stress the importance of homing in on the central idea of the text.
As an alternative to this approach, you may occasionally wish to read out the text (or play a recording of it) while the students follow it in their books. Whichever approach is used, the passage should be read through in full, without explanation.
The readings are followed by a variety of exercises in the After You Read section. These are intended to help students to consolidate, in English, the very same skills they are assumed to possess in their own language. Again, the emphasis is on grasping the main idea and guessing meaning from context – a sometimes bewildering but ultimately rewarding experience for many students who have developed a slavish reliance on their dictionaries. They need to learn that trying to find out the exact meaning of a word is not always necessary, and can even be counter-productive if the word has subtly acquired a different shade of meaning in a new context.
Although students are instructed to re-read the selection after doing the Guessing Meaning from Context exercises, towards the end of the book you might wish to consider having them mark the passage after reading it just once – an approach commonly followed in courses in tertiary education, where the sheer volume of reading to be covered often limits the student to no more than a single reading of a chapter. Should you decide on more than one reading, restrict dictionary usage to an absolute minimum, often as a last resort.
In the Getting the Main Idea section, students practise finding the topic sentence of a paragraph or, for paragraphs with no topic sentence, practise “adding up” details to work out the implied main idea.
In sections on rhetorical functions, i.e., general and specific
information, cause and effect, classification and comparison and contrast, etc, students are given adequate practice to understand these functions
which are recycled where appropriate.
The Building Vocabulary exercises can be assigned as homework, but the Study Skills activities should be completed in class, particularly those dealing with increasing reading speed.
Students are given free rein in practising newly-acquired vocabulary when they express their opinion in the Discussing the Reading section. This may be handled in a number of ways. For example:
The teacher asks questions of the entire class. The advantage of this approach is teacher control of the discussion – to direct and add to it. A common problem arises with an unresponsive group of students who may be too embarrassed to speak out.
The students discuss answers in small groups. A representative of each group then reports the group’s findings to the entire class. For very shy students, pairs of students may be preferable.
One selected question is chosen for a debate. The class is then divided into two teams who prepare points for their team.
English for Health Sciences, Reading Skills, Intermediate Level, Second Edition