5 Strategies to Teach Reading Comprehension for ESL Students

Minds in Bloom presents Yara of Sea of Knowledge with her post on reading comprehension for ESL students. We hope you’ll enjoy it!

 

Reading comprehension for ESL students is critically important due to the language barriers these students have. This post outlines five hands-on reading comprehension strategies that will help your students grow their reading comprehension skills.

Reading skills are essential at any stage, but for ESL students this skill can be quite challenging, especially when teachers have a mixture of levels in their classes. My class in particular has about five ESL students of a lower intermediate level, whereas the other ten are of an intermediate level. So how do we cater for such a mix while we are teaching reading skills? This post will outline five ways in which a teacher can accommodate for ESL students while teaching reading comprehension skills.

The first strategy is to provide explicit examples of the comprehension skills being taught–for example, summarizing. Many of my ESL students still struggle with this idea. What is summarizing? Not only do you need to provide an example, but you also need to show (with diagrams and images) the key points to include in a summary. You could, for instance, begin to model an example with the whole class and use an anchor chart to discuss what a summary is and isn’t.

Click on the following picture to download the PDF version and either use it as a handout or to create your own anchor chart in class. 🙂

Reading comprehension for ESL students is critically important due to the language barriers these students have. This post outlines five hands-on reading comprehension strategies that will help your students grow their reading comprehension skills.
The second strategy to use is to identify essential vocabulary that ELL/ESL students might find difficult to understand. Write simple, clear, and ELL-friendly meanings (no matter how child-like they are). This could be done before reading the text or after. Personally, I prefer to do this after reading. I like to teach the students to become independent readers, and in that I don’t want them to rely on my instruction for every single word. I try to encourage them to use context clues to “guess” the meaning of the word by reading the whole sentence. After this I usually play any sort of quick card game using the vocabulary. My students love competitive group games.

 

Play snap with the vocabulary cards, simply write the vocabulary word on the left-hand side, and then write a simple meaning (synonym) on the right-hand side. The idea is that students should find the matching pair of synonyms before their partner does. They get 5-10 seconds to find the meaning on the right, and then, if they find the card, they keep it, they don’t they lose to their partner, and so on! Click on the image to get the PDF, and you could simply write the word with a marker. 🙂

 

Reading comprehension for ESL students is critically important due to the language barriers these students have. This post outlines five hands-on reading comprehension strategies that will help your students grow their reading comprehension skills.
The third strategy is to make the most out of the text in the classroom to teach important grammatical skills. This not only assists ESL students in understanding the text, but it also allows them the opportunity to reread and really take in the sentence word order and grammatical tenses, which are all essential skills for ELLs. In this example I instructed the students to underline the answers to the comprehension questions in green, the verbs in purple, the proper nouns in yellow, the common nouns in blue and to highlight the new vocabulary in pink. This provided a great colorful visual of the text and, therefore, allows “visual learners” the capacity to further understand the text.

 

Reading comprehension for ESL students is critically important due to the language barriers these students have. This post outlines five hands-on reading comprehension strategies that will help your students grow their reading comprehension skills.
The fourth strategy is to pair up students with stronger language skills with lower level students and incorporate speaking, listening, and writing skills all in one when you can. You don’t even have to have printables to do this. For instance, asking the students to write a summary of the above article would further expand on their writing skills. Here is an example where I got the students to write comprehension questions for their partner about the text above, “The First Thanksgiving.” Then, I asked them to swap papers and write their answers. Finally, I had them present it to the class “orally” (speaking).

 

Reading comprehension for ESL students is critically important due to the language barriers these students have. This post outlines five hands-on reading comprehension strategies that will help your students grow their reading comprehension skills.
The fifth strategy is to think outside the box and to use new and interesting methods to help ESL learners with reading comprehension. For instance, use magazines, newspaper articles, and “interactive” methods for reading. Here I’ve used dry erase reading comprehension task cards where students also use colorful markers to respond to the questions below. You could actually make these cards from practically any texts you love and have scattered in your pile of photocopied resources. 🙂

 

Reading comprehension for ESL students is critically important due to the language barriers these students have. This post outlines five hands-on reading comprehension strategies that will help your students grow their reading comprehension skills.
Thank you for reading! I hope that this post helps you incorporate some ideas to teach your ESL students in your class. You can find my Sea of Knowledge TPT store here or my website/blog below. 🙂
Yara Sea of Knowledge

 

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