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How to Teach Basic Reading to Non- English Speaking Children

Updated on August 25, 2019
Felisa Daskeo profile image

I am a certified teacher and have been tutoring young children for more than 30 years. I am sharing my experience in the tutorial business.

Teaching Basic Reading

Teaching basic reading to young kids is hard especially to non-English speaking children. The common problem is comprehension and how the children could relate to the words being said since the English language is strange to most of the children. The children do not understand the English words so how can they relate to what the teacher is saying?

Imagine if you hear people talking the language that you haven’t heard before in your life? It is like listening to aliens talking.

In my more than thirty years teaching young kids who do not speak English, I observed that no matter how hard the lesson if the teacher is very patient and the children are cooperative; the learning process will prosper.

Couple the teacher’s patience with some teaching strategies and teaching tools and learning will become effective.


Three-Dimensional Objects

Flash Cards




The Teacher's Tools

When I teach basic reading, I start with the very basic.

Start by teaching the Alphabet Song or what I call the ABC song, to the children. Most children know the Alphabet Song because in the Philippines, this is one of the popular kid’s songs along with Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, that are usually taught to young children at home, even before they go to school.

Teaching Aids/Tools:

  • Posters: Use posters when you sing the Alphabet Song so that the children will sing and point to the letters of the alphabet. When the children point to the letters, the better they can memorize their alphabet.
  • Flash Cards: Use flash cards to teach the letters of the alphabet. Always flash the cards to the children when you are teaching the letters. This way they can visualize the letters better and memorize them.
  • Real objects: When you teach the letters of the alphabet, make sure to use real objects if possible so that the children can see and feel the objects. Hands- on experience is always better than merely looking at pictures. When children touch real objects, the easier they can relate to the lesson.
  • Three-dimensional objects: Where real objects are not possible, use three-dimensional objects that can truly represent the real object. Three-dimensional objects are sometimes better than pictures because they look like the real object.
  • Pictures: Use colorful pictures that will draw the attention of the children to the lesson. Children are visual people. They love pictures and colorful objects.
  • Toys: Toys are teaching aids too. What makes toys effective teaching aids is that the children could easily relate to toys. Children love toys and using toys to teach young kids will keep them more engaged to the lesson.
  • Books: Books of course are always useful teaching aids. Young kids love books with lots of colorful pictures.
  • Crayons: Colorful crayons can make teaching more fun and interesting to the kids. Don’t forget to let them have colorful experience using the crayons on paper.
  • Pens: Colorful pens are just like crayons. You can use colorful pens to color objects and make them more attractive to the children. When objects are colorful, it is more likely that the children will be drawn to them.
  • Bulletin Board: The bulletin board is one of the most loved teaching tools in the classroom. Make sure that your bulletin board is not dull and boring. Make the bulletin board alive and interesting by using bright colored materials to decorate it. This place is important to the children because what they see here will help them understand their lesson. If your lesson is about letter A, then stick many things about A on the bulletin board.
  • Flip Charts: Flip charts are useful if you want to save time writing on the board. This will also avoid distracting the attention of the children. You don’t need to write on the board because flip charts are handy to use if you want the kids to read something.
  • Charts: Big charts and small charts are useful in the classroom. Hang them on the walls and the young children will flip on them and find out what’s in there.

Important Notes:

I start teaching the letters of the alphabet and the sound of each letter in nursery. When the children are in K1, I start teaching the syllables in the second semester. By the time the children have finished the school year, they are already very good in syllable reading and writing.

So that when the children are in K2, they can already read CVC words or three-letter words. This is where I start to teach the basic sight words so that the children can read phrases, sentences and finally short stories.

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All the tools above are helpful aids when teaching basic reading. You are now equipped with all the necessary tools and aids for teaching so you can rest assured that you need only your initiative as a teacher to make teaching effective to the young children.

Starting to Teach Basic Reading:

Begin by teaching the sound of each letter of the alphabet. I always start teaching all the vowels first, the A, E, I, O, U. Teach the children the name of each letter plus the sound. Remember that the sound is very important when teaching reading to children. After the vowels, follow it with the consonants.

Again, teach the name of the consonants plus the corresponding sound of each letter.

There are no set rules for teaching the alphabet. You make your own lesson plan and you use your own strategy. This depends upon how you see the effectiveness of your method.

When you teach basic reading, the key is teaching the sound of each letter of the alphabet. This is a must because the children must know how to sound out the letters. This is where reading starts. When the children know all the sound of each letter, they can start reading the syllables.

You have to be very particular about the sound out method. The children should know how to sound out the letters and blend them in order to form a syllable.

For example in the syllable ma, tell the children to say the sound of m then a. Tell them to blend the two letters and form the syllable ma. This is better said than done. Most children do not know how to blend the sounds. They can be very confused in the first day but don’t worry because they will soon overcome confusion and they will finally learn how to read the syllables.

Again: the key when teaching basic reading is the sound of the letters of the alphabet. Once the children have memorized the sounds by heart, they will easily learn to read.

If the children already know how to read the syllable, follow it with the CVC words or what we call the three-letter word.

For example:

mat - mat is a CVC word- meaning, consonant-vowel-consonant word. These are the first words that the children will read.

So, you start by teaching the children how to say the beginning syllable. In the example mat, The beginning syllable is ma. Tell the children to read ma, then tell them to add the letter t and form the word mat. Let the children read the word and see how the word is sounded out. By letting them read the words many times, they will visualize how the sounds are blended to form a word.

It seems very hard at first and the children can be very confused but give them time to learn about the sounding out and they will soon enjoy reading CVC words. It is very important to use pictures for this activity since non-English speaking children can get lost learning how to read and thinking about the meaning of the word.

It is always important to help out the children where they are struggling. In my experience, most children can read CVC words with routine reading.

Say for example, you let the children read the syllables every day. You need several flash cards and charts for syllables that the children will read every day. One good way to make reading less boring for the children is to use choral reading so that everybody will participate. When children read as a group, nobody will be thinking, “I cannot read.”

When the children can already read the CVC words; that’s the start of their fun reading journey. Most kids are excited when they learn to read their first few words. They will always find other words to read even if they cannot read them perfectly. And that's the start...

Steps for teaching basic reading:

1. Teach the letters of the alphabet and the sound of each letter.

2. Teach the children to blend letters using sound out and form a syllable.

3. Teach the children to sound out the syllable and add a consonant to form a CVC word.


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    • profile image

      Elle Hucal 

      2 years ago

      Hi Miss Felisa! Your blog is really helpful! We'll be starting up a tutorial center very soon and i'm really glad that google lead me to your blog. ^_^


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