In EFL reading classes, a lot of instruction time is dedicated to vocabulary development and reading comprehension.
And that is where it often stops.
While many feel that it is sufficient for EFL students to only be able to read and understand the meaning, I feel we should go beyond this surface-level understanding and encourage our students to think deeper about the texts, even at a beginner proficiency level (CEFR A1/A2).
One novel method of going deeper in a text is Beers & Probst’s Notice & Note.
In their book, Beers and Probst outline six signposts that appear in literature. Like signposts on the road, these literary signposts indicate points in a text where students should stop and think.
The 6 signposts are:
- Contrasts and Contradictions
- The Aha Moment
- Tough Questions
- Words of the Wiser
- Again and Again
- Memory Moment
While their signpost method was described using books read in native-speaking contexts, I believe they can also be applied to readers designed for English language learners.
Applying the Signposts
To demonstrate, I will use The Lottery Winner by Rosemary Border from the Oxford Bookworms Library. This book is marked as Stage 1, which is designed for learners between CEFR A1 (lower beginner) and A2 (upper beginner).
Here are the signposts that I found in chapter 1:
Contrast and Contradiction- The thief
“[The thief] stood and looked down at [Emma] for a second; then he ran away with Emma’s bag under his arm. (p. 1)
The first signpost I have identified appears on page 1. What I would expect the thief to do is snatch the purse and run. However, in contradiction with what I would expect, the thief stood and paused for a second before running.
When students get to a Contrast and Contradiction signpost, they should stop and ask themselves “What does this unexpected element mean?”
For me, this action makes me think that the thief’s decision to pause will cause him trouble down the road.
Memory Moments- The Lottery Ticket
I buy a ticket every Saturday. Then on Saturday evening I watch the lottery on television. I always have the same numbers – 5, 12, 23, 24, 38, 41.
Page 3 reveals another signpost, a memory moment. Emma recalls to the police officer how she buys lottery tickets and her reasoning behind the numbers she chooses.
When students get to a Memory Moment signpost, they should stop and ask themselves “Why might this memory be important?”
For me, this memory may be important as it will be a key clue to catching the thief.
An AHA! Moment- The Shoes
Shoes! Suddenly Emma remembered her new shoes.
Finally, on page 4 there is an AHA! moment. Emma realizes that the shoes she bought are gone.
When students get to an AHA! Moment signpost, they should stop and ask themselves “How might this change things?”
Like the Memory Moment above, I believe the shoes could possibly be another clue for catching the thief.
Arguably there are a few more signposts appearing in this chapter. What is important to note (no pun intended) is that the strategy does not necessarily have right or wrong answers. What is important is that students slow down and think more deeply about what they are reading.
As EFL teachers, while vocabulary and comprehension are key to reading instruction, it is not the end. We should also encourage our students to go beyond the words on the page and facilitate the use of their foreign language to critically think as well.