Reading is very important for everyone who learns a new language. Reading is also called written comprehension, and this skill is necessary for those who want to improve their language. Although some people think that they don’t need reading if they are good at speaking, reading is crucial for language development. Reading gives students a number of advantages so teachers must be able to provide them with the necessary knowledge and training.
Why Do ESL Students Need Reading?
Obviously, any language includes not only speaking but also writing and reading as well. Thus, reading is crucial for students who learn a new language. Excellent writing skills give students a significant advantage. First, reading allows a student to learn more about the target culture, therefore understanding more nuances of the use of certain words and phrases. Reading gives students access to literature, helping them learn more about the cultural values and beliefs.
Reading also helps students in developing their understanding of the language. Reading various types of literature, students learn more authentic and complex expressions and terms. Moreover, as students develop their language skills, they can learn more sophisticated forms of language. Reading gives students a significant comprehensible input. In other words, improved comprehension leads to more effective language development.
Reading also improves a number of competences:
- Sociolinguistic competence — knowledge about different structures of text and how they are used in different cultures;
- Linguistic competence — grammar, vocabulary, and other specific elements;
- Strategic competence — knowledge about different strategies of learning. For example, when students determine the specifics of a certain text by focusing on its general meaning, they are using a top-down strategy. In contrast, a bottom-down strategy implies focusing on specific words in order to better understand the general meaning of the text.
How to Assist Students in Improving Reading?
If students want to improve their reading skills, it’s not enough to just read more. Effective learning implies reading in a certain way:
- Guessing from the context: Given that students already have a certain knowledge of the subject, they can understand the meaning of new words.
- Previewing: If students focus on headings, titles, and images, they will also be able to better understand the subject.
- Skimming and scanning: First, students have to make predictions about the subject matter based on the preview. After this, they read various fragments of the text in order to determine whether their predictions are correct or not.
- Paraphrasing: Students can better understand what they’ve just read if they try to rephrase this piece of the text in their own words.
Of course, most students don’t use these reading strategies because they don’t know them. Teachers have to familiarize their students with these strategies. Teachers can use the following methods:
- Giving students more time to preview text material before reading;
- Encouraging students to learn different strategies and to choose the most effective one;
- Creating groups to model strategies;
- Providing “fill-in-the-blank” exercises to help students enhance their vocabulary.
How to Structure Reading Activities for ESL Students?
Once students have learned the system of symbols and sounds, we suggest that you divide reading lessons into three sections:
- Pre-Reading. Before reading some text, discuss ideas and experiences related to it. Let students share their knowledge and focus on relevant concepts and information associated with the main idea and meaning of the text. You should also focus on vocabulary to make sure students understand specific words.
- Reading. Start this phase by making a prediction about the content. It can be a group task, or students may also work on it in pairs, as well as individually.
- Post-Reading. Create a follow-up discussion so that the students can share their understandings and opinions.