RE: "I'm sure this is not a new problem nor a new discussion, but I am looking for insights into helping students be able to read and comprehend academic textbooks that they read in US universities and then successfully pass quizzes on those textbooks."
Response: If I were you, I would lower your academic performance expectations and find reading materials you feel more suitable for your students' English knowledge. Now that you know they are unprepared for college level academic work, do some minor research on how to improve their reading skills. The only drawback---might be that you will need to have either a written or verbal approval from your school administrators---for the modification of your learning materials or the textbooks itself.
In retrospect, if you are fully in-charged of the classroom, you have the right-of-way to do whatever you see fit for your students learning needs. Don't expect to see high marks on their tests, but work with your students based on "what they already know" learning ability and skills.
Texts and Quizzes: I would re-teach your lesson (s) to them [my teaching philosophy] and give your students pre-examination before the actual exams administration---to collect for grades. Use the practice texts or quizzes to gage their knowledge and understanding of the learning materials---you have already taught them. If you are detecting "slow" progress, try Q&A discussion-ask which part of the lesson (s) they are having great difficulty with and re-explain those points. Teach their learning materials the size of a teaspoon vs a tablespoon (if you will); especially in reading instruction.
Here are my questions: 1. What textbook(s) do Bridge/EAP courses use for reading that prepare students for the rigors of academic reading?
Response: Your students are underprepared for rigorous college level coursework. I would contact the Bridge Company directly or visit their website for appropriate learning materials---designed for ESL Adult English Learners. I'm not that familiar with Bridge Company, though, I have heard of them.2. What strategies do you teach students that they can use when they enter their academic classes?
Response: Teaching reading to adult students is one tough job---I taught near senior citizens folks before---in a volunteer teaching capacity---it was not so easy. Have you tried reading the materials in increments---as opposed to having them read the entire book page? Discuss a paragraph size reading page and reflect what they had read---this is the comprehension portion of your lesson. Have them do some kind of course related projects to offset low grades, (i,e., handmade projects; short writings; solo overhead projection reading; a presentation, reading assignments to collect as part of their grades and so forth).
Footnote: As a rule of thumb, the ESL teaching domain is based on the foundation of Developmental Learning Progress. In fact, the last university where I taught from---the ESL Program was classified as---Immersion. I taught practically every day and the entire ESL Program [classes] took two years [standard] to complete and majority of the students were enrolled in degree completion programs.MerriLee LeonardM.A.Ed.,TESLCollege Teacher U.S.A.
There are some great answers on this thread; I particularly appreciate Karl's comments about teaching students to clarify their instructors' expectations. The reading process is affected significantly by one's purpose for reading, but students often don't realize this; nor do they generally have strategies either for discovering the reading purpose or for matching reading purpose to reading style.I'd like to add a few ideas to the ones that have already been posted. The strategies outlined below play a key role in my work with L2 students who are transitioning into "mainstream" classes at the post-secondary level:1) use reading guides2) teach students how to notice various linguistic and rhetorical elements of the texts they read1) USE READING GUIDES:A carefully crafted reading guide can turn a daunting text into a doable task. This process of making texts manageable is crucial to student success: when students realize that they can read a lengthy, authentic, college-level text - albeit with the help of a reading guide - they'll be encouraged to continue reading. The more they practice reading, the better and more confident they'll become.In addition to boosting students' confidence, reading guides serve many valuable purposes. To begin with, reading guides can include questions that not only check students' comprehension of the content but also prepare them for classroom discussion. Reading guides can likewise include questions that call students' attention to and ask them to reflect on the use of specific vocabulary items, syntactical structures, rhetorical strategies, or stylistic conventions. Moreover, consistent use of reading guides can help students learn the following:a) what kinds of information to look for and to take note of as they readb) that it's OK to skim sometimesc) that it's OK if they don't understand every single word of the text, as long as they get the gistd) that it's OK (in fact, it's often desirable!) to question what they read / to argue with the texte) what kinds of questions to ask about the text2)TEACH STUDENTS HOW TO NOTICE VARIOUS LINGUISTIC AND RHETORICAL ELEMENTS OF THE TEXTS THEY READNoticing is a vital skill for L2 students. Friendly and compassionate instructors won't always be around to scaffold assignments, to point out important features of texts, or to offer constructive feedback on students' use of language. Thus, it's important that students learn to notice as much as they can about their own and others' use of language. Reading guides can facilitate noticing by calling students' attention to various elements of a text and asking them to reflect on the structure and use of those elements. Other noticing tasks include (but are certainly not limited to!) the following:1) require students to keep a vocabulary and syntax journal, in which they record 3-5 entries each week. Entries can consist of new vocabulary, interesting new sentence structures, or both. Entries should be culled from the texts that students read for their courses, although it may also be appropriate in the IEP setting to encourage students to pull entries from daily conversations, billboards, sale flyers, movies, etc. Incentivize students to use one or two entries from their journals each time they write a paper for your class, give a presentation, or contribute to class discussion.2) require students to keep a reflection journal, in which they respond to a variety of prompts relevant to their progress as language learners. For example, they might reflect on new reading or writing strategies they have learned, or they might reflect on a particularly successful (or unsuccessful!) conversation they recently had, trying to identify the elements that made said conversation particularly successful or unsuccessful. Or they might simply make a note each week of how confident they feel in their L2 abilities and why their confidence level has changed (or not) since the last entry.3) ask students to reflect on a series of noticing questions each time they read, write, speak or listen in the L2 for the first two or three weeks of class. These questions will prompt students to notice issues such as the following:a) how much time they spend looking up unfamiliar vocabulary while reading or listeningb) how helpful it is, as a general rule, to spend time looking up unfamiliar vocabularyc) how often and in what ways they rely on the L1 when reading, writing, speaking, or listening in the L2d) when it is helpful - and when it is not so helpful - to rely on the L1e) when, how, and in what ways they can use paralinguistic cues or context as an aid to understanding or speakingOnce students have made several weeks' worth of observations, they will begin to develop strategies for using both the L1 and the L2 more efficiently in completing L2 tasks. You can discuss students' observations and strategies in class; it's helpful if you also reflect on your own L2 use and share your observations and strategies with your students. This is a great way to build community, to boost students' confidence, and to learn new strategies from one another.4) ask students to complete noticing assignments, in which they observe the speech or written texts of NSs (or highly proficient NNSs) and report - orally, in writing, or both - on their observations. Students' reports should ideally contain some sort of personal language-learning or language-use goals based on the observations they made of NS texts and/or speech.I'm happy to share sample reading guides and/or noticing tasks. If anyone would like to take a look at these, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.Happy teaching!Dr. Lori Randall, PhDCoordinator of Multilingual LearningDenison University, Granville, OH, USA
I'm not sure how helpful this website might be for what you are looking for, but it's worth exploring-as it relates to ESL Reading Criteria. I attended a regional TESOL Conference in my neck of the woods just recently---I met some of their staff there. You may examine some of their Reading Textbooks Materials and order them if you like---New Readers Press.
TESOL College Teacher