Schema theory Based Considerations on Pre-reading Activities in ESP Textbooks

| November 5, 2006
Schema theory Based Considerations on Pre-reading Activities in ESP Textbooks

Keywords: pre-reading activities, learner needs, traditional pedagogic procedures

Parviz Ajideh
Tabriz University, Iran

Bio Data
Dr. Parviz Ajideh is an Assistant Professor in the English Department at Tabriz University in the Islamic Republic of Iran. His research interests include reading, testing, and translation.

In most cases a common problem students experience in reading classes is the feeling that they know absolutely nothing about the subject they are reading about. However, this feeling may be more complex than generally thought. The problem may not be the lack of background knowledge, but rather the failure to activate that knowledge. For Ringler and Weber (1984), pre-reading activities provide a reader with necessary background to organize activity and to comprehend the material. These experiences involve understanding the purpose(s) for reading and building a knowledge base necessary for dealing with content and the structure of the material. Ringler and Weber also note that pre-reading activities elicit prior knowledge, build background, and serve to focus attention. Wallace (1992) argues that in order to interact efficiently with the text, the second language reader needs access to content as well as context.

In other words, second language readers will need to draw on appropriate schematic knowledge to reach satisfactory interpretation of the text. He continues that, in the light of schema theory, we might think of reading as a comprehension or understanding process that involves three stages, the first of which is called pre-reading. In fact, schematic knowledge has textual representations which are represented by lexical choices made by the discourse producer in the encoding process. Thus, one of the teacher s duties is to help the reader recognize these lexical choices. Any lexical element in a text is the textual representation of an abstract mental concept. This study argues that background knowledge can be provided as a pre-reading activity prior to reading. It is suggested that prior to reading the instructor can highlight those lexical elements in a text that seem to be in close relationship with the topic of the text and by making them transparent, the relevant schemata can be activated in the reader s mind. Finally, I will deal with the question of pre-reading activities in ESP textbooks written for Iranian students as university books by SAMT, and have a close look at the pre-reading tasks suggested in one of these textbooks.


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Category: Teaching Articles, Volume 16