Trends in Teaching Reading: Synthesizing Texts

One of my primary jobs is to ask ESL instructors and administrators about their curricula. A trend that has been building recently is an emphasis on teaching students to analyze multiple texts, put the informationtogether in meaningful ways, and add their own opinions.

This trend toward synthesizing texts is driven by two goals. One is providing ESL students with effective academic prep. Curriculum committees see that students will be expected to do more than just comprehend what they read. They will have to comment on the content of academic texts in class and online. They will need to integrate information in written assignments and on final exams. These tasks require more than developing reading comprehension skills. Students need to spend time explicitly practicing different ways to organize information from multiple sources and synthesize it in a coherent task.

The second main driver behind this trend is the TOEFL iBT. Both the speaking and writing section of the test require students to integrate information from multiple sources. ETS, of course, bases its tests on the skills required for different academic settings, so this could be considered an extension of academic prep. For many students, though, and exercises that helps them prepare for the TOEFL is welcome practice.

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