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ESL Reading Comprehension Program

Helping English Language Learners (ELL) process the sounds of English

Native language speakers learn to read by connecting oral language to text, once they know their letter sounds. Our ESL Reading Comprehension Program works the same way. It trains the sounds of English and then builds reading and comprehension skills.

English Phonics and Vocabulary Are Challenging

The sounds of English are phonetic, broken up into many smaller sounds, which is challenging for many English Language Learners. This includes similar sounding consonants — |th| |e| |m| and |th| |e| |n| — and blended consonants — |spr| |ing|.  These sounds require language processing skills that many bilingual speakers do not have because that level of phonetic detail is not needed for their native tongue. This makes their word memory in English muddy and unclear, and it makes reading a challenge.

In addition, the rules of English and vocabulary are complex. Many English words come from other languages, with different conventions that transfer into English in a contradictory way. There are as many exceptions as there are rules.

All of this means that while simple, functional English can be learned well enough, academic English is challenging to learn by rote memorization.

Natural Learning — Easier and Quicker

Learning the sounds of English makes learning to read more natural. By the sounds of English we mean:

  • Syllable and vowel sounds of English
  • Language processing skills to keep up with conversation

In our ESL reading software, second language learners interact with the equivalent of tens of thousands of words in just a few weeks. This is similar to what English speakers hear from birth. Our ESL Reading Comprehension Program has three steps:

  1. Intense training in the sounds of English
  2. Learn vocabulary, grammar and fundamental reading comprehension skills
  3. Practice reading aloud using advanced speech recognition software

Gemm Learning provides customized ESL reading comprehension software that takes 4-6 months of average. It has adaptive online exercises working on all aspects of language and reading, with remote educator guidance and support.

Help for Adopted Children Born Hearing Another Language

Many adopted children spend their first months of life immersed in another language. The window for developing a language framework for learning and reading is the first three years of life. A shorter window due to another language can lead to reading problems later.  If your adopted child is struggling with reading, this could be why.

Many adopted children have the natural processing skills to overcome this disadvantage and go on to learn to read without a problem. But the number of learning skills that have to fall into place is more demanding than for a native speaker due to the shortened development window. This is particularly true of children adopted from Asia, where the birth language was likely tonal not phonetic.

Why Does Our ESL Reading Program Work So Quickly?

Listen Like a Native Speaker, Read Like a Native Speaker

Many English speaking children find learning to read easy. They hear the sounds of English for 4-5 years, they learn their letter sounds and spelling conventions, and then they naturally connect their oral and written language.

Our ESL Reading Program tries to create a similar natural path to reading for English Language Learners. Listening like a native speaker makes it easier to read like a native speaker.

Once an English Language Learner can clearly hear the English being spoken around him, he will start picking up spelling, grammar and vocabulary naturally. Less time is required to teach word lists, spelling conventions, grammar, etc. These skills can develop naturally, as they do for natural English speakers.

This natural learning is the secret sauce of our approach. It’s why most of our ESL students improve their reading so quickly. It’s a short cut to reading proficiency based on how the brain learns to read.

ESL Reading Comprehension StepsStep 1 – Hearing The Sounds of English

Even at the highest levels of the English proficiency exams — the IELTS and TOEFL — the fine differences in consonant sounds are a challenge.

Our online software has rapid-fire exercises that are the equivalent of hearing tens of thousands of words in just a few weeks, like a child would hear in the first 2-3 years of life.

Students hear hundreds of English syllables and consonants every day, in exercises that get faster and more complex at the student’s own pace.

This immersion in language helps to make the English he hears every day starts to make perfect sense. It will lead to faster growth in vocabulary and decoding skills, as is the case for native English speakers. Like many proficient bilingual students, he will start thinking in English, developing an “English” brain.

Reading Fluency By Learning The Structure of English

The vocabulary and rules of English are extremely hard to learn. There is no “ham” in a hamburger, see and look mean the same thing, but oversee and overlook are opposites.  It is an almost impossible language to learn rote. The way to become a good reader in English is to learn the language the way native speakers do, by listening.

Our  ELL training program gets that natural listening process started.  Furthermore, the ESL reading lessons are adaptive, enabling the teaching of language and spelling rules and exceptions.  And so, the next step in our program is to develop ESL reading fluency with dozens of different exercises that work on all aspects of grammar, spelling, syntax, vocabulary and listening comprehension. The exercises start at a basic level and build in difficulty at the student’s pace. This means the ELL student spends the most time on the areas of need.

Our concept is for the student to gather pace as they go through the program. Our ESL beginner reading program starts with the fundamentals of English and builds from there. As the student’s understanding of English grows, both from listening and from interacting with our software, he will better understand the English he hears each day, and that will help his reading fluency and reading comprehension.

Reading Practice to Make Perfect, With Oversight

The key to ESL reading comprehension, to being a good reader, is practice. Once the ELL student is reading comfortably, he will be able to put in the time to practice.  But early on that reading practice needs be out loud with guidance, to be sure the reading is reasonably accurate.

Here is a PDF on how Fast ForWord helps English language learning.

And so, for this part of the process, Gemm Learning uses Reading Assistant software. The student reads passages aloud and speech recognition software makes corrections as needed.  This helps build reading fluency and confidence because:

  • Reading Assistant is a non-judgmental listener
  • The software can help when others in the household are not native English speakers
  • Through practice, it builds confidence reading in English
  • It has questions that make sure reading comprehension is also developing

While Reading Assistant is mainly about reading practice, it includes what amounts to ESL reading lessons on vocabulary and comprehension at the end in a reading passage review section.

Proven Results

The idea of language immersion to help ESL reading comprehension and fluency develop more quickly really works. There are a number of studies, including English Language Development (ELD) studies at What Works Clearinghouse that show the power of Fast ForWord and ClearFluency.

For instance, an ESL reading comprehension study in Arizona showed that in the course of a few months, 79% of the Fast ForWord participants improved by one or more levels. Furthermore, by year end fully half were proficient in English.  This Chicago school also reported “tremendous gains.”

Here is feedback from a Gemm Learning ELL client:

“On her report card at school in November, she had top marks for reading comprehension, including recall and inferences questions. I notice less confusion with “b-d-p, etc” while she’s reading and she self corrects herself when she reverses them in writing (which is a lot less often than before)….  Her pronunciation in English is getting better and her confidence about using full sentences to speak in English is still improving. I find that her memory for day to day activities is sharper (She puts my baby brain to the test I tell you!)”

Here is a success story on how Fast ForWord helped an ELL student with dyslexia.

How Our ESL Program Works

Gemm Learning provides online software with remote educator guidance.

We start with a reading assessment and behavioral survey to make sure we understand the student.  From there, our staff create a customized program to meet your needs and will adapt that program as you progress. The program requires a minimum of 30 minutes a day, 3-5 days a week, for 4-6 months.

We have ESL beginner reading programs all the way through to ESL reading comprehension, where the goal is to get ELL students reading for middle and high school. To find out if we can help, call for a free consultation, request a fee schedule or contact us here.