Category Archives: ESL Reading

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

Personalized Vocabulary Exercise

  • What is the incentive that makes you study hard in school?
  • Who do you think had the greatest impact on what you like to do: your mother, father, a relative, a friend, or a teacher?
  • In this class, is there someone who has a distinct characteristic, for example, a way of talking, a hairstyle, a tattoo, a type of clothing, or a habit? Explain.
  • Think about your life. Tell about a time when your life seemed unstable.
  • Let’s say that you are a parent. What rule do you think that you would impose on your teenage children?
  • Name a person whom you know that has an expertise in something? __________ What does that person have an expertise in?

Which of these two sentences below would be more fun for you to answer?

1) What is one significant event that happened in the world this past year?

2) What is one significant event that happened to you this past year?

Which of those two sentences would be more fun for you to hear your friend answer?

Which of those two sentences would be more likely to help you internalize the word “significant”?

It seems that the second one tends to be much more stimulating for students to answer.  And, on top of that, it seems be the type of question which will help students retain the meaning of the word.

A few years ago, I started to add an additional vocabulary exercise titled “Applied Vocabulary” to the more traditional ones that I was assigning my students.  In this, each new vocabulary word is embedded in a personal question about the students’ lives and experiences.  For example:

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Free Reading Unit.  Reading for Insight: The Candy Test: Controlling Impulses

Excerpt from the article

1 A little, 4-year-old boy is alone in a room sitting at a table staring at a piece of candy.  He has to make a decision.  If he can wait until his teacher returns in a few minutes, she will give him two pieces of candy.  But if he can’t wait and decides to eat the piece that is in front of him, he won’t get a second piece when she returns.  Amazingly, what he decides to do (eat the one piece now or wait and get a second one in a few minutes) can help us predict the type of grades he will get in high school, whether or not he will graduate from college, what his health will be like when he is an adult, and whether or not he’ll get a divorce in the future.

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

See Reading Units: Reading for Insights (Introduction)  for an introduction to these reading units.

Study Guide, Reflection & Vocabulary  for The Candy Test: Controlling Impulses (and excerpts)

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Free Reading Unit. Reading for Insights: “Does Social Media Make People Sadder?”

In an interesting segment on the podcast, “Hidden Brain,” a researcher said, “Using Facebook makes you more comparative.  You compare yourself to others more often.  You judge yourself.  Am I better or worse?  Am I happier?  Are other people happier than me?” (Excerpt from the article.)

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

See FREE Reading Units: Reading for Insights (Introduction) for an introduction to these reading units.

Study Guide, Reflection & Vocabulary for  Does Social Media Make People Sadder? (and excerpts)

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Reading Units: Reading for Insights (Introduction)

Reading books

Once a month, I plan to share a reading unit some of  which you can print out and share with your students.  I’ll also be making some available on a different site where you can preview and download them.

The Features of these units

  • High-interest articles at the intermediate level that usually include references to some research study that students can relate to.
  • The information is often counter-intuitive. Students gain some new insights from them.
  • Study guides involve a variety of comprehension questions and scaffolding paraphrasing ones and vocabulary exercises.
  • Each unit includes at least one “Reflection” exercise in which students write:

Reflection items image

  • Other uses of the articles:
    as a prompt for discussions.
    as a prompt for writings.

The Reasons Why these Units are Not Being Sold as a Book.

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Don’t Wastes Students’ Energy Teaching Certain Types of Vocabulary Words in Reading Class

Three Tiers

“Radiance,” “strike a deal,” “gorgeous” “ecosystem.” In my 40 years of teaching academic ESL, I’ve probably seen these word in a reading passage at most only once or twice.  And I’ve never seen a student use them in a writing task.  And yet, these words were  included in several vocabulary exercises in a textbook, and students were asked to write sentences with them.  Because the words were in a reading passage, the author of the textbook, for some reason, decided that these were important words for students to study and try to internalize.

I think most of us would agree that spending time on a words so rarely used as “radiance” or “strike a deal” is probably not the best use of students’ precious time and mental energy if our true goal is to help them develop their reading skills.  At the same time, many of us who have studied a foreign language would agree that reading comprehension is enhanced by knowledge of a lot of vocabulary words.

At this point, two questions come to mind: (1) How do learners increase their vocabulary, and (2) which vocabulary words would perhaps be beneficial to study through exercises?

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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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