The EFL / ESL reading class
- a model lesson plan


Even if each lesson is different, and the same lesson may require different approaches with different classes, there is an underlying model that can be used as a lesson plan template for most reading classes.

by Andrew Rossiter

Page index : The importance of reading skills The five stage lesson plan

Foreword: This article looks at the teaching of EFL / ESL reading skills to students in secondary / tertiary education and language schools.

Developing reading skills is the no.1 key to literacy

Different people need to acquire foreign or second languages for two fundamentally different reasons.
  • On the one hand there are those whose sole need is to master a basic spoken form of the language, just enough to make themselves understood and to understand basic utterances in  a very restricted context.
  • On the other hand there are those who (are supposed to) need to acquire the skills of literacy in second or foreign languages, which requires a much deeper knowledge of the language, covering grammar, reading and writing as well as speaking and listening skills. 

This article is aimed at the majority of  teachers in secondary education , tertiary education and language schools, whose students will generally come into the second of these two categories.

Developing students' reading skills is perhaps the most important job that English teachers undertake. Reading is fundamental to advancing students' understanding of a language and their familiarity with it, and the key to developing students' general reading skills is the study of written documents. In addition, reading  practice is also key to developing students' writing skills, their own ability to create written English that is coherent, unambiguous and grammatical.

As with all learning tasks, best results are most likely to be achieved when the content being presented in the reading lesson matches the level, interests, and abilities of students. That ought to be glaringly obvious... but it is alarming to note the number of websites and English learning textbooks that overlook this. Presenting extracts from a novel by Charles Dickens in 19th century English, or a modern text with lots of poetic descriptions and obscure vocabulary, on the pretext of providing students with "authentic" texts, is not advisable in any classes below C1 level.... and even at C1 level, discretion is vital.  A text written by an English speaker in simplified English for the benefit of language learners is no less authentic than a text written in scientific jargon for the benefit of nucelar scientists. Both are adapted to their readership, and both are authentic. "Authenticity" is not the reserve of literary texts or of texts from well-known newpapers.

So what texts are likely to produce the best results? The answer is texts that are neither too difficult nor too easy, texts that present learners with some challenges but not too many, and texts that are interesting. Interest is a vital  source of motivation, and students will derive far more value, and make more progress, if they can study texts that they are interested in.

The five stage lesson plan

There are essentially five stages to a reading  lesson based on the study of a written text.

  1. Introduction. Warm-up the class through a short discussion of the general topic to be presented. This can involve some cultural background, and can involve input from students as well as teachers. It does not need to be conducted in English; if students share a common first language, a warm-up in their own language may be a better and more beneficial preparation for the next stage, than a warm-up in English from which some students may disconnect.
  2. Preparation.  A presentation by the teacher of any important vocabulary. This should be limited to vocabulary that is is vital for a general understanding of the document. It is not necessary to make sure that students understand all the vocabulary before moving on;  we can read a text without understanding all the words. Indeed we don't think twice about this when reading in our own first language.
  3. Familiarisation. A first presentation of the document.  This can involve either a reading by the teacher, an audio of the text, or students reading the text for themselves in a limited period of time. Which method to choose will depend on the document, the teaching context, and the type of class.
  4. Exploration. This is the most important and productive stage, the text study stage during which the teacher goes slowly through the document with students, asking all kinds of relevant or interesting questions on language, vocabulary or grammar. This is the time to explain interesting or difficult points of language or content that the document illustrates, and to make sure that students understand. Some exercises, such as multiple choice grammar or vocabulary exercises, can come in at this stage.  Again depending on the context, it may be useful to take the text first in blocks, then finally as a whole unit.
  5. Conclusion - the final stage. This is the stage at which:
    a) Students' basic understanding of the text is checked, through the use of comprehension exercises, which can take a variety of forms, such as straight comprehension questions, rephrasing tasks, multiple choice exercises relating to content, question forming, and other methods.
    b)  Their deeper understanding of the text and of grammar points are tested.  This can be achieved through more expansive activities involving creative writing, reuse of information, text contraction (précis writing), finding mistakes, role-play and other activities that test or develop students' use of language and/or what they have learned from the text.

This plan or template can be applied to any reading class.

It is however important to remember that the best overall results will be achieved by using texts that present a small challenge and talk of a subject that students can be interested in. If a text presents no challenges, more able students will derive little benefit from studying it; if the challenges are too great, it is the less able students who are liable to derive little benefit from it, as they may well just switch off.

The teacher's job is to bring all the students in a class up to a target level of language proficiency by the end of a course or the end of a year. Successful teaching – which is the most satisfying form of teaching for all involved – means achieving this goal.

Linguapress.com offers a broad range of free content-rich  EFL / ESL reading texts

For a choice of B1 - B2 - C1 intermediate texts with worksheet and lesson plan information, see Intermediate teaching index.  

For C1 - C2 advanced texts, see Advanced comprehension index

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