As an ESL teacher, your classes could vary from private tutoring to working with small groups in academies, or even teaching a class of over 20 kids! Whatever the type of class, reading is a fantastic resource in the ESL classroom, but when you might have students who have different levels, knowledge of vocabulary, or even just generally different interests, it can also be tricky to get right.
Think about a time that you picked up a book or article and it was just too difficult. Perhaps you were unfamiliar with the vocabulary or the topic. Even if you have a decent range of vocabulary, there’s a chance you don’t have a firm grasp of grammar in that second language.
Therefore, the changes in tense, word order, and sentence structure can cause a lot of confusion. How does it feel to read text that’s incomprehensible or very difficult to get through? Most would agree that it feels extremely frustrating.
It’s necessary to be challenged when learning, but we should always make sure that it’s not too much too soon. Even the best professional athletes in the world started training small and worked their way up gradually.
This can be summarised in the table below. As you can see, once a text is above an independent reading level, and on an instructional level, the student needs the teacher’s support.
|Independent||The student can read the text on his/her own with ease. Very few errors are made and the student understands what is read. Reading at this level boosts confidence and improves fluency. It’s ideal for independent and silent reading.|
|Instructional||The student needs the support of the teacher or parent. This is the level at which new vocabulary and concepts are introduced and where the greatest progress in reading occurs. This level is ideal for guided reading groups.|
|Frustrational||Decoding words, vocabulary, and concepts are too difficult for the student. Being forced to read at this level will most likely turn students off to reading and cause issues with self-esteem.|
This is a guide, not an exact science. In addition, there are many factors that come into play when leveling texts and leveling students; There are so many factors that results sometimes vary. Therefore, as long as the child is not very frustrated and is learning from the reading, you’re on the right track.
As an ESL teacher for kids, you’ll probably be in situations where your students are forced to read at a ‘frustrational’ level. If it’s in the context of science or history, try your best to find alternative texts that teach the same concepts but in a way the students can comprehend.