I am reposting four blogs that I published a few months ago so that participants in the June 28th #ELLCHAT will be able to read them.
Part One: Reading Comprehension Strategies for ELLs: Visualization and Making Connetions.
I was reading a story with my 2st grade ESL class entitled The Doorbell Rang (Hutchins, 1989). I wanted to teach my students the reading comprehension strategy of visualizing what was happening as they read. At the end of the first page, I asked them to make a picture in their minds of the cookies they thought Ma made for the two children to share. Once they had the picture in their minds, I asked them to draw it. After students made their drawings, we examined the picture of the twelve chocolate chip cookies that appeared on the next page of the book. One of my students, Yeon Ji sighed, “I was wrong” and showed me her picture of twelve sugar cookies with red sprinkles. I explained to students that the “movie” in their minds could change when they got new information and that a picture is new information. This is important to teach to students from other cultures because they are often product-oriented and focus on the “right” response..
When teachers in my school started exploring Reader’s Workshop and began to teach their students what good readers do, I immediately saw the application to teaching reading comprehension strategies to English language learners (ELLs). I liked the format of a short mini-lessons about comprehension strategies followed by independent or partner practice using books that are on each student’s reading level. The mini-lesson is directed to the whole class but the practice is individualized. Classroom teachers are able to differentiate instruction by holding extra conferences with English language learners. I decided to adapt this instructional model to teach reading to my ESL classroom so that I am using the same language as the classroom teachers.
Over the next few weeks I will be talking about 6 different strategies to teach reading comprehension to ELLs. In this first blog, I will discuss two reading comprehension strategies that ESL teachers adapt for English language learners of any age: Visualization and Making Connections.
Visualizing what is happening in the story
Good teachers teach students to visualize, to make pictures in their minds as they read. We might ask students to practice this skill as we read to them. Have students close their eyes and imagine what is happening in the story. In the above scenario, the visualization techniques in The Doorbell Rang, help students understand how the 12 cookies are divided first by 2 children, then by 4 and by 6. Eventually, 12 friends are sharing the cookies. We want students to use visualization as a means of understanding the story structure. As the story progressed, students were asked to visualize four children and the cookies that they would have on their plates. Students then made a drawing of their mental picture. If students didn’t draw a plate of three chocolate chip cookies at this point in the story, the teacher could monitor how well they were understanding the meaning of the story. She could have the class get in groups of four and make and divide twelve cookies. Students should be taught to visualize before, during and after reading.
Activating background knowledge
Good readers make connections to their background knowledge. They activate their schema. Schema is the prior experience that students bring to the text they are reading. In the case of ELLs, the schema that they bring to the classroom may be very different from their classmates’ experiences. It is important that classroom teachers help English language learners to relate their schema to the book they are reading. Our goal during Reader’s Workshop is to help our students make the following connections: text-to-self, text-to-text, and text-to-world.
A text-to-self connection is an association that readers make between the text they are reading and something that happened in their own lives. This connection allows ELLs to share their unique schema with classmates. They learn the phrases, “ I have a text to self connection; “This reminds me of when I....” We use this strategy so that students see how their own experiences help them better understand what the characters in the story feel.
Text-to-text connection is a link that students make between the text that they are reading and another story that they have read. It is important to teach students the language of text-to-text connections. When I teach this strategy in my ESL classroom, I prompt the connections by asking, “Does anyone remember another book where children had to share with their friends?”
Text-to-world connections are those links students make between the text and something that has happened in the world. My students make connections to their lives in Korea, Japan, China, India and South America. If we read about a hurricane in a 5th grade ESL class, the students have the language to make the connection between the text that we are reading and extreme weather that has occurred in their own countries. This is a powerful strategy for ELLs because they are using their schema to contribute to the class discussions..I teach them to use sentences such as “This makes me think about,” “I remember when..” or “this is what happened in my country.”
Help your ELLs to learn how to comprehend what it is they read in English. Begin by using the strategies used in Reading Workshops.