Methodology in a nutshell: Reading comprehension

Reading in class, especially at lower levels, can be tedious and challenging for students. In real life we read a variety of texts for different reasons. We read because we want to know what Brexit will
bring, how to turn off that bloody alarm, whether the main hero of the novel eventually finds his long-lost sister or simply because we want to relax. There is no reason why we should treat reading in class differently than reading in general. Your task is to make it meaningful to your students.

  • Activate background knowledge and create interest BEFORE you hand the article to them.
  • Show pictures that can be associated with the topic, let students talk and anticipate what the text is about.
  • Ask students a few questions loosely connected with the topic and guide them towards the text.
  • Scramble the words from the title and ask students to order them to make a sensible headline.
  • Write dates or numbers from the text in one column and some facts in the second column and ask students to use their imagination and connect them.
  • Ask students directly what they know about the problem the article describes and spend some time discussing their ideas.
  • Pre-teach vocabulary especially if you worry this might be the biggest challenge.Whatever you do, the idea is to have students talk about the text before they set their eyes on it.
  • Create information gap. Even if students read for general information first; let them read with a PURPOSE. Ask one question BEFORE they start reading; it will help them focus and streamline their attention.
  • AFTER reading check if students are able to answer your question and discuss the general idea of the text.
  • Move on to more detailed activities:
    multiple choice
    detailed questions
    vocabulary exercises.

Follow up with a video on the same topic or more speaking, preferably with the new vocabulary.

Difficult vocab vs. impatient students
If your group cannot survive without knowing most words in the articles you read, respond to that need. You can do that after point 1. Ask them to skim the text and underline new vocab. Then work out the meanings of the words together and move on to point 2.

Reading aloud
Do this ONLY as a pronunciation activity (and even then read only a fragment). When asked to read aloud most students usually get nervous and cannot concentrate on the main idea as they only want
to sound English. If you start asking them questions about the text, they may feel frustrated.
Reading as homework.
Be prepared in-company students might not do their homework due to real/imagined lack of time. You may end up with a group of 4 out of whom only 1 person has read the text and translated the words, 1 person has read half of it and the remaining 2 claim they haven’t received your email. Long texts = bored students.
If you have a really long text, but you still want to have it in class, here are some ideas you can use:
* ask students to read at home – ONLY if you know you can count on them
* edit the text and present an abridged version
* divide the text into parts and assign them to your students, so that they can read and re-tell their excerpts to the rest of the class.


Hope you are enjoying our series “Methodology in a nutshell”, if you have any remarks or ideas to discuss on our blog posts, let us know by leaving a comment.

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