January 15

#ELTChat summary – making reading more engaging

For the first #ELTChat of 2017, we discussed the topic: “How to deal with reading tasks in an active and entertaining way”.

Some ideas:

fionaljp suggested doing webquests and shared the link to one stop English’s page which has topic-based webquests for teens including Shakespeare, Chinese New Year and La Tomatina.  MConca16 added that Macmillan’s Inspiration site also has some.  You could also design our own webquest which could be catered to your learners’ interests. Marisa_C shared a link to her wequest on using twitter and teachingright shared one on the solar system.

bellinguist mentioned that now we can do jigsaw readings making use of learners’ devices, giving them a QR code so they could navigate quickly and easily to their text.

Marisa_C said that she enjoys giving learners different parts of the text which they have to summarise and share, working together as a group to put the text into the correct order.  This idea of ordering the text is also useful for getting learners to think about linking and reference words.  Also, give learners more information ‘hot off the press’ – they decide where they would insert the information so the text is still coherent.  And, if you want to really challenge learners working with a short text, she suggested cutting up all the text into individual words for them to order 🙂 seburnt also suggested making a wordle from the text and showing it to learners as a pre-reading activity to predict content.

To add in a competitive element, you could do a reading race or ‘grass skirt’ activity.  Another option to get learners out of their seats and moving around is to do a running dictation with the comprehension questions.

SueAnnan suggested getting learners to write the next paragraph, which you could then compare with the original text.

jorgeguillen talked about doing information gap activities in which learners then use the information they have to complete a task. MConca16 suggested this could be reading about festivals in the UK, then roleplaying the parts of a tourist and tour guide.

DamiBeneyto and Marisa_C are both fans of giving learners the same news article taken from different sources so learners can compare how the information is given.  Newspaper quizzes were also mentioned – give learners copies of free newspapers and ask them to write questions for another team.  sophie_cy added that developing quizzes and other activities for classmates is fun and engaging and GioLic1976 said that he does the same as then learners, rather than the teacher, choose what to focus on.  Another idea for using newspapers and magazines from GemmaELT was to match headlines to articles.  And when working with headlines, fionaljp said we can elicit content, keywords and work on prediction too.

teachingright mentioned as well using appropriate strategies when working on reading tasks and Marisa_C as well talked about working with microskills to support our learners when reading.

Marisa_C suggested an activity for narrative texts – before reading, find two images which learners compare, finding the differences and then read the text and identify which picture matches with it.  Here’s a link to Marisa_C’s blog with some other ideas for working with images.  naomishema uses video as an introduction to reading and you can read her series of blogposts on her experiment here.  SueAnnan also mentioned the idea of combining reading with a video/audio task in which learners first work with the video/audio, then fact check through the reading.

We talked as well about a strong lead-in to the text will make it more engaging for learners and naomishema reminded us about Penny Ur saying how the choice of topic is less important than what you do with it.  ITLegge said that whilst learners are reading, they can add emojis to the text and share with a partner after reading how the text made them feel.  And I added as well that a post-reading discussion of the content will also make learners value the text as more than just another reading activity. tesolmatthew said that he finds himself doing increasingly more pre-reading activities, working on prediction amongst other things – this means learners have much more of an impetus to read the text when asked to do so.  He shared a link to cecilianobreelt‘s lesson on Humans of New York.

GemmaELT talked about the struggles of getting learners to do the reading task well – she was specifically talking about during online courses, but I think this can be a challenge which we face with any learners who aren’t engaged in the text or interested in doing the task well.  Marisa_C suggested working with short texts and focussing on one sub-skill to ease them into reading.

A couple of people also shared links to SeanBanville‘s pages: freeeslmaterials and famouspeoplelessons.  There are some ideas as well on this British Council page which MConc16 shared.  ETProfessional shared this link to Cristina Cabal’s blog with ideas on bringing reading texts to life. Also, here’s a link to SueAnnan’s summary from an #ELTChat back in 2013 on the topic of exploting reading texts which has more ideas.  Gemma ELT shared the image on the right from Alex_Corbitt.

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November 8


It took me a (little) while to sit down to write this post.  It seemed like the perfect time for a gin and tonic and when I went in to ask my partner if he fancied one as well, I realised I needed to get the washing in.  On doing that, a couple of plants on the terrace needed watering.  Then I put the washing away and when I put the basket and pegs back, I took the opportunity to sort out the recycling at the same time.  Then, as I was hanging up the towels, I saw a couple of bits and bobs which needed to go back to their homes.  So then I got my G&T, sat down in front of the computer and noticed I had a couple of notifications on facebook and twitter so I quickly checked them out and now I’m ready to write.

Hang on, a couple of swigs of G&T and I’ll crack on…

The word “procrastination” came up in my FCE preparation class earlier this week. It’s such a fantastic word and I don’t think it has a simple translation into Spanish (one member of the class was adamant that procrastinación exists, but the others looked at her with blank faces!  She said the word dilación as well, which wordreference lists as a translation of procrastination, but I don’t think it encompasses the same idea).  We were talking about the term briefly in the lesson, and at the end of class that same learner asked if we could read a text on the topic during the next lesson.  I had planned to have something prepped by the next lesson, but (typically) when I sat at my computer to search for an article on procrastination, things kept cropping up!

However, you can now download “procrastination article” and I can cross it off my to-do list as I’ve found and adapted an article from Mind Tools into which I’ve slipped some joyous Use of English activities.


Now, on with that gin and tonic.

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June 8

“What’s that?” he said angrily.

It’s getting towards the end of the year now and we’ve done our end of year exams and are now finishing off the term doing more project-based, fun activities.  With the younger classes, this often means acting out stories from the coursebooks and inviting parents in to watch.  It’s a great opportunity for students to show off their English skills in front of family and friends and the majority of them are looking forward to it.

I admit though, I have one problem with doing drama with EFL students, and that’s that it’s often not dramatic enough.  Students concentrate on the words and pronunciation and often miss out the emotion of the text.  It’s something I’ve been working on with my class of seven/eight-year-olds during the year and each time they’ve read a story in pairs or groups, they’ve received points for their pronunciation, listening (as they tend to get distracted and start chatting when other groups are performing) and their emotion.  It hasn’t worked with all of them, I think some of them are not thespians, but I think that those who have tried to be more dramatic have actually performed better.

So, as we’re getting to the stage of rehearsing plays, here’s a fun activity to warm them up to the idea of adding emotion to their reading…

Write up the following adjectives on the board and ask students to work in teams to order the letters.  Give them a time limit and give each team points according to how many they get correct:









With lower levels, I would leave it at the adjectives and move on to the acting stage, but with higher levels you could then ask them to make the adjectives into adverbs for more points.

Give the students a short two-person text, or work together as a class to write one on the board.  Then explain that you are going to give each pair an adjective and that they must perform the text in that manner.  The other groups have to guess the adjective.  It’s a fun activity which gets students laughing and enjoying reading more.

Also, if you have classes which are reluctant to read the text with emotion, give them an example of how it sounds when they read in a dull and emotionless manner and they’ll probably have a laugh at it and then change their minds!

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February 25

Information Race

This activity can be a bit hectic for the teacher, but my students have always enjoyed it and it adds a new dimension to finding information from a text.
Before the class, print out some questions and copy enough sheets for groups of 2 or 3.  You’ll need to colour the sheets so you can identify the different groups.  Then cut up the sheets so there is a question on each strip of paper.
Give each team a question strip and explain that when they find the answer, they can come and collect the next strip.  You can decide whether you would like them to write the answer down, or just tell you – though I would advise you to get them to write it with larger classes.  Students can answer the questions in any order.
The winner is the first group to answer all the questions.
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November 11

True and False on the move

An idea today for a post-reading activity to get students moving.  Prepare eight or ten short sentences about the text and stick them up around the room.  When students have read the text and you’ve worked on the vocabulary and main ideas, do a running dictation of the sentences.  When they have collected all the sentences, explain that they need to check whether the sentences are true or false according to the text.  To make it more competitive, you can award points for speed and accuracy of the running dictation and give points for each True / False correctly answered.
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