James Taylor: A Low Prep, Always Effective Reading Lesson

I have a kind of formula for reading lessons that I find works with any type of text and any level. It requires very little preparation beyond finding a text, and you can get your students to do that if you like.

Here's the basic version:

  • Discussion
  • Comprehension questions
  • New and useful vocabulary
  • Follow up activity

In a bit more detail, it goes like this:

  1. Give the students some discussion questions to get them interested in the topic of the reading.
  2. Get the students to write their own comprehension questions. You can help them do this by giving them the headline, showing them a picture, or telling them the theme in a sentence or two, although it's important that you don't say too much and make it too easy for them. Ask them to write questions that they would like the answers to. Give feedback on their questions (but don't give them the answers!).
  3. Give them the text and and ask them to find the answers to their questions. Check the answers as a class. If they can’t find the answer, it’s no problem, the fact that they had to look for it is the most valuable thing.
  4. Ask them to read the text again, and while they do so they should underline / highlight any words, phrases or sentences that they would like to check, or things that they think are useful and/or interesting. Give them the chance to share these together and help each other to understand the text. They can use their dictionaries and check with you to make sure they understand everything. Put the things they have found that you think are most useful on the board. I always try to make sure we go beyond just picking out new words, and look at interesting collocations, phrases and sentence structures.
  5. Do some kind of follow up activity that gives the students a chance to engage with the theme and talking points that come out of the reading, as well as giving them a chance to practice new vocabulary and structures learned. This could be a piece of writing as homework, a project in class or anything that you think your students would find beneficial.
(You may have noticed that I didn't include any skimming and scanning activities. This is because I am not convinced of their usefulness. I'm not going to go into why here, but you can read more about this here, thanks to Chris Ozog, and here, thanks to Russell Mayne.)
I’ve used this format countless times with all levels and different ages and it never lets me down. The students are more engaged with the text because firstly, they have to answer their own questions and secondly, because have the opportunity to investigate the language that they want to. They also enjoy the sense of autonomy it gives them over their own learning, something that seems to be very motivating for them.
Average: 5 (2 votes)

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