Useful Reading Strategies for ESL Students
Jan 9, 2016 English Language Teaching (ELT) 2953 Views
For ESL readers, learning to read can be difficult because it is a skill which requires time outside of the classroom to improve upon. Unlike writing, listening, grammar, and vocabulary, reading encompasses all of these skills and makes the reader have to comprehend English as a full language. Below are five key reading strategies to help any ESL reader to gain confidence in reading and improve their reading abilities.
The most important strategy towards reading in English is having the right mindset when reading. Being forced to read in class prevents you from gaining the full potential the book may have on you. For most of us, we can remember reading books in school, but how many people can remember what most of those stories were about in detail? Motivation plays a large role in determining how much effort you will put into a book. If you are motivated and willing to make mistakes and learn from the material, you will have an overall better learning experience and improve your reading skills faster than before. How can you become motivated? There are many ways but I recommend reading for fun. If you view reading as an adventure and fun activity to do, reading itself will become easier. The joy of reading goes beyond comprehension. It allows you to enter a fantasy world of magic and witchcraft from the comfort of your own bed. You can explore the depths of the sea and encounter strange creatures without leaving your couch. Motivating yourself to read is the first step to reading, and reading more. So hurry up and get reading!
Goals are an integral part of reading and improving your reading. You can set goals to be short term or long term. Goals can provide extra motivation when you reach them, and they give you a glimpse of quantitative evidence of your improvements. The key to making a goal is to not over-do your goal setting. Only you understand the goals you can set and achieve, so don't try to push yourself too hard with unrealistic expectations. Short goals should be used to help pace your reading style. For beginners, this may mean reading a page to a chapter at a time. For more advanced students, they may wish to read X amount of pages or words. Long term goals include areas such as vocabulary acquisition and comprehension. My goal is to read 10 books by the end of the month. My goal is to read a mystery novel and a nonfiction book about police officers. The long term goals give the reader more flexibility or a more detailed option towards reading.
#3 Vocabulary Journal
This strategy is very important for all levels of readers. Vocabulary has always had a difficult place in language acquisition as there are many people with varying degrees of knowledge and wisdom who want you to study vocabulary in a different way. These methods, I have found out, are more for individuals to try and see which best works for them. For vocabulary acquisition, it is important to understand the word if the word is vital to the story. Searching for a new word every line in a book is bad for 2 reasons. First, it means the book is too difficult for you and you should not be reading it. Second, it prevents your brain from fluently reading the book. Imagine listening to someone speak who takes pauses in a random order? Using context clues to understand unknown vocabulary is a must for ESL students and it is important to understand that you don't need to know every word to enjoy the story or book. However, you should go back and check to see if your interpretation of the word matches the meaning it has in the book. To do this, I recommend having a vocabulary journal that looks something like this:
After you read the book and created your journal, I believe these are the vital parts vocabulary acquisition you need to fully understand the word in question. As your vocabulary journal increases, the synonyms and antonyms will become useful and help you continue to study more words.
Having support is very helpful when reading. It goes along the lines of motivation, but having someone to help you read or read with can immensely improve your reading abilities. When choosing a book, talk to your friends and see what they recommend. Having something in common with them could help spark discussions about the book once everyone has read it. This helps you and your friends get more engaged with the story and fun reading can have. If you are more of a 1-on-1 reader, having a teacher or mentor/parent observe you reading and monitor your progress could be useful. Treated as a safety net, sometimes the material in the story can be confusing and it is nice to have someone there to answer the questions. This way, you would not get frustrated and the interest in the book maintains at a high level.
This final strategy may seem like a waste of time since you have already read the book but re-reading exercises are very useful to the brain in remembering events, writing styles, various literary devices, and understanding the story at a different level than before. Think of it as re-watching a movie. You know what to expect now and can get excited when a special scene is about to occur. With reading, re-reading a book allows you digest the story in another way and analyze the story better since you have already read it once. If time is a factor, skimming through a book after you read can be effective as well. It allows you to summarize the story better when you quickly look back and are made to remember the important events of the story instead of all of the details.
There are many reading and teaching strategies teachers use in the classroom which can help students with English. These five strategies are by no means an end-all be-all to reading in English but instead should be viewed as a starting point for those interested in reading more and improving their reading skills as an ESL student.