Online Reading-Instruction Practice at Multiple Levels

s_johnsonStefanie Johnson
Instructor, Grossmont College and San Diego Miramar College

Launched this fall is a new online reading lab series from Pearson called MyEnglishLab: Reading. While there are currently Pearson labs for reading, MyEnglishLab: Reading (MELR) is the first one from this publisher geared toward English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) students. In contrast to online reading labs for students available through other authors and publishers, these labs come with purchase of the text. It is here that Pearson’s MELR has the clear advantage in that the online component can be used as a supplement with any textbook or as a stand-alone product. As such, MELR provides more practice with various readings and skills practice. MELR is a great tool that is available for four levels and would work in any ESOL course with reading in it.

To demonstrate MELR’s solid design, MyEnglishLab: Reading 1 has sections on important aspects of ESOL reading instruction, including comprehension skills, vocabulary building, and language in context. The comprehension section has the additional subsections of identifying topics and main ideas, scanning, recognizing patterns, and making inferences, all of which are key skills that are regularly taught in ESOL reading courses. The vocabulary section includes practice dictionary work, word parts, meaning from context, and how words work together. For language in context, the students can practice seeing words used in passages, including both function and content words. For both areas of practice, students can access guidance that explains the skill they are practicing. In this regard, MELR covers the basics of reading instruction well.

MELR, however, goes beyond the basics with its emphases on thinking in English and on study skills. For thinking in English, MELR 1 provides new sentences where students have to select appropriate vocabulary words to encourage them to think in the target language, which is so helpful in reducing students’ tendency to rely on translation tools. Additionally, MELR 1 has an incredible section on reading study skills that includes practice with summaries, graphic organizers, choosing words to learn, and reading for study, among others. This emphasis on study skills is something that is not commonly seen in ESOL reading-skills instruction even though it is often paired with reading instruction in courses geared toward native speakers of English. Thus, MELR proves to be pedagogically sound in both ESOL and reading theories. The section on study skills is also included in Levels 2 and 3 of MELR.

For MELR Levels 2 to 4, there is an added section called Reading Faster, which has timed limits to help students get more comfortable with timed reading and to increase their reading speed without sacrificing comprehension. In each area of practice, students can receive immediate feedback.

In terms of ease of use, from the student user’s perspective, the software is exceptionally user-friendly, with a sleek design that does not overwhelm the user upon logging in. When a student logs in, there is an easy-to-read homepage with three sections: to do, calendar, and recent activity, where they can keep track of their work. Students can access their activities from the clearly labeled buttons that link to the course content. From there, the program is easy to navigate with each of the subsection units clearly labeled, and when a student clicks on one, the content overview shows up on the right-hand side of the screen. On the top navigation menu, students can access their scores on each activity and receive messages from the teacher and students.

On the administrative end, the program is also easy to use. Instructors can analyze class data to determine steps for remediation and support, monitor student progress on any activity or test as often as needed, and view student scores. Instructors can also use diagnostic tools to keep track of how much time students are spending online.

Pearson’s MELR levels make it accessible for various ESOL reading classes. Level 1 is appropriate for beginning to low-intermediate levels; Level 2 is for intermediate-level students; Level 3 is for high-intermediate students; Level 4 is at the advanced level.

Overall, MyEnglishLab: Reading is a powerful tool. It is well designed and easy to use for both students and teachers. The various levels make it appropriate for most ESOL instruction and is highly recommended for ESOL reading classes.

Bio of the Review’s Author:
Stefanie Johnson has a Postsecondary Reading and Learning (PRL) teaching certificate from California State University, Fullerton in addition to a Master’s in English with options in TESL and Rhetoric & Composition from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. She teaches ESOL and English courses at Grossmont College and San Diego Miramar College.