Developing reading skill

By Dr Myo Win
Yangon University of Education

06 reading habits multiple booksOne of the objectives of teaching English in Basic Education in Myanmar is to develop four language skills: listening skill, speaking skill, reading skill and writing skill. In general, these four skills can be divided into only two groups: receptive skills and productive skills. Receptive skills are listening and reading skills. We receive language in the form of listening and reading. They are also called input skills. We produce what we want to say in the form of speaking and writing. These skills are also called productive skills. Therefore, language learners cannot develop productive skills without receptive skills. In other words, language inputs are basic for developing language outputs. Therefore, students should develop listening skill for the development of speaking skill. In the same way, they should read as much as possible for fluent writing.
Although the objective of teaching English is to develop four language skills, in practice, the reading and writing skill are more emphasized than the other two skills. This fact is clear if we study prescribed textbooks and questions. Again, reading skill is basic for the development of writing skill. Therefore, reading skill is said to be more important than any other skills. To know the ability of students’ reading skills, some reading comprehension questions are set in almost all English papers at each level. In the matriculation examination English subject test, questions No 1 and No 5 are reading comprehension questions. It is learnt that unseen passage will be given for No 5, starting from the 2019 English test. The objective of this article is to suggest teachers and students how to develop their reading skills.
As reading skills have many sub-skills, such as skimming, scanning, inferencing, etc., this article is emphasized on the level of matriculation students. To make it clear, a reading passage which is included in the 2019 English test question will be used as an example. The given passage is mentioned below:
Thailand is situated on the gulf of Siam, bounded on the east by Laos and Cambodia, on the south by Malaysia and on the west by Myanmar. Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and is regarded as a shopper’s paradise. Some of its restaurants stage cultural shows where one can enjoy the twin pleasure of Thai cuisine and classical dance. The dancers use their movements to interpret the stories of the ‘Ramakien’, the Thai version of the Ramayana. While in Bangkok, culture lovers can watch dance or drama at such venues as Thailand’s National Theatre, the Thailand Cultural Centre and the Monthienthong Theatre.
There are many opportunities for sports too. The beach resorts at Pattaya and Phuket offer a wide range of activities from scuba diving and windsurfing to golf. Thai boxing has gained increasing worldwide popularity in recent years. A Thai boxing match is noisy and exciting, accompanied by orchestral music and is well worth experiencing.
(A) Write the correct word or words to complete each sentence.
(1) People regard Bangkok as a paradise for
————.
(2) The twin pleasure of Thai cuisine and classical dance can ———– at some restaurants in Bangkok.
(3) The ‘Ramakien’ is ———– of the Ramayana.
(4) Thai boxing has become very ——— throughout the world.
(5) Orchestral music ———- a Thai boxing match.
(B) Answer each question in one sentence.

(6) What are the neighbouring countries of Thailand?
(7) How do the Thai dancers interpret the stories of the ‘Ramakien’?
(8) Where can culture lovers watch dance or drama?
(9) What examples of water sports are given in the passage?
(10) What characteristics do Thai boxing matches have?

To be able to answer No.1, students should read the sentence in the given passage – Bangkok is the capital of Thailand and is regarded as a shopper’s paradise. This sentence is written in passive voice. In the question, this sentence is changed into active voice – People regard Bangkok ——. Such a change is usually asked in reading comprehension. In the passage, a shopper’s paradise, the noun ‘paradise’ is modified by possessive adjective-shopper’s. In the question, it is transformed into an adjective phrase- ‘a paradise for shopper’. So the blank must be filled with the word ‘shopper’. In order to answer this question, students should have the knowledge of language form and its function. In other words, teachers should explain them language form and its function. An adjective can be used as an attributive adjective and a predicative adjective in a sentence. If an adjective is used to modify a noun, such a usage is called attributive adjective. If an adjective is used as a verb with the help of verb to BE, such a usage is called a predicative adjective. For example, in the phrase ‘a brave boy’, the word ‘brave’ is used as an attributive adjective. But in the sentence- ‘The boy is brave.’, it is used as a predicative adjective. When a noun is modified by an adjective, it can be modified in three ways, using simple adjective, adjective phrase, and adjective clause without changing the meaning. For example, a diamond ring, a ring made of diamond, and a ring which is made of diamond have the same meaning. All the bold words show what kind of ring it is. Students should also know that there are four different kinds of adjective phrases. Some examples used in Grade Ten English text are mentioned below.

1. noun+ to Vinf
time to get up (unit 4), something to cook and eat (unit 2), tasks to be carried out (unit 2)
2. noun +prep
travellers to the moon (unit 3), the weight on the pendulum (unit 4), scientists in Egypt (unit 1)
3. Noun+ V3
The pot and the grain given to them by their professor (unit 2), the sum given in payment (unit 5), money spent on advertising (Unit 8);
4. Noun+ Ving
youths studying under the famous professor (unit 2), an alarm ringing in your ears in the morning (unit 4), servants carrying trays of candy (unit 7)

When a noun is modified with the use of relative pronouns such as who, which, that, etc., such a usage is called adjective clause. Some examples used in the prescribed text are mentioned below.

the medico who was coming back empty-handed (unit 2), cosmic rays that are unfiltered by an atmosphere (unit 3), products which are available on the market (unit 8), time when you get up (unit 4), the calendar we use today (unit 1)

Such changes can be checked in old questions. For instance, ‘scientists in Egypt’ is transformed into ‘Egyptian scientists’. ‘A watch that runs slow’ is transformed into ‘a slowly running watch’.

To answer No (A) 2, students should read the sentence – ‘one can enjoy the twin pleasure of Thai cuisine and classical dance.’ This sentence is written in active voice. In the question, this sentence is changed into passive voice. Therefore, the blank should be filled with ‘be enjoyed’. Students should have the knowledge of ‘nouns in apposition’ structure so that they will be able to answer No (A) 3. In this sentence, the missing word is complement of verb. In other words, this blank must be filled with noun. To know this noun, students must know that ‘Ramakien’ and ‘the Thai version of the Ramayana’ are the same because this sentence is written using nouns in appositions.
Students should read the sentence -‘Thai boxing has gained increasing worldwide popularity in recent years’ to answer No (A) 4 which is transformed by changing word form. In answering this question, the noun ‘popularity’ has to be changed into adjective ‘popular’ because the linking verb ‘become’ is usually followed by adjective. To be able to answer this question, students must have the background knowledge of linking verbs. The verb in this question is called a linking verb, such as be, become, get, look, etc. After linking verb, the complement can be adjective or noun.
To answer question No (A) 5, students should read the sentence- ‘A Thai boxing match is noisy and exciting, accompanied by orchestral music’. In the question, the given sentence is transformed into active voice. So the blank must be filled with ‘accompanies’.
Part (B) is to answer each question in one sentence. To be able to answer these questions, students should understand wh- question words, such as who, whom, whose, what, when, where, how, how often, etc. Teachers should explain students why these questions are asked. For example, in question No (6) – “What are the neighbouring countries of Thailand?”, the question word ‘What’ asks for complement of verb. So the answer is “The neighbouring countries of Thailand are Laos, Cambodia, Malaysia and Myanmar.” Wh- question words will be discussed separately.

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