Monday, March 15, 2010

Reading in a Second Language

First of all, I need to comment on the very first page of Chapter 5: Reading in a Second Language…Pauline Gibbons begins this chapter in an extremely thought provoking, and interesting way; the second, third, and fourth paragraphs consisted of scrambled words, words with vowels or consonants missing, the endings missing, etc. yet, I could still read it! I’ve talked about this a lot in previous years…I’ve taken some TESOL classes and therefore have had a lot of opportunities to discuss ELLs and I have also been introduced to this idea before. Actually, I’m currently in an American Sign Language (ASL) class and when trying to grasp “finger spelling” I’ve had to remember that I only need to know the first and last couple of letters to grasp the word. It really is amazing…I just had to point that out.

But, moving on…another point that this chapter makes, that is SO important, is the fact that readers construct meaning NOT solely from the words and sentence structure, but from the interaction that occurs between the reader and the text. It is extremely important to remember, as teachers, that not all of our students will be able to develop that meaningful interaction; especially not ESL students. I mean, how could they? They are completely unaware of the cultural, social, political, emotional, etc. implications that reside within the text of a story. Can you imagine reading a book that discusses a holiday or celebration that you are completely unaware of? How could you possibly understand, or comprehend, what the story is about?

There are so many different roles/characters that a reader must try on, or become, when he/she reads text. You become a “code breaker, a text participant, user, and analyst”. As teachers, we can’t assume that every single one of our students is capable of putting on this mask when they pick up a story. We have to be patient, and empathetic to the journey every one of our students is taking in the process of becoming literate individuals.

As Brooke said in her post, I found the activities that were provided on pages 84-97 VERY helpful. But, not only is it important to plan and implement great activities, but (I’d almost say this is MORE important) is picking the right books. Picking the right book will help students acquire language AND reading skills.

All in all, it is vital that we, as teachers, “build bridges into the text” (Gibbons, p. 100), and allow our ESL students the opportunity to connect with the text in a meaningful way, and develop a love for reading.


  1. I think it is great that you pointed out that not all students are going to make a connection from words or sentence structure. There are many factors that go into students constructing meaning from the text, and we as future teachers have to understand that each student is going to construct meaning in various ways, and the meanings that that one person takes away from the text, may not be the exact same. Depending on the outside experiences that students have been a part of, will definitely have an impact on how they view a text.

    I am currently tutoring at Bingham Elementary School and am working with many students who are struggling with reading. One of the things that I find so interesting in these children, is that if they are unsure how to pronounce a word, or are having a difficult time coming up with a meaning, they immediately look to the illustrations to help them. I can tell that they are struggling with the text, so by looking at the illustrations to derive meaning, was a great comprehension tool. Although the pictures do not always go along with the words, I think it is a good way for them to continue strengthening their reading skills to derive meaning.

  2. What grade of students are you working with at Bingham Elementary? I'm just curious becuase my fourth grade students, the ones that are stuggling the most with reading, ALWAYS use the pictures to help them construct meaning from unfamiliar words. The illustrations of a story are great context clues to utilize. However, I hope that they will develop some other strategies to use as well. Obviously, utilizing only one strategy can be difficult as they progress. What happens when they don't have pictures to utilize?

    Have you worked alot with english language learners? In my placements, I havent'...however, I have had the opportunity to work with a varity of ELLs in my TESOL classes from last year and It is SO amazing how fast they progress. I was tutoring a third grader and when I began in the fall, she was reading at a SLOW pace wtih barely any expression, and by the end of the semester, you could barely tell she had ANY difficulty. I'm just amazed at their work ethic and their ability to persevere even when faced with such challenges such as reading a text in a language and society they are completely unfamiliar with.