How I Succeeded With a Lower Performing ESL Student
Jan 28, 2010 English as a Second Language (ESL) 3667 Views
The lower performing ESL student needs two important things to reach success - a good solid reading program and lots of opportunities for positive reinforcement.
Making a remedial reading class work is just like any other class, only the rate of success is sometimes too often slower and not always easily felt amongst the ESL teacher. Teachers need to quickly find the right approach and practical methodology that speaks to the students and while the student doesn't always see the success, more often s/he feels incapable of coping with a particular reading task and the gap in reading ability grows wider.
In my first year of teaching Junior High School, I taught a reading recovery class. This particular student was diagnosed as a remedial reader. He could recognize only sound-letter correspondences and read one syllabic words with a basic rudimentary technical understanding.
After mapping the reading skills following administering a diagnostic test, it became clear to me that he needed a reading plan that would include a lot of language input from a variety of graded reading texts, learning and reading strategies to help him. Like many other emergent readers of his reading abilities, he needed help closing the gaps to bring up his reading level. He would also be able to benefit from a variety of strategic lessons. Finally, he would need reassessing and periodic check-ups to evaluate his progress.
He had no interest whatsoever in reading. He avoided as much as possible reading tasks that required serious mental efforts and told me he couldn't do the reading task as he didn't understand and quickly turned off-task. I came to realize we shared very little in our approaches to reading. I grew up loving to read; he hated to read and avoided it whenever possible. I approached reading with active interest, he gave up on the struggle.
This struggle held him back for a few months, which had a crucial effect on his reading development. In fact, most of the students in Shalev's seventh grade class hated reading and it quickly became a class of reluctant readers.
This student's lack of cooperation and interest made him a target for disturbing behavior. Avoiding classroom confrontation, I quickly sensed the need develop a one on one approach that would better serve me as both a teacher and an educator and ultimately, help with the progress of the classes' reading plan.
A tutorial is the first positive step in creating clear boundaries of understanding between teacher and student that would have otherwise not have been acknowledged in a regular classroom environment. From experience, a tutorial proved useful in neutralizing off-task behavior. It is important to make questions as subject-specific. The purpose of the tutorial should be communicated as mutually as possible already in the beginning. Some questions can include setting expectations:
1. What do you expect to learn from the reading lessons this year?
2. What do you expect from me?
3. How can I help you?
4. What is your attitude towards reading?
5. What has been your experience in reading until now?
6. How would you like to improve in your reading?
7. What can I do to help you achieve your reading goals?
From that point on, this student became more 'teachable' and I didn't have to struggle so trying to get his attention. I learned that his personal shortcomings with reading in his previous elementary school years had weighted his confidence and self-esteem. Sensing that learning was no longer a threat, he began to work cooperatively with my reading plan.
I was able to obtain a very different picture of this student's reading abilities from that point on. Initially, his test grades revealed a basic capacity for technical reading of one syllabic words without genuine understanding.
His lack of patience to read challenged me to build a reading program that involved a variety of texts and strategies. I quickly grounded myself in the global approach, convinced that it would help my students become better readers. This approach soon frustrated them, especially Shalev as he had little or no reading or learning strategies to help him cope with decoding words in context and couldn't understand what he was reading beyond the technical level.
If there is anything I have learned from this student, it is the understanding that there is no one right approach towards teaching reading. While this may appear logical for pre-service teachers, I myself needed to implement several theories for teaching reading for this level that was new for me in order to find the right one that spoke to my students.
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