Reading Strategies

For ELL Students


LIST 5373

Academic Honesty

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About Myself

  • I currently teach 3rd Grade Bilingual Reading/LA/Socials Studies in Splendora, Texas.
  • I am working towards my Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis in Literacy Studies
  • This is my 9th year teaching.

Growing up reading was not my favorite subject. I was not bad at reading, but math always seemed so much simpler for me to grasp. My upbringing was similar to many ELL students. I was born in Mexico, moved here when I was 2. Started school in Kinder and at the beginning of 1st Grade I moved back to Mexico where I did not have any opportunity to continue with the English I had learned in school. My primary language is Spanish and it was the language my parents always spoke at home. Yet, my mother always tells me that I use to help translate when I was in Kinder. I came back to the U.S. at the beginning of 7th Grade. This means that I missed all of the grammar, phonemic awareness, and necessary tools to be able to learn to read English well. However, I did have a strong Spanish schooling and learned to read and write well. This helped me transition into English reading and writing once in Middle School and High School. Nevertheless, there are many tips I have learned late in my schooling and mostly because I am a teacher. My reading comprehension improved greatly once I learned them and my love for reading increased making reading my favorite subject now over math any day. The following tips I find necessary for teachers who teach to ELLs in order to improve reading comprehension and overall reading enjoyment.

Tip #1 Phonemic Awareness

Sometimes students may not know the sounds of letters, other times they may know them but not in their language. According to Templeton and Gehsmann in Teaching Reading and Writing (2014, pp. 161) when teaching older ELL students who are newcomers or not literate to their home language, teach them as you would teach a young ELL student. Focusing mainly in sentence structure and letter sounds. If the student has some English, then they should be taught the different aspects of the English Language and sentence structure. Therefore, phonics must be integrated with other reading instruction to increase comprehension (Smith, pp. 104) Tip #2 should be covered in my opinion with all ELL students in order to cover any English reading rules they might have missed and to improve reading fluency regardless of their age.

Tip #2 Word Study

According to Word Study by John Smith, some reading programs have over 200 phonics skills that must be learned and memorized when learning English (pp. 105). These on themselves can be intimidating. Instead, Smith recommends simplifying these into nine common spelling patterns that build continuously and which are commonly used and viewed in many printed materials used. According to John Smith these are the most common spelling patterns:

1. CVC Words

2. Consonant Blends

3. Consonant Digraphs

4. Final Silent e

5. Vowel Teams

6. R-Controlled Vowels

7. Vowel Diphthongs

8. Open Syllables

9. Consonant - LE

There are many only sites that use these patterns for games where students can practice them daily in the classroom for students who might require extra visual and technology help.

Tip #3 Word Parts

Teach students how to judge whether words are related in meaning and pronunciation. Being able to read it and to find its root word the student might be able to decipher what the word means. “English orthography often delineates for us the meaningful parts of words, preserving them in spelling” (Cooks Moats, pp. 138). Some of these spelling and meaning relationships can transcend from one language to another, referred to as cognates. When students are taught to look for these cognates he increases his word consciousness (Templeton & Gehsmann, pp. 154) into the relationship of word spelling and meaning with the new language that is being acquired.

Tip #4 Literacy Rich Classrooms

Create a print rich classroom where the student feels inspired to pick up a book and read it. Researchers vary the estimates of how many books should be in a classroom library. Some suggest that an effective classroom will have over 1500 books in its library ( Templeton & Gehsmann, pp. 79). Regardless of the amount, it is the quality and its availability to the student that counts. If you do not have many books in your library try to borrow from the school library to create your own library of the many different genres. Rotate the books so students do not get bored from them.
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Tip #5 Help Increase Student’s Motivation

Motivation is the hardest thing a teacher has to deal with when teaching reading, it the student is not motivated he will most likely not read with the intensity necessary to comprehend the many objectives intended to be learned. According to Templeton and Gehsmann in Teaching Reading and Writing, motivation is the key to successful learning in reading. The authors also give a few points to helping increase student’s motivation (pp. 17).

  • Allow students to choose what they want to read
  • Easy access to text and a variety of genres
  • Read for purpose
  • Allow students to discuss their readings

Tip #6 Help Students Choose Their Book

Because motivation is of high importance, choosing the right book can help increase motivation or loose it. A student should be able to read and understand the book on his own. In the primary grades the student should be able to read a book at about 95 percent or higher, and 97 percent for older students (Templeton, Gehsmann, pp. 91). A teacher’s role is then to help guide the student on whether the right book has been chosen without decreasing his motivation if the book is not his level. Include introducing online books if computers are available in the classroom. This will motivate the student to do so at home with their own technology. Keeping in mind that visual icons online are constantly changing and can create some frustration when navigating through online books. Therefore teachers must encourage flexibility and persistence when using online resources (Javorsky & Trainin, 2014)

Tip #7 Use Content Subjects for Reading

Reading is taught in every school and in every classroom. Yet there are teachers who sometimes say they are only the math and science teacher and do not understand that their teaching also requires a specific teaching of reading comprehension in the nonfiction genre. Math and science have many graphs, charts, and content specific vocabulary that is needed to understand the reading intended. According to McKenna and Robinson authors of Teaching Through Text, “Content literacy is defined as “the ability to use reading and writing for the acquisition of new content in a given discipline” (pp. 6). Instead of seeing other content areas as a separate class, it should be viewed as “in addition to” or a supplemental reading class to the already assigned and mandated reading subject.

Tip #8 Reinforcing Background Knowledge

If content areas will be used to teaching reading, teachers should pay special attention to how the text in these areas are written. Did the author write the text in a considerate manner where new vocabulary is clearly defined and new concepts explained? Or did the author do the opposite, inconsiderate text, where the reader has to look for clarification and have knowledge of the subject before reading it? (McKenna and Robinson, pp. 71) Teachers have to be able to tell what type of text was written and how much background knowledge the reader needs to know before reading the text. According to Closing the Gap: Addressing the vocabulary needs of English-Language Learners in bilingual and mainstream classrooms, students comprehension of content increased when the lesson was introduced in a way that vocabulary definition and understanding was done before the presentation of the content (pp. 194)

Tip #9 Graphic Organizers

Graphic organizers can be a great visual representation of what is being taught, or what was learned in reading and in many subjects. Teaching through Text defines a graphic organizer as “a diagram showing how key concepts are related” (pp. 90) and their use is limitless in the variety of subjects where they can be used. The key to teaching them is to help students to see main ideas, vocabulary, and relationships of any subject they read. Before expecting a student to complete a graphic organizer, demonstrate how to properly use one. Because of the many varieties of them, it is important to teach one at a time until the student feels comfortable using it.
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Tip #10 Read with Purpose

As one of the tips for increasing motivation in students noted, reading for purpose will help students either increase or decrease their motivation. Chapter 9 or Teaching Reading and Writing suggest to teach students what the purpose of reading a story or piece is. This can be asked as what is the author’s purpose when he wrote this story/piece/poem? Explain the different learning out of each of these genres: entertainment; informational; I believe that when a student purposely figures out what his reading intends, he can purposely read for that intent and not get discouraged if this type of reading is not necessarily something he would have chosen on his own

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Tips for parents

1 Reading Time

Children enjoy having stories read aloud to them (McKenna and Robinson, pp. 182). If possible read to children daily for 15 minutes. After a read aloud, parents can ask comprehension questions like:

Who are the Characters in this Story? Where does the story take place? Was there a problem? Did it get resolved?

2 Homework

1. Provide a set time for doing homework and help set a learning environment at home. Turn off all electronics and distractions and help the student. Remember, homework is not a punishment, but an extension of what was learned. A good rule of thumb is that a student will have 10m of homework for each grade level. Therefore a 3rd grader will have about 30 minutes of homework a day. (

3 Types of Enrichment

Homework does not have to be just pencil and paper. Many variations will help keep the motivation needed to finish homework and the desire to do more learning at home. Anything from whiteboards with dry erase markers, color pencils, to computer games. All of these will help keep the student's motivation going.

4 Help with homework

Stay near by your child when homework is being done. Watch out for frustration and help out when needed. Do not do the homework for him, but try to keep frustration levels low to avoid future reluctance (

5 rewards

Reward good grades in both academics and behavior. Students with good behavior tend to enjoy school more and have better experiences. Celebrate small successes.


The following sites are great resources to add to any computer for extra enrichment at home or in the classroom

This game helps kids identify consonants and vowels.. The child can learn to be patient with this game because you have to move the mouse to allow the letter to fall into the right category at the right time. There are many levels so the child should be able to play long and learn all they need to know.

Both of these games help the child learn to match up suffixes and prefixes. With these examples the child can learn how to match up words and see how they relate to each other. There are many levels the child can do so they’ll never be bored with it and can keep going and leaning.

This site says why graphic organizers are important. They give an example and give a link to many graphic organizers children can use. This is great for kids to learn simple ways to organize all their information.

This site has many free children’s books. They have pictures and cute little stories. This is great for if you don’t want to have to pass out an individual book to every child. It’s the smart and cheaper way to help kids read.


COIRO, J. and DOBLER, E. (2007), Exploring the online reading comprehension strategies used by sixth-grade skilled readers to search for and locate information on the Internet. Reading Research Quarterly, 42: 214–257. doi:10.1598/RRQ.42.2.2

This research was done for reading comprehension online. However, some of the tips I covered are pinpointed in this study. In specific, Tip #8 where background knowledge is needed on the subject the student is reading. Think a louds were also discussed as were conferring with the student to check for comprehension.

Biemiller, B. A. (n.d.). Teaching Vocabulary. Retrieved October 10, 2016, from

This article focuses on how vocabulary acquisition in the early years is important, as is phonics teaching to reinforce its rules. In the last few years I have been hearing a lot about going back to teaching phonics, compared to my first few years of teaching where not much phonics were emphasized in the workbooks being used.


  • Carlo, M. S., August, D., Mclaughlin, B., Snow, C. E., Dressler, C., Lippman, D. N., . . . White, C. E. (2004). Closing the gap: Addressing the vocabulary needs of English-language learners in bilingual and mainstream classrooms. Reading Research Quarterly, 39(2), 188-215. doi:10.1598/rrq.39.2.3
  • Javorsky, K., & Trainin, G. (2014). Teaching Young Readers to Navigate a Digital Story When Rules Keep Changing. The Reading Teacher, 67(8), 606-618. doi:10.1002/trtr.1259
  • Moats, L.C. (2010). Speech to print: language essentials for teachers. (2nd. ed)

Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing.

  • Smith, John A. (2009). Word Study. In John A. Smith and Sylvia Read’s Early literacy instruction: Teaching readers and writers in today’s primary classrooms (2nd Ed., pp. 101-132). Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon
  • Templeton, S. and Gehsmann, K.M. (2014). Teaching reading and writing: the developmental approach. New Jersey: Pearson.

Images that do not have caption on picture are as follows:

Picture of Words (In Word study Section) -

Picture of What is Sounds (In Phonemic Awareness Section)-

Picture of Word Parts are like Puzzles (in Word Parts Section) -

Picture of hand choosing an apple (in Help Students Choose a Book)-

Picture of Baby Boy Reading (In Read With Purpose) -