Teaching Reading in a Second Language

Bea MikuleckyBeatrice Mikulecky, Ed.D.

Teaching Reading in a Second Language

Effective reading is essential for success in any field, which makes it a key part of any language curriculum. This adaptation of an article by Dr.Beatrice Mikulecky, describes the reading process and outlines the research-based approach to reading that is exemplified in the Reading Power series. …

What is Reading?

Reading is a conscious and unconscious thinking process. The reader applies many strategies to reconstruct the meaning that the author is assumed to have intended. The reader does this by comparing information in the text to his or her background knowledge and prior experience.

How Does Reading Happen?

A reader approaches a text with a huge store of prior knowledge and experience, including preconceptions about the uses of spoken and written language. All of a person’s prior knowledge, experience, and values are organized in categories, or schemata. Each category, or schema, is connected to many other schemata in a complex mental network. As he or she notices particular ideas or facts in a text, the reader matches that information with background knowledge and is able to construct a version of the text’s meaning.

How to Teach Reading Skills

  1. Focus on one skill at a time.
  2. Explain the purpose of working on this skill, and convince the students of its importance in reading effectively.
  3. Work on an example of using the skill with the whole class. Explain your thinking aloud as you do the exercise.
  4. Assign students to work in pairs on an exercise
    where they practice using the same skill. Require them to explain their
    thinking to each other as they work.
  5. Discuss students’ answers with the whole class.
    Ask them to explain how they got their answers. Encourage polite
    disagreement, and require explanations of any differences in their
    answers.
  6. In the same class, and also in the next few
    classes, assign individuals to work on more exercises that focus on the
    same skill with increasing complexity. Instruct students to work in
    pairs whenever feasible.
  7. Ask individual students to complete an exercise using the skill to check their own ability and confidence in using it.
  8. In future lessons, lead the students to apply the skill, as well as previously mastered skills, to a variety of texts.

Do Bea’s conclusions interest you? Read the entire article, or check out a sample unit of the new edition of Reading Power.


To learn more about Bea’s approach to reading and to get a sample copy of the new edition of Reading Power, contact your local Pearson ELL Specialist.

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