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    Developing Reading Skills in Adult Learners


    Developing Reading Skills in Adult Learners

    Developing Reading Skills in Adult Learners
    Admin - Jan 06 2016

    According to a 2000 U.S. census, more than 35 million adults are non-native speakers of English and 9 million adults do not speak English well or at all. At least 42% of adults enrolled in state-administered, federally funded education program are enrolled in ESL classes, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

    English language distribution in the United States

    English language distribution in the United States

    These figures reflect a growing need to develop the language skills of non-native English speakers. English language learners are often the largest subgroup of adults enrolled in adult education programs but they should not be taken as a cohesive unit with the same needs and skills. Adult learners in ESL programs have various instructional needs. Some are highly literate in a first language. Many have lived in the U.S. for a long time and may have low or intermediate reading and writing skills in English. Others are recent immigrants with just the most rudimentary English proficiency.

    Helping adult learners read English materials better

    Reading, writing and speaking English are the core skills most ESL and TEFL programs focus on. As such, the development of language skills among non-native English speakers should revolve around these three areas. While this article gives basic guidelines in helping ESL learners develop their reading skills, the teacher will still have to target the particular development needs of each learner.

    Nonetheless, teachers should focus primarily on four component skills of reading development which are:

    1. vocabulary knowledge
    2. phonological processing
    3. syntactic processing, and
    4. background knowledge.

    Vocabulary knowledge can greatly impact reading comprehension. Breadth of vocabulary such as the number of words a learner knows and the depth or the level of knowledge the learner has about a specific word is important in reading comprehension. English language learners usually know fewer English words than English speakers which places them at a disadvantage.

    Phonological processing involves interpreting written letters as sounds and combining them to make words. This skill includes the way speech sounds are represented in print and the way language is presented in print by letter, words and syllables.

    Learners also need to understand the structures of the language and make connections among words in a certain text. Among other things, syntactic processing involves learning the forms of different word meanings that bring cohesion to the text.

    Background knowledge makes it easier for readers to understand the text. Reading about culturally familiar topics should be selected for beginning level readers. The teacher might ask adult learners about schooling in their home countries and then move on to a discussion about schooling in the U.S.

    The four reading components can be integrated in one reading lesson. Throughout the lesson, the teacher should be aware of the gaps in the learner’s skills and plan activities to help them develop skills they lack.


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