Saturday, December 14, 2019

Great Reading Materials for Low Level English Students- Graded Readers - What Every ESL / EAL Teacher Should Know


This little known genre of literature is an amazing tool for learning a language (not just English- they exist in many languages) that I believe all EAL/EAL /TESOL/TEFL teachers should know about.

As I mentioned in Post 1 of my recent blog post series, I have become a huge fan of Graded Readers, especially those geared to middle school age students (Grade 6-8) (roughly age 10-14 years old).


Because after using them to teach English in many courses, both in International Schools and private language learning centers and as a tutor, I have seen how effective they are for teaching English.

Graded Readers provide a springboard into the language and an easy, engaging and memorable way to develop language skills in all areas (vocabulary building, reading comprehension and inferencing skills, listening, speaking, writing competencies).

I often hear ' oh, you mean 'leveled readers', but in fact I believe that Graded Readers have a few significant differences. Levelled readers are also very useful and good, but are usually geared to young, elementary age native language speakers, while you can find Graded Readers for all ages of learners.

Graded Readers are simplified versions of classic or popular stories that have widespread appeal. They are satisfying to read since they are a 'whole story' and not a made up one to reinforce a grammar point or sentence pattern. The Stories chosen usually resonate well with a wide range of people of a particular age. A good story is powerful.

There are Graded Readers for all ages and levels of language learners (not just learners of English; this genre of Graded Reader can be found for many languages around the globe).

This means that a tween or teen with low levels of English (or an adult) can find stories to read that will interest them, published in attractive books with illustrations appropriate for older learners.

No student in Grade 6-8 wants to read (or be seen reading ) a book for a Grade 2 kid, even if that is their actual language level. Graded Readers provide students who are reluctant or have low English levels a chance to participate equitably in class, or school wide reading events (read-ins or readathons), and improve their language skills at their own pace.

They are excellent ways to differentiate in the classroom since all students can read a book on the same topic or title;  the more advanced students can read the original version of a story (or a Graded Reader at a higher level) and lower level students have a chance to understand the story and learn significantly too, using a lower level reader (e.g. Sherlock Holmes stories, Anne of Green Gables, or The Secret Garden, or Shakespeare's MacBeth or Romeo and Juliette).

My favorite for teaching, either classroom teaching or tutoring, are Blackcat Cedeb, a company based in Italy.

The 'extras' that come with Graded Readers can really make a difference in a lesson. The ready made play scripts, the audio recordings with actors speaking in different accents with a few extra sound effects work well to mezmerize the students and engage them in the stories. The ready made tests (exit tests and end of story quizzes) make lesson planning very easy.

The 'Dossiers' (non-fiction articles) in every Graded Reader are excellent for supplementary lesson material and discussion topics and the style of questions and tasks prepare the students well for international tests that require making inferences from pictures and images as well as typical reading comprehension test questions. The writing tasks are also in line with the kind of short writing required on many international tests (e.g. Checkpoint exams, preparing for writing using different text types for Summative in IB schools).

Rob Waring has compiled very useful lists and charts for comparing and finding out about the 33+ publishers that make Graded Readers for different age learners. - this is his chat for Teen and adult Graded Readers at all levels of learning.
Thank you Rob! I have found his charts and lists invaluable for finding new series of Graded Readers.

 The Graded Readers that I like best are the Green Apple and Reading and Training and Drama imprints published by Blackcat-Cideb (an Italian company). They are beautifully designed and work equally well for classroom teaching or independent study. Some are a bit better than others, so that is why I only listed my top pics on the Part 1 post, not their entire catalog!

But take a look at the breadth and depth of Graded Readers that Blackcat-Cedeb has on offer, and decide for yourself!

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