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Friday, June 25, 2010

Extensive Reading In The Classroom

My teenage students often admit to not enjoying reading in their native language or in English. For that reason, I decided not to
assign reading a book or a chapter for homework long ago after
finding out it was useless as only four or five out of 15 students
read them and were ready for the class tasks I had planned to strengthen, reinforce, confirm and deepen their knowledge of the
English language. Image courtesy of Free Foto.Com

In my attempt to adapt the use of extensive reading, I've decided to make use of adapted readers that include a CD recording, which is highly motivating as it includes sound effects.

For my upper intermediate students I chose The Phantom of the Opera and to introduce the reader I made my students watch the movie trailer of the latest film based on the book. After that, we found out data about the author: Gaston Leroux.

On different classes throughout the learning year, we listened to chapter after chapter and used it as a talking point in class while highlighting on the board significant data like names of the characters, relevant events, settings and so on.

So as to systematise the tasks I've prepared some material to upload in the blogs/wikis I share with my students: The Phantom of the Opera

How do you implement extensive reading your classes? I'd like to hear about it.


  1. Motivating students to read is a tough, especially among struggling readers. I like your use of audio recordings of the readings. Many times these versions are more engaging for students and in the case of language learners, can serve as great models of what fluent reading sounds like in the target language. Although I don't teach extensive reading in my setting, I do recommend using English texts that portray life among American teenagers or popular Young Adult literature to motivate your students. For example, the Twilight Series and Diary of a Wimpy Kid are popular among teens and tweens here in the U.S. There are also great titles written in English by Latino authors such as Esperanza Rising and some works written by Gary Soto. While these titles may be below your students' reading levels, they are a great start in getting your students interested in reading.

    Good luck and thanks for sharing your insights!

  2. Thanks, Elvira, for your comment. It's very kind of you to offer suggestions as to what readers teenagers may find interesting. I'll take them into account for future choices.

  3. Your approach is that of sprinkling sugar over your assignments to overcome student resistance, and your students are very rightly resisting your assignments, rightly because they're probably viewing them as a choice between their authenticity and an putting on an external performance. You have to let their motivation be intrinsic, have to let THEM choose readings that actually do matter to their real lives. I recommend Ira Shor's Empowering Education.

  4. My students at the university choose from among 100 graded readers the one they want to read. They read for about half an hour and have to fill in a format asking basically for the gist of what they have read. This can be complemented by extensive reading online. I suggest several links (from articles to book reviews) in a wiki. They choose what they want to read and fill in a format in this same wiki where I keep track of what they have read. I evaluate their answers at random all along the semester.

  5. Thanks for your comment Scott!I'm afraid I haven't mentioned the fact that one of the instructions I received from the language school was to choose a reader for the class. The school has a collection of readers the students can borrow and read. However, very few students feel the intrinsic motivation to take a book home.
    I'm grateful for your recommendation.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Miguel! Thanks for sharing your experience. I believe I can adopt a similar project next year. You've been mostly inspiring.

  7. Hi Marisa,

    I agree with Elvira that motivating students to read can be tricky, & I also think the use of audio recordings is a great idea!

    I mainly teach low level adult beginners, which means that the reading texts I use in class have to be very, very simple. I tend to write the stories myself rather than use graded readers, as most of the organisations that I work for don't have libraries - plus books for adult beginners are few and far between and can be difficult to get hold of at the best of times!

    More often than not, I'll start by devising a simple text that is related to the vocabulary area that we are covering in class to raise the students' interest, and then create a range of interactive and paper-based activities around it.

    For example, here's a very simple text I wrote as an introduction to reading for a group of adult beginners that worked very well in class, about a man who won first prize on an Indian game show:

    Once we had covered the story in lessons, I then followed it up by bookmarking some interactive stories for them to read in their spare time.

    An online resource I like a lot and recommend for use with beginners is Starfall, which has a really good collection of very simple stories based on myths and fables that are suitable for both children and adult learners:

    In my experience, the students that read between lessons tend to make much quicker progress than the ones that don't, and so I always do my best to encourage them, though like you, I don't always succeed!


  8. Thanks for your comment, Sue! It's really insightful! Thanks for the links! The story you've made up is great and the link to the readers is lovely.

    I agree with you as to the importance of reading. I believe it adds a lot to the learning of a second language. Let's not give in our effort to make our students read.