Since doing the DELTA and reading tons of ESL books, I’ve been
keeping a note of the most useful classroom activities. These are reading classroom
activities that I’ve picked up, invented, or got from colleagues. You should be able to apply them to any course book text.
Get them interested tasks
You can make the dullest texts interesting if you can create some interest beforehand.
- Put the title of
the text in an anagram and ask them to work it out.
- Dictate the
first line or read the first paragraph and ask them to discuss what they think
- Pick out 8 or 10
key words from the text. Give each pair half and ask them to explain their
words to their partner and vice versa.
- With either of
the above you can then ask students to write two or three questions that they
would like answered while they read the text (makes it personal to them and it
doesn’t matter if they find the answer or not).
- Invent a couple
of general questions about the text to encourage skim reading.
- Running /
walking (safer) dictation: copy the text and cut out the first two or three
paragraphs depending on the class size. Stick each paragraph on the wall and
students have to go up one by one remember a few words and then go back and
tell their partner or group members. I find this works better if you stress the
importance accuracy not speed.
- Cut up the text
and get the students to put it in order. Good for short stories. This helps
with referencing and also learning how texts are constructed. Tip – make sure
you don’t cut up the text exactly as they will just match up the cuttings. I
normally try to zig zag each paragraph.
While reading tasks
The main point here is to make sure they understand
what the text is about.
- Give them a
couple of general gist questions while they read it the first time.
- Prepare some
true or false questions.
- Tell them that
once they have read the text they will have to explain it in their own words to
- Tell them to
read the text and you will ask them some questions. This can be turned into a
- If the text
comes in two or three parts, or two or three scenarios, split the text between
pairs and they have to tell each other what their text is about.
- Read the text as
a class. I like getting my students to read aloud, but I normally tell them
which part they are going to read to help with confidence.
- If the text has
a tape script then you can listen and follow as a class. When you stop the
listening the students have to finish the sentence. Good for young learners.
Here the idea is to analyse the text a bit more and
get them to notice grammar or vocabulary patterns.
- Get them to
underline or make notes on anything they notice about the grammar, synonyms,
collocations, lexical groups.
- Copy the text
and blank out anything you want to draw attention to and get the students to
fill in the blanks.
- I find the above
works well if you just put the sentence you want to highlight on the board, but
change something. For example, if are doing the 3rd conditional you
could write the same sentence on the board but in the 2nd and ask
whether they saw that sentence. You could also write a couple of sentences on
the board and get them to choose which one they saw.
- Read out the
text and students have to complete the sentence or gap from memory.
- Ask the students
to write true, false, or general questions about the text and then test each
This is to get the students to react to the text.
- Ask the students
a few general questions about the text, but make it personal to them. For
example, what would you have done in that situation? or what do you think the
write was trying to say?
- If it’s a story
then write a different ending.
- Ask students to
write a further paragraph to the text.
- Get the students
to act out some sort of role play based on the text.
- Write a letter
to the writer saying what they thought of the text.
- There is plenty
of scope at the end to do ‘What if...’ questions. Students can invent their own.
- Get them to write out the text again from memory, word for word, just to make sure they were paying attention (a good behaviour management tool).
These are just a few ideas. It would be great if you
could add yours below. I'll be adding blogs like this based on Writing, Speaking, Pronunciation, Grammar and Vocabulary classroom activities too.
Labels: classroom activities, esl reading classroom activities, esl reading in class, how to do reading in class, reading activities