Category Archives: ESL Reading

These postings include activities for reading skill-development, teaching techniques and strategies for evaluating reading skills.

The Most Effective Classroom Organization for Reading Skills Development

Reading book

Here is what seems to be some well-kept secrets about reading classes.  The teacher doesn’t have to be the center of attention.  The teacher doesn’t have to “act” like a teacher, standing up front talking.

And most of all, students will not be bored or waste time if they are reading individually during class.

What students need from the reading teacher is someone who can help each individual student develop their reading comprehension skills.  A student doesn’t need to listen to a teacher explain to the class parts of a passage he/she already understands but that a classmate doesn’t.

Students can get the maximum benefits from a reading class and from a reading teacher through a reading workshop.  This workshop approach has proven effective at all levels and with students from over 40 countries.

One of the greatest advantages is that each student’s individual needs are addressed by the teacher during the class.  Another advantage is that students are working on reading by actually reading.  Also, they don’t have to wait for classmates to finish reading a passage or feel pressure to read faster to keep up with them.

Here is how a Reading Workshop can be effectively organized.

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A True Story to Motivate Students to Read More


Reading while eating

Reading every chance you get.

An international student, Emily, was really struggling with the grammar in her writing assignments.  Even though she worked with a tutor, she was continuously making basic mistakes.  In the fall, the program reluctantly promoted her to my higher-level Writing course.  I found her to be the third lowest of 17 students in the class in being able to apply grammatical accuracy to written work.  Ten weeks later, she was the second best.  I was totally amazed!

At the end of the Fall term, she passed my class and then took English Comp (English 101) during the Winter term.  She got an A.

I had a chance to talk to her about her remarkable turn-around.  What she did is not beyond what other students can do.  After that opportunity that I had to talk to her, every term, I share with all my students her story.  Here is the PowerPoint that I use to do this in case you’d like to tell your students about how a peer of theirs was able to improve the grammar in her writing in a relatively short time.  True story about improving grammar in writing thru reading

I’ll summarize what she had done below.

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Best Subject for an ESL Integrated-Skills Class (Part 2 of 4: Reading aspect)

party shy

Feeling shy in social situations

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

Why do Asians often seem so shy in social situations compared to westerners?

To illustrate how the subject of cultural differences is the best subject, I’ll include a reading passage about this followed by discussion and writing activities related to this.

This “shyness” topic is an effective one for demonstrating the important aspects of this “best” subject:

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Purposeful Reading: Read faster and create a tolerance for ambiguity


Slow reading because of translating

Slow reading because of translating

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

The other day, Mari, an ESL student of mine, asked me if I could help her with an article that she had been assigned for one of her courses.  I could see that the article would be quite challenging for her.  And I couldn’t help but notice that she had covered the article with translations.  It was obvious that she had little confidence that she’d be able to understand any of it unless she translated almost every word, even words she actually knew.

As mentioned in a previous posting (November 2nd ), if student know the purpose of a reading assignment, they tend to read faster because they don’t get bogged down in trying to understand unnecessary details and vocabulary.  Also, they are more likely to become tolerant of ambiguity. Included in this posting is a unit (an article and study guide) that begins with a focus on the reason students would read the article.

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Purposeful reading: Students read faster if they know what they are looking for.


Having a purpose.

Having a purpose.

(This posting includes a handout which you are welcome to use with your students.)

One reason that ESL students often take so much time reading a passage is because they think that they need to understand all the information.  As a result, many of them tend to cover a text in translation of every word that they are not familiar with.  We have often heard of international students staying up until 2 a.m. trying to complete reading assignments in their academic courses.

This can change if they know in advance the purpose of the reading assignment.

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