Parents always want to know what they can do to help their child with English, at home. When the child is a complete beginner, my EAL colleagues and I are strongly against any sort of English tutoring at home, or at the weekend. When the language of instruction is English, the child is exposed to English for 8 hours a day. His or her brain is completely exhausted by the end of it, and no extra English lessons are going to help that. If anything, it may spur a hatred for the language. Instead, we recommend English speaking playmates and any of the English ‘game’ websites I have listed under Links for Students or Useful websites and Resources.
Reading, however, is a must! We encourage reading in the Mother Tongue language, or in English, for at least 30 minutes every day. Reading is one of the strongest indicators of success today in school, and children must have exposure on a daily basis. They must, however, be reading the ‘just right’ books. If they stumble over five or more words while reading the first couple of pages, it is not a ‘just right’ book. In this case, it would be more beneficial for someone to read that book to the child and talk about what is being read during and after reading.
Talking about what your child reads is very important. It gives the reader the chance to vocalize favorite parts and funny pages, ask questions if needed, and also clarifies whether they have understood what they have read.
Here are some questions to get them talking about what they have read:
“Did you like this story?” “Did you have a favorite part?” “I liked the way that….. Did you like that bit?” “Where do you think this story is happening?” “Did you feel…about…?” “Why do you think…happened?” “Did the character change at all?” “Does this remind you of anything?”
The beginner EAL kids usually start with the “I like….because…” or “….made me feel…because…”. Feelings and likes are usually quite tangible. It’s harder for them to discuss the why and the how, but giving them sentence starters may help. I use a Reading Bookmark in the class to help them talk about their reading.
It would be a good idea to use this in the home as well.