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Reading versus Grammar: What Students Think Is Pleasurable and Beneficial for Language Acquisition

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This study examined the attitudes of 49 second-language students toward 2 language acquisition activities: grammar exercises and extensive reading of popular literature. Results showed, by a significant margin, student favored reading over grammar in both respects. (includes references) (JL)
... Any apparent "tie" between free reading and explicit instruction is really a win for reading. Free reading is more pleasurable for the student (McQuillan, 1994) and easier for the teacher than direct instruction. Reading also aids in the acquisition of spelling, grammar, writing style, and general knowledge of the world (Krashen, 2004a), all with no additional time or effort. ...
... wpm; from Table 12, p. 136). As I note in my Discussion below, in any "tie" between the efficiency of free reading and instructed conditions, free reading should be preferred, since it is both easier for teachers and doubtless more enjoyable for students (McQuillan, 1994). ...
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Several researchers have claimed that low-achieving students, especially second language students, need explicit academic vocabulary instruction to “catch up” with their age peers (e.g., Nagy & Townsend, 2012). Two possible paths to vocabulary growth – free reading and explicit vocabulary instruction – were compared in terms of their efficiency (Mason, 2007) in words acquired per minute by analyzing data from a large corpus (1.1 million words) of young-adult novels taken from the Harry Potter series (Rowling, 2016), and from seven large-scale academic vocabulary intervention studies. The Harry Potter novels contain 85% of all the words on the Academic Word List (AWL), which is thought to include the most important word families needed for success in school. Reading all seven Harry Potter novels is predicted to result in the acquisition of between one-fifth and one-half of these AWL words. This vocabulary gain is 1.6 to four times more efficient than what has been achieved so far through explicit instruction.
... The same perception towards extensive reading was held by the students studied by McQuillan (2004) in which they overwhelmingly found extensive reading to be not only more pleasurable, but also more beneficial for language acquisition than instruction in grammar. The same results were also found by Dupuy (2007) in replicating McQuillan's (2004) study. ...
... The same perception towards extensive reading was held by the students studied by McQuillan (2004) in which they overwhelmingly found extensive reading to be not only more pleasurable, but also more beneficial for language acquisition than instruction in grammar. The same results were also found by Dupuy (2007) in replicating McQuillan's (2004) study. However, the most convincing evidence for the benefits of extensive reading comes from what has come to be known as the book flood studies (Elley and Mangubhai, 2003), which looked at the effect of extensive reading on the English language proficiency of Fiji elementary school children. ...
... Affect and SSR 19. Foreign language, second language, and heritage students prefer SSR to regular instruction ( McQuillan 1994 ;Dupuy 1997 ;Lao and Krashen 2008 ). 20. ...
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Free voluntary reading appears to be the most powerful means of developing advanced competence in literacy. This book covers progress made since the publication of the Power of Reading in 2004.
... Krashen (1993) concluded that free voluntary reading or sustained independent reading results in better reading comprehension, writing style, vocabulary, spelling, and grammatical development. McQuillan (1994) reported that students considered extensive reading to be more beneficial for language acquisition than grammatical instruction. Dupuy & McQuillan's (1997) research replicated McQuillan's earlier findings. ...
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A key government education policy in Hong Kong is Reading to Learn, introduced in 2000. Cultivating an independent reading habit is identified as one of the “Seven Learning Goals” to be achieved by 2014. This paper reports the results of a small-scale pilot study designed to inform a more comprehensive future survey implemented jointly by the Education and Manpower Bureau and the Hong Kong Teacher Librarians Association to measure the effectiveness of Reading to Learn.
... For instance, Cho and Krashen (1994) reported that adult ESL students found pleasure and enjoyed reading when they read comprehensible reading material. McQuillan (1994) stated that the students preferred reading the text of their own choice over classroom instruction. Krashen (2004) delineated several case histories that claimed the gains of self-selected reading in literacy development. ...
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Studies have shown the potentials of reading on the development of language. Especially, the literature on second language reading is replete with evidence that unearths the incidental acquisition of vocabulary through reading. Free and pleasurable reading, which has a marked effect on the frequency of reading, contributes significantly to the incidental acquisition of vocabulary. However, only a few studies have explored the interconnection among vocabulary acquisition, free and/or pleasure reading, and the reading frequency. To this end, this study manifests the incidental acquisition of vocabulary through reading and foregrounds the importance of free reading, reading pleasure, and reading frequency for vocabulary development. By confirming the strong correlation between reading frequency and the vocabulary test scores of the participants we attest that the reading frequency is significantly associated with free and/or pleasure reading (in our case, liking towards self-selected reading). We also theoretically contextualize and support the argument of incidental vocabulary learning through reading from a biological perspective. Given that the acquisition of any language subskill is enabled by the amalgamation of nature and environment, insights into the biological system of reading implicates a better understanding of the incidental acquisition of vocabulary through reading.
... There is strong evidence that reading, particularly self-selected or 'free voluntary' reading (FVR) is a major contributor to both first and second/foreign language development and literacy (Krashen, 1993;Elley, 1991;Elley & Manghubai, 1983). FVR has also been found to be more motivating than traditional form-focused instruction, therefore resulting in more positive attitudes toward reading and greater frequency of out-of-school reading (Greaney & Clarke, 1973;Cho & Krashen, 1994, in press 1995Constantino, 1994Constantino, , 1995McQuillan, 1994McQuillan, , 1995Tse & McQuillan, in press). However, despite these advantages, FVR is seldom a significant part of beginning and intermediate second/foreign language curricula (Huber, 1993), and many second/foreign language students report doing little reading for pleasure in the language they study (McQuillan, 1995;Dupuy, in preparation). ...
Article
We describe a novel way of creating interesting reading material for the foreign language classroom, handcrafted books.
... Ma (1994) emphasised the need to address important cultural-based traits and that English language instruction should include development of nonlinguistic competence and both intensive and extensive reading strategies, as well as linguistic competence. McQuillan (1994) examined the attitudes of 49 second-language students toward second language acquisition activities: grammar exercises and extensive reading of popular literature. The results of the study showed by a significant margin that students favoured reading over grammar in both respects. ...
... As I explained in another article that also appeared in Reading in a Foreign Language (McQuillan, 2016b), traditional vocabulary learning methods are among the least efficient and effective ways to improve vocabulary and comprehension. And if motivation is a concern to Macalister, it's hard to argue that memorizing vocabulary words is any student's idea of a good time (a point I discussed in McQuillan, 1994). If explicit vocabulary and grammar instruction were the key to ...
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This is a response to Macalister (2019) and Webb and Macalister (2019), which appeared in Reading in a Foreign Language. I argue that children's literature is in fact appropriate for many second language adults.
... This means the teacher must "win over" some students at first, and the authors provide useful tips to accomplish this task. Once exposed to extensive reading approaches, however, students are usually enthusiastic, as recent research suggests (Dupuy, 1997;McQuillan, 1994;Tse, 1996). ...
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Review of three books on second language reading
... Given this result, providing students with sustained silent reading (SSR) time and plentiful access to compelling reading materials may be a better intervention than doing numerous "rich" vocabulary exercises and activities, as Krashen (2004) found in his review of SSR programs. Reading is also more pleasurable for most students than direct instruction (McQuillan, 1994), such that even if an intervention could match reading's efficiency, reading would still be preferred. It is less work for the teachers and more enjoyable for the students. ...
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Some researchers have argued that low-achieving students may never acquire sufficient levels of academic vocabulary to be successful in school without some form of explicit vocabulary instruction (e.g. Snow, Lawrence, & White, 2009). In this paper, I summarize the available data on the efficiency, in words learned per minute of instruction, of explicitly teaching academic vocabulary. I also examine another possible source for academic vocabulary knowledge: pleasure reading, or what Krashen (2004) refers to as "free voluntary reading." A large corpus of popular, young adult fiction is analyzed to assess the likelihood that academic words can be acquired at least in part through reading. Comparing the relative efficiency of direct instruction and free reading, I found that reading is between two and six times more efficient than explicit teaching of academic vocabulary.
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