5 + 5 Tips on Extensive Reading in the Classroom

Nora Nagy

Classroom reading programmes involving  your whole class can be the simplest and most powerful initiatives you carry out in your English class. They work with all levels and number of participants, and are often a good way to plan differentiated classroom strategies. Here are some points to keep in mind when planning an Extensive Reading Programme.

What is Extensive Reading? Check out our list of Reading words to find out about it.

Principles of Extensive Reading

1 Present reading as a reward.

Reading becomes a relaxing routine activity. For example, if you have students who did very well in a test and you would like to do some revision with the others, you can let the faster students find a comfortable place in the classroom to read independently.

2 Variety is the spice of reading.

You will need a class library with graded readers, cartoons, graphic novels, magazines and newspapers in English. This classroom library should be updated from time to time. Students like colourful, nicely illustrated readers with exciting, original stories. You will find classics, original fiction, short fiction and graphic novels in the Helbling Readers Red Series and Blue Series. You will also need someone from each class to manage the library. This can be a rotating role.

3 Freedom to choose independently.

Let your students choose the stories they would like to read, as freedom to select their own texts can be the biggest motivation. Of course you can monitor and support the book selection and advise on the right level. For ideas on the right reading level and book selection, check out these posts: Reading level and book selection tips and Choosing the right reader.

4 In the right place at the right time.

A memorable and fun reading experience is always more easily associated with a comfortable spot in a calm environment. Ask your students to feel free to sit comfortably for reading. This part of the lesson should be as much fun and as relaxing as possible. You can create a reading corner in your classroom.

You can vary the time you dedicate to Extensive Reading:

- Some teachers dedicate 15 minutes to independent silent reading during each lesson.

- It is also a great idea to dedicate a whole lesson each week or month depending on the number of lessons you have with that class. This will make reading feel more like a kind of reward as well as allowing students to really get into it.

- Using graded readers can be a great way to keep your fastest students busy. It might mean that they have to interrupt their reading from time to time, but a 10-minute reading session is also worthwhile.

- Use graded readers with weaker students. Give them a 15-minute reading time while you are working with a different group.

5 No testing.

One of the most important features of Extensive Reading that it focuses on reading for pleasure or information. Forget about the usual vocabulary or comprehension questions we are used to in course books and many so-called readers. There are other ways to follow your students reading progress.


1 Background knowledge activation

Background or prior knowledge has a major role in your students’ comprehension of any text. By talking about the topic of the book, you will help them not only with vocabulary activation, but you will draw them into the story itself.

This can happen during book selection, too. If you decide to read the same book with all the class use our Judge a book by its cover worksheets to help you think about possible content. You can also use a projector or an IWB to show your class the sample PDF files or cover images  so that they can see the images better.

It's also a good idea to talk about the title, the chapter headings or the illustrations. You can use them for revision too. Talk about the title and ask your students to come up for a short story for that title. Then ask them to check the chapter headings to see if they would change their predictions.

2 ‘If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.’ (Seneca)

Define the purpose of reading. If we know why we are reading a text, what we expect from it and what outcome we are looking for, our reading experience will be much more successful.

Ask your students why they want to read a story:

  • for fun?
  • for information?
  • for new ideas about a subject I am interested in?
  • for the thrill of it?

3 Do not forget about follow-up activities.

Let’s admit that sometimes we are so pleased that our students have finished a reader that we do not spend enough time  discussing their reading experiences.

- Remember that this can be the best source of contextualized speaking practice as talking about your reading experience is a great way to practise  fluency.

- Prof. Jack Richards points out in his article Communicative Language Teaching Today (p.15) that role plays can be great fluency and accuracy activities in the classroom. Try our Role play activities and download our role play cue cards (Sample formsThe Hound of the BaskervillesThe Great Gatsby).

4 Keep track of your students' reading progress.

  • Use a class reading diary.
  • Ask your students to keep a diary.
  • Use our Book Club Reading Diary. You can download it here.
  • In the reading corner of your classroom, set up a Book Board. You can create a colourful board with the book covers, students’ creative work about reading, book recommendations and maybe a chart with the students names, levels and books they have read.
  • You can ask your students to make a poster, a book cover or any kind of artwork about the book they liked a lot. If they cannot prepare a poster, they can print one or create a collage using photos and their own drawings.

5 Here are two more activities you can try.

  • Mini presentations

Once a month you can have a lesson when students share their reading experiences by preparing a short presentation about the book, the author, the setting, a film adaptation or a song  - anything related to the story.

  • Book reviews and book recommendations

Ask your students to write fun book recommendations about the books they have read. Draw attention to the style of blurbs, but let them write freely, without any limitations.

You can find out more about Extensive Reading on the website of the Extensive Reading Foundation.