5 Fun Reading Activities for ESL Students

“Sometimes I don’t like the books that I’m reading.”
— Charlie Kaufman

Creating reading lessons for your class doesn’t always have to be a chore like washing dishes. Reading lessons don’t have to be a bore for your students either. Reading can be fun for all ages. It can also create opportunities for more interaction in class.

This article will outline five fun reading activities for ESL students that you can use in most classroom situations. Each activity is quick and easy to create with minimal preparation. Now, let’s examine the reading activities.

1. TV Guide Reading Activity

This activity is designed to develop students’ scanning skills. Search the internet for a chart or table outlining a TV schedule. Alternatively, this could be a team roster in sports, a sheet with various statistics, or any other genre that has a long list of information organized in a chart-type format. You could also find an infographic online to use instead.

Hand out the TV guide or whichever chart you are using to the class. Ask questions relating to the guide, such as what show is playing at a certain time.

Next, get students to ask each other similar questions in pairs or in small groups. They should scan the chart and find the details as quick as they can.

2. Timed Reading Activity

Find an article online that is appropriate for your students’ levels. The article should be something that they are interested in. Topics relating to sports, movies or current events are usually great for most people’s preferences. Make sure that the article is divided into many paragraphs and is long enough for the activity.

Give every student in the class a copy of the article. Assign a time limit of approximately 2 minutes to read one paragraph.

Next, after reading a paragraph the students discuss what they read with their partner. They can try to recall main ideas and some detailed information.

Finally, lead feedback and pick a few students to summarize the paragraph for the whole class. Repeat this process for the remainder of the article, paragraph by paragraph.

3. Jigsaw Reading Activity

Jigsaw reading activities for ESL students are generally easy to create. Search the internet for a suitable article for your students’ level. Again, it should be long enough so that you have enough material to use. It could be a news article or a short blog article based on a topic that they like.

Divide the article into approximately four sections of equal length. You could split it into more sections depending on the size of the class. Four sections are best if you split the class into four small groups of approximately four students per group.

Next, hand out one section of the article to each group. Each group reads the section silently to themselves for a few minutes.

After they have read their sections, have one member from each group form new groups with members from each of the other groups. The new groups should have a student from every old group so that they can discuss the entire article together.

Finally, in their new groups, each student should summarize their section for their group. Students can ask questions, explain vocabulary and do other critical thinking tasks.

4. Q & A Reading Activity

Questions and answer activities are ideal for most reading classes. These activities can be used with any text or supplementary reading articles that you have access to.

Divide the class into teams. You could split the class in half or into smaller groups of four.

Next, assign one section of the text for each team. Each team should then create questions based on their section of text. It could be a mixture of scanning and skimming questions. They could also be vocabulary-based questions or discussion questions.

After the students have created the questions, each group should ask the other groups their questions. Go in the order of the text, starting with the first group’s questions and ending with the last group’s questions.

You could make it even more competitive by giving the teams points for correct answers.

5. Sentence Building Reading Activity

This activity takes more preparation than the others. You can take text from any article that you find online which is appropriate for your class’s level. Paste the text into a document and set the font size to something larger than 15-point font.

The next step is a bit more time-consuming. In the document that you have created, you need to cut out all of the sentences from the article. Of course, you could just use a portion of the article since this would take time. This procedure could be something that the students do in class themselves if you have enough scissors.

Next, separate the strips of sentences in different random piles. Then, cut out the individual words and use a paperclip to keep them together. Make sure not to mix up the words with the other sentences or the activity won’t work.

In class, give the students the paperclips of attached the words. The students should then try to arrange the words into complete sentences. They can do this in pairs or groups.

After they have successfully completed one sentence, they could re-fasten the words to the paperclip and pass it to another group to try.

Other Reading Activities for ESL Students

If you would like more ideas about improving your students reading skills, visit ESL Expat for more ESL reading activities.

Did you find any of these reading activities for ESL students useful for your language classroom?

Please leave a comment below.

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