English as a Second Language Reading Strategies

Lisa C. Newcomer Information

In last week’s article, Extensive Reading Activities, we mentioned skimming and scanning.In today’s “English Learning Tips”, let’s explore a few more ESL reading strategies that may help you improve your reading skills, gain confidence and continue reading independently long term.

  • Before diving into the reading materials, preview the content and prepare yourself. Previewing is essential for you to get a sense of what the text is about.
  • If you are previewing something in your textbook, familiarize yourself with the list of new words, read through the discussion questions available after the text, and try to answer them in your own words, etc. Do all this before you start reading.
  • If you are reading a newspaper article on your own, usually there won’t be any vocabulary lists or guiding questions for you to preview. Instead, you can try previewing the headlines of the news story, any included images, photos or info graphics. Numbered lists or sections can be good clues as well, etc. Look for signal words such as first, second, third, etc.
  • Although reading is more of a passive activity – you read and passively receive information that’s thrown at you – it doesn’t mean you are not allowed to have some creative freedom!
  • Predicting is a good method especially when you read a story. Read a few paragraphs, pause and think about what could happen next.
  • Verbalize or write down your prediction. By doing so, you are practicing your speaking and writing.
  • Summarizing is an effective way to check your understanding of the reading material.
  • After you finish the reading, did you get the gist (the main idea)? If you can summarize what you’ve read in your own words, you’ve developed an excellent understanding of the material’s main concept and message.
  • It can be a short oral summary or a written paragraph. Summarizing is not retelling, instead it is giving back information in a clear concise manner. Sometimes two to three sentences are enough.
  • Visual learners are learners that need to see information to learn it. Are you a visual learner? Take this quiz to find out your learning style(s).
  • Try to picture a character or an object depicted in the materials you are reading. It motivates you to read more and dive into the details as the image in your head becomes clearer.
  • Visualizing is also about organizing the information in a visual way. Use concept maps to identify main ideas, subtopics, timelines, etc.
Looking at context
  • Guessing unfamiliar words from context trains you not to always rely on a dictionary.
  • To guess the meaning of a new word, start by identifying what part of speech it is – is it a noun, a verb? What other words are used with it? Are there any words that may give you a clue, such as but, however, and, because, so, etc.

Word of the Day:

Visualize: to form an image of something in your mind

Before you go, also check out our previously published English Learning tips articles!

Immigrant Services Calgary offers online language assessment services and referrals for clients in the Calgary area and Southern Alberta. Want to get in touch with one of our newcomer language specialists? Answer a couple of questions to help us know you better! Feel free to chat with us online if you have any questions.