Report on the Extensive Reading Foundation Grant
Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, Ubon Ratchathani University
This report will consist of a description of the development of the extensive reading (ER) library for the Department of Chemistry at Ubon Ratchathani University and the implementation of extensive reading into the curriculum for an English for Academic Purposes (EAP) course in Thailand. Next I will provide the results of the ER program evaluation done by 85 students at the end of the course that show a very favorable attitude towards ER. In addition to this I will provide some examples of some student work produced related to books read for the ER program to show how students engaged with the reading. Finally I will end with an account of the current status of the ER library at the Department of Chemistry. After the report will be some pictures of the ER library and the students reading.
Developing an ER Library: Developing an ER library is a lot of work. The development of the project started well before leaving to Thailand. This section will focus on the steps taken to develop the library including: book selection, grading of books, getting the materials to the location, developing a check out system, and finding the location for the library.
Book Selection: I decided to purchase mostly used books from local used book stores in Hawaii. I did this for a couple of reasons. I am a fan of ESL/EFL specific graded readers however they are fairly expensive and they were out of my budget. If purchasing graded readers I would have only been able to get around 50-100 books. I had almost 100 students in three classes initially participating in the ER program so we needed at least 200 books. This program is intended for the entire Department of Chemistry so we needed many books. I was able to find many leveled readers designed for use in public schools in the US that are very similar to graded readers. They are designed for different grades depending on the difficulty of the text (vocabulary level and grammatical structures). I got both fiction and nonfiction books. I also got some books in Thailand once I got there because I had some money left over after taking care of the shipping of the materials to Thailand. I was able to purchase some ESL/EFL specific graded readers in Thailand from the local book store. In all I got 234 books for the ER library.
Grading/Leveling Books: I needed to create a grading/leveling system on my own because many of the books came from different publishers. It defiantly was a painstaking task. I used some websites on the internet to get grade levels for many of the books. I looked through all the books reading selected pages to determine their difficulty. Using the information online and my own investigation into the books I ended up creating a 5 level system. Each book was labeled with a colored star corresponding to the level so that the difficulty could be easily determined by the students.
Getting Materials to the Location: The books were shipped via to the university via USPS.
Checkout System: An important component of any library is the checkout system. I decided to go with a more traditional approach as it was easy to implement and did not require a lot of technology. Traditional book pockets and book cards were used. Book pockets were placed in each book and a book card was filled out for each book and placed in the book pocket. When checking out books students would fill out the card and leave it in the library.
Location: The initial location of the library was in my office in the Department of Chemistry. Please see below for more details on the status of the library now.
Implementing ER: This section will focus on orientating the students to ER, the use of in class and out of class time for ER, monitoring reading, and grading ER as a component of the course.
Orienting Students to ER: A PowerPoint was used to present and explain ER in simple terms to the students so that they could understand ER and the benefits of ER before beginning the program. The Title and Blurb Activity was used to introduce some books and explain what a blurb was. I think this activity is a good way to get students excited about ER. The activity was a success. On the first day of class students got to check out books for ER. Also on the first day of class students signed a responsible book borrowing contract agreeing to treat the books nicely and replace them if they got damaged or lost.
In and Out of Class Time for ER: Students were given some time in class for sustained silent reading (SSR) about 20 minutes every Thursday. Students were expected to read outside of class on their own. Also every Thursday we did an ER activity where they needed to use the books they were reading. Students in the beginning EAP course were expected to read 4 books and students in the advanced EAP course were expected to read 3 books because they were more focused on writing and had many writing assignments to write.
Monitoring Reading: When students completed a book I logged down what they read on an excel sheet for their grades. I was also able to monitor by seeing how they completed the ER activities done in class. I also engaged students when they come to the library and asked them questions about the books they read.
Grading: For the beginning EAP level ER made up 25% of the grade for this course. The 25% was determined by how many books they had read and their participation and performance on the various ER activities. For the advanced EAP course ER made up 10% of their grade and this was determined by the amount of books they read. The students were not tested on the books they read. I really wanted them to do the reading for the joy and fun of reading and not be worried about being tested on what they read.
Evaluation: During the course (7 weeks) a total of 217 books were read by the students in the classes (96 students total). This was an average of 2.26 books per student. The ER program was evaluated by using a simple student survey. See appendix A for a copy of the survey. The results of all 85 respondents are in appendix B. Overall the evaluation done by the students shows a very favorable attitude and opinion towards the ER program. According to the survey all but one student either agreed or strongly agreed to enjoying the books for the ER program. Only five students agreed or strongly agreed with the statement that they did not enjoy the books. Eighty-eight percent of students agreed or strongly agreed to the statement saying they would continue to read the books after the instructor left. All respondents agreed or strongly agreed to the statement saying I think the books helped me to be a better reader in English. For sixteen students this was the first time that they had ever read a book in English.
Sample Student Work: As stated above students engaged in ER activities. These activities included: Tell Me About It, Write a Letter to a Character, Interview a Character, Make an Advertisement for a Book, and What Happens Next. I found these activities in Day, R. R. (Ed.). (2012). New ways in teaching reading. Alexandria, Virginia: TESOL International Association. The students performed much better on these activities than I had anticipated. This shows that they were engaged with thereading. See appendix C for samples of student work.
Current Status of ER Library: I have just recently heard back from my contact at the Department of Chemistry about the ER library that I set up in June 2013. The relocation of the library, so that it is more accessible for the students, is off to a slow start due to some unforeseen circumstances. Unfortunately the department has suffered some massive leaks in their building causing flooding. The books were saved with no damage. They were going to be moved to the main chemistry office but that area was heavily damaged in the flood and is still be cleaned. The books are currently in one of the professor’s offices still accessible to the students to read. The plan is to have the books moved to the Faculty of Science Library where they will be accessible to all students in the faculty. When the final move is made my contact will send me some pictures of the library that I will send to you. The most important thing is that the books are still being read by the students.
Last Words: I would like to take this opportunity to express my deepest thanks and appreciation to the Extensive Reading Foundation. With your help I was able to develop an extensive reading library that will benefit the students at Ubon Ratchathani University for years to come.