According to Brown (2001), “for most second language learners who are already literate in a previous language, reading comprehension is primarily a matter of developing appropriate, efficient comprehension strategies.” Following are ten reading tips meant to help teachers develop such comprehension strategies with students, not necessarily in the order presented.
Tip 1: Reading “real English” can be a motivating factor for many students. When using authentic materials, ask students to think about how the material relates to their own lives.
Tip 2: Skimming can be an important tool when reading. Explain to students that even if they do not understand every single word in a text, they can skim for key information to understand the main idea of the reading.
Tip 3: After students read the text and begin to answer the questions, they will need to refer back to the reading. Tell students not to reread the entire text, but scan it just for the information they need instead. Scanning is reading just for specific information without reading irrelevant information.
Tip 4: Teaching students to infer the meanings of unfamiliar words will help them become better readers. Tell students to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words using the words around them. Inference is when a student uses facts (both previously known and presented in the reading), as well as their own logic and reasoning, to answer a question or understand a passage.
Tip 5: Tell students to circle or underline words they don’t know in a reading rather than stopping to look up each one in a dictionary. In many cases, the meaning of the word may be clear based on the context. When students stop to look up a number of words, they lose the thread of meaning. Allow time at the end of each reading for review of any unknown words with the class.
Tip 6: As well as going over the meanings of words that students do not understand, it is also important to check the pronunciation of any unfamiliar words. Students may need the pronunciation of a difficult word modeled several times before they can say it comfortably.
Tip 7: Remind students that the title, pictures, and captions with an article can help them understand the text. Encourage them to read the title first, and to look at the pictures and captions, and think about what information they are going to find in the text before they read. Using the information outside the text itself is a good strategy students can use to help create a context in the reader’s mind and help students make sense of the information they read.
Tip 8: Being able to understand referents, such as pronouns, in a text is a valuable reading skill. When reading a text, take time to stop and ask students what a pronoun refers to. Tell students to take the pronoun and replace it with the proper noun and see if the sentence makes sense.
Tip 9: In small groups or pairs, students can work together to come up with their own comprehension questions about the reading. Then they can exchange their questions with another group and return their answers for checking.
Tip 10: When discussing a text as a class, it is important to keep all students engaged by using different types of questions. Ask intermediate/advanced speakers open-ended questions that need some explanation. If beginners have difficulty with open-ended questions, try questions that can be answered with a word or phrase, or try multiple-choice questions.
BROWN, H. Douglas. Teaching by Principles: An Interactive Approach to Language Pedagogy, Second Edition. Pearson Longman, 2001.