Then one day he spoke.
We were having a discussion about the purpose and meaning of life, and out of nowhere, slowly, carefully, eloquently, and clearly... he spoke.
I was awestruck. He still had some pronunciation difficulties, but the complexity of his grammar and vocabulary stunned me. I couldn't believe it!
"What do you mean?" one of the twenty-something students asked him. I found myself stammering and grasping for words to explain the very deep and complex thoughts Augustine had just articulated in simpler English to the younger students. I felt like a skilled magician had replaced my student Augustine with an entirely different person. Everything I knew before was wrong.
I had to figure him out. I asked him more questions and he responded to each of them so thoughtfully. Clearly, I was mistaken about this one. I talked to him later and he said he had no English-speaking friends and hadn't studied English past high school, but that he really enjoyed reading mystery novels and crime dramas, and that he read them all the time.
This experience has taught me to question my assumptions about three things, 1) quiet students, 2) older students, and 3) the value of reading for personal enjoyment.
In my last blog post, I mentioned a 2007 article about the power of extensive reading by Willy A. Renandya. I thought it would be good to expand on that a bit:
Basically, there are two kinds of reading, intensive reading and extensive reading.
Intensive reading is the kind of reading we typically do in school: A teacher chooses a book, has a goal in mind that the students will gain from it, and then has the students read it. Naturally there is a test of some sort.
Extensive reading, on the other hand, is when students read a lot of different stuff and they read it for their own fun and enjoyment (usually they say "reading for pleasure" but I don't like that word for reading, personally).
As you can imagine, extensive reading is very different from the kind of reading we typically do in school (which is intensive). There is something different going on in your brain when you are reading something you WANT to read, reading at your own pace, and just freely enjoying yourself.
It turns out, students who read extensively for enjoyment perform better on reading tests as seen in the figures below:
Have a good one, and good luck out there!