Friday, April 25, 2008

Getting Your EFL Learners to Read in English

Teaching English as a Foreign Language:
Getting Your EFL Learners to Read in English

Why Little Juanita Maria Can’t Read
If you teach English as a foreign language in a country or location where reading isn’t a particularly strong skill, getting your EFL learners to read can be a unique challenge. In Colombia, for example, a published report stated that 22% of homes said that they had NO books in the house as compared to Mexico, where only 4.1% of homes reported being without any books in the house. Even though reading can be promoted at home without having a home library, these statistics would indicate that reading is very likely NOT a highly promoted skill in many households. What too, if parents lack adequate reading skills?

Then too, many schools, especially those in impoverished areas worldwide, simply do not have ready access to an ample supply of books and other reading material. This can have even more of an impact where English is not a first or official language. When English is also not given any particularly high status in the school or learner curriculum, you have all the makings for LEP (Limited English Proficiency) learners with poorly developed reading and reading comprehension skills, probably in their first language (L1) as well as in English as a foreign language.

The Four Language Skills
Of the four basic language skills, reading, writing, listening and speaking; reading is certainly not a skill we’d want to neglect or minimize as English language teaching professionals. Here then are a few starter suggestions for getting your EFL learners to read in English.

• Read a captivating story aloud to them with an “installment” of the story being reading each class
• Have learners start by reading dramatic or attention-grabbing headlines from English language tabloids, newspapers or magazines
• Play a story or fairy tale on tape with learners following along in written transcripts
• Use short passages from novels, literature, magazine articles, news stories, even comic books to pique their interest and motivation
• Cut a printed story’s paragraphs into separate parts pasted on a sheet of paper or cardboard. Have learners re-organize the paragraphs to read the story aloud

Where to Get Reading Materials
Oh, you thought that I’d forgotten that part, didn’t you? No, I haven’t. First, try asking your learners to bring in something if they can. Old magazines and newspaper pages, flyers, printouts from online materials, letters, used books and whatever else they might be able to scrounge will at least get you started with some reading materials to work with. You, enterprising ELT professional that you are, might try a few downloads of news, articles or other reading materials from the internet. If you have a stash of materials like old novels, magazines and newspapers at home, now’s the time to put them into play with your EFL learners.

Start Off Short and Slow
Just remember to start off your reading program short and slow, using only five minutes or even less to start. Each week, build up the reading activity time by an additional three to five minutes until you have a steady pace of about 15 minutes during the class based on reading and reading comprehension skills development using as wide a variety of materials as you can accumulate. I’m sure you and your English as a foreign language learners will be pleased with the results.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 80 countries. Get your FREE E-books,"If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

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