Scaffolding ESL Students' Reading Comprehension
Strategies to Help English Language Learners Improve Understanding
Teach ESL students of all ages how to increase their ability to read for meaning by providing support and accommodations as they improve their English language skills.

Learning to speak a second language is a complex task. Learning to read and comprehend fiction and non-fiction texts in the new language is even more complicated. Teachers can scaffold – provide needed support or accommodations for – the comprehension skills that will help English language learners to better understand what they are reading.
Help ESL Students Build Schema/Background Knowledge
Building schema means to think about and record what students already know about the topic they are about to read. The students will then add to that growing database the new knowledge they are gaining.
Students can list or make a graphic organizer, such as a web, to illustrate their growing knowledge base. But for those who need special language accommodation, drawing can also provide a means for communicating information. More advanced students can create graphic displays using computer technology to illustrate what they already know and what they are learning.
One way to scaffold for ESL students who can read in their native language is to provide access to the text in their own language prior to reading in English. Pre-reading in the native language will help ESL students to build the schema that will allow them to better understand the English text.
Make Comprehension Learning Tangible
Another strategy to help scaffold understanding is to make the language of the story as tangible as possible. This might mean bringing in visuals or actual items for the students to touch and handle.
An example, for very young students, is a reading of Caps For Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina [Harper Collins; 1968]. The teacher might bring in a stuffed monkey and baseball caps to bring the story to...