Reading and viewing and EAL/D learners

Reading requires students to apply their knowledge about language and the world to make meaning from texts. Through reading, EAL/D students learn about the world, develop subject knowledge and build their English language and literacy.

Students need to learn reading skills at the levels of sub-word, word, phrase, sentence, paragraph and text. These include:

  • recognising letters and understanding the direction of writing
  • learning the connections between letters and sounds in order to sound out words
  • knowing the meaning of words (and parts of words)
  • making meaning from sentences and larger sections of text
  • connecting literal meanings to cultural and content knowledge
  • reading and viewing text to find information, predict and infer
  • applying these skills to increasingly technical or formal texts.

EAL/D students begin learning English at different points in their lives, and may or may not have prior understanding of literacy in any language. The script of their home language could also be vastly different from English. Therefore, EAL/D students may need to develop these foundational skills in reading and viewing regardless of their age. For more information on identifying EAL/D students’ learning needs in reading, see: Tools to Enhance Assessment Literacy for Teachers of EAL students - Common Reading and Vocabulary Assessment

Explicitly teaching students about the purpose and language structures and features of different text types helps them to understand texts and develop good reading skills. It is also important for EAL/D students to read texts about familiar topics. Applying their existing knowledge about the world helps students understand language and learn vocabulary (Gibbons, 2002).

To support EAL/D students, the teacher:

  • introduces key language and content that students need to read and understand the text before they read the text
  • models reading strategies, and scaffolds using vocabulary organisers, questions or text manipulation activities to decode texts and develop comprehension
  • supports students to review key learning after reading and viewing. Reviewing or after-reading activities can include recasting elements of the text into new genres, contexts, or with new content.

Using EAL/D students’ prior understanding about reading

Use teaching strategies that connect students’ prior knowledge about reading in other languages to reading in English. Strategies include:

  • incorporating translation into vocabulary learning and word charts
  • reviewing tasks in home language individually or with a same language peer
  • reading or previewing multilingual versions of books or videos at home before the English version is introduced in class
  • using English subtitles as additional scaffold for students when viewing English language videos
  • building an inclusive class library by collecting a range of multicultural literature along with multilingual texts which may be available commercially, can be written by students or translated by family and community members.

EAL/D students’ prior experiences in reading, combined with explicitly teaching about texts and reading strategies, supports their reading in English. For more information, see: EAL/D learners are plurilingual


Gibbons, P. (2002). Scaffolding Language Scaffolding Learning: Teaching Second Language Learners in the Mainstream Classroom. Portsmouth: Heinemann.