NOTE:The article below is mirrored from The Language Teacher website.
Book Reviews -

The Language Teacher. Vol. XVII, No. 2. Feb. 1993. (p. 55)

Meaning Making: Directed Reading & Thinking Activities for Second Language Students
by Carol Dixon and Denise Nessel
Englewood Cliffs: Alemany Press/ Prentice Hall Regents. 1992.

This 121-page text is a practical guide for teachers looking for more information about how to teach reading as a thinking process. The bulk of the book provides information about a reading approach known as Directed Reading and Thinking Activities (DRTA). That approach was developed by Stauffer (1969, 1975), Davidson and Wilkerson (1988) as well as Dixon and Nessel (1983).

Dixon and Nessel begin by describing their rationale for using DRTA and consider what it takes to construct meaning. They posit that meaning-making can be best viewed as an active process in which readers formulate hypotheses about topics. The capacity of L2 students to create meaning from a text is, they point out, influenced not only by the text itself, but also by the role teachers assume in class and overall classroom environments.

The authors' approach to narrative texts, which consists of successive stages of predicting, reading, and rethinking, is described in the second chapter. After a teacher primes students with thought-provoking questions, students make conjectures about the material they are about to encounter. A portion of the text is then examined. After this, students revise and discuss their predictions based on the information they have been exposed to.

In the Chapter 3 and 4 a wide range of materials compatible with the DTRA approach are considered. Dixon and Nessel demonstrate how picture books, poetry, academic texts, and even television programs can be used in class. They emphasize that though concrete, contextually embedded material is easiest for most ESL students to work with, virtually any material is amenable to DRTA. The use of keywords and anticipation guides is discussed at length.

The fifth chapter illustrates how reading activities can be integrated with other language skills. Practical ideas about how to extend literary experiences through writing, listening, and speaking can help learners gain "ownership" of their ideas.

The final chapter addresses a host of practical inquiries such as the use of DRTA with large classes, basal readers, and cooperative groups.

This work presents much useful information for those desiring to teach reading in a content-based, learner centered way. However, two issues merit comment. First, no indication as to how EFL students might respond to the authors' approach is offered – all examples are from an American ESL context. Second, rather than offering an exposition of directed reading approaches in general, this work focussed narrowly on the authors' favored approach to reading. Often this text seemed more like a sales pitch for DRTA rather than a balanced discussion of the processes involved in making meaning. Despite these points, Meaning Making is an easy to read way to learn about one approach to reading instruction.

- Tim Newfields


Davidson, J., & Wilkerson, B. (1988). Directed reading-thinking activities. Monroe, NY: Trillium Press.

Dixon, C., & Nessel, D. (1983).The language experience approach to reading: LEA for ESL. Hayward, CA: Alemany Press.

Stauffer, R. G. (1969). Teaching reading as a thinking process. New York: Harper & Row.

Ibid. (1975). Directing the reading-thinking process. New York: Harper & Row.

Chronological Index Subject Index Title Index
Copyright (c) 1993 by Tim Newfields