Activities to Encourage Reading in ESL

Ana Salado López
Level: Compulsory and Non-Compulsory Secondary Education
Bearing in mind that, as a rule, our students have little reading experiences and,
moreover, the activities in this paper are intended to be done in the second language,
the teachers’ task becomes essential in that they have to provide the students with
sources where they can find materials that fit their level and tastes in order to create a
At the beginning of the school year the teacher, in agreement with other department
colleagues, asks the students to choose a reader each from a list of adapted classics
and stories designed by the teachers implied in the project. They will acquire it either
buying or downloading the text. See the sample books belonging to the intermediate
and some web pages devoted to the adaptation of literature for children and teenagers
After at least three rounds each student chooses his/her favourite text and introduces it
to his/her partners. The presentation will go from the outside to the inside, from its
appearance to its content: the students will tell the class why it is his/her favourite book,
how the characters are… Having finished the presentation the partners ask everything
they want about the book.
Then, the books will be put to the vote. Every student will give them from
If the stars a book gets doubles the number of students it will join the ‘Classroom
The main objective of this activity is to awaken the students’ interest for reading
through the excitement classmates show when introducing their favourite book.
The ‘Classroom Library’ establishes a loan system controlled by the students within the
classroom. Apart from the elaboration of a chart telling who has each book in every
moment, inside each one the students will keep a card like this below accounting for
the main information and the register of borrowings:
I, ____________________,
this book on __________.
I, ____________________,
this book on __________.
I, ____________________,
this book on __________.
I, ____________________,
this book on __________.
The students will use one session a week, always the same day, to get their books and
spend half an hour reading them, just for pleasure.
These books will be exposed in the School Book Day around the 23rd of April. The
students of all the level groups will elaborate in pairs a poster of one of the books which
will be placed next to it at the fair. As all the students attend the exposition, these
readers can be shared by all the groups.
Telling stories that interest the students eases their role as hearers, readers and later
writers of what their imagination produces. But we can also ask the students to tell their
own new stories about characters known for them. The fact that the interlocutors keep
listening, showing interest and interacting enthusiastically helps both them and the
In some Internet sites, like Storynory, the students can hear the tale while reading it so
that they learn how to perform paying attention to intonation and voice performance:
Furthermore there are others, and very enjoyable, ways to aim for our objectives such
as acting out the story: the teacher and then the students can gesture or prepare a little
play. The creation of a Classroom Playhouse will also improve the students’ creativity
and personal initiative.
Every year there are plenty of anniversaries to celebrate. This year Miguel Hernández
100th birth anniversary offers us an opportunity to learn and create. As a pre-task the
students can research the poet’s biography and his stylistic features.
The teacher gives the students a translation into English of one sonnet by Miguel
Hernández. In groups of four they will have to translate it into Spanish trying to cope
with rhyme and poetic style as much as possible. They can use a dictionary of
synonyms to reach their greatest. Then, all the poems are read aloud.
The sun, the rose, and the child
were born the flowers of the day.
Things of every day
suns, flowers, new children.
Tomorrow I’ll be no more:
someone else will be
be real.
I’ll be no more, beyond
those who wish for their memory.
The flower of a day is tallest
at the foot of the smallest thing.
Flower of light, the lightning flash,
and flower of the moment, time.
Between the flowers you went.
Between the flowers I remain.
After that, a copy of the original poem is handed out for the students to learn how
Miguel Hernandez mastered the words and check how much they get close!
El sol, la rosa y el niño
flores de un día nacieron.
Los de cada día son
soles, flores, niños nuevos.
Mañana no seré yo:
otro será el verdadero.
Y no seré más allá
de quien quiera su recuerdo.
Flor de un día es lo más grande
al pie de lo más pequeño.
Flor de la luz el relámpago,
y flor del instante el tiempo.
Entre las flores te fuiste.
Entre las flores me quedo.