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Working with children who have had no formal reading instruction in their first language

If the child has not had any formal reading instruction in his/her first language there are several ways in which you can proceed:

Always try to communicate meaning to your student

  • As much as possible use objects (or pictures of objects) to teach initial vocabulary.
  • Use gestures and body movements to teach actions. Use objects or make the movements yourself.
  • Use dramatic facial expressions to get your message across.

Select books with pictures and repetition

  • Look at the bookUse picture books at the beginning just as you would with an English-speaking child. However, keep in mind that the ELL child may not be able to give you labels for objects or actions.
  • Look at the book ahead of time and familiarize the child with names of objects, characters, actions, etc., before you present the book.
  • Use books that have repetition incorporated into the text.

Use a variety of ways to convey a story line:

Dramatize the plot of the book using cut outs that you have prepared in advance, or have the child make the characters and have him/her paste them on cardboard so that they can stand and can be moved around according to the action described in the book.

Have the child draw the objects or characters that you'll be reading about. This will reinforce the new vocabulary.

Introduce written labels for words after the child understands and produces the label orally. Label objects even if the child cannot read the words yet.

Keep in mind:

Even though the child may be able to understand the topic of the story, he/she will not be able to verbalize predictions about the story.

Words that are very common in English such as "mat" or "pan" or vocabulary that is mostly home-related, may not be part of the child's vocabulary. Make sure that the child recognizes the meaning of any words before asking him or her to read those words.

Depending on the child's native language, it may be difficult for him/her to hear some of the sounds in English.

For example: Children for whom Spanish is the first language may have a great deal of difficulty distinguishing between the vowel sounds of "bet" and "bit" or "pat" and "pet." If a child's first language is Japanese, s/he may not hear the difference between "l" and "r" because in Japanese, those two sounds are considered indistinguishable. These differences are learned over time after a fair amount of practice.

Do not expect child to be able to give you rhyming words or words that begin with a particular sound. You will have to provide the different pairs of words that rhyme or those words that begin with the same sound.

Try these activities to reinforce some basic reading skills:

To emphasize initial sounds, you should group objects whose labels begin with a specific sound and a group of objects that begin with a different sound. Make sure that the sounds you choose initially, are very different from one another.

Example: " book, boot, baby, bag, ball" as compared to "fist, fan, father, foot."

Introduce the letter that corresponds to the sound, stick the letter to a paper bag or box, and play game of placing the objects, or pictures in the bag that has the initial letter of that object or picture.

To reinforce the learning of the two sounds, use the same pictures to play concentration.

For games that foster literacy development