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  • 1.  Ways to spice up a reading class

    Posted 06-02-2017 08:22 AM

    Ways to spice-up a reading class 

    What are ways to spice-up an ESL Reading class?  I have a few ideas I have used in my classroom.  Do you have some strategies you’d like to share into this forum?  I’m sure many of us reading educators can relate to the monotony nature of teaching a reading class.  Everyone chime-in!           

    MerriLee Leonard
    University Teacher
    M.A., TESL
    Washington, D.C. 

  • 2.  RE: Ways to spice up a reading class

    Posted 07-02-2017 09:04 AM
    We use a lot of drama games to teach ESL, there are many strategies which can be applied to spice up reading classes.

    Essentially we try to make sure that the language has some meaning or effect.

    for example:
    We might take a section and split the students into readers and scribes.  Readers have the text and need to dictate the text to the scribes quicker than the other pairs.  Or the readers need to read the text to answer the questions which the scribes only can see.

    We do reading races, reading with silly voices, one reads while the others try to act it out etc...

    Man Cheung
    Dramatic English
    +852 2880 5080

  • 3.  RE: Ways to spice up a reading class

    Posted 07-02-2017 11:44 AM
    We keep a very fast-pace in reading class, and so far, this pace is showing results. We have 7 1/2 week sessions, so each week we have one vocabulary and one comprehension objective that we cover as well as timed readings and graphic organizers. There are three vocabulary and three comprehension covered for three weeks, and then we repeat.

    To make things interesting, we use group work and communicative activities. For example, like Man Cheung said, I have activities where some students have questions and others have to find the answers. I also like to assign graphic organizers by paragraph and then the group has to come back together and share the answers one-by-one while the other students fill in the answers on that part of the graphic organizer. I also create "engaging" powerpoints to practice the skills. Instead of passive learning, the powerpoints come with a notes page with practice. (This is a separate powerpoint created to match my presentation powerpoint but not a direct copy.) Students write the answers on their notes and then share the answers by group.

    We're always looking for new ways to make reading class interesting. I can't wait to see other responses.

    Sarah Wood
    Coordinator of the IEP
    Saint Francis University

  • 4.  RE: Ways to spice up a reading class

    Posted 08-02-2017 08:27 AM
    1. I think with comprehension activities it is important to make sure you (or your students) have asked a variety of questions.  
     Question types: predicting, linking two or more pieces of information in a text to draw conclusions, forming hypotheses, making links to their knowledge of the world, summarizing, and inferring meaning, identifying the author's point of view, retrieving information from the text.

    It is important to demonstrate these critical thinking skills by thinking aloud...Why do you think she did that? (inferring) So, if she went to the shops in the morning and she stayed there for three hours...she got home about??? (linking) I think the author really wanted to make us think about ....(point of view) and so on...What do you think will happen next? (predicting)

    I have often been guilty of falling into the trap of over-doing the easier questions...retrieving info (What did Bill say on page 2) and links to the world...(if the book mentions farm animals, I will provide a sheet on farm animals and their care). I often need to remind myself to do the higher order thinking questions as well.

    2. This is a great question game I found by Josef Williamson on the JALT website.

    Stop the story:
    Here is the link to the page:

    Stop the Story: A Game for Encouraging Interruptions and Practice of Short Question Forms | JALT Publications
    Jalt-publications remove preview
    Stop the Story: A Game for Encouraging Interruptions and Practice of Short Question Forms | JALT Publications
    Posted March 4th, 2015 by webadmin Quick Guide Key words: Interrupting, fluency, question forms, game Learner English level: Lower intermediate to advanced Learner maturity level: Junior high school and above Preparation time: 30 minutes to make a one-time reusable handout, 5 minutes to make copies Activity time: 15 - 25 minutes Materials: Single handout (see appendix) I developed this activity in response to a lack of willingness on the part of learners in corporate language training classes to engage in interrupting speakers to clarify information and to abbreviate question forms in informal speech.
    View this on Jalt-publications >

    You can incorporate the two points above by offering more points to teams that ask the higher order thinking questions about the text. Double points for asking questions to infer meaning; Triple points for asking questions for the author's point of view etc...Also be flexible with the time..obviously the longer the text, the more questions that can be asked and the longer the time. 

    Hope this helps. I look forward to other people's replies, too.

    Andy Lanskhear 


    Andrew Lankshear

  • 5.  RE: Ways to spice up a reading class

    Posted 09-02-2017 01:49 PM

    Hi co-teach!

    In response to “Ways how to spice up a reading class” question.  I like Andrew’s approached to teaching reading & comprehension.  But since I’m unsure of the level of students’ population he’s currently teaching—to that end, I can only build on to his wonderful ideas some strategies I have had to integrate in my reading lesson plan—based solely on my students’ English proficiency.  

    A descriptive approach to reading can sometimes be fun—if done with a dash of informality to it—as opposed to being extremely rigid.  Because literacy is legitimized as primarily a developmental learning process; perhaps, the emphasis should shoot for minimizing the reading speed while optimizing the classroom time allotted.    

    In a typical day, I would normally ask my students to hear me read the entire passage—as they listened-in [hyphen mine] with a pen & paper for note taking.  After, I would break down the entire story by sectioning it in smaller parts.  If the reading passage contains four or more separate paragraphs, for instance, I would have the students read [unison] just a paragraph and discuss—instead of having them read the entire story all at one time.  My adult students get bored quite easily in my reading class—a zing of humor during discussion can’t hurt!   


    Andrew’s idea would fit-in [hyphen mine] perfectly with this pedagogy.  The question and answer technique about the reading topic being presented should ignite thought provoking responses and comprehension would be the obvious end-results [hyphen mine].   You could also present the reading with overhead projection if you prefer—to help stimulates psychological alertness.  The advancement of technology surrounds us—for certain!  I see them being utilized not just in public schools, but also in colleges and universities.  I hope my minuscule input could help spice-up [hyphen mine] your monotonous ESL reading lecture  :)    

    MerriLee Leonard
    University Teacher
    M.A.Ed., TESL
    United States

  • 6.  RE: Ways to spice up a reading class

    Posted 08-02-2017 08:27 AM
    I use readers' theatre and you can select scripts that are suitable for beginners, intermediate or even advanced level students. This way, the students' affective filter drops and they improve fluency and vocabulary while having a blast. 

    There are many free online scripts, you can get excerpts from movies or buy books with level appropriate scripts.


    Maria Ostapenko

  • 7.  RE: Ways to spice up a reading class

    Posted 21-02-2017 08:23 AM
    I was going to suggest reader's theater as well.  There are also books designed for two or three people to read in turns to make a whole story.  It's sort of a shared reading/cloze activity for prose and poetry.  The poetry books are a big hit with my adult conversation classes.  I have some titles around here somewhere if you want suggestions. 

    Julie Brown
    ESL Program Director

  • 8.  RE: Ways to spice up a reading class

    Posted 24-02-2017 07:52 PM
    Hello Frann,

    I copied my list of sources for reader's theater along with my favorite books for class reading or literature circles in adult ESL.  I haven't checked all the links in a while since I've been doing other programs lately.  I hope this helps.  Julie

    Reader’s Theater Links:

    www/  - Has scripts for K-12 and adult literacy. -Has at least 5 book collections of scripts K-8.


    Favorite books for class reading or lit circles for adults:

    “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald 

    “Seed Folks” by Paul Fleischman

    “Where the Red Fern Grows” by Wilson Rawls 

    “The Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger

    “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time” by Mark Haddon

    “Ship Breaker” by Paolo Bacigalupi

    “Around the World in Eighty Days” by Jules Verne

    “Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices” by Paul Fleischman

    “I Am Phoenix: Poems for Two Voices” by Paul Fleischman

    “Big Talk: Poems for Four Voices” by Paul Fleischman

    “Partner Poems for Building Fluency:  40 Engaging Poems for Two Voices” by Tim Rasinski

    Message From: Frann Grossman

    Hey Julie! I teach a warm, but often anxious group of spouses of international scholars at Michigan Tech. We've never tried the readers theatre as a class but I'd love if you could find those scripts you mentioned to get us going. Thanks thanks thanks   It sounds like it would be a blast. 

    Cheers, Frann Grossman, MA TESOL
    Best place to send anything you can find:
    Frann Grossman
    Finlandia University

    Julie Brown
    ESL Program Director