Reading Skills

There are no limits to the resources you could use for your reading lessons. Just remember to apply a little common sense when deciding what is suitable. The hardest thing to start with is that, as new teachers, you are not yet fully up to speed with being able to look at a text and being able to assess if it will be suitable for a certain level. This will come over time, and to start with there are plenty of resources where that has been already done for you.


Before you can move on to Shakespeare, you need to make sure that the basics are covered. To be able to read anything in English, the students must understand the alphabet. You can’t assume that your students know the alphabet because you could be faced with one of two issues. It could be that their own alphabet is completely different to ours, so they are learning it completely from scratch (for example Chinese students). The second problem is for those students whose alphabet is actually similar to ours, their problem is that their language has different pronunciation for the same symbols (English I is often pronounced as ee).

A way to practise the alphabet that isn’t just drilling is to incorporate well-known abbreviations or acronyms. Some examples are:

FBI – Federal Bureau of Investigation

BBC – British Broadcasting Corporation

ASAP – As Soon As Possible

PTO – Please Turn Over

RAF – Royal Air Force

WAG – Wives And Girlfriends

LOL – Laugh Out Loud

BTW – By The Way

TBC – To Be Confirmed

DVD – Digital Video Disc 


It’s entirely possible that the text may have some vocabulary the student may not know. As a teacher, it is a good idea to pre-read the text, identify vocabulary that may be a problem and decide on how you are going to deal with it. There are 3 common strategies that you could use:

  • Identify the vocabulary at the pre-teach stage, and either give explanations or elicit explanations from the students. This is especially important if you feel that the vocabulary in question is necessary to be able to understand the overall message of the text (or is necessary to be able to answer the questions).
  • Let the students read the text, and try to enhance comprehension of difficult words from the context they are used in. This is a really productive method as it gets the students to analyse. The issue is that it can fall flat if it is too hard to gain understanding and ultimately they may not understand the text.
  • Don’t deal with vocabulary at all. There is a school of thought that we want to replicate reality as much as possible. In this scenario, we leave it up to the student to decide how they will deal with difficult vocabulary. This is great with really pro-active and motivated students, but not every student has developed learning strategies and will be put off by the task.

Reading Ideas

Where to get suitable texts for reading

There are endless sources for reading texts. Here are some ideas to get you started. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but it is a start. Anything the average person reads can be used: emails, TV guide, books, reviews, articles, magazines, adverts, contracts. The list is endless.

The BBC –

The BBC has a pretty good programme for English learners. On their site, you will find various current news stories delivered through a complete range of media – text, video podcast. They are great because they have already graded the language in the story to suit a specific level.

One Stop English

Whether you decide to pay and become a member or just access the free lessons they offer, this site is fantastic for reading lessons. They take fairly current stories and design a whole lesson around the article, whilst making sure the language suits a specific level. Ideal for the lazy teacher, and even better as a back-up to keep in a file in case something goes wrong in a lesson and you need something to turn to.

Other sources:

Newspapers  obviously broad sheets may contain too difficult English and the “red tops” may be a little sensational for some groups. As a general rule, local newspapers that also try to report on national and international news are pretty middle of the road and a TEFL teacher’s best bet.

Articles – The internet is full of e-zines or article sites. In fact, some of the more popular sites really control the quality of content allowed on them and are a great resource. All you have to do is choose a relevant topic.

Lyrics – there is no better place to practise using very natural language than the lyrics of songs. Be careful with the songs you choose and be aware that you are going to have to explain the odd metaphor, or deal with the fact that some song writers take a lot of artistic licence, hence the language they use may not always be grammatically correct. But it’s fun and students enjoy it.

Books – If you take your standard Hollywood cop book, then you will usually find that, besides some of the technical terminology, the book is probably readable at intermediate (B1) level and above.

Penguin publishers have great books. They basically take the latest book and some of the classics and they change the language to adapt it for the various language levels. So you could get your pre-intermediate students to read ‘Crime and Punishment’.

The most important thing is to understand that it is actually only your imagination that is stopping you. Take the time to look on the internet and you will find a whole world of opportunity.