If you are teaching beginning ESL students, it’s important to teach them but also to encourage them on their English learning journey.
It is easy for new learners to become discouraged, especially when they look at all they have left to learn rather than what they have already accomplished on their English learning journeys. As teachers, it’s then part of our job to prime our students for success every chance we get. Here are some tips on how you can set your students up for success in reading class.
5 Must Know Strategies for Successful Reading for ESL Students
Teach the Different Types of Reading
Not all reading is the same, and not every piece of writing needs the same kind of reading. Choosing the right type of reading is essential for gathering the correct information from a reading selection. Here are four different types of reading you should teach your students.
Skimming – Skimming is a quick read of an entire selection to get a general overview of the material. Skimming involves reading headings and topic sentences as well as any bold or italics information. It does not require reading every word of a piece.
Scanning – Scanning is a quick read for specific information in a passage. Scanning is useful when reading infographics, charts, diagrams, and similar material. It’s also good when students are searching for answers to specific questions such as reading comprehension questions in standardized tests.
Reading for Detail – Reading for detail is a longer reading, a reading that seeks to gain all the information from a given passage. It is slower than the previous reading strategies, and students should understand about 80% of what they read with this strategy.
Reading Critically – Reading critically is a slower read, similar to reading for detail. Critical reading, however, challenges the reader to make personal connections to what they are reading, to make judgements about reading content, and to evaluate what they are reading.
Once you help your students understand the four different types of reading, give them a goal for each reading assignment and help them choose the correct reading strategy to meet that goal. By using the correct reading strategy, they will be more successful in the reading task you assign and they will not waste time or energy trying to understand information that they may not need at the present time.
Know When Language Is a Barrier
A student can understand more than what they can express; it is a natural part of language learning whether the language is the first language or a second or third. As a reading teacher, you should be aware of and sensitive to the gap between those two areas of knowledge. This means that although a student may understand what he is reading, he may not be able to express that understanding. To help avoid lack of communication due to insufficient language skill, be sure to assess your readers in several different ways. Try having students draw a picture rather than express their ideas verbally or in writing. You could also have students act out their answers. When you use these non-language based strategies, your students can communicate their ideas even if they lack the expressive language to do so.
Prepare Your Students for Reading
At every level, it’s essential to prepare students for what they will read. The goal in this is helping students make connections between what they already know about a topic and what they will read in the reading assignment. Here’s the brain science behind it. When new knowledge is linked to old knowledge, it is easier to access and retain the new knowledge. Bringing your students’ old knowledge to the forefront of their minds enables them to make those connections between old and new knowledge. To help prepare students for reading, you can use several different strategies. Try having a class discussion about the topic at hand. Have students make predictions about what they will read. Have students watch a video before reading a selection. Give students a chance to talk about personal experiences related to what they will read. Any of these activities will bring your students’ existing knowledge to mind and then help them make connections between what they will read and what they already know.
Stress the Importance of Learning Vocabulary
Vocabulary is the building block of language learning. Students can understand all the syntax and phonology rules there are to know in a language, but without vocabulary that knowledge is useless. Emphasize to your reading students the importance of vocabulary. Encourage them to keep personal vocabulary notebooks. Have dictionaries easily accessible in class. Teach any necessary vocabulary before giving reading tasks. All of these will communicate to your students how important vocabulary is for overall language skills and development. When your students value their own vocabulary development, they will have greater success in understanding what they read in English.
Encourage Your Students to Read for Pleasure
The most successful readers will be those who gain enjoyment from reading. You can foster your students’ pleasure in reading by encouraging independent reading. Give students time in class to read for pleasure. Don’t assess every bit of reading they do, especially when they are reading for pleasure. Take regular trips to the library if possible, or develop a library in your classroom. Teach students to do simple book reviews for their classmates on sticky notes. (Answer three questions on a sticky note and place it on the inside cover of a book in your classroom library: 1. What did you like about this book? 2. What didn’t you like about this book? 3. Would you recommend this book and why?) This pleasure reading will strengthen their overall reading comprehension skills and will foster an enjoyment from reading that will aid them in their general English abilities.
If you are teaching beginning reading, your classes are laying the foundation for future language success.
Make sure the foundation is sound by keeping these five tips in mind. When you do, your students’ performance is sure to show it.
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