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Reading Comprehension for Young ESL Learners

Reading comprehension is an important skill to impart onto students. My ESL students particularly find this activity difficult – so I made this interactive reading pack to help ESL learners ‘catch up’ to their mainstream peers. I will be showing examples of this in this post below. The essential idea here is to keep the kids engaged.

Some ideas to keep ESL learners on track and motivated:

1. PURPOSE: State the purpose of the activity. For instance if teaching summarizing, explain the reason why we summarize. The how & why is essential here.

2. PRACTICE: Have students take turns coming up to the board and actually complete the task – for instance: have the student summarize a text they listened to or read with their group and then one student comes up to write it on the board. You could have a mini contest and divide the class into two groups and have a ‘captain’ of each team write the summary then discuss the ideas written at the end. Great way to get the whole class involved and in turn learn the skills.

3. EXAMPLES: Show lots and lots of examples of the final piece. ESL students can learn in many different ways but they are however extremely visual and hence can understand what they need to do by seeing another example – although you need to make it clear they they do not copy.

Here’s an example of what I did with one of the texts. I handed out the reading (this one’s about winter). Students read the title and we quickly discussed what the story might be about. We discussed the picture and what is happening in the picture.

I told the students that they need to read the title first, the directions and then the story. Many students just don’t read the directions and begin waiting for the teacher to guide them (I personally think that they need to learn to be autonomous at an early age) so it is necessary that they try to read the directions (even with some assistance) from the beginning.

Here, I made dot marks underneath each word as the student read this story. This was easy to do with one-on-one teaching.

The student can begin to identify with the story and make connections once she’d read it and seen the picture. The next step is to read the story again but with little assistance (if they can). There are stars on the corner of the page where the student can color in the times that they read the story. This helps motivate them to continue and finish the story.
The stories in the pack include many social stories which young kids can identify with and help them learn how to respond to emotions. The students can read and answer the questions about the story once they’re done and again, my ESL student needed some assistance with this so I helped him complete them.
The next section includes some mini dictation booklets which you could print and handout to each student to do each week. Four weeks are included in this reading comprehension pack (with more coming soon!). Students practice writing a sentence each week with guided practice. By day 5 they will be able to write it on their own.
My ESL students responded quite well to this and they looked forward to doing it each week (they kept their booklets in their folders ready for practice).
They can also color the pictures and decorate their booklets (I gave these out for homework). The booklets essentially help the students with their listening skills as well as their writing skills so it’s important that they do these with the teacher. ESL students really do need the listening practice.
I hope this post inspired you a little to help keep ESL students on track and ready in mainstream classes. Here’s a free PDF download which you could use with them to test out the reading comprehension pack. 🙂

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