Using The Westcoast Reader in the classroom

This November 2, you can join a Using The Westcoast Reader in the Classroom webinar to learn how to use The Westcoast Reader monthly newspaper to support learners. The stories are adapted from real news stories at three reading levels, which are comparable to the Canadian Adult Reading Benchmarks, and are a great starting point for learners.

Last March, literacy tutors and teachers heard and discussed specific examples and tips for learners in a one-hour webinar with Jade Chan, The WCR co-editor and Decoda training specialist.

“Even the book one level readers can say, ‘Oh, I was reading in the newspaper.’ It’s a really nice thing for them to be able to say,” said participant Mary Kiviste, Adult Upgrading, Okanagan College, Penticton Campus.

Along with current Canadian news stories, The WCR has plenty of large photos, stories separated in boxes, clear language and larger size font on level one stories (look for the book stack graphic with one, two or three books in the title) all make The WCR more accessible to learners.

There are also many tools to help support learning: free Teachers’ Notes with exercises, puzzles, real-world connection questions and extra resources such as online articles, audio files, quizzes and social media.

These resources can help learners at all levels with pre-reading, synchronous reading, asynchronous reading and post-reading activities.

Pre-reading activities

“The importance of pre-reading activities is to give the readers a purpose before they read. It increases learner engagement and increases comprehension,” said Jade.

Prediction and making connections

As a warm-up activity, ask the learner to look at the photo, caption and article title. Prepare pre-reading discussion questions. Ask questions to find out what the learner already knows about the topic and what they can predict about the story, using the five Ws: who, what, where, when and why.

“Looking at the text and the picture first will help activate learner schema,” said Jade. “Use the photo, captions, titles and subtitles in the article and ask them ‘what do you think the article will be about?’ By making connections, you are activating their prior knowledge and generating interest.”

Preview vocabulary

Pick out key words in advance that you think your learners might struggle with or ask them to scan for words they don’t know.

“We want to set our readers up for success,” Jade said. “For example, in the March 2022 issue story ‘Baby Moose on the loose’, you can tie it into lessons that are related to rhyme, word family, or plurals of animals. The plural of moose is still moose. But there are geese and a goose, teeth and a tooth. There are many lessons just in a story title. Also keep in mind that if your learners are newcomers, they may not be familiar with this kind of animal.”

Synchronous reading activities

Synchronous activities are those done in the classroom.

“In synchronous reading, we want to focus on pronunciation, noticing and total physical response (TPR),” said Jade. “You can model the sentence for your learner, so they can hear how the words sound. Focus on specific sounds and letter combinations.”

TPR or Total Physical Response, is a language teaching method that is built around the coordination of speech and action.

Physical signs can help mark specific words, like a thumbs up whenever they hear the word ‘snow’. Or they can add more intonation and expression and action. It helps them be more engaged and understand the content.”

Jade suggests asking learners three questions about the themed articles on page 2 of every issue:

  • What is the article’s name?
  • What advice does it give?
  • Do you think the advice in this article is easy or hard to follow? Why?

Asynchronous reading activities

Asynchronous activities are things learners can do independently, such as read The WCR online stories, listen to accompanying audio files, try exercises from the Teachers’ Notes, and record themselves reading out loud and then listen to it to self-correct.

Post-reading activities

“In post-reading activities, we want to check their predictions, work on spelling and writing accuracy, and make real-world connections,” said Jade.

The free Teachers’ Notes that come with every issue of The WCR has exercises to accompany the stories, such as fill in the blanks, matching words, or using plurals. They focus on helping learners develop reading strategies; increase their vocabulary; and improve their grammar, spelling, and pronunciation. Resources are included for extension activities and a discussion is included to help improve speaking and listening.

In the upcoming webinar, Jade will share more tips on how to use The WCR in a classroom where there are different needs, such as offering materials for emerging and more advanced readers.

Embrace technology

Jade reminds that while learners are practicing reading, they can also be practicing digital literacy.

  • Let learners record themselves reading out loud, to help them practice self-correcting.
  • Use the online stories that come with exercises, where learners can listen to the story audio file and do an online quiz.
  • Follow The WCR social media pages on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for stories, resources and tips.

To learn more about using The Westcoast Reader, Register for the November 2, 2022 webinar: Using The Westcoast Reader in the Classroom.

Jade is happy to answer any questions you have about using The Westcoast Reader in the classroom; contact her at

To learn more or subscribe to The Westcoast Reader, visit the website.

About Us

The Westcoast Reader has been helping a variety of learners for over 40 years.

The WCR’s audience includes:

  • English language and literacy learners
  • elementary and secondary school students
  • new Canadians
  • multicultural senior groups
  • prison inmates in literacy programs
  • people living with disabilities
  • patients with stroke and brain injuries

The Westcoast Reader is published by Decoda Literacy Solutions in partnership with Camosun College with financial assistance from the BC Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills.

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