Tips for ESL Reading

Finding tips for ESL reading classes can be hard, so I have compiled some of my top tips to help. Have you ever opened a book, read a couple pages, and had your mind trail off to your to-do list? Maybe you put the book down for a while and tried to come back to it later or maybe it went right back on the bookshelf.

6There are bound to be stories your students won’t be interested in. It can get even more difficult when half the class likes the story and the other half are putting it back on the bookshelf and talking to each other. How do you keep the entire class interested in reading?

Start with vocabulary

Usually, there will be new vocabulary words for the story. Introduce the new vocabulary words to the students to make sure their pronunciation is correct. Then let the students tell you what the word means.

Make them tell you in the target language with synonyms or stories. Also, make sure your students can tell you what part of speech the word is and see if they can correctly use it in a sentence. The sillier the stories, synonyms, and sentences the better!

When you start to read it’s important that the students know what they are reading. Chances are, your students might not know all the words they are reading and might lose interest because they don’t know what’s going on. Have you ever read a

Reading the text

Have you ever read a textbook for a course you aren’t interested in? Don’t be afraid to read the page first for the students, enthusiastically with differing voices for each character, and ask them what happened. If it seems like they don’t know, tell them in easier terms to make sure they understand. Ask them questions to ensure comprehension— “Why did (character) do this?” or “What do you think will happen next?”

If it seems like they don’t know, tell them in easier terms to make sure they understand. Ask them questions to ensure comprehension— “Why did (character) do this?” or “What do you think will happen next?”

Checking comprehension

Once your students know what is happening, it’s always fun to get students to interact with the story by asking them reading comprehension questions. At first, it may be difficult to think of questions off the top of your head—read the story and write some down.

When you get more used to thinking of questions, you may know more about how your students will react to different parts of the story and can think of very unique and pointed questions you know your students will have fun with.

Make some of the questions usable in everyday scenarios. Make them describe things in the target language. Use vocabulary words. Encourage them to use new vocabulary words!

For instance, we were reading about a bully in a class one time, I asked the students who the bully was in their class. Of course, nobody was a bully, but we had fun naming different people and telling each other why we thought they were a bully.

Pronunciation is key

Lastly, it’s very important to let your students read and figure out how to phonetically pronounce words on their own. This might be when students get the most discouraged because it can be slow, challenging, and boring.

You can try a multitude of different strategies to get your students reading— you can use ESL games; whether it be speed games, word challenge games, partner reading, or plays.

See which students can read a paragraph the fastest, challenge your students to phonetically sound out and spell a tough word, break students into two’s or four’s to read together, or have them act out the story as a play. Try to mix it up to get students excited and interested in sounding words out and asking questions!

Reading can be slow and arduous at times but with the right strategy, any story can come to life and be useful to your student’s studies. If there’s a really slow story, check with your manager to see if you can bring in some fun supplemental reading!

Always keep your students excited, guessing, and thinking with reading comprehension and phonics. You will find reading will be highly beneficial to your class.

Have you struggled with reading tasks in your class? How did you overcome them? Do you have any exercises or games that you could add? Let us know in the comments below. 

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