Published 10th January 2019


Let’s be real, reading is usually not the most popular of our English as a Foreign Language lessons. Our students always seem to enjoy speaking and vocabulary lessons, even grammar lessons – if they are done right – but reading is not usually a favourite. It might be because it’s labour-intensive, or because it’s an individual sport or because it can be quite challenging. Whatever the reason, we need to find ways to make reading more attractive to our students.

How can we personalise reading?

We all know about personalising our EFL lessons. We choose topics that are relevant to our learners, we replace materials which are inappropriate and we direct our discussions in ways which our students would appreciate. This means that we tailor our lead-in and response activities to our students. But is there more that we can do in terms of the reading text and task itself?

The one thing we can do to personalise a reading lesson is to give our students more control. Reading is not a group task and each student approaches reading differently. If we use a blanket approach to reading (You’ve got 5 minutes to read the text and then you must answer questions 1 to 10) we run the risk of alienating weaker students or boring stronger ones.  Giving our students control over what exactly they are doing can get them more motivated to complete the task because they are doing it on their own terms.

Activities to personalise reading

  • Give your students free rein on the lesson. Let them decide which coursebook activities they would like to do related to the reading text. They don’t need to do everything – they can leave out an entire set of questions if they don’t like them or they can just ignore one or two questions in a set. You should find that going over the answers as a class will result in dealing with all the questions regardless (except for the terrible ones which you would’ve skipped anyway).
  • As they read, ask students to highlight any particular sentence or paragraph they found difficult or confusing. Before dealing with the answers to a task, let them compare their highlighted sections in pairs or groups and ask each other for clarity.
  • Make sure there are questions which relate to the students’ own experience of or in relation to the text. Questions which evoke a personal response both to the task and the content of the text will cause a stronger reaction than purely objective fact-finding questions.
  • After a lead-in activity but before reading, let your students create questions they would like to know the answers to from the text. In this way they are reading the text to really find answers they want to know, not just reading for the sake of it.
  • Let your students choose the reading. If you are not totally bound to a coursebook, let students find a reading they would like to discuss. They can give it to you beforehand so you can plan appropriate activities around it. Choosing the reading will automatically mean they are invested in the lesson.

Reading is an essential skill in learning a language. That doesn’t mean it has to be boring! Personalising reading tasks is just one way you can maintain interest levels while tackling this challenging skill.