3 Encouraging students to read in English beyond the classroom

Pause for thought

Try to answer these questions about your students. If you are not sure, ask your students.

  • What do your students read in English and in other languages?
  • What do they enjoy reading?

Many students don’t read much in English beyond the textbook and the supplementary reader. They may read more in other languages, and they may enjoy reading all kinds of different texts in books, magazines or newspapers, such as articles about films and sport; informative and factual texts; comics and magazines; jokes and cartoons. A few students may have access to the internet – or perhaps will have access in the future – and may read all kinds of texts in English online.

If it is possible, you can bring these kinds of texts into the English class. You could also invite your students to select their own favourite texts to bring into class. For example, if your students enjoy cartoons, they may be able to find cartoons in an English newspaper. When students can select what they read for themselves, they are more likely to enjoy the experience (see the unit Using resources beyond the textbook).

School libraries can be a good resource if you have one. The position paper written by the National Focus Group on Teaching of English (NCERT, 2006, section 1.2.2) states that students in schools with class libraries ‘read better than those in schools where reading is restricted to monotonous texts and frequent routine tests of spelling lists’. If you don’t have a library, perhaps you can create one yourself. If possible, buy some cheap books and set up a class library. Again, if it is possible, exchange books with teachers from neighbouring schools, and encourage parents to contribute where possible. If English books are not available in your town or village, perhaps friends and colleagues who travel might be able to buy some for you.

If you or your students have access to the internet, you can find many English texts to read. You can also find resources related to many of the poems, stories, plays and writers that feature in textbooks and supplementary readers, for example audio recordings of poems and videos. You can find links to some useful online resources in Resource 6.

Activity 3: Extending students’ reading in English

Here are some activities that encourage students to read in English beyond the classroom. Select one and try it with your students. After the activity, consider how it went; did all your students participate? Did you need to intervene at any point in the activity? If so, why? How did you assess their learning in this activity?

  • A reading logbook: Students keep a diary of anything that they have read in English, including lessons from the textbook and passages from the supplementary reader. They should complete a page for each text, with information such as the name of the text, the writer, things theydid or didn’t like about the text, the character they liked best (where relevant), and so on. Encourage them to write down their thoughts and feelings about the text. They can do this in English or their home language. You could set aside one or two classes at the end of each month to discuss and share the logbooks.
  • Class competitions: Introduce regular competitions related to reading. This could be drawing a picture based on a text, telling a story, reciting a poem or writing a story or a poem. Display examples of students’ work.
  • Drama: Organise a class play. Ask the students to select or write a play (which you can help with). Students can select actors, write dialogues, make props, direct scenes and so on. Then they can perform their plays for students and teachers at the school. Parents could also be invited.
  • Inviting a guest: If possible, invite a writer from the local area to talk about writing and the benefits of reading. It doesn’t matter if the writer writes in your home language. The benefits of reading are relevant in any language.
  • A ‘Reading in English’ day: Hold a ‘Reading in English’ day with students from another class, or even from another school. Prepare different activities around reading texts from the syllabus or others. These might be reading a text or parts of a text aloud, quizzes about text, or transforming a prose text into a play, a play into a story, a story into a poem, a poem into a letter and so on. Prizes can be awarded.

Events, visits, competitions and prizes can take time and effort to organise. Perhaps you can organise them with other teachers, and colleagues from neighbouring schools. Remember that students will feel motivated by such activities, and that they will encourage to them to think positively about their English classes and learning English.

2 Helping students to maintain interest in reading a longer text