What’s wrong with Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos?

This provocatively titled post finds very little wrong with Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos website but asks that we all consider why we are using technology.

One of the great innovators in our profession is Russell Stannard. Given the awards he’s received and his widespread presence in the online world, you probably don’t need me to tell you this. If you haven’t visited his site Teacher Training Videos, I urge you to do so immediately. He unearths some fantastic resources and explains how to use them clearly and succinctly. It’s not without reason that Scott ‘Grrr… technology’ Thornbury describes him as ‘the voice of reason and common sense.’

You are probably wondering at this point why I’ve named this post as I have, but there is a reason. I can perhaps best illustrate it by discussing one of my students and a problem she’d identified in her own learning. Gizem is one of those students which we as teachers – subjectively – describe as being a joy to teach. She asked pertinent questions in class when she needed clarification, she went home and reviewed what we’d done that day, and she would identify areas in her learning that she felt she needed to work on. I’d regarded Gizem as being quite a strong reader, this observation was based on her ability to read a number of texts and extract information from them to support her ideas in an essay. So well had she done this that I felt moved to show her work to other teachers, who all agreed that her ability to read to a level whereby she could understand and extract ideas, in this particular instance at least, was fantastic. Consequently, I was somewhat surprised when she performed relatively poorly in reading exams. We discussed this problem in some detail.

She told me that she didn’t feel that she had problems understanding the exam text, but that she didn’t feel she could read it quickly enough to be able to answer the accompanying comprehension questions. I suggested that we work on her reading speed, as reading quickly is a different skill to reading for understanding. In order to help her, I also had to find out what she should be aiming for. When we think about increasing reading speed, what do we actually mean? How fast should she be trying to read? Consider this famous quote:

I took a speed-reading course and read War and Peace in twenty minutes. It involves Russia.’

Woody Allen

Obviously, just reading faster and faster can defeat the purpose of the reading. In Woody’s case, the extremely superficial level of understanding is not what people aim for when reading a novel. Knowing what level of understanding we are aiming for is absolutely key to matching it with an appropriate reading speed. One writer whose work with reading speed is not as well known as it should be is Ron Carver. Carver (1990) proposed five reading processes, each with a typical reading rate.

 

Reading process Processing components Target words per minute
 

Scanning

 

Skimming

 

Rauding

 

Learning

 

Memorizing

 

 

Lexical accessing

 

Semantic encoding

 

Sentence integrating

 

Idea remembering

 

Memorizing

 

600

450

300

200

138

 

When I was looking into the notion of increasing reading speed I was surprised to come across the term ‘rauding’ as I’d never heard of it before. Carver coined this term describing it as, ‘comprehension of all or almost all of the consecutively encountered thoughts during reading; comprehending about 75% or more of the complete thoughts encountered during the operation of the rauding process.’ When I looked through the suggested WPMs in the table above and thought about what Gizem and my other students need to do when answering comprehension questions during an exam. So, how to go about achieving 300 words per minute?

One application I discovered is CuePrompter. I’ve prepared a short video clip to show how to use this website.

This application allowed me to upload relevant texts and control the speed at which they would be read. I introduced this in class and recommended that my students use it in their free time. It wasn’t ideal, but it was a start. You can imagine how delighted I was when Russell introduced Eyercize on his website. This application takes things a lot further and gives the user much more control over the development of their reading speed. Russell’s video clips explain exactly how to use this great tool and I can’t recommend watching this enough if you want to help your learners improve their reading rate.

So, what exactly is my problem? Quite simply, telling us how to use a resource is only part of what teachers need to know; equally important is why we should be using it. I know I’m nitpicking here, but if we’re to make a case for the use of technology in our teaching we have to consistently think about what we’re trying to achieve through its use.

References

Carver, R. (1990) Reading rate: A review of research and theory, Academic Press

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    This entry was posted in Opinion, The life of an english teacher, The student perspective, The teacher perspective and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

    14 Responses to What’s wrong with Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos?

    1. What’s wrong with Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos? http://goo.gl/fb/fYCfP

    2. Ann Foreman says:

      Hi Adam,

      Just posted a link to this on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you’d like to check for comments.

      Best,

      Ann

    3. Pingback: What’s wrong with Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos? « one year | TeachingEnglish | Scoop.it

    4. Pingback: What’s wrong with Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos? « one year | technology in language teaching | Scoop.it

    5. John says:

      Your post makes some good points about the use of technology in our classes. I see all these applications being introduced, but I seldom see anyone discuss their experiences with the application or applications after they have used them. Some good critical evaluations of the applications with the context of the particular user defined would be helpful which is why I like your post. How did Gizem do in using the speed reading application?

      By the way, I have been promoting spreeder.com for years with my students because of its simple interface.

    6. Brandan Page says:

      Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos is one of my faves but I have to admit you have a bit of a point, not just with his site but with the use of tech in general.

    7. James OReilly says:

      How to Defeat http://ow.ly/gvVpY the Lame Duck Trap of Russell Stannard’s videos http://ow.ly/gvVq0

    8. Interesting post Adam. I think I am going to explore Eyercize and see how this works with large groups (I actually teach from 30 to 60 students) : I believe : 1) a demonstration in class showing how to use Eyercize; 2) Students working on their own and maybe using a chart of some sort to keep track of their speed improvement (or reading in the classroom); 3) maybe a test at the very beginning and another one at the end to compare results and keep on doing this during their four semesters. Maybe I will have to think how often they will have to sit and read on their own during the week and what they will read (should they choose their own readings online?). I had read about rauding before… the first time I came across this word/notion was when reading Assessing Reading by Anderson (2000).

      • Adam says:

        Thanks, Miguel.

        In addition to using this as an awareness raising exercise with students, I actually used it to demonstrate to fellow teachers what reading at certain speeds really means and that often what we are expecting from students is totally unrealistic.

        By the way, I’d highly recommend the title that you mention (Assessing Reading by Anderson (2000)); a really concise and clear introduction to the subject.

    9. Dan Ferreira says:

      I really appreciate the effort, time and professionalism that Russell puts into his instructional videos. However, I also wonder what is the research behind the use of Eyercize in the classroom. More importantly, I would like to know how to set the parameters vis a vis research suggestions, especially for EFL students. Any literature recommends would be greatly appreciated.

      @dan_ferreira_jp

      • Adam says:

        I’m right with you on this one, Dan. Indeed, I think you’ve really caught on to the spirit of this post. While Russell Stannard does a really professional job of telling us how to use these tools, I think it would be even more beneficial if he were to go into more detail about why we should be using them. This Eyercize seemed like the perfect case in point: Why should we be looking to develop reading speed and what does it mean to be reading a a certain number of words per minute, anyway? I guess this isn’t in Stannard’s mandate and… fair play to him; the website has been a phenomenal success and, to his credit, he goes into the ‘why’ a lot more when he presents at conferences.

    10. What’s wrong with Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos? http://t.co/i84SfCiJ

    11. Pingback: What’s wrong with Russell Stannard’s Teacher Training Videos? | Teach them English | David's ESOL Blog

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