Thoughts on Total Text Comprehension

On this site you can read about my two approaches to reading: the Dual Text and Deep Text approaches.

Here, I want to discuss an extension to these approaches which I term Total Text Comprehension, or TTC for short.

The Rationale for TTC

In both of my reading approaches total understanding of relative short texts is stressed, so that the learners develop their understanding of lexis and grammar and text structure (coherence and cohesion), so that they will be better readers of similar texts in the future, and they will develop their topic lexical knowledge.

Understanding the meaning of texts is not limited to understanding the grammar and lexis though. And it is not all that is tested.

The learners should also understand things like text type, author/text purpose, author bias and so on. They should understand the topic and purpose of each paragraph and be able to summarize the text.

To help my learners do this, I devised this document to guide them through the process.

Total Text Comprehension

Using the TTC Document in Class

In this scenario you will read a text as usual, in your preferred way with learners, doing pre-reading tasks and during reading tasks, for example. I then suggest checking any unknown lexis and problematic grammatical structures.

Once this is all done you then ask learners to work alone or in pairs and go through the tasks on the sheet. They will consider the text topic and author purpose, and then do a paragraph analysis where they underline the topic sentence, decide on the paragraph purpose, bracket (or otherwise highlight) the reasons given to support the paragraph argument and double underline evidence or examples offered to support the paragraph argument. Then they will decide on the main message of the text, choose up to three ideas which the author supports and consider author bias. Finally, they will think about their own reaction to the text and then write a 100/150/200-word summary of the text.

This process has two main benefits.

  1. It forces them to reread the text, which is always a good thing.
  2. It focuses their attention on aspects not usually considered in coursebooks but which are increasingly being tested in school leaving examinations.

    Using the TTC Document as Homework

    In this self-directed learning scenario, the learners choose a text which interests them, say a 5 paragraph text on a favourite topic, print out the text and read it for understanding.

    They then check new lexis and grammar. Then they work through the document, completing the sentences and annotating the text.

    They will then hand in the annotated text and their page of completed sentences and text summary. You give feedback on how well they have understood the text, author purpose and bias etc.

    © Robert A. Buckmaster 2023