This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.
The students attitude to texts is that the "text knows best." Students tend to "passively accept what is found in reading texts simply because it is so often presented as obvious" (Wallace 1990). Secondly, teachers generally use texts as a means to impart grammatical, vocabulary, and content knowledge. They are more concerned that students comprehend these different elements in a text and therefore seldom enable students to question a text's "obvious" and "taken for granted" stance (Wallace 1990). So the term critical in this research implies that students do not blindly accept the "obvious" statements in a text. They need to move beyond challenging overt statements to taking an assertive stand against the text's assumptions.
English as a foreign language is formally taught to Iranian students from the first year of junior high school for three years, during high school for another three years, and for another year during the pre-university level (generally three hours a week).
Considering the content of the current EFL textbooks and Ministry of Education
guidelines, it seems that EFL teaching in Iran is based on the students' future need to read and sometimes translate English books, journals, and magazines. Likewise, reading and translation are the most emphasized skills at the university level, and students study English basically for academic purposes (EAP). The orientation is therefore towards a combination of grammar-translation and audio-lingual methods in most schools (Eslami-Rasekh & Valizadeh, 2004) Goals of school curricula in Iran often include a statement of the desirability of critical reading skills; however there is seldom a sequential plan for the development of these skills below Pre- university level. As for English language teaching in Iran, although many Iranian EFL learners have a good knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary; they still seem to have serious problems with acquiring the ability to read critically.. This inefficiency seems to be, to some extent, due to the lack of definiteÂ reading strategies among Iranian EFL students, and to a large extent, the inadequate emphasis given to grammatical patterns and text translation in their textbooks, and the type of instructions they receive. Wallace (1990) Teachers need to guide students to question the information content and the ideological assumptions that the writer puts forth.Â In Iran, English is taught as a foreign language and is practiced within a context-restricted environment, in which the textbook and classroom teacher play the main role .Wallace (2005) has observed that in EFL reading classes students usually do not have the opportunity to perform higher order thinking tasks (e.g., applying, hypothesizing, analyzing, synthesizing, comparing, and evaluating what they read). Consequently, they do not learn to read critically, nor do they reach evaluative understanding of the text and develop their thinking ability. Oftentimes, students get frustrated and lose motivation for independent reading because they are used to listening to teachers' explanations. Again, as Wallace has stated, students have developed only one strong "reading strategy" over the years: that of listening to the teacher explaining the text word by word, sentence by sentence. Because reading classrooms lack class interaction, students are not actively engaged in the meaning-making process or, at best, the process involves readers' decoding of text. Therefore, the existing knowledge of students is not effectively drawn out for the benefit of the whole class. There is a lack of richness and diversity in classroom activity.
A quick search of Iranian High school and Pre-university EFL textbooks showed the researcher that the most frequent types of reading comprehension exercises involve multiple choice items, true-false statements, and vocabulary work of the type that requires students to supply a synonym or antonym for the words given. These tasks have their merits: they make it easy for teachers to check whether their students understand the text at some superficial level, and because they have only one correct answer, they are also easy to mark. However, there are reasons why they should not be used as the only kind of reading activity in the classroom.
First, as Davies (1995) points out, they encourage passive reading behavior: to find the answer to a question, students have to locate the information in the text.
Second, as Tomitch (2000) argues, such tasks do not encourage students to read between the lines or question the veracity and source of the information contained in the text.
Third, these tasks generally refer only to parts of the text, not to the text as a whole.
Finally, such tasks are neither challenging nor fun, especially for young learners.
What motivated this research were the observed problems in EFL reading classes in Iranian High school and pre-university centers. Moreover, Critical Reading has not usually been a major focus of teaching and research in Iran and empirical research in critical reading has been limited mainly to university level. The researcher has considered the value of critical reading strategies and try to present, through sample reading lesson, alternative possibilities for reading activities which, besides being more interesting for students, can help them become more active, and more critical readers. The major benefit of the lesson on critical reading is the high level of enthusiastic student participation. This is attributable to some extent to the novelty of the task they will perform: coming up with questions they thought would be answered in the text, rather than trying to answer superficial comprehension questions or true-false statements prepared by the textbook writer.