What is literacy?
“Literacy” as defined by Webster’s Dictionary is:
noun– the quality or state of being literate
For English-language learners:
[non count] 1 : the ability to read and write
*I’d also include the ability to speak (somewhat) conversationally and comprehend what’s being said.
How literate are your students?
I often find that many of my students have trouble with developing good literacy skills. I’ll ask them to read a short passage from the book we’re using, but they cannot do it. ESL is a difficult thing for some students and they will struggle with learning how to read, write, and speak proficiently. Other students seem to do well, but still overall there are lots of problems with basic reading, writing and speaking comprehension skills.
I try to use different methods to help my students understand, such as:
- Use words and phrases that are familiar to the students to help build upon their mental scaffolding
- Use visual aids such as maps, pictures, drawings or body gestures to further explain the concept
- Breaking large chunks of text into smaller bits, and explaining each small part in a way they can understand
- Asking questions and getting my students to take part in a short conversation
- Using an example from daily life, or from their native language
Those methods don’t always work well for everyone; some work better than others. I also have my students listen to me read, and have them repeat. I listen carefully as they speak and correct any pronunciation mistakes they make. One think I keep in mind, is that developing and improving my students’ literacy skills is a long-term process. Progress is often slow and rarely noticeable, but when it does happen be sure to praise your students and encourage them to work hard.
Over the next few weeks, let’s read and discover ways we can improve our students’ overall literacy level in ESL!
**Since this is such a complex and large topic, I’m going to break it up into smaller parts, with each one focusing on one aspect of literacy (oral fluency, writing, reading, as well as instructional methods).