Reading for beginner EAL learners

You will find it useful to read the sections on Spoken English and on Challenges before this because of the crucial relationship between pupils’ spoken language acquisition and their development of reading in English. Secondary teachers will find these sections useful in addition to the section devoted to Reading at Secondary.

What teachers need to know about reading in a new language:

As with monolingual pupils, EAL learners need to be taught both word reading skills and comprehension in order to access written texts. However, there is evidence that:

  • Some pupils may acquire phonic knowledge and be able to decode quickly, but their skills in comprehension take longer and need explicit attention (Stuart, 2004).
  • Reading comprehension is related to the pupils’ vocabulary knowledge, knowledge of text types, knowledge of and interest in the subject matter (Hutchinson, Whitely, Smith and Connors, 2003).
  • Pupils’ access to reading is related directly to their current level of spoken English and breadth of vocabulary (Droop and Verhoeven, 1998).
  • Pupils will have experience of reading in other languages and for different purposes (Parke, Drury, Kenner and Robinson, 2002)
  • Text type and direction in pupils’ home written language may be significantly different from English
  • Literacy in the first language affects literacy in the new language (August and Shanahan, 2006)

Characteristics of a Beginning English reader:

  • Able to decode known words and some unknown words
  • Able to read familiar words such as those introduced systematically in a reading scheme and those considered ‘high frequency’ within the current curriculum for English
  • Developing understanding of meaning in simple texts
  • Beginning to deduce implicit meaning in simple texts
  • Will need help with idiomatic language and vocabulary related to concepts/events that are outside the pupil’s experiences

Activities for Beginning English readers:

  • Access to texts with controlled vocabulary and explicit structure
  • Access to texts that reflect the pupil’s existing experiences at home and at school
  • Use of pictures to discuss implicit meaning, predict outcomes etc.
  • Role play such as hot seating and freeze frame to develop understanding of character, plot and motive
  • Introduction to the structure and features of different non-fiction text types
  • Use of audio books in first language and in English
  • Use of dual language texts matched the pupils’ interests and stages of fluency in their first language
  • Use of talking books and talking pens (see section on Hardware) http://www.eal-teaching-strategies.com/reading-strategies.html

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