One of the skills to teach in the foreign language classroom is Reading. With the development of technology and with the changing interests of people it can be quite a challenge to make the acquisition of this skill interesting, fun, motivational and educational at the same time.

Students mostly prefer video watching, talking, even listening, hence, Reading and Writing are getting less and less attention in our classrooms. This brings us to the point of students not having enough practice in the mentioned skills and lacking the experience when faced with situations they need to use it (school exams, international exams, academic tasks, etc.)

Today we will talk about some post reading activities that can ease the ‘pain’ of reading and keep students motivated and interested while doing so.

Comprehension questions

All foreign language textbooks, the Internet, or any possible resource you can find that suggests a text for a foreign language learner is rich in activities like this.

There are basically two types of comprehension questions — True and False (T/F) and open ended . If you ask me, this is an effective way of checking understanding, it helps the students to form skills necessary to pass international English language exams ( IELTS, Toefl, etc. ) by drawing the answer from the text. However, it is not fun at all to answer a list of questions the answers to which you can find merely by identifying some key words in the questions and looking for them in the text, not to mention the fact, that some students directly copy and paste the answers form the text without paraphrasing and/or analysing the context.

What can we do instead?

  • If you decide to choose T/F types of questions, make sure the students support their answers by facts from the texts. They will need to tell you why the answer is true, what makes them think so, which information from the text supports their answer. The key here, is to tell them not to use the exact wording of the text, but to paraphrase the answer using their active vocabulary. This will help them pick the key words from the text and put it in a more natural, self-generated context.
  • If you want to stick to the comprehension questions, try to create an appropriate amount of challenge for the students. Avoid super easy questions (considering the level of student language competency of course) like “When did he finish the book?” (LAST WEEK). Instead, try to create questions that will make the students look deeper in the text, not just for names and dates. E.g. “How did he feel after finishing the story and why?”. In this case students can find the ‘how’ in the text and use their own language to explain the why. Basically, what you need to do is to get the students to think about the text and try to analyze it.
  • Another interesting type of activity is to ask the students to finish the sentences after reading a text. If your text was about e.g. John’s last holiday , you can use a question like this: “When John bought the tickets he suddenly realized…”. What you do here, is to manipulate the text and encourage the students to paraphrase the story using their own words/language. You can make this more challenging, by dividing the students into 2 or 3 groups and tell them that they will need to come up with the closest possible wording to the text when continuing the sentence without actually looking back at the text. This exercises students’ memory, gets them use the key words from the text and triggers their competitiveness. We all know that competition can bring the silent classroom to life 🙂
  • Another interesting competitive game can be “Who wants to be a Millionaire”. Here the students will need to play in two teams. One member from each team will sit next to the teacher and take turns to answer the questions about the text. The one who answers correctly scores points for the team and can earn a prize at the discretion of the teacher. You can even place a buzzer/a bell for them on the table to hit if they think they know the answer to the question.
  • Another nice idea is to ask the students to create questions about the text themselves. To do this, you will need to divide the students into groups of 2 or three and time them to generate as many comprehension questions as possible. Next you can gather the questions, regroup the students and distribute the questions back for them to comment on. Later you can choose some really good questions the students had come up with and ask for open class feedback (OCFB) to summarize the text.
  • Students put paragraphs, pictures connected to the story, events in the right order. Students might also match pictures and sentences from the text or characters and their statements.

Retelling the text

A really cool activity I have been using for a very long time is retelling the text on behalf of the characters involved. This makes the reading process more fun, as the students need to remember and filter the information they are going to share. When the students are done reading, assign a character form the text to them and ask them to tell the story in open class/in groups (depending on your class size) from the point of view of that character. This works very efficiently in all age groups. For young learners you can choose fairy tales/stories. My personal favourite is the “Little Red Riding Hood”. Students have major fun in retelling the story from the perspective of the wolf, the grandmother, the hunter, etc. Same can be done for book reading sessions. I have been using “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas” recently and it is working just fine. For adult learners it can be any Business related text.

Acting out

A similar activity to the above mentioned one is the acting out of the story. When the students finish reading a passage, a story, or a book ask them to pretend to be the characters from the text and act out a further dialogue, let’s say a meeting after 10 years in the same spot. This can get very creative and fun in all age groups.

Changing the Story

Another really creative thing you can do is asking the students to read the story, summarize it in open class (what the story was about) and change the ending of the story. To do this, you will need to put the students in pairs, time them for 10-12 minutes and ask them to change the ending of the story in as much creative way as they can. You can challenge them more and assign different tasks to different pairs; Pair 1 will need to create a happy ending, Pair 2 — a sad one.

Well, here were some ideas that you can definitely try and see how they boost the motivation and interest towards the reading slot of the class. The students get really excited to see what you have decided to pull out that day.

Anyway, whatever you do, make sure though that the target vocabulary from the text is being used by the students and that they have learnt some new phrases and words by the end of the slot.

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