Teaching Reading

Module 3. Teaching Reading

Reading is a complex cognitive process of decoding symbols in order to derive the meaning. It provides plenty of learning material and is one of the best sources of comprehensible input, i.e. language students can understand, but which is supposed to be slightly higher their level. In foreign language teaching educators differentiate between extensive and intensive reading.

Extensive reading is either reading for pleasure or for information students are interested in. Teachers should encourage their students to read on their own so that they keep on learning and being exposed to the foreign language. Some useful extensive reading sources are graded readers, books ranging from the beginner’s level to advanced. When students can choose the book that interests them and is their level of English, they are more likely to be engaged in reading and this, therefore, can yield better results. It is a good idea to have a collection of reading books in class so that there could be a designated time/days of the week when they can spend 10-15 minutes reading extensively. Extensive reading can be followed by filling out the book report forms (see an example below for intermediate level) and the speaking activity where they retell what they have read to their partner.

Book Title  
Gist of the story  
Who is your favourite character and why?  
Would you act in the same way as the main character?  
What is your favourite event in the story?  
What did you enjoy most in the story?  
Would you recommend it to your friend? Why/ Why not?  


Intensive reading is the one the students are often asked to complete in class. It usually involves reading a short text and completing a series of exercises based on it. The purpose of intensive reading is to train students to get certain information from the text. When they have to focus on understanding general information it is called reading for gist, or skimming, as it involves reading quickly to get the main ideas first before going into detailed reading. Scanning, on the other hand, is reading for specific information, such as the names of people, dates, places etc. When working with the text, it is recommended to start with skimming or scanning tasks first and move on to more specific language-related exercises on vocabulary and grammar later. Texts should be appropriate for students’ level, related to different topics and, if possible, taken from different sources (ads, newspaper articles, stories, reports, poems etc). Successful intensive reading skill strategies acquired in English language classroom can translate into high reading scores in IELTS, TOEFL, CAEL, CELPIP or any other English language proficiency exam.

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