Shared Solutions for Common Problems

First Time Presentation:YES
Presentation type:Sole Presentation
Co Presenter:
First Name:Yongfang
Last name:Zhang
Email address:This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Name of Institution :Wofford College
Country:United States
Paper Introduction :Reading is a social activity. It happens in social contexts with identifiable purposes that determine what readers will read and how they will read. In daily life, reading is assessed by the completion of a culturally-determined reading task. However, current L1 and L2 reading research treat comprehension as the ultimate goal of reading and focuses on the cognitive processes of reading. This paper proposes a task-based curriculum for Chinese L2 reading instruction at the beginner and intermediate levels. This curriculum aligns with ACTFL standards and the new World-readiness Standards, and emphasizes reading communication. Specifically, this curriculum aims to train learners to perform reading tasks successfully in identified social contexts in common topics for beginner and intermediate level learners. For each topic, the curriculum moves beyond the psychological processes of reading and treats reading comprehension as the prerequisite to complete the reading tasks. It includes three phases that progress from basic reading comprehension of the text, to the interpretation of the text in simulated authentic tasks, and finally to performing authentic reading tasks in culturally appropriate contexts.
Technological Needs:
Abstract Supporting Attachment:18th NCOLCTL.docx


Standards for Foreign Language Learning: Preparing for the 21st Century identifies communication as the heart and the organizing principle for foreign language study, and further describes that the ultimate goal of today’s foreign language classroom is “the acquisition of the ability to communicate in meaningful and appropriate ways with users of other languages”. The new World-readiness Standards for Learning Languages also emphasizes communication, and further clarifies that the goal for communication is to “function in a variety of situations and for multiple purposes”.

Among the three communication modes, interpersonal communication has been studied thoroughly. There are many pedagogical approaches that aim to promote interpersonal communication skills or to assess interpersonal communication competence, such as the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Test. However, innovative pedagogy and curriculum for interpretative communication, especially the reading interpretative communication in less commonly taught languages, such as Chinese, is still in its infancy. Due to the extraordinary difference between Chinese characters and English orthographies, many scholars and educators believe that American learners have to meet a minimum orthography requirement before they can apply any higher-level reading skills or engage in real-world communication. Accordingly, educators focus on the linguistic and graphic barriers and tend to treat reading as a linguistic behavior instead of a form of social communication, especially at the beginner and intermediate levels.

Consequently, textbook exercises and classroom practices at these levels treat comprehension as the ultimate goal of reading instruction, and equate reading as decoding and understanding of meaning. A textbook analysis has revealed that many Chinese textbooks focus on comprehension factor training such as orthography, vocabulary, grammar, knowledge, and strategy. In addition, the textbooks assess students’ reading comprehension mainly through traditional means, such as true/false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, question-and-answer, and translation exercises. Very few exercises are designed for students to demonstrate their comprehension in tasks or to handle real reading communication in the social contexts. The same limitations also apply to the use of authentic materials. Recent textbooks have incorporated many authentic reading materials but have neglected the relevant communication contexts as well as the reading tasks. The authentic materials are mainly used to enhance students’ factual cultural knowledge and to assess students’ comprehension through true/false, multiple choice, fill-in-the-blank, and question-and-answer exercises.

Apparently, the current comprehension-oriented reading instruction diverges from the Standards. While some scholars have stressed the social nature of reading and suggest the inclusion of reading communication in Chinese instruction, there is still a need for concrete instruction models. Following the philosophy of ACTFL standards, this paper proposesa task-based curriculum for Chinese L2 reading instruction. Thetask-based curriculummoves beyond reading comprehension and includes many reading acts that result from the social communications where reading is embedded.  It constructs social contexts and directsstudents to accomplish reading tasksin three phases.Phase I provides contextualized reading activities and endows learners with a more active role in achieving comprehension of the text. Phase II assesses students’ understanding through their interpretations of the text in relevant tasksthat simulate authentic contexts. Phase III focuses on reading communication in everyday life andaims to train students to handle authentic reading tasks in social contexts. In this curriculum, whether the students read successfully is determined by whether theycan perform authentic or simulated authentic reading tasks in context.

This task-based curriculum facilitates readers’ interaction with the texts in a progressive way: first comprehending the text in the lesson, then demonstrating their understanding of the text through interpreting the text in simulated relevant tasks, and finally applying their knowledge and skills by handling authentic reading tasksin real-world communication that is a natural outgrowth of the context of the lesson. The tasks also progress from classroom contexts to simulated authentic contexts and finally to authentic social contexts. With this model, students revisit the text from different layers and angles to achieve comprehension and, more importantly, participate in reading communication in appropriate social contexts.Class surveys have indicated the benefits of this task-based curriculum. Besides its inherent benefits that help students complete reading tasks in real life, this task-based reading pedagogy also motivates readers, enhances students’ comprehens