Top 3 ESL Reading Strategies That Really Work


Why do some ESL students have problems with reading? A lot of teachers experienced the difficulties to motivate those ESL students who experienced failures in learning English. Some of them are afraid to make a mistake in spelling words; some students have poor reading strategies; other find the texts not interesting. So how do we normally solve the problem? We make exercises easier, offer easier vocabulary input, and simple texts; and none of these strategies works. But if you put in the extra effort, the success is guaranteed.

Here are 3 proven strategies to improve student reading skills.

Right Content. Richard Day explains in his “Selecting a Passage for the Reading Class,” that texts must be related to student interests in order to facilitate second-language learning. Now look at the standard reading books. Most of them have nothing related to real interests, hobbies and cultural/social background of students. So what can you do? Interview your students and find out what they like. This will allow you to select the right texts for your next class.

Exploitability and readability. Prior reading, introduce new vocabulary through a pre-reading exercise. Maintain the number of new words for each text to a minimum, enabling the learners to concentrate on the objectives of the reading lessons, such as processing and comprehending the text. The reading passages must be short and visual. Richard Day highlights that text length, layout, print and type size of the reading passage has an influence on readability. Clearly defined paragraphs and short lines will boost reading speed and readability.

Reading Pyramids. According to Dolores G. Hiskes’s “Reading Pathways: Simple Exercises to Improve Reading Fluency, ” reading pyramids are perfect tools that should be used to teach accuracy and fluency. Reading pyramids start with one word and slowly build into phrases and sentences increasing complexity of reading. Both adult and young ESL students will love this powerful technique. Reading Pathways is a savior for fresh and experienced ESL teachers alike in terms of making excellent progress in reading skills.

Click here to see top 3 guide books on reading fuency.

Watch this awesome Group Phonics Lesson by Lucia Parry

 Please, share your thoughts and experience in a comment section below!


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  1. I have found the students that have the most trouble in reading and writing English also have trouble reading and writing in their first language. I had one student, I taught him how to read and write Russian. I got him started. By the time he had to stop studying with me he wasn’t 100% literate reading Russian. I feel the progress we’ve made was a major accomplishment because I do not speak, read or write Russian. I had to go online to learn the Russian alphabet. and then found Russian children stories that he could read. Then he would have to explain them to me in English. Haha so he was learning English, or at least learning to speak English as we went along.I do agree with the article though, that particular attention should be made to the content of what you are asking your students to read. No, I do not remember very much Russian.

  2. It goes without saying,teaching IS a stress to our students. To help them overcome that stress we must do our teaching in a proper way. In the process of teaching reading we must mark out some levels – pre-reading, while-reading and after-reading. And according to those levels – special strategies of course.

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