Individual Reading Diary icon

Individual Reading Diary

НазваниеIndividual Reading Diary
Дата конвертации27.08.2012
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I had the pleasure of examining Ekaterina’s project involving “Individualized Reading” which I found to be very interesting, well-researched, and informative. The “Individual Reading Diary” seems to be a manageable project from a practical perspective for both teachers and students. Clearly, this diary requires teacher-student interaction on a regular basis. The “Reading Calendar” is very helpful; every month, students are required to complete certain tasks that involve summarizing, quoting, translating, and transcribing parts of the text that they have read. The nature of this linguistic exercise is such that it is very profitable in terms of allowing students to acquire new vocabulary and fine-tune their writing skills in the process of completing these tasks. Students are asked to select certain words/phrases that they have found noteworthy to comment on; therefore, while students attempt to retell parts of the story that they have read, they can actually recycle some of the vocabulary they have acquired (students are asked to use 50% of the vocabulary that they have been exposed to). Fourth-year students are asked to fulfill the additional requirement of working on “stylistic devices”, a more sophisticated task, no doubt. Needless to say, constructive feedback from the teacher will prove to be useful at all times.

The idea of maintaining a “workbook” is a very challenging task in terms of the structure it provides and the tasks it elicits. Students will need to take this project seriously if they want to maximize the benefits attained. At the same time, this can be fun for students who are encouraged to select a book that is not too difficult (and obviously not too easy) but interesting. The students are asked to pick books that are written in modern-day language so that they can learn certain words and phrases that they can “imitate”, thus promoting every-day use of the language. I believe that the “Final Assignment” is “reflective” in nature because it requires the student’s personal input in terms of describing the book, the characters, and the plot in the process of reviewing the book. In this context, the “pause and think” method which forces students to reflect on what they have read is very helpful in getting students to stay focused while attempting to critique the book. Learning to critique a book is a very useful skill that every student needs to acquire in the process of developing certain essential reading skills. This is a common practice that most American students are engaged in at all levels of education because it promotes critical-thinking skills in students, this being the goal of higher education. Thus, this project is to be highly commended from this perspective.

^ Vino Reardon

методист Офиса английского языка Посольства США в Москве)

Составитель преп. Е.В. Скворцова

Отв.редактор к.ф.н., проф. А.А. Харьковская

Рецензент старший методист Офиса английского языка Посольства США в Москве (2007-2008 г.г.) Vino Reardon

^ Dear Student ……………………………….!

This workbook was specially designed to optimize and perfect your individual reading skill. The aims of the workbook are: to help you absorb and recycle the vocabulary you get from the book you chose for individual reading and to help you better understand the book itself.

The workbook gives some advice and suggestions on how to choose the book, where to find it and how to read the book you chose in order to get the most of it.

The second part of the workbook is called The Individual Reading Diary. It is the main tool in your work with the book. It has a regimented structure with some tasks to do monthly and it also includes ^ The Final Assignment which you need to complete after having read the book and which is the main indicator of your comprehension of the book.

The basic requirements for your individual reading activity are:

  1. The 1st-year and the 2nd –year students are to read 250-300 pages a term;

the 3d-year and the 4th-year students are to read 300-350 pages a term (assuming that there are approximately 350-400 words on a page). Usually it’s one book per one term.

  1. The book must be written by British or American writers, preferably in the second half of the XXth or in the XXIst century.

  1. You are to report on your progress in individual reading to the teacher monthly (using the Individual Reading Diary).

  1. The Individual Reading Diary as well as The Final Assignment may be completed in handwriting or typed.

  1. No plagiarism! In the Final Assignment you must express your own ideas and thoughts, not copied from the Internet or any other sources (in this case the work won’t be given a pass).

    • I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.
               Groucho Marx 

    • A wonderful thing about a book, in contrast to a computer screen, is that you can take it to bed with you.
              Daniel J. Boorstein

    • Never read a book through merely because you have begun it.
               John Witherspoon

    • Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.
               Richard Steele

    • Resolve to edge in a little reading every day, if it is but a single sentence.  If you gain fifteen minutes a day, it will make itself felt at the end of the year.
               Horace Mann

    • I've traveled the world twice over,
      Met the famous; saints and sinners,
      Poets and artists, kings and queens,
      Old stars and hopeful beginners,
      I've been where no-one's been before,
      Learned secrets from writers and cooks
      All with one library ticket
      To the wonderful world of books.

    • Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few are to be chewed and digested.
              Francis Bacon

    • Readers may be divided into four classes:
      1) Sponges, who absorb all that they read and return it in nearly the same state, only a little dirtied.
      2) Sand-glasses, who retain nothing and are content to get through a book for the sake of getting through the time.
      3) Strain-bags, who retain merely the dregs of what they read.
      4) Mogul diamonds, equally rare and valuable, who profit by what they read, and enable others to profit by it also.
               Samuel Taylor Coleridge

What to read

In contrast to the home reading classes where you read the book given, you can choose the book for the individual reading yourself. Here are some tips to help you make the choice:

  • Something fun. It needs to be so much fun that you will look forward to reading it every day. It does not have to be intellectual, it does not have to improve your knowledge of science or history. Remember: you want to convince yourself that reading in English is fun. Don't feel guilty about reading detective stories, romances, etc.

  • Something challenging, but not too challenging. What does it mean? There should be some words that you don't know, because you want to learn something. However, there shouldn't be too many difficult words, because you don't want to use your dictionary 10 times in one sentence. There's a simple rule here: if you're not enjoying the text, switch to an easier one.

  • Something with the kind of sentences that you want to write or say yourself. When choosing a book, choose one with modern language and lots of dialogue. If you read a book written in obsolete English with lots of literary descriptions, you won't be able to use too many of these phrases in your own sentences (unless you write books in English). You need useful sentences that you can imitate.

^ Where to find

      • You may BORROW the book for your individual reading from a library.

*(See Appendix 1 for the list of the English books that can be borrowed from Samara State University Library)

      • You may DOWNLOAD the book for your individual reading on free websites.

      • You may BUY the book for your individual reading online or in the bookshops of Samara.

      • Finally, you may BORROW the book for your individual reading from your friend.

How to read

After you read a few books in English, you will see that your English has become better. You will start using new vocabulary and grammar in your essays, speeches, and e-mail messages. You will be surprised, but English phrases will just come to you when you are writing or speaking! Things like the past simple tense and how to use the word "since" will become part of you. You will use them automatically, without thinking. Correct phrases will just appear in your head.

It will be easy to use English, because your brain will only be repeating the things that it has seen many times. By reading a book in English, you have given your brain thousands of English sentences. They are part of you now. How can you make a mistake and say "I feeled bad", if you have seen the correct phrase ("I felt bad") 250 times in the last book you've read?

To promote and develop this process of “remembering” new vocabulary and grammar, the workbook ^ Individual Reading Diary was designed. The Individual Reading Diary is intended for one book. After you’ve read the book you need to complete the Final Assignment which you must hand in to the teacher.

Individual Reading Diary (IRD)

The first page of the IRD is the ^ Individual Reading Calendar where you mark the pages read every month of each term.

The second page of the IRD is the List of Characters. Here you mark the peculiar features of the main characters which will later help you to analyze the book in general.

The next 8 parts of the IRD contain tasks for every month of each term:

  1. ^ Words to write out and remember. Every month write out 20 words or phrases from the book you read. Use English-English dictionary to write down their definitions. Use at least 50 % of these words and phrases while retelling the part of the text you’ve read to the teacher.

  2. Summary. Summarize the part of the text you read that month. You may use this summary in oral retelling.

  3. Quotations. Write out quotations that are interesting/unusual/have peculiar lexical or grammatical structures.

  4. Translation. Translate a passage from the book (20-25 lines). Be ready to read out this passage (in English) with proper intonation and pronunciation.

  5. Stylistic Devices. Write out sentences containing different stylistic devices, mark them and comment on the most striking ones. This task is for 4th-year students only!

For tasks 1,3 and 5 use "pause and think" method:

  1. Stop at interesting (not obvious) things: a new word, how a word was used, a grammatical structure, a preposition, an article, a conjunction, the order of words, a stylistic device, etc. ^ Spend a while to think about the fact that the sentence contains. Perhaps the sentence uses the present perfect tense where you would have expected the past simple. Perhaps the word order is different than in your first language.

  2. If the sentence contains a useful phrase, ask yourself: ^ Could you produce a similar phrase yourself? Would you use the right tenses, articles and prepositions? Would you use the right word order? If you're not sure, practice saying a similar phrase aloud or in your mind. The idea is to move the phrase to your "active vocabulary".

  3. If necessary, or if you feel like it, use an English-English dictionary to find definitions of words in the sentence and get more example sentences. This will help enrich your "feel" of the word.

  4. Add the phrase to your Individual Reading Diary to make sure it will stay in your memory. Of course, only useful phrases should be added.

If you don't like to stop reading (to look up a word in your dictionary or add a phrase to the Diary), you can write down all the interesting sentences, or you can underline them in the book with a pencil. This way, you can handle these sentences later.

Another important piece of advice is that you don't have to use the above strategy all the time. Reading in this mode can be quite exhausting, so don't do it when you're tired after a long reading session. Also, do not try to give equal attention to every sentence. Some sentences in books (e.g. long poetic descriptions) do not contain phrases or structures that are useful for building your own sentences. Some characters in books use weird slang expressions which aren't very useful either.

Finally, the "pause and think" technique will not always make you remember the exact way to say something. But perhaps you'll remember that this particular type of sentence is "weird" or "difficult" in English. If you remember that, it will at least make you stop before you write that sentence, and look it up instead of making a careless mistake.

^ An example of use "pause and think" method

Former President Jimmy Carter will visit Venezuela next week to mediate talks between the government and its opposition, which have been locked in a power struggle since a failed coup.

  • "Former President" — not "The former President", so I guess we say "President Carter" and not "The President Carter", even though we say "The President will do something" when we don't mention his name.

  • "to mediate talks" — not "to mediate in the talks" or something like that. I wonder if that would be OK, too...

  • "power struggle" — I think I've seen this phrase before.

  • "since a failed coup" — so I can say "He's been paralyzed since an accident" (preposition use), not only "He's been paralyzed since an accident happened" (conjunction use).

  • "since a failed coup" — not "since the failed coup". The author does not assume we know about the coup.

  • "coup" — hey, I know this is pronounced [ku:]!

Final Assignment

The Final Assignment is a set of tasks that you do after you’ve finished reading the book. You hand in this paper to the teacher to get the final mark for your work during the term/year.

The Final Assignment has 7 tasks:

  1. The author(s) of the book. Write only that information that you consider important for your further analysis of the book.

  2. Use three words to describe the book. Be creative and original.

  3. Give a review of the book to convince other students to read or not read it.

Here you can mention:

    • your impressions of the book

    • your comments on the language of the book (new words/phrases you’ve learnt; the brightest stylistic devices; slang, etc.)

    • brilliant quotations from the book


  1. Write about the most interesting/important/exciting part of the book. Justify your choice.

  2. Tell about the character(s) you like best and why.

  3. Compare the book with a movie/TV version of the same book. (If there is one of course). Did you like it? Did you like it more than the book? How did it vary from your vision of the book?

  4. Fulfill ONE of the following tasks. You’re to choose one of the 18 tasks given.




Book: ………………………………

by …………………………

Student: ………………………..

Group: …………….




















Individual Reading Calendar





















September - December

February - May

List of Characters:


Details (age, appearance, nature, manner of speech, quotations etc)

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