Reading can be such a passive and monotonous activity in the classroom: you walk in the classroom, tell students that they are going to read about a particular topic, brainstorm vocabulary related to the topic to activate their schema and then go ahead with the reading. They complete some comprehension questions, get them to check in small groups before eliciting answers and correcting where necessary. If you follow this basic format for reading activities, students will find it quite disheartening and you will start losing the will to live. Are there any different ways to spice up the activity of reading in the classroom? Well do not worry, I offer 10 different ideas.
1. What’s the Question?
You could follow the initial format of generating interest in the reading by getting students to discuss some questions related to the topic and then introducing some vocabulary but why give students the questions to the reading? A lovely activity that I enjoy doing, particularly for examination classes or any other for that matter, is to get small groups of students to write the questions for another group. You will notice students reading the text in greater detail and then liaising with others in their group to come up with suitable yet challenging questions. I usually allow students around 20-30 minutes to read the text and allow them to develop their questions and then another period of time to answer another group’s questions. It develops learners’ awareness of what they are reading and prompts learners to continuously question what they are reading and provides prediction skills particularly for examination classes.
2. The Hot Seat
If you use coursebook or other related reading material, you will notice that the reading is on the same page of the questions. One thing that I like to do is crop the reading and just copy this for learners and then remove the questions from the page. So learners only have the reading at their disposal. What they don’t have are any questions. You tell students that they are going to have a quiz in a certain amount of time and during this time, they must memorise the reading as much as possible: all facts and information. You monitor and help learners with any vocabulary they have issues they may encounter. After the time is up, put students into two groups and nominate a learner from one group to come to the front of the classroom and to sit in a chair facing the other students. You need to create at least 10 questions to check comprehension of the reading but students will not have access to this reading at this point during the lesson. Once you have the student in the ‘hot seat’, you then ask all questions to him or her. The student is likely not to remember everything and then you choose another student from the other group, then repeat the questions. The student/group who can answer all questions is the winner.
3. Reading Relay
One slightly fun activity to get students up and walking around is to stick up the reading around the walls in the classroom or even better stick it up in the corridor outside the classroom. Students are placed into to pairs and they you give them a list of questions about the reading but they must not take any pens, smartphone or the questions to the reading. One person from the group memorises a question, walks to the reading and then scans for the answer, memorises the answer, returns to their partner and then dictates the answer. Their partner then memorises a question and repeats the activity. The first group to complete this task correctly is the winner. After students have finished you could then check questions as a whole-class activity and getting students to nominate themselves to answer questions when checking with the class.
4. Jigsaw Reading
This activity requires some additional preparation but the learners will really enjoy it. If you have a text which you are preparing to use in a lesson, you could split it up between two groups – one group will have some key information missing while the other group has other key information missing. The whole process of this reading is to get each group to write questions to find out the missing information which the other group will have in their reading. For example, it could be about a famous person (musician, actor/actress or politician) and within the reading. I usually board the following to provide an example:
Student A: Michael Parkinson is an English ________ (1) who was born on 28 March 1935.
Student B: Michael Parkinson is an English broadcaster who was born on ________ (2).
I then ask students what the question could be for each missing piece of information and then elicit and write up the question up on the whiteboard. The good thing about this type of reading is that it prepares learners to critically question their reading and think of suitable question forms for any missing information. This type of reading best works best for famous people or places.
5. Shuffled Reading
Your students receive a block of text, read it and then have to answer questions about it. Seems a bit boring to be honest, so why not spice it up by breaking down that reading into nuggets of information which could be reorganised? All you need to do is type up your text but then after each sentence or so add in a couple of line breaks. In the end you will have your text spread over a couple of pages with space between each sentence or two which could then be cut-up and then shuffled up. What do students have to do? Well simple really! They have to reorganise the reading into order. You may ask what students will benefit from this. They will be looking for cohesive devices or linkers between the previous sentence and the next one. You could demonstrate this task by handing out the shuffled and cut-up text to each and asking them to look for the first sentence. Once you have elicited the correct first sentence, you could tell students – as I usually tell them – “I have had a really bad day and cut up all your reading today. Could you please help me and put it back in order?” Once students have agreed on the order, you could reorganise the groups so one person goes to another group and then compares their text to their own. A final activity could be the standard reading comprehension questions but by this time, the students will have focused heavily on the reading that the questions are pretty much redundant.
What are your favourite reading activities? Do you have any special ideas to spice up the reading and make it a bit more interesting for language learners?