3 Ways to Make Reading Lessons More Interactive

Classroom Actions FlashcaardsHow do you deal with reading lessons in your ESL classroom? Do you have your students read silently in class? Do you assign the reading for homework? Many of the ESL-Library lessons have a reading component to them. How can teachers make reading lessons more interactive, communicative, and fun? I wanted to share three methods that have always worked well for me.

1) SUMMARIZE

This method incorporates many skills: reading, listening, speaking, vocabulary, and writing. Students must thoroughly analyze and understand a section of the reading, and only by working together can they understand the entire reading.
Instructions:

  • First, assign a paragraph of the reading to each student. If you have a lot of students, assign the paragraph to a pair of students instead.
  • Explain that each student (or pair) will be responsible for relating the information from their paragraph in their own words.
  • Have students silently read through their paragraphs.
  • If you want, get them to write out their summaries, but I usually prefer to have them give an oral, and more natural, summary.
  • To help them and their classmates understand the reading well, have each student (or pair) choose 3-5 vocabulary words that they are unfamiliar with.
  • Have each student (or pair) define their vocabulary words (via a dictionary: English-to-English is best) and write out each definition in their own words.
  • Get each student to write down an example sentence for each word; this will ensure that they’ve truly understood the word.
  • Once all the students are finished their reading and vocabulary, have each student (or pair) present their vocabulary and their summaries (in the order of the original reading).
  • Then, in pairs or as a class, answer the comprehension questions and correct them before you let the students see the entire reading.

Many of the ESL-Library lessons are formatted in short paragraphs that are ideal for using this method (for example, in Famous People, Famous Places, Famous Things, Holidays, etc.). I usually have students write their words and definitions on the board for their classmates to see and copy down, but I get students to read their example sentences out loud as it usually takes too long to have them write those out, too.

2) CUT UP & REARRANGE

This works best for short readings or dialogues. This method ensures that students think very carefully about the meaning of each sentence.
Instructions:

  • Divide students into small groups or pairs.
  • Hand out a cut-up version of the story or dialogue.
  • Have students try to arrange the sentences in order. It helps to tell them which sentence is first.
  • Encourage them to tell each other why they think a particular sentence comes next.
  • Circle through the groups, pointing out sentences that are not in the correct position. (It helps if you bring the original around with you for easy reference.)
  • To make it fun, you could have a prize for the team or pair that finishes first.

ESL-Library has a whole section with dialogues that are all ready to cut up! Check out our Traveling in English section.

3) READ OUT LOUD

This technique easily turns a reading exercise into a listening exercise for a bit of variety. Students listen to you, the teacher, read aloud as a class activity.
Instructions:

  • First, read through the comprehension questions as a class.
  • Read the story out loud.
  • Give students a few minutes to answer what questions they can.
  • Read the story out loud a second time.
  • Give students a bit more time to answer the questions. Then correct them as a class (and hand out the reading for reference or self-study, if desired).

Alternatively, read the story out loud twice in a row, and have students try to answer questions in pairs before correcting in order to incorporate some speaking. To make it even more communicative, higher-level students can pair up and each read half the story aloud to the other, then try to answer the questions together. If students are reading out loud, you can circulate and correct their pronunciation as needed, or note some common pronunciation errors to go over as a class at the end of the activity.

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What are some other ways to make reading lessons interactive that work well for you? It would be great if we could share our preferred methods in the comment section below!

Read on, my friends, read on… Tanya

12 comments

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  1. tanya@tbtk.net'

    Tanya says:

    Nov 11, 2012 at 7:48 pm

    Thanks, Lily!

    Reply

  2. stefh_18@hotmail.com'

    Lily89 says:

    Nov 11, 2012 at 2:08 pm

    Thank you very much for the article.It is most helpful.I will follow your advice!

    Reply

  3. rooney-9-mu@hotmail.com'

    faiz says:

    Oct 10, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    hi Tanya ,

    It`s my pleasure to have your article . It helps lot indeed , so I ask you for your support to give me methods and techs to cover the fourth skills

    ( Reading – Writing – Listening – speaking ) and how to encourage students in order to be good, and self learners in short period of time .

    thanks again ,

    * appreciate to your replay ,

    Reply

    • tanya@tbtk.net'

      Tanya says:

      Oct 10, 2012 at 9:17 pm

      Hi Faiz, I’m glad you found this post useful! You’ve given me lots of ideas for future blog posts. I will try to cover the four skills, and a post on encouraging students is a great idea. Thanks! :)

      Reply

  4. kursatg@gmail.com'

    kursat says:

    Sep 9, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    Thank you for these great tips! I have a question about the first technique. I tried assigning paragraphs to different groups of students, but the thing is, students of a certain group tend to summarize their part and then not listen to their friends’ summaries. What could be a suggestion to make the groups listen to their friends as well?

    Reply

    • tanya@tbtk.net'

      Tanya says:

      Sep 9, 2012 at 5:17 am

      Hi Kursat,

      I’m glad you liked the tips! You bring up a very good point, and it’s something I’ve had to deal with myself. One thing you could do is make sure the paragraphs aren’t too long when you divide them up, so that one group isn’t summarizing for a long time, causing the other students to get tired or bored. But the technique that worked best for me is to have some comprehension questions after the summaries. (Don’t allow the groups to see the full text until after all of the groups have presented their summaries.) Knowing there will be questions to answer next (or even a little quiz) will make the students pay attention…hopefully! Good luck. :)

      Reply

  5. maiacarmem@hotmail.com'

    Carmem says:

    Jun 6, 2012 at 7:52 pm

    Hi Tanya,

    I do enjoy your tips, however i think it’d be really usefull to give us some tips for a smal group( perhaps 3 students) or one to one.

    Thanks.

    Reply

    • tanya@tbtk.net'

      Tanya says:

      Jun 6, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Hi Carmen,

      You make a great point. I’ve also taught a lot of private and semi-private lessons, and sometimes you need to present things in a different way. But in this case, I think you could use all 3 techniques with 1 to 3 students. You would just have to help out more (especially if it’s with only 1 student). For example, for the first technique, you could summarize the first half (or third) of the reading (and present 5 vocabulary words) and have your student(s) summarize the second half (or thirds) and present their vocabulary words. For the third technique, you could read the story out loud and have the student(s) try to answer the questions after. The second technique would be the trickiest to adapt. It would work well with 2 or 3 students; however, with only 1, you would have to give extra time and guidance. Hope this helps!

      Tanya

      Reply

  6. sarvalan@yahoo.co.in'

    Are there ready made lesson plans for CBSE (India) in English language and literature of class X and XII says:

    May 5, 2012 at 11:23 am

    It is quite useful for all the teachers and students.

    Reply

    • tanya@tbtk.net'

      Tanya says:

      May 5, 2012 at 3:39 am

      I’m happy to hear it! Thank you.

      Reply

  7. alreemz@hotmail.com'

    ٍReem says:

    May 5, 2012 at 4:36 am

    I really enjoyed reading your article and will save it for the future :)

    Thank you !

    Reply

    • tanya@tbtk.net'

      Tanya says:

      May 5, 2012 at 3:39 am

      Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

      Reply

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