A project of

Immigrant Pedagogy

Initial Strategies to Teach English Comprehension to ELLs

Pre-reading Strategies...

In order to assist ELLs in constructing meaning from the text, these two elements are essential:

  • Background Knowledge (The teacher builds upon the language, culture and experiential background that students bring to the classroom and relates that knowledge to new information provided in the text.)
  • Development of Key Vocabulary

Initial Strategies to Teach Reading to ELLs

  • Motivate
  • Activate prior knowledge
  • Build background knowledge
  • Provide text specific knowledge
  • Relate the reading to students’ lives
  • Pre-teach vocabulary and concepts
  • Pre-question and predict
  • Use students’ native language whenever possible
  • Engage students and community people as resources

Ways to Build Background Knowledge

Realia, Photos & illustrations, Oral examples, Books, Read alouds, Media & technology (videos), Graphic organizers, Concept maps, Story maps, Class discussions, Word banks, Guest speakers, demonstrations.

Other ideas:

Select simpler reading material on the same subject, Books on tape, Native language translation

In working with ELLs, the classroom teacher...

…organizes instruction around content (e.g. literature, math, science, integrated themes, social studies, etc.)

  • Instruction provides “access to the core curriculum”
  • Content is academically demanding
  • Topics are appropriate to grade level

...modifies language used during instruction

  • May use slightly slower speech rate
  • Speaks clearly
  • Defines words within meaningful context
  • Paraphrases in simpler terms when using more sophisticated forms of expression
  • Limits use of idiomatic speech

...supports verbal explanations with nonverbal cues

  • Gestures, facial expressions, action to dramatize meaning
  • Props, concrete materials
  • Graphs, pictures, visuals, maps
  • Films, videotapes (use captions), overhead projector, SmartBoard, bulletin board displays

...designs appropriate lessons

  • Explains the purpose of the activity
  • Prepares students for information (e.g. builds background knowledge, pre-teaches vocabulary, works on concept development in advance)
  • Helps students develop learning strategies (e.g. reading, writing, thinking, problem-solving, organization, study skills)
  • Offers opportunities for group work and problem-solving
  • Provides many opportunities for student-centered activities
  • Adjust lessons as needed (e.g. pace, language proficiency)

...is sensitive to whether students understand the lesson and, therefore, checks frequently for understanding in multiple ways

  • Monitors comprehension, asks students if they need clarification
  • Repeats, if necessary, and reviews main ideas and key vocabulary
  • Provides opportunities for students to rehearse information in a variety of ways (e.g. oral, written, through actions, pictures, etc)
  • Assesses mastery of objectives in a variety of ways

What we need to recognize is that students educated in other countries reflect their own cultural way of thinking through their particular styles of writing. Our pattern of accepted writing is not identical to the writings of other cultures, and therefore we should understand that when teaching writing, it should be a lesson in making students aware of how our preferred style of writing.