Extensive Reading Program from the First Day of English Learning

 

FURUKAWA, Akio

Head of SSS Extensive Reading Study Group

 Head of SEG Tadoku Department

 

  MS-Word File Here

 

We began an Extensive Reading (ER, hereafter) Program for Japanese high school students in 2002 at our juku (private tutoring school) SEG (Scientific Education Group). In 2006, we started a new ER Program for junior high school students based on four years experience of our ER program. The purpose of the new program is to achieve the maximum impact of ER.

Our students received a total of 48 three hour lessons in a year at SEG. The classes met once a week from 5:15 to 8:15 pm. A Japanese teacher conducted ER lessons for 80 minutes while a native English speaking teacher taught other English skills including grammar, writing, and conversation for 80 minutes after 20 minute break. A total of 234 students participated in the new ER program at SEG in April 2008. The students were divided into several classes, whose average number of students was 10 to 12. The table 1 shows the descriptive statistics of their reading amount and reading hours, where N, M,ƒ° and SD stand for the number, the mean, the sum, and the standard deviation, excluding the data of the eighth and ninth grader newcomers who started ER from 2008 academic year.

Table 1  Descriptive Statistics of Participantsf Reading Performance

 

N

M and SD of ƒ° of words per student

Hours for SSR in class

7th graders

106

   27,074  (24,330)

    10.7

8th graders

70

  292,705  (18,7568)

    74.7

9th graders

40

  677,382  (335,274)

   138.7

 

Materials used in our program were 30,000 books, 2,000 CDs, and 100 DVDs in various levels and genres (Furukawa et al. 2007). In the first six months, our students listened to CDs individually using portable CD players while reading books both in class and at home. Since they had just started learning English and had very limited knowledge of English, we encouraged students to read books and also listen to accompanied audio CDs at the same time. After becoming comfortable with reading, the students chose reading books, listening to CDs or watching DVDs with English subtitles in class. One third of students read at home, and the others read only in class after six months.

We report that how our ninth graders in 2008 had raised their reading level and how much they marked at a test for Japanese high school students.

Participants in the program started ER on the first day of the class in March 2006. The first material used were the Oxford Reading Tree Series, which are very easy picture books written for British children to learn to read English.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 Figure 1  Six in a Bed from Oxford Reading Tree Series Stage 1

 

In parallel with learning basic vocabulary and grammar, our students raised their reading level gradually and finished reading all the titles of the Oxford Reading Tree Series from Stag1 to Stage 9 in six months. Next step was to read other series such as Usborne Young Readings, Walker Stories, Ladybird Tales, Foundations Reading Library, Oxford Bookworms Starter, Oxford Dominoes Starter, Macmillan Readers Starter, Penguin Readers Starter and Cambridge English Readers Starter. In April 2008, most of our ninth grader students who started ER in March 2006, were reading Penguin Readers Level 2-3, Oxford Bookworms Stage 2-3, Macmillan Readers Level 2-3 and Cambridge English Readers Level 2-3 naturally and fluently.

In 2006 academic year, 44 seventh graders participated the new ER program. 10 left, 7 entered the program during the year, and the number of the seventh graders in the program was 41 in the end of the 2006 academic year.

In 2007 academic year, 37 out of 44 continued, 15 entered and the number of the eighth graders in the program was 52. 7 left, 6 entered during the year, and the number of the eighth graders in the program was 51 in the end of the 2007 academic year. At the end of the year, 11 left and 40 out of 51 continued the program in 2008.

In 2008 academic year, we had 51 ninth graders, 28 out of 51 students started ER at their  seventh grade, 12 at eighth grade and the other 11at ninth grade.

The table 2 shows the average, the maximum and the minimum of total amount of words the ninth graders had read by the end of April 2008.

 

Table 2  Descriptive Statistics of 9th Gradersf Reading Performance

 

 

 

N

M of ƒ° of

Words per student

Max of ƒ° of

Words per student

Min of ƒ° of

Words per student

Hours for SSR in class

From 7th grade

28

717,756

1,615,000

300,000

138.7

From 8th grade

12

587,842

1,020,000

197,000

74.7

From 9th grade

11

 65,966

13,400

3,000

10.7

 

 

The table 3 shows the distribution of total amount of words that our students had read by the end of April in 2008.


 

Table 3  Distribution of total amount of words 9th Graders had read

ƒ° of@Words

From 7th grade

From 8th grade

From 9th grade

1- 200,000

0

1

11

200,001 - 400,000

3

1

0

400,001 - 600,000

10

3

0

600,001 – 800,000

7

4

0

800,001 – 1,000,000

4

2

0

1,000,001-1,200,000

1

1

0

1,200,001-1,400,000

2

0

0

1,400,001-1,600,000

0

0

0

1,600,001-1,800,000

‚P

0

0

 

Our 40 ninth grader students, excluding the newcomers from 2008 , had read 677,382 words on average and 6 out of 40 students accomplished one-million words reading. Three out of these 6 students had not learned English at their primary schools, whereas 60% of our ninth graders had some experience of English learning at their primary schools. This suggests that ER helps the very beginners catch up with the students who had learned English at primary school.

At the end of January 2008, 49 out of 51 eighth graders in the program took the Assessment of Communicative English Exam (ACE, hereafter). Thirty-four of 49 were the participants form seventh grade and 15 were from eighth grade. The exam is developed by Association for English Language Proficiency Assessment (ELPA, hereafter) to evaluate English ability of Japanese high school students.

The table 4 shows the numbers of nationwide exam takers in Japan, the average scores and the standard derivations of the exam, according to the data from ELPA (Ikawa, 2008). NW in the table stands for nationwide in Japan.@

Table 4  The results of ACE exam (The second exam in 2007 academic year)

 

N

of exam takers

 

M for Grammar •Vocab (SD)

 out of 300

 

M for Reading (SD)

out of 300

 

 M for Listening (SD) 

out of 300 

 

M for Total

(SD) 

out of 900

NW 10th graders

3918

138 (24)

141 (34)

158 (28)

438 (72)

NW 11th graders

4480

151 (29)

156 (39)

168 (31)

475 (86)

NW 12th graders

1441

168 (41)

176 (54)

185 (42)

529 (123)

SEG ER 8th graders

49

156 (32)

175 (48)

196 (38)

527 (106)

SEG ER 8th graders

at public schools

12

153 (29)

174 (50)

196 (37)

528 (100)

SEG ER 8th graders

at private schools

37

162i29j

178(43)

193 (39)

523 (103)

 

The average Grammar and Vocabulary score of our eighth graders is higher than that of nationwide tenth graders, but lower than that of the twelfth graders, whereas listening and reading scores are much higher than those of tenth graders and even higher than those of twelfth graders.

The one-tail t-test (Welch-test using Excel) shows the probability that the average of total ACE scores of our 49 eighth graders is higher than that of nationwide 4480 eleventh graders by chance is 0.07% . Therefore this concludes that our eighth graders reach a higher level in English than eleventh graders at the level of 0.1% statistical significance. The t-test also shows that the probability that the average of ACE listening scores of our eighth graders is higher than that of nationwide eleventh graders by chance is 2.27%, therefore our eighth graders reach a higher level in listening English than eleventh graders at the level of 5% statistical significance.

  Our students learned English not only at SEG but also at their regular junior high schools, so the differences in scores might be attributed to the effects of total amount of hours students took to learn English. We will show two reasons that suggest this is not the case ant their improved English skills is because of our ER program.

According to a report from Japan educational publisher iKohji et al, 2005j, 23% of high school students in big cities in Japan go to jukus after their regular schools twice a week on average and the total amount of time of top 23% of ACE exam takers is probably almost as same as our students. The average total score of top 23% of nationwide eleventh graders, 1029 out of 4480, is 591 points, whereas the that of our top 23% eighth graders, 11 out of 49, is 684 points. The possibility that our 23% top studentsf scores are higher than those of nationwide eleventh graders by chance is 0.03% , according to one-tail t-test.

Students in most private junior high schools in Japan learn English five to six hours in a week at school, whereas students in most public or national junior high schools learn English three hours at school. Considering this, private school students should get higher marks in English exam. Twelve students out of 49 SEG students who took ACE exam were from public or national junior high schools, where they learned English three hours per week, and other 37 students learned English at least five hours per week at school. The data at table 3 shows that the average of total scores of our students in public/national schools is 528 points and that in private schools is 523 points. The probability that the average of total ACE scores of public/national school eighth graders in our program is equal to that of our private school eighth graders is 97.9%  according to the two-tail t-test.

These two possibilities suggest the differences between the scores of our eighth graders and those of nationwide Japanese high school students depend not on the hours they learned English but on the way they learned it. Therefore the results of these ACE exam strongly suggest that doing ER has helped the eighth graders reach a higher level in English than eleventh graders.

 

References:

Furukawa, A. (2008, April 22). Happy reading! The best way to learn English [Tadoku special]. The Daily Yomiuri, p.20.

Furukawa, A., & Ito, S. (2005). Hyakumango Tadoku Nyumon 100–œŒê‘½“Ç“ü–å [Toward One Million Words for Beginners]. Tokyo: CosmoPier.

Furukawa, A., Kanda, M., Mayuzumi, M., Nishizawa, H., Hatanaka, T., Sato, M., & Miyashita, I. (Eds.). (2007). Eigo tadoku kanzen bookguide  ‰pŒê‘½“ÇŠ®‘SƒuƒbƒNƒKƒCƒh [The complete book guide for extensive reading in English] (2nd ed.). Tokyo: CosmoPier.

ELPA (2003). ACE tesuto ACEƒeƒXƒg [The ACE test manual]

Ikawa, E. (2008). Personal correspondence. May 2, 2008.

Hamajima  K. & Takeuchi. K. (2005). Benesse Kyouiku Kenkyu Kaihasu Senta Shoho Vol. 133 , p.27-28 ƒxƒlƒbƒZ‹³ˆçŒ¤‹†ŠJ”­ƒZƒ“ƒ^[Š•ñ

  [Benesse Education Research and Development Center Report Vol. 133]. Tokyo: Benesse