ESL classroom tools for reading comprehension skills

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Reading English for pleasure is enjoyable, but when you have to read for understanding – it can become quite difficult. One tool which can help ESL students master reading comprehension is a graded reader.

The beauty of graded readers is that they are enjoyable and at the same time – they develop the student’s reading comprehension skills. As a trainee or novice ESL teacher, you would be well advised to become familiar with this tool: there is such a wealth of readers, that the student is truly spoilt for choice There are a lot of publishing houses in the UK that publish graded readers, for example, Cambridge University Press (CUP) Collins, Macmillan’s, Oxford University Press (OUP), and Penguin.

As the name suggests, these books are graded in levels: usually from the starter stage to stage 6. These stages/levels cater for all the CEFR levels from A1 to C2 inclusive: each book has the number of headwords and the CEFR level clearly printed on the cover. They should not be confused with basal readers because graded readers are usually simplified abridged publications of literary classics and more modern novels; consequently, students get the opportunity to read some of the best novels written in the English language: the readers are also illustrated and a glossary is provided for the more unusual words. Additionally, readers contain a number of activity pages that may contain any of the following activities: reading comprehension questions; ordering of events activities; true/false activities; multiple-choice questions; cloze tests; and matching activities. Once you, the ESL teacher, have decided on a particular reader you can start using it as a tool to further the students’ reading comprehension skills.

The book should be used regularly: twice a week is a reasonable number of times. You should have the students read out aloud parts of the book in turn: this will also give them the opportunity to improve their pronunciation. On completion of the classroom reading, you should discuss what has been read: you should also try to get the students to explain plots, vocabulary, and figurative language. The book should also be used for homework: assign a particular chapter to be read as well as the activities that have to be done – then review the activities in class. Lastly, the ESL teacher should supplement the book’s activities by making worksheets designed to test particular aspects of the book, for example, worksheets for discussing the uses of the tenses; figurative language; classified vocabulary, and so forth. Make sure the book is equally appealing to male and female students – your students will enjoy it more, and they will be more motivated to read it properly.

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