The Internet TESL Journal

Using Reading As an Interactive Medium in the ESL/EFL Classroom

Rafael Sabio
Yonsei University (Seoul, Korea)
Reading has been long believed to be one of the mediums through which language acquisition can be facilitated. Researchers such as Stephen Krashen (2004) have thoroughly researched the benefits gained through reading, particularly in the field of language acquisition, and have consistently found that reading enhances students’ ability in not only expanding their lexicons, but also furthering grammar development. This article bridges theory and classroom practices by providing ESL/EFL instructors with a way to make reading fun and alive in the classroom.


Difficulties are often experienced by instructors when teaching English as a foreign language when reading is involved. Reading materials may be too difficult in terms of level or they may lack the enthusiasm of a conversation class; some may be nothing more than text on pages. So how can teachers transform a reading class into an interactive
environment that will facilitate learning? Moreover, what tools can help with this transformation? This article tries to answer these questions.

The idea of reading having a place in EFL curricula has been long contended by researchers such as Krashen (2004) and Terrell (Krashen and Terrell, 1983). Krashen (2004) has stated that students who read different print media acquire meanings of words through context clues alone; grammar is learned intuitively rather than through explicit instruction. This lesson incorporates both contextual meaning and explicit instruction.

Choosing Appropriate Materials

The first step is to choose print material that is of appropriate level and interest to students. In this particular context, print material is defined as material which can be read and discussed in class and is readily accessible. Books, magazines, and news articles can be gathered from online sites.

Choosing, Filtering, and Defining Vocabulary

Having chosen what the class will read, the instructor then creates a comprehensive list of vocabulary words that may be unfamiliar to the students; the list should have no more than ten words. The instructor must be careful not to expose the students to too many new vocabulary words since this might cause them to be overwhelmed, and result in an increase in the students' difficulty in learning English. It is vital that the instructor incorporate known vocabulary words into the list of new vocabulary words. By doing this, the vocabulary list will be perceived as easy by the students. As a result, the new vocabulary will be quickly learned by the students. The final list of words should have definitions next to them along with at least two example sentences per word. The following is an example of how words
should be presented to students:

kicking (verb) – the action of your foot hitting an object
    Ex. She is kicking the ball. 
    Ex. The boys are kicking the tree.

The process of defining vocabulary words and writing example sentences may seem tedious. However, this concern is easily allayed by creating careful, easy-to-follow worksheets that are recyclable. Using recyclable worksheets, instructors can simply substitute the old vocabulary words and definitions with new ones; sentences are then written in the spaces just below or next to the definitions.

Starting the Class

Once the list of vocabulary words has been created and distributed to the class, the instructor will then review the list with students. This is where several different paths can be taken by the instructor.  Instructors can either call students to the front of the classroom and have them act out the words (e.g. the word ‘kick’ would be shown by a student kicking the air) or they can give students the definitions in handouts.  Another way is to  place examples and definitions on PowerPoint slides which can then be reviewed by the class and instructor.

Introducing the Text, Discussion, and Reinforcement

After reviewing the vocabulary words, the instructor introduces the text; interrogatives are used heavily during this session. The introduction should be no longer than two minutes and include the main idea and conclusion of the text. 

Once the introduction of the text has been completed, students read silently for approximately five minutes. Then, the instructor reads the text while students repeat. Upon completing the assigned readings, students should reflect on what they have read. The instructor then asks questions such as “what was the story about?”, “why did 'X' happen?”, and “when did the story take place?” in order to facilitate dialogue.  Students are required to give responses in complete sentences.

The length of text used will vary depending on the amount of students in the class and total class time. Ultimately, what is best for the class is decided by the instructor. 


In closing, there are nine easy steps that should be followed:
  1. Choose a text appropriate to class level, size, and interest.
  2. Make a list of words with the following known word to unknown word ratio: 2/3.
  3. Create handouts that contain the definition of the target word and at least two example sentences per word.
  4. Distribute the handouts to the class.
  5. Review the vocabulary found in the text by either role-playing or using PowerPoint.
  6. Introduce the text to the class.
  7. Have the students read silently for approximately five minutes.
  8. Read the vocabulary words out loud and have the students repeat them.
  9. Discuss the story and use the new vocabulary words during class discussion.


The Internet TESL Journal, Vol. XIV, No. 3, March 2008