So this year I was particularly happy that my students are taking an exam that actually requires reading a book and talking / writing about it. I knew that they were not going to read it themselves and of course I was not going to write the summary and the characters' description all by myself, so I decided to devote 15- 20 minutes in each lesson to read a chapter, stopping in some points and asking my students what would happen next and talk about the characters. My students in return had to write a small summary as homework.
What did I gain from that?
First of all, I got my students to read the book! Not only did we finish it, but they were also curious about the ending of the story. They were eager to make guesses, to change the endings...
Of course I do not work with all my students on exams that need book-reading, but this gave me the idea to include short stories or even fairy tale books.
We don't have to dedicate the whole hour to the book, 10 minutes are enough. When the students finish the book or the story, they can have a discussion about the characters, the story, if they liked it or even make a power point presentation. They could also do some short research on the author and talk about their other books, and make comparisons.
I also use short stories at special occasions like Halloween or Christmas. Last year we held a horror story competition and this year we read scary stories, trying to make them even scarier, changing what happened and talking about what they would do if they where the main character of the story. This week's project was a fairytale; my students and I read one fairytale each and talked about what was happening and then wrote a summary.
Unfortunately not many students and teachers can be in the classroom right now and classes are mostly online, synchronous or asynchronous.
All these activities I suggested above can be adopted in online classes as well. Reading a small chapter of a book can be done by the teacher in the last 10 minutes of you lesson. Students can take notes and write a summary for homework and discuss what they read in the next class.
Another alternative is to separate students into pairs or small groups (if there is a large number of students), so they can read to each other different chapters of the book. When they are all done, they describe to the whole class what they read about and try to put the chapters into the correct order.
An asynchronous task that I have tried with my students, is reading a fairytale on video, turning the pages of the book and showing the pictures of story. (Here is what a student of mine has prepared as a project, translating her book into the English language: https://youtu.be/-nRvy6BgHgs)
It is not exam material I know. But students can practice vocabulary, pronunciation, reading skills, understanding, and writing skills.
When you talk about devoting, say, 10 minutes to reading in class, is it on their own quietly or reading aloud in turns?