Sunday, 6 February 2011

Part 5-English language reading provision for EAL Students who are not literate in their first language

What activities did Malik do in these reading sessions?

Story: The flour of wolf, fox and bear
The activities I did with Malik are chosen from Pauline Gibbons’ book called  ‘Scaffolding language, scaffolding learning, 2002; Pages:77-97’
Before reading activities;
Malik looked at the pictures of the story and described the pictures. We talked about the features of wolf, fox and bear.  He was able to give very accurate details of the characters, the setting and the location however some of the pictures were not very clear. Afterwards, he tried to predict the plot and wrote his predictions into the worksheet. Malik wanted to know if his prediction was correct and this gave him a purpose to continue. In addition, we talked about the setting, location and background.

During reading activities;
Malik and I did shared- reading. I helped him with his reading and asked him to guess what the word might be. Although he had some difficulties to recognize the words, he was good at guessing the two words like; One day, wolf, fox, bear, first, second, third, very well. I used pictures to show the crop, grains, chaff, straw and seeds. He also responded well to ‘What’s next?’ exercises.

After reading activities;
I asked questions to test his comprehension such as;
T – Tuba    M- Malik

T: What animals are there in the story?  
M: Wolf, fox and bear
T:Who gets the biggest part of the harvest and why?
M: The bear cause he is the biggest.
T:Where do they go to grind their shares?
M:  It’s like… mell, mill
T: What voices do stones make?
M: Whee, whee
T: What about the fox’s ones?
M: rumble, rumble
T: Why do fox’s stones sound different?
M: Different
T: Crushed rock, do you remember?
M: Oh, yea, yea, yea
T: How does fox’s flour look? What does he say about it?
M: Light
T: The opposite isn’t it? His flour looks light, while the others’ look dark. And they are asking why?
M: Yea, yea
T: What does he say about it then?
M: He told them he put them his tail on it.
T:  No, you forgot. He says something, he soaked them in…
M: River
T: What happens to bear’s and wolf’s flour?
M: It’s gone.
T: Of course, silly animals aren’t they?
M: Yea.
T: What would you have done if you were the bear and the wolf? Would you have believed the fox?
M: I wouldn’t listen to them.
T: Are there people as ‘cunning’ as the fox in the story? Are there liars?
M: Some of them.
T: Can you tell me what the moral of the story is? What did you learn from the story?
M: I learnt how did the people trust other people and I learnt how did the other people lie and staff.
T: Do you think that you should trust people?
M: No, only if they are your best friend. Not even with best friends like...
T: So you think apart from your best friend, you should not trust people.
M: Yea.
T:  So do you think you need to get to know the people, before you can trust them?
M: Yea, cause some of the people they look like good but inside they look like bad.
T: Look at the story from the fox’s view. If you were this fox, what would you have done?
M: I should have told the truth.
T: So the other moral of the story is that ‘Always tell the truth’. Don’t lie. Because what happens in the end. He was punched.

Malik drew his own pictures of the story using the time line framework and wrote one word for each scene to summarize. 
Afterwards Malik filled the gaps successfully in the monster cloze that I prepared. 

To develop his analysing skills, another activity that I tried was ‘Changing the ending of the story’. He successfully changed the ending orally but he needed support with his writing.  He thought of two different endings by himself and further two with support. These are below;

  1. The Bear and the Wolf warned the Fox and told him not lie again. (by himself)
  2. The Bear and the Wolf killed the Fox. (by himself)
  3. When they tried to beat him up, the Fox protected himself and he hit them back. Afterwards they stopped fighting. (with support)
  4. When the Bear and the Wolf tried to beat him up, the Fox ran away. (with support)
I asked Malik to read these different endings back to me. While he was reading he had some difficulties with the words. I asked him what strategy he uses to read the words that he does not know. He told me he looks at the letters and sounds than tries to make sense out of them. He sounds the letters one by one and tries to put them together to read.

Strategies I recommended to Malik to help with his reading are;
  1. Read for the meaning
  2. If it is a story that he created orally and someone else wrote it, try to remember the original story and read from there.
  3. Learn how two consonants sound together such as; gr, st, kn, tr, br, ed, sl, wr, sh etc. This would help you to read the other words with the same two consonants.
The consonants are more helpful than vowels. Referring to letters as sounds creates some conceptual confusion. Nor it is easy to give sounds any functional reality; we do not in everyday life go around giving the sounds of letters. It is hard, therefore, in a general way for learner-readers to see what sounds mean, to understand what they are and what they do.    

Malik told me that he finds our reading sessions very useful and thanked me for teaching him some of the reading strategies. He also added that if all the topics were taught this way he could understand and could make a lot of progress in school.


This activity gave me the opportunity to take a closer look at Malik’s reading level and what I can do to support him. However, if I had to do it again, I would definitely choose another text to begin with to see Malik’s true potential. Afterwards I changed it to the story he created. This helped me to realize how he read accurately and he used different strategies to have a successful reading session.

Malik testified that reading and writing are the hardest parts of learning. He was happy to have an alternative such as; illustrating instead of writing. What he requires is more ‘Picture- word matching up’ or ‘putting the illustrations in order’ type of activities to start off with.  Also telling a story while I wrote it down aided him to read back to us easier. Malik also told me because of his difficulties in reading and writing he does not enjoy in lessons. Therefore, teachers can provide audio- visual resources, story boards for particular texts, or writing frames as well as chosen text with clear print and clear illustrations.         

Malik needs to practise reading at home and at school regularly. In school, he should take part in smaller group support schemes. At home, he needs to be exposed to first language books and read frequently.

EAL students with similar type of difficulties should be identified at early stages and targeted for reading support groups. I believe that targeted support will work and those students will achieve more in schools. 

Further questions that I ask to myself are;

  1. Will teachers’ busy schedules allow us to plan in advance to support students like them in class and target their specific needs? 

  1. How can we prepare those students for really challenging exams, which schools are under pressure to put students through?

  1. How can we develop Parent-School relations with those students’ parents, who either do not speak any English or speak very little English?
Written by Tuba Bauhofer
Graduate Diploma/Certificate in Minority Ethnic Achievement
Institute of Education, University of London
Month and Year of Submission: 29 June 2007

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