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Working Group to Develop First-Year Turkish Reader

Working Group to Develop First-Year Turkish Reader

Group will develop lessons around principles and approaches elaborated by a reading proficiency expert.

Guliz Kuruoglu Email GulizKuruoglu

A workshop on Turkish Reading Proficiency sponsored by UCLA, CNES and the National Middle East Language Resource Center (NMELRC) was held at UCLA on the weekend of January 27-29. The project was originally proposed by Ohio State University Professor Hilal Sursal at a meeting organized by NMELRC in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, in May 2005. Board members of the American Association of Teachers of Turkic Languages who attended the meeting suggested that the workshop be held at UCLA, and I was asked to help organize it.

Gulis Kuruoglu

The aim of the workshop was to focus on strategies for reading and develop reading materials for use in first-year Turkish language classes. At Harpers Ferry, there was a consensus among teachers of Turkish that while it is relatively easy to find reading materials for intermediate-high and advanced levels of reading proficiency, it is much more difficult to find appropriate materials at novice-high, intermediate-low and intermediate levels. They decided to pool their resources and come up with a sample reader or reading manual that could be distributed to teachers of Turkish nationwide as a standard text in the field.

Workshop co-organizer Hilal Sursal encouraged participants to bring reading materials of the following types: excerpts from novels, short stories, drama, poetry, simple jokes, comic strips, cartoons, anecdotes, proverbs, personal and business letters, memos, messages, horoscopes, word puzzles, riddles, tongue twisters, newspaper articles, wedding, graduation and party announcements, obituaries, advertisements, personal ads, official letters, forms and applications, petitions, samples of questionnaires, contracts, maps, schedules, traffic signs, tickets, labels, bills, receipts, invoices, financial statements, how-to manuals, directories, short reports, diaries, journals, essays, excerpts from textbooks, etc., both authentic and composed, and all geared to first-year language students.

Participants were Pelin Basci (Portland State University), Ender Creel (Interagency Language Roundtable), Erika Gilson (Princeton University), Selim Kuru (University of Washington), Suzan Ozel (independent scholar), Bill Rice (STG Inc., Language Services) and Hilal Sursal, as well as UCLA faculty Ralph Jaeckel, Kurtulus Oztopcu and myself.

The working group held a brief organizing session on Friday evening and then met on Saturday morning to compile the materials they had brought. The next item on the agenda was a talk on the Principles of Good Reading Lessons by Professor Linda Jensen, a reading proficiency expert in the UCLA Department of Applied Linguistics and TESL. Jensen began by describing how a typical reading lesson should be structured, presenting best approaches that instructors can use in order to prevent lesson breakdown. She then discussed the instructional principles of reading comprehension, describing reading strategies, the specific strategies of good readers, and how to utilize pre-reading activities and select appropriate texts to keep students motivated. She also discussed the importance of using authentic materials and introducing crucial vocabulary items. Jensen concluded her presentation with a discussion of academic reading skills and how to inculcate skills like skimming, rapid word recognition, and timed reading.

In the afternoon session the group began the selection of texts to include in the reader. They discussed guidelines under which the materials will be developed into lessons. They met again for a wrap-up session on Sunday morning and adjourned at noon. Professor Sursal is presently organizing the materials for distribution to each member of the working group who will develop lessons around them based on the principles and approaches elaborated by Professor Jensen.

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