Development of Reading Skills and Online Reading Tools in ESL Classroom
There is no doubt that reading greatly supports SLA progress. Avid readers progress much faster in their second language development. Some students naturally enjoy reading. They read a lot in their first language and as a result they enjoy reading in the second language as well. The problematic group are the students who do not like to read. The question is: How does a teacher engage unmotivated readers?
I have a few recommendations:
1) In my room, I always have a comfortable area/corner with bean bags and a small carpet where my students can independently read books of their own choice. My goal here is to create a positive association by connecting reading with a place they enjoy.
2) Students choose from a variety of fiction or non-fiction books. Students read books that they like and put them away if they are not fond of them.
3) Reading for language learners has to be scaffolded and leveled. Leveled readers are extremely important. Students should not read books that are too challenging or easy for them. Students should know their reading level. Of course, at the beginning, the teacher has to assess the reading level and direct them to the right level. With time, students are able to independently find books at their reading level.
4) I encourage parents to read at home together with their children. Reading time should become a regular family fun time.
5) From my experience, online tools really help struggling English as a second language readers. Most struggling readers in the elementary school are boys who generally love digital tools and online games. Therefore any reading on a computer seems to them much more engaging than a regular book. And it works!
There are a variety of resources online. A-Z reading is a great resource because it offers a variety of genres including non-fiction, and students are exposed to an array of academic vocabulary that is often missing in chapter books. The RAZ-Kids program has also been successful in my classroom. My students enjoy listening to books, solving reading comprehension quizzes, recording leveled books that correspond with their reading level and that become more challenging as they progress. Students can read at home as well.
6) In my class, students are encouraged to use online translators to translate words into their first language. This strategy has really proved to be successful. My students use an iPod or iPad and Google Translate to find words that they do not understand.
To conclude, I would like to stress that I am very grateful for online reading resources but I believe that there is nothing as important as a real book. In my class, online reading goes along with reading regular leveled or chapter books. They both play an equal role in my second language teaching practice.