Published 4th April 2019


The majority of our English as a Foreign Language lessons revolve around a text. Sure we teach a grammatical item, a vocabulary set or a skill, but we always teach in context and that context usually comes from  texts.

There is nothing wrong with this and, in fact, a lot right with this. The problem comes in when we use very short texts for very restricted purposes. Then we end up using 24 different texts in one lesson. This is not even a matter of saving the rain forests because using a lot of texts in one lesson places a massive cognitive burden on your students.

The solution? Using one text for many purposes. It should be possible to utilise a relatively short text for an hour-long lesson. Yes, really.

Here’s how to make the most of texts

Exploit it for language

The most popular way to exploit a text is to use it for language. Choose a language item – a grammar point or vocabulary set – which is evident in the text and come up with activities which relate to that language. You can let your students discover the form and meaning of the language point themselves by asking them leading questions. You can extrapolate the same language into a controlled or free speaking activity. You can use the text not only to teach new language but also to revise any language taught in previous lessons which feature in the text.

Personal response

Make sure the students respond to the text on a personal level. Texts should be dealt with on a content level as well as a linguistic level. Both before and after any language task you would like to tackle, carry out a task which allows the students to voice their opinions on the topic or theme.

This allows the students to relate to the text on a personal level, as well as engage with the text more naturally. If our students only ever answer language questions related to a text, they’ll never appreciate the enjoyment they can get out of it. As a result, they’ll probably never think to enjoy an authentic text when outside the classroom. Allowing a response to the text helps to prevent this.

Incorporate other skills

Just because you are utilising a text for a certain skill doesn’t mean you can’t exploit the text for another skill. For example, if you are making use of a reading text, once you have completed your main task, try to consider the text from a listening point of view. Read the text aloud and get your students to focus on aspects of connected speech or any other relevant pronunciation point.

On the other hand, if your text is a listening text, you can do the opposite. Once you have done all you need to do with regards to listening, let your students deal with the text as they would a reading text. They can take a further look at a language point or focus on sentence construction or another language issue which is more obvious when written.

There are so many ways you can exploit a text in the classroom. Don’t just use a text for one purpose; rather try to think of different ways you can use the text so that it becomes a more useful resource for the lesson.