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Books & Reading Comprehension Activities for ESL Adults

Instructor: Jocelyn Cherry

Jocelyn has taught Special Education for over two decades and has three post secondary degrees all in the field of Education.

Reading comprehension is the most important skill adult ESL students can develop because it enhances other essential skills, such as writing, listening, and speaking. In this lesson, we'll explore some reading materials and accompanying comprehension activities for ESL adult learners.

Stages of Reading Proficiency

Adult learners in ESL (English Second Language) programs require comprehension strategies even if they have been provided with mainstream bilingual instruction, pulled out for sheltered English instruction, and/or deemed English proficient but still in need of additional, intermittent help. There are three stages of reading proficiency for the adult ESL learner:

  • Beginning Stage: This learner requires basic decoding skills in phonics, vocabulary development, and comprehension strategies.
  • Intermediate Stage: This learner is familiar with most, but not all, of the phonemes (units of sounds), but still requires vocabulary development skills and comprehension strategies.
  • Advanced Stage: This learner has mastered all the phonetic sounds and is proficient in phonetic awareness. He or she may still need vocabulary development and comprehension strategies.

When choosing reading material and activities, it's imperative to ensure that they're relevant to ESL learners' English levels and conducive to their needs. Strong comprehension skills can aid in other areas, like writing, listening, and speaking. All of these skills assist with language acquisition. Here are some of the activities that can be used with the ESL adult learner for improving comprehension.

Books and Comprehension Activities

The following books and activities have been chosen for use with adult ESL students based on their level based of reading proficiency.

Beginning Stage Learner

Book Winner: It Looked Like Spilt Milk by Charles G. Shaw.

Honorable Mentions: Good Night Moon by Margaret Wise Brown, Curious George by H.A. and Margret Rey, and Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan.

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