101 Ideas for Extensive Reading and Listening

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Some teachers want their learners to just read. There are others who want to use the opportunity to conduct activities of different kinds.  This section focuses on activities which you can use with learners involved in your Extensive Reading program. But read this book first.

Before starting the Extensive Reading program

Find out each others’ reading history. What do they read? How different / similar is reading in L1 and L2? (Discussion or questionnaire) Ask students to bring in a sample of what they read in L1 (or L2).

Discuss their beliefs about reading. Is it best to read slowly and carefully or quickly? Do you have to understand everything? Is it ok to use a dictionary? Where’s the best place to read? Who should decide what I read?  etc.

Give learners a questionnaire about their reading history and preferences (even in their mother tongue).

Discuss the best ways to learn a foreign language. Ask them what they need to do to read well in English.

Discuss genres of writing, such as drama, thriller, detective, etc. Explain the difference between fiction and non-fiction.

Familiarize learners with the library

Ask learners to sort the books into categories. For example, those that look interesting and those that don’t; those that look difficult or easy, and so on.

Ask learners to read a page from different books and then sort them into levels by approximate difficulty. This familiarizes them with their task for selecting appropriate books.

Ask them to help label the books and put on the book codes, make the book boxes and help with photocopying record sheets.

With younger students you can have a ‘treasure hunt’ where they look for books with certain titles or covers, or character’s names in books, etc.

Ask them to help build a book display stand, book posters and wall charts – all in English.

Choosing books / reading material

Point out features of books, blurbs, glossaries, comprehension sections etc.

Ask students to predict the story genre from the cover.

Ensure the books are easy to identify by level (and genre?). use color coding on the spines. Ask students to help.

Students assess whether a book at the level they’re reading is higher or lower than the average book at that level. Reassign the level as necessary.

Ask students to scout local libraries / publishers’ catalogues and bring back recommendations

Students make ‘genre corner’ displays -.e. a selection of horror stories with posters, or romances etc.


Use the graded readers as free enjoyable reading / listening with no tests and follow-up language work or reports

Read stories aloud to students (either as they read) or as a listening task. Esp good for younger learners.

‘Buddy reading’. 2 students select the same book and exchange impressions.

Building reading fluency

Try re-reading 10% faster.

Read against the clock.

Race read your partner to a certain part of the book (make sure they understand it)

Read for 10 minutes, then re-read the same section and try to go 20% further

Record your feelings of the book as you read and re-read the same story to see if your feelings are different


Use the CD with graded readers as Extensive Listening (listen 2 levels lower than their reading level)

They listen to one chapter of a story each week. Followed by discussion, comprehension and prediction activities.

Listen and repeat (shadowing). Gradually increase the speed if possible.

Study the intonation and pronunciation on the CD especially spoken dialogs and plays.

Stop at a key moment in the story and the students predict what will happen next.

Have students listen globally first (overall understanding), then re-listen for local (detailed) information.

One student listens to the story, the other reads it. Compare understanding.

Teacher reads part of the text aloud while making mistakes, students listen for errors.


Students read the same book and discuss the plot / their feelings, their favorite character / scene etc.

They make a role-play of a section from the book taking on their character and tone. Use their words or ones from the book.  Enact in front of the class.

Students enact a scene relating the same emotion of the characters (for fun, emotional scenes can be done in a different tone – e.g  a romantic moment in an exciting tone, a sad moment in a happy one.)

10 questions. If students have read the same book then one student thinks of a character or place, the other guesses using yes/no questions only. Are you old?  Do you have a sister? They have only 10 guesses.

Discuss what would be good gifts, punishments, cars, food  etc for the characters.


Re-tell the story in their own words. This is writing practice becoming speaking and listening practice. Listeners think of 2 questions as they listen

Write a different ending to the story

Re-tell the story as if it were a character’s diary

They can make a short poem about the story, or from one character to another (good for romances)

They make a map of the places in the story and follow the route

Analyze the characters based on their actions, words and so on. Who do they know is similar to them?

Write part of the story as a screenplay

Make a questionnaire based on a class reader

Write a report on places in the story (or the life of the author of a classic story)

Compare the original story with the graded reader

Compare how the same book from different publishers is different or similar.

Make a class quiz about ‘who said what?’ or other aspects of the story.

Write an imaginary day with one of the characters.

Write a letter / email to one of the characters

Write to the publisher / author telling them what you think of the book

Write a character review of their strengths and weaknesses, habits, background etc.

Assessing their reading


The ER moodle (www.moodlereader.org)– online graded reader assessment individualized to schools, classes and students

Use the tests provided by publishers – often online or in Activity Books

Write a set of 10 questions on cards for students to see. Randomly, flash them up quickly and see if they can answer quickly.

Book reports –written or oral

Record how quickly their reading speed develops. Keep a chart.


Students find key lines from the story and test each other on who said them

Award higher grades for students who read more. To do this they need to record which books they read.

Assess them on how well they write a review / report of the book (or keep a reading notebook).

Assess them on how accurately they can describe what’s in the book. Questions like What do you think of the ending? What kind of book was it? What was your favorite scene/character? catches out those who didn’t read it.

Ask them to summarize the story in exactly 50 words.

Finish the report challenge. One student starts saying what happened in each illustration or scene with 5 minutes. Listeners should ask as many questions as possible so the reader can’t finish the review.

Ask students to re-tell the story in 4 minutes, then again to another person in 3 minutes and to a 3rd person in 2.

Students say how the story relates to their life (or not)

Students draw a picture of a scene or two and re-tell what they are about

Students write a summary of the story – one event per line. They cut between each line and other students have to re-order the pieces of paper.

Pre-reading Activities (best when students all have the same book)

Put many titles on a desk and they discuss which covers are best.

They look at many covers and blurbs and then are tested on what they remember (Which story will probably have a ghost? Which story is about a ship?)

Have a ‘Book Hunt”, Make a quiz with questions they answer by finding the book. Which book has 5 stories?  Which book is s love story with Maria and Felix? Which book did David Andrews write?

Copy several illustrations form books, ask the students which book they come from and why.

Predict the story from the title and cover, art work. Predict when , where it takes lace, the characters etc.

Look at the cover and blurb, then make questions about the story before reading. They read and find the answers to their questions.

Predict the story by looking only a chapter headings

If the book is a movie or classical story, show a trailer for the movie.

For famous stories ask students what they already know about the book, author, plot etc. e.g. Romeo and Juliet, Jane Eyre, Shakespeare, The Jungle Book,  Charles Dickens.

Before-reading activities help the students to become familiar with the vocabulary they will meet in the reader. This can be done as a class or by asking students to familiarize themselves with this vocabulary before they read the book. Here is an example of activities from

Prediction activities help build and reinforce background knowledge which is a vital part of the comprehension of a text. Students can predict what’s going to happen in the story using some simple activities.

Use the book title or cover to guess about the story.

Use the short summary on the back of a reader to guess what the story is about.

Ask learners to make a list of vocabulary they expect in that story. If they find them they check them off.

Teacher puts key words on the board and learners try and guess what the story is about.

Ask them to predict the story from the chapter headings (if there are any).

Learners make true/false predictions about the story. The students then read and check.

While reading / listening activities (keep short and simple)

Make notes on the main characters’ personality and actions as they read for later analysis

If they are listening to a story, stop them at key moments and they imagine what sounds the characters  can hear, and what they may see and smell

Make comprehension questions at different cognitive levels

Literal – Who fell off the cliff?  What time did John arrive?

Logical inference – Who is he waiting for? Why doesn’t he take the bus? Who probably feels tired?

Opinion – Is he doing the right thing? Would you have done that if you were her?

Lead to personal experience – How do you travel to work? Have you been to this place?

Stop and write questions a detective / reporter / a character may want to ask. Read on to find out.

Have students read the same book with different tasks. – word and phrase hunter , character recorder, plot keeper, culture finder. After reading, they share and compare.

After reading a chapter the teacher makes some true/false questions. The team with the most correct answers wins.

Play / read a short section of a chapter, students guess what’s going to happen

Pick out key sentences from the story. Who said it and why?

While-reading activities take place at any stage where the learner is still reading the book. These activities may be continuous activities, such as keeping a reading journal or predicting what comes in the next section of the reader

Students keep a log of the main characters and their relationships in a visual ‘web’ diagram starting with the story title in the middle. As they read, they add the add descriptions of the characters, settings and events. Below is an example.

Two students each have a different story book, of approximately the same level. After reading the first chapter of their book, they relate the events to their partner. They then exchange books and the read the second chapter of their partner’s book. They then relate the events in Chapter Two and exchange and repeat with Chapter Three and so on.

Learners keep a log of the plot as they are reading, for example, by summarizing each chapter in a single sentence after they read it, or keeping a note of the key events as they happen. However, because not all stories are linear (with flashbacks, and two or more things happening at the same time) this task can be challenging for lower level learners.

Learners record new words (or idioms and other expressions) they meet when reading (or after reading). The teacher can set them a goal (for example, 10 words or expressions per book) or let them decide as they read. However, just writing words down doesn’t mean they have been learnt. Learners need to review them. Here is an example of how a learner might record a word and related information.

After reading activities (allow them to check what they understood  and practice the language)

Discuss if the title, art work and cover match the story

They retell the story as a chain. Student 1 says the first event in one sentence, the second the next and so on.

Write an ordered summary of the story in one line sentences. Cut it up and students re-order it.

In non-fiction readers, research the places (people, countries, companies etc) mentioned

Write a review and post it on the web

After reading a book, they watch the movie (if available). They discuss the differences.

Photocopy the art or chapter titles from the book, they put it in order or use them to re-tell the story using them

Give a list of adjectives describing characters from the book (daring, stubborn), the decide who it is

Predict what happens after the end of the story, or write a synopsis of the sequel

Play ‘who am I?’ as students guess who others are talking about. This could be yes / no questions only.

Students pretend to be a character and are interviewed afterwards – especially good with crime stories.

The make a time-line of events – useful for stories with flashbacks

Transfer information from the text to a map, chart or table (useful for non-fiction work)

Re-write / re-tell part (or all) of the story from a different character’s perspective.

Analyze each key moment and decide if you would have done that in the same situation.

Students find their favorite picture / scene / chapter and tell others about it.

Students write a letter to one of the characters in the story

Make a profile of the characters – their habits, hobbies, what they eat, their work, clothes etc.

Students research something form the book – Christmas, a festival  etc.

Musical chairs. Students sit in a circle facing the middle. One person stands in the middle and asks question such as If you know the main character’s name, change chairs Students race to the empty chairs. The one left standing makes the next question. E.g. If you read book xyz, change chairs.

Learners re-read the book, then listen to it (or watch the video), or vice versa. Here are some suggestions for some activities.

Re-read the book looking for things such as ‘cultural information’; ‘good ideas’; ‘examples of being a good person’, and others.

Re-read the book to look for specific language, such as emotions, nouns, verbs, and so on.

Build reading speed by re-reading a section of the book, then re-reading it again 2-3 times.

write a short dialog or perform a skit or role-play based on one section of the book. They could also write a radio drama based on the story.

  1. Book reports

Book reports should be short. This booklet contains two examples. The book report form on page ?? is for lower level learners. The one on page ?? is for learners at a higher level. Learners can also record their book reports and thoughts in a reading journal.

Here are some other ideas on how learners can report on a book they have read.

Spoken reports. Learners can take turns giving a spoken report to the class. Beginners can first write a short report and read it aloud. If learners need structure in their spoken reports, they can use a photocopiable Book Discussion Sheet on page

4-3-2 reports. Students prepare a four minute report on a book for homework and give the report in class to a partner. The student then gives the same report in three minutes to a different student, and then in two minutes to a third student.

 ‘The book and me’ reports. Learners write how a book is relevant to their lives, how they identify with the characters, and whether the book taught them anything.

Poster reports. Learners create posters about a book, which are displayed on the walls around the classroom for others to see and ask questions about.

Getting students involved

Ask students to categorize their books into genres and note this information inside the book cover.

Have a library with interesting books, students help select the titles from publisher’s catalogues

Ask students to be ‘library monitors’ – helping check out, return and shelve books, make displays etc..

Ask them to donate books if they buy them. They write ‘Donated by xxx, date’ inside

They raise money for the library by selling food, holding a readathon or asking for donations at the school festival etc..

Get them to discuss if the book is the same level as other books at that level, suggest re-leveling books

Ask them to make a class/ school blog on a website with reviews and recommendations

Put ‘review cards’ inside each book cover for students to rate the book with stars of smiley faces

Students make a poster advertising a book they read. Put them on the board or wall for them to explain.

Students vote on the top ten books of the semester

Get students to help you build a reading lounge somewhere in the school.

Making native text easier

Bring in (or ask students to find) newspaper cuttings, magazine articles, website prints etc. the students may like. They select a different one each. Students look up words they don’t know and write on the text in their language. They explain the text to another student. Student 2 can now read it easily as the first student graded it. Put all the papers in the middle of the room and student 3 takes it home. Repeat for the rest of the semester.

Language work

Copy a passage from the book focusing on a particular vocabulary or grammatical feature. Blank out examples of it and students fill them in. They read the book to check.

Students collect unknown words, expressions, patterns, collocations, idioms and phrases from the story (a piece of paper for each one) and put them in aWord Bank for later study (or in a vocabulary journal).

Learn the glossary items before reading

Do the exercises at the back of the book (or from downloadable worksheets)

They make lists of words / phrases they don’t know as they read

They find examples of alliteration (six swimming seals), metaphor (he has a heart of gold ), and simile (as big as a mountain)

If two students read the same book, they can make a bi-lingual vocab test for their partner.