Reading between the lines

Usha Raman

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A standard feature of high school language syllabi is reading comprehension. As language teachers, we approach this almost in autopilot mode, dishing out the standard texts with questions and looking at the answers for adequacy of understanding. Many of us are in this job of teaching language because we love reading, because we thrill to the use of language and its many nuances, and to have to subject a piece of text to what seems to be mechanical analysis doesn’t really inspire us. So the “teaching” of comprehension is relegated to the back burner, and we assume that when a child has acquired language ability in other ways – through composition, grammar, literary analysis, etc. – reading comprehension automatically follows. It is, after all, the “scoring” part of the examination, along with “match the following” and “make sentences with”.

If we are to step back a bit and think about the purpose of this exercise, it may be possible to make it more meaningful and productive for the student, and more interesting and rewarding for you. Yes, we know the examination calls for a certain type and length of answer, and we need to do what is necessary for the children to get that. But if they gain the skill of critical reading and assimilation – what it’s all about – then they will automatically be able to do the needful in the examination.

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