6 Reading Strategies to get your pupils enjoying texts FASTER

First language skills transfer

Reading strategies can be transferred from one langauge to another. Supporting pupils to continue (or start) reading in the first-language can be beneficial as the reading strategies the child learns such as developing an understanding of genre or knowledge of beginnings, middles and endings and sequencing of stories can be transferred when English is learned.

Mantralingua and Milet have a huge range of dual language texts available for purchase. The International Children's Digital library contains a vast range of storybooks in 61 languages available for reading online (a great free resource - especially useful if funds are tight regarding ordering hard copy books).

Being online, children can access it at home, so you have a source of home reading material as well, which can support development of independent reading strategies.

Newbury Park Primary School has developed an excellent booklet 'Language of the Month Activities' which is full of practical and fun ways of enabling children to learn about and share their knowledge of languages.

Assessment of the 3 cueing systems

Assessment of EAL pupils' reading strategies is a process not a one-off test. It is important to take note of the pupil's entire linguistic repertoire when assessing reading, as the child's reading strategies in the first language may have a significant impact on their rate of progress when reading in English. Depending on the age of the pupil, assessments can include phonic and letter names awareness checks, running records to identify instructional and guided reading levels and reading strategies used, comprehension-based activities and discussions with the child and her parent to determine a picture of personal literature interests. Following the guidance in the government produced document: 'A Language in Common: Assessing English as an Additional Language' will help with gaining an overview of the assessment process and the QCA steps that link to the national curriculum are useful in determining both where pupils are now and identifying their next steps.

Scaffolding reading strategies

Using visuals and audio to make texts comprehensible: Considering how to make reading accessible, enjoyable and relevant? Clicker 5 and 6 are excellent ICT programmes that allow teachers to create assisted reading grids, supportive wordbanks and stories supported through photos, pictures, animations, video and audio. Available through Crick software, they have perfected the programme to make it very easy for teachersand pupils to use. You can even get your pupils to make talking books (English or dual language) for other pupils in the school.

Developing competent readers: In her book Scaffolding Language, Scaffolding Learning, Pauline Gibbons talks about the four componenets of literacy success: the roles of code-breaker, text participant, text user and text analysis. She gives ideas on how to support pupils in developing these different reading strategies through teaching discrete skills, discussion around the text, and supporting pupils to critically analyse a text to determine implied meanings. Gibbons explains a range of effective learning experiences for before, during and after reading the text to assist with overall comprehension (names of activities below):

'Before reading' activities: predicting from words, title first sentence or illustration; sequencing illustrations; reader questions; storytelling (in English or mother tongue; sharing existing knowledge.

'During reading' strategies: modelled reading; skimming and scanning the text; rereading for detail; shared book; word making; pause and predict; shadow reading; summarizing the text; jigsaw reading; reading aloud.

'After reading' activities: story innovation; innovating on the ending; Cartoon Strip; Readers' Theatre; Wanted posters; story map; time lines; Hot seating; Freeze frames; Cloze; Monster Cloze; Vanishing Cloze; Text reconstruction; Consonant Groups; Phonic Families; Jumbled Sentences; Picture and sentence matching; True/False Questions; Questioning the Text.

More information on effective Guided Reading sessions to support pupils with EAL

Talk to contextualize content

In order to make reading accessible the teacher needs to analyse the text before introducing it to the pupils to identify any unusual vocabulary, hidden nuances and abstract concepts. The teacher can then illuminate these aspects through a lively and intersting discussion prior to the pupils beginning the text. When the pupils then encounter these aspects in the text they understand them and are able to enjoy the text at a deeper level.

Drama activities can support comprehension of the text during or after reading. If you feel your store of drama activities needs replenishing try these useful books:Drama Games And Activities,  Classroom Gems: Games, Ideas and Activities for Primary Drama.

Experiences bring reading to life

If pupils do not understand the context of the text they will not fully grasp the meaning although they may read the text accurately. Errors in interpretation are common when learning a languge and English is full of subtle nuances, figurative language and idioms. Discussion before reading a text can illuminate new contexts and allow pupils to see how it relates to their own experiences. In some case providing pupils with a new experience themselves (such as baking a certain dish or going to visit a place) can give pupils the tanglible experience that they can draw on later when reading. Consider drawing on pupils cultural heritage and experiences and providing a diverse range of new experiences. Linking children's experiences with the text content can enhance guided reading sessions enabling children to being prior knowledge to their reading experience.

Reading for pleasure

A child that is developing a personal love of literature is a child that will read more. The amount of time spent reading significantly impacts reading progress. Once the basic reading strategies are mastered you will want to encourage children's personal love of books. Things to consider include: providing access to a wide variety of exciting and relevant texts - both fiction and non-fiction; talking with pupils about their reading - providing opportunities for them to share opinions about what they have read (not the dull 'book review') but in exciting ways such as book adverts or 'hotseating' author interviews; and thirdly enlisting parents in supporting the development of daily reading times at home to build up a secure habit. Books children have chosen themselves will usually be more eagerly read than those they are instructed to read. 'Lightening Reads' provide a series of short high-interest low reading ability texts with visual support that can help stimulate struggling readers.

Listening to audio texts can support pupils in their language acquisition by providing a clear model of English that can support and enhance their reading strategies. Listening to texts enables pupils to access texts beyond what they can read themselves, which means the texts can be more interesting leading to greater motivation. Rather than reading being a difficult struggle, listening allows it to be a relaxing and enjoyable time. 

Once pupils are hooked on reading in English they can progress easily to reading without the audio support as they have built up a repertoire of vocabulary and sentence structures that they understand. Audio texts also provide valuable support with pronunciation. Choosing texts that have an audio component that matches the written text means that the pupil can follow along; this provides both the visual and audio components to strengthen understanding. Websites that offer free online audio storybooks mean that a range of resources is to hand both at school and at home; sites such as Mightybook, Storynory and Aesops Fables are excellent examples.

Reading Bear is a website that offers a fun learning to read experience, with over 1200 words and all of the main phonic rules.

I would recommend using Reading Bear  combined with adult interaction to ensure the activities are contextalised, but a great resource for developing early reading strategies- and all for free!

Starfall is a website offering free resources for supporting children learning to read. It uses a systematic phonics method and has a range of short texts and activities. Definately worth having a look at and again - all for free.