In the first part of this article, we discussed how reading is an essential means of communication and the importance of developing strategies for English language learners to approach reading in their non-native language.

After a series of prereading exercises and a list of the skills needed to be taught, we went over several sample exercises. Then, we covered some helpful hints to the teacher and classroom activities for the reading class designed to develop reading skills in English.

One of the problems in basic-level reading is that many reading texts on the market are often too advanced for beginning learners since they contain both complex structures and a flood of new vocabulary. Such material can overwhelm the reader and create a feeling of frustration and discouragement.

A creative teacher is not without recourse, however. The following teacher-made materials have proven to be useful in ESL classrooms where beginners were working on developing reading skills. Students interact positively with material whose content is familiar, even though the language may not be. A familiar frame of reference is vital to comprehension.

Writing your own texts

The content of the passages should deal with the learners' immediate environment and the situations they face every day. Campus and town activities are a good starting point as are simple descriptions of people and places. An unfamiliar passage will be more difficult to process than something from the learners’ own experiences.

Thus, research indicates that L2 readers' background knowledge influences their lexical inferencing success, with more knowledge of the next topic enabling better inferencing.

Sample teacher-made text: The City Bus

Marcus lives near State University. He usually takes the city bus to the campus. He waits for it on the corner near the Star Apartments. Bus B-2 comes at 8:00; he gets on, and he rides it to the university. The bus moves slowly and makes many stops.

Marcus reviews his assignments and reads the newspaper. Sometimes he talks to the other riders. The distance is short, and the trip does not take much time.

The bus goes directly to the university. The last stop before the university is a small shopping center; sometimes Marcus gets off there and buys a snack. Then he walks the rest of the way.

Marcus: "Good morning, Ahmad. Do you like riding the bus?"

Ahmad: "Of course. It is comfortable, and I don't mind waiting."

Marcus: "Is this your first time on the bus?"

Ahmad: "No, I ride this bus everyday to Community College. It is a little slow, but I don't care."

Marcus:"Community College? What do you mean? This bus goes to State University. I ride it every day."

Ahmad: "No, this is B-3. It doesn't go to State University. It goes downtown. I get off at Community College-Downtown Campus."

Marcus: "Oh no, I am on the wrong bus, I think. I'll ask the driver: Is this a B-2 to State University?"

Ahmad: "I told you it is a B-3 to Community College-downtown."

Driver: "You are both wrong. This is a C-5 to the airport."

Dialogue and humor help to add some authenticity to the passage and make it more alive than just a generic description. As a problem-solving activity, the class could write their own ending to this story — What will they do now?

The sample reading activities contain skill-building exercises to enhance reading skill development and prepare the learners for the more difficult work in the higher levels.

Sample exercises

A. Answer the questions:

  1. How does Marcus go to State University?
  2. Where is the bus stop?
  3. When does the bus come?
  4. Does he enjoy riding the bus?
  5. Does the bus go fast?
  6. Does Ahmad study at State University?
  7. How do you get to your classes?
  8. Did you ever get on the wrong bus or get lost? What did you do?

B: Bus schedule

  1. Which bus does not go downtown?
  2. Can you take B-1 to East Mall?
  3. Which bus do you take to get books?
  4. Which bus do you take to the airport?
  5. Does B-5 go to West Mall?

C: Writing: Change "John" to "I."

"John lives near the university. He always takes the bus. He waits for it at the corner near his house. He does not wait long; the bus comes at 7:30 a.m., and he gets on and rides it to the university. He goes directly to the university and gets off in front of the student center. John likes riding the bus; he does not enjoy driving his car."

I live near the university ...

Follow-up: How do you get to class? Describe how you come; mention important landmarks.

Realistic material that is interesting will challenge the students, and by using the skills developed earlier in the beginning component, students will be ready for more difficult material.