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Creating an ESL Journal to Enhance Oral Reading

written by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • edited by: SForsyth • updated: 12/29/2013

Journal writing can enhance oral ESL reading comprehension for children acquiring English as a second language by tracking various aspects of the student's reading, as well as scaffolding their writing skills.

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    Oral Reading and ESL

    Reading fluency is essential to learning any language. Fluency, as definded by the National Reading Panel, "... means being able to English Journal read quickly, knowing what the words are and what they mean, and properly expressing certain words - putting the right feeling, emotion, or emphasis on the right word or phrase. Teaching fluency includes guided oral reading, in which students read out loud to someone who corrects their mistakes and provides them with feedback, and independent silent reading where students read silently to themselves."

    When students are able to comprehend the story line or text rather than working to figure out word meanings, their overall communication skills become stronger. Students achieve oral reading fluency by learning to decode words both in isolation, as well as within text, which will allow them automatically to recognize both the word and its meaning, thereby enabling them to read quickly and accurately.

    Repeated reading of text is one tool that can be used to assist in gaining reading fluency. Students read words in a text that are repeated with assistance from the teacher, parents and even peer mentors. Research by the National Reading Panel (US-2000) showed that "repeated reading procedures that offer guidance and feedback are effective for improving word recognition, fluency, comprehension and overall reading achievement."

    For children acquiring English as a second language, this strategy can be further enhanced by maintaining an ESL reading journal.

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    ESL Reading Journal

    ESL reading journals aid in building vocabulary, strengthening oral reading and developing writing skills in students learning the English language. Scaffolding the four language skills increases the student's ability to master English.

    Create a simple template for the student to use as they read. A suggested template might include:

    • Title of Text, Author, Illustrator
    • Words I don't know
    • Words that I recognize but don't know the meaning of
    • What this story is about (synopsis or gist)

    Teachers can print off several copies of the template per student on blank paper that fits a three-ring binder or punch holes after printing, add some lined paper, and place in a binder. Most three-ringed binders come with a clear sheet over the cover, which allows for the creation of individual covers. Students might add their own art to the cover, making it their own. The benefit of this is that the templates may be added to as the students fill them up. Also, lined paper may be added or removed.

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    How to Use a Reading Journal

    Students should be instructed to read their assigned text silently, first. Then, in their journals, they fill in the information about the English Language Arts book, listing words that are problematic. Once this is complete, the teacher can assist the student in word recognition by asking questions such as,

    • "Does this word remind you of another you know?" For instance, if the student is stumbling over the word, block, the teacher points out that word, lock, which the child knows, has the child add the "b" sound to lock, thereby leaning the word.
    • "What do you think this word sounds like?" Sometime, students can sound out words on their own if they are isolated. Assist them in seeing roots, prefixes and/or suffixes they may already know.
    • "Can you guess at what this word means by reading the sentence?" Understanding the other words in a sentence, may aid in recognizing an unknown word's meaning. Help the child deconstruct the sentence for the possible meaning of the word.

    Definitions to words can be looked up in a dictionary. The student can write out the definition. Finally, students can reinforce the new words by using them in writing sentences or even stories in their journal. New words students use in their writing can be underlined to aid in identification by both student and teacher.

    Students, then, can read their text aloud to the teacher, parent or peer. As words become recognized and reading becomes more fluent (i.e. quicker and more accurate), the student can progress to a new text.

    Other ways to reinforce new word recognition include:

    • Making flash cards of the words students list in their journals.
    • Having students write sentences using the words listed in their journals.
    • Finding the words listed in other texts and underlining those words.
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    Reinforcing Learning

    When teaching oral reading skills to children acquiring English as a second language, the use of ESL journal writing is a strategy that reinforces what the students have learned. Each journal entry can build upon the next when students use newly acquired vocabulary within their journal writing. Encouraging students to repeatedly read and write words helps develop their recognition, which goes a long way to developing their confidence with the language. Using ESL journal writing in developing the ESL reading comprehension of children acquiring English as a second language is a win/win situation.

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