Education is a fundamental precondition for progress and growth in South Africa (Spaull, 2011, p. 1). Literacy opens the doors to better livelihoods, improved health and expanded opportunity (UNESCO, 2011). Illiteracy is a serious constraint to improving education standards in South Africa. Prominent research studies stress the low levels of reading ability across the country. At the onset of Grade One, pre-reading skills are taught. Pre-reading skills are foundational skills and essential for later reading success. Teachers in English Second Language environments face the daunting challenge of teaching learners to read in a foreign language. This qualitative research study, which was conducted at a low-fee private school in Pretoria Central Business district, aimed to explore the methods that educators were using to teach second language English Learners (ESL) pre-reading skills. Data collected from semi-structured interviews, lesson observations and document analysis revealed that educators had a limited theoretical knowledge of pre-reading skills due to a lack of tertiary education and curriculum training. Numerous methods of teaching pre-reading skills were identified during pre-reading lesson observations. The synthetic phonics approach, multisensory teaching, using dramatization and subtractive bilingualism were methods of instruction used to develop phonemic awareness and English oral language competency. The study highlighted the numerous challenges faced by ESL teaching working in a low-socioeconomic environment and the ways in which the teachers overcame these challenges. Based on this study’s results, recommendations are provided to enhance the teaching of pre-reading skills to ESL learners.