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.


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.

  • 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.


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

  • 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.


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.

  • 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.


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

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Tanya Trusler

Tanya is a freelance editor and writer with an extensive background as an ESL teacher. She edits lesson plans, creates new materials, and writes weekly blog posts for ESL-Library and Sprout English. Her company is Editing to a T. Follow her on Twitter (@tanyatrusler) and Google Plus.   Website:   Twitter: @tanyatrusler