Lessons & Classroom Games for Teachers

How to Improve Reading for ESL Students
By:Sophie Southern

Teaching English as a second or foreign language can be fun and rewarding, but it can also be challenging -- especially when you are teaching students with a very low English level. Reading skills and comprehension are essential aspects of learning the English language, and trying to inspire your students while educating them at the same time can sometimes be a daunting task. If you want to improve your students' overall reading skills, it helps to use creative texts at the appropriate level.

Choose interesting texts based on you students' preferences. If you are teaching teenagers, bring in articles about the internet, movies or TV shows, music or other topics you know they are interested in. If you are teaching business English to adults, bring articles from reputable newspapers or financial journals. If you find the language is too difficult for your students' level, create a beginner version of your own based on the text.

Start short. Asking your students to read a novel will probably be overwhelming. Start with short snippets of text, such as blog posts or news briefs, that your students can read easily in a short period of time. Shorter texts are generally more concise and use simple language, which makes them ideal for ESL students.

Let your students listen to you before asking them to read. Read slowly and clearly, paying attention to pronunciation and emphasis. Listening to you while reading the text will help your students retain vocabulary words and understand general meaning.

Have your students write down vocabulary words and use them in their own sentences. They should keep an active vocabulary list or notebook where they include definitions, parts of speech and usage. Read the text in full before highlighting vocabulary words, as this gives your students a chance to understand from context. Once you have defined any new words, ask your students to use them in oral sentences.

Use repetition. After you read the text, have your students read it once, slowly. Discuss the text and go over any exercises you have prepared. Then have your students read the text again. If you have a large class, have students take turns reading paragraphs or groups of sentences. Repeating the text will help your students catch any information they missed the first time, while reinforcing correct pronunciation.

Ask students to explain what they have read. Having your students explain the text after reading is essential for verifying reading comprehension. After you have read, gone over vocabulary and practiced repetition, ask your students to tell you about what they read using their own words.

Go to another board -