Reading with very young learners often demands a different approach to teaching reading skills with older learners. For one thing young learners may not yet be able to read well in their own language so dealing with a different language (and possibly a different alphabet) may bring up extra difficulties.
Another issue is concentration. Young learners have much shorter attention spans than older learners so keep things simple and keep them short.
This article offers a few tips and ideas when dealing with reading and young learners. In no particular order:
- Make sure the material you are reading is of the right level and age group! This cannot be overstated: it should not be too difficult or too simple; it should be the right age group also and not be too “childish” or “grown up” for the group in question. In this regard it should be the same kind of material as the students would read in their own language.
- Encourage sound effects. When a character in the story rings the doorbell see how many different doorbells the class can give you!
- Read clearly and carefully. Make it as interesting as possible by not keeping your eyes on the book but engaging in eye contact with different students as you read. Keep things exciting!
- Try stopping in mid sentence and see if the students can guess what comes next. Unlike older students and adults who mostly want new material when they read, younger learners can enjoy reading the same book more than once and getting to know it well.
- Get the class to act out small scenes from the book.
- Use silly voices!
- Try making obvious mistakes: “Red Riding Hood went to see her teacher!” Stop and looked surprised. “Her teacher?! I don’t think so! Who did she go and see?”
- Make sure you ask both open-ended questions as well as Yes/No questions.
- If the class are learning how to read, make sure to point out useful letters – the first letter of the character’s name, for example.
- Don’t be too didactic; try and make reading a pleasure.
One major point we’d suggest is to keep thing playful as well. Reading should be fun and enjoyable and the more you can make it so the more the class will enjoy doing it. How you present material now will make a huge difference not just for the lesson you are giving but potentially for the rest of your students’ lives!Image © woodleywonderworks