How to Teach EFL Reading

Tips for Teaching Reading in the EFL Classroom

Students who are learning English as a Foreign Language (EFL) are usually taught reading skills differently than native speakers are taught.

Its Not Just Vocabulary

While learning new words is, of course, important for unlocking the meaning of texts, the reading skills of surveying, skimming, scanning, inference, predicting, and guessing are also crucial.

Research shows that you can help your students develop their reading comprehension by zeroing in on the following skill areas:

Vocabulary Root Words

In your students’ native language, words may not be formed using the same methods or concepts as we form words in English. So, when teaching vocabulary, introduce your students to the idea of “root” words, prefixes and suffixes. These concepts will allow your students to increase their vocabulary pool quickly and with minimal effort.

Prefixes and suffixes (together called ‘affixes’) help us make many different words from one base word. As native speakers we understand that, but many EFL students will not be able to decipher without help that contain is the root of both container and containment; or that desire is the base word for undesirable and desirability.

When students come across new vocabulary in your lessons, be sure to highlight these connections. Then, they can enlarge their vocabularies and improve their ability to predict new words’ meanings from already acquired base words.

Understanding roots and affixes means learning one new root word can help a student understand many more than just that one.

But, studying affixes is only one of many ways to teach vocabulary. For more tips, check out the links further below on this page.

Surveying, Scanning, Skimming

When we are in an academic setting it’s rare that we would carefully read an entire text line by line and word for word. It would be more natural for us to instead glance through the contents of the book– the chapters, headings, subheadings, sidebars, pictures, illustrations, words in italics and bold type—and form an idea of what is the most important information for our purpose. After that, then we would home in on the specific parts of the book which will be most useful to us.

In a nutshell, that is the purpose of the concepts of surveying, scanning and skimming. When a reader does this, she moves from the ‘big picture’ all the way down to the minutiae of details. And, EFL teachers need to be aware that their students may be lacking these important skills. Learning these basic reading skills should be part of your lesson plans, to give your students a more complete understanding of how to read in English. Again, check out the links below for more help on how to impart these skills to your own students.

Developing Students’ Sixth Sense–Guessing and Predicting from Context

Just looking at the table of contents of a book won’t help your students, though. In class you’ll need to lead them through how to derive word meaning from the context of the text, and also how to develop the ability to predict what action or information will be described in the following paragraphs. For more help with teaching these skills, take a look at the links listed below.

Super Resources for Teaching Reading:

Teaching Reading – Both the main file and the subsections are useful, so don’t just skim it!

Teaching Reading Skills – This is a PDF file you can download.

Skimming and Scanning

Scanning Exercise

Skimming, Scanning, and SQ3R

TED’s Tips™ #1:  Research tells us that about 10% of learners learn a language best through reading and writing rather than speaking.   Tune in and look for those students so you can help them learn in the way they learn best.

TED’s Tips™ #2: Having students read out loud in a class is not teaching reading skills.  It is mostly teaching verbal skills.  As students learn to read they should read without moving their lips or making verbalization, discourage it when you see it.  The average person can read 4-5 times faster than they can speak.  Thus reading out loud as an exercise can severely retard a person’s reading speed.

Teaching Internships in China