ESL Library is now Ellii!

Unsupported Browser

Ellii may not function properly in Internet Explorer. We recommend using Google Chrome or Firefox instead.

Unsupported Browser

Ellii may not function properly in older browsers. We recommend updating yours to the latest version for the best experience.


10 Activities to Increase Understanding While Reading

April 22, 2022

Teachers often prepare pre-reading and post-reading activities to help students develop their reading skills, but they don’t always plan activities for students to do while they are actively reading a text.

Having students perform tasks as they read serves several purposes. It gives students the opportunity to confirm any predictions made during the pre-reading stage. It also helps students to read more carefully and focus on the content as they gather and organize information.

Here are 10 activities that will get your students to actively engage with a text and increase their understanding while reading. 

1. Skim for the main idea

Before students get into the nitty-gritty of the text, have them skim the text for a general overview. Encourage them to look at headings, visuals, and bold words. These things will help students find the main topic or purpose of a reading quickly. 

Teach your students the basics of how to skim a text with Ellii's lesson on Skimming & Scanning.

2. Scan for specific information

Prepare a few questions that ask for specific information such as names, dates, times, and numbers. This will give students an idea of the scope of a reading.

3. Summarize or paraphrase

Put students in pairs then have them read one paragraph at a time silently. When they finish, ask them to take turns summarizing or paraphrasing the paragraph they've just read.

4. Use context clues

As students read, have them circle any unfamiliar words or expressions. Before they reach for their dictionaries or phones, have them take a closer look at the words preceding and following the unknown terms. Using context clues, see if they can figure out their meaning.

5. Make predictions

After students have read a paragraph or section, have them pause and say what they think is going to happen next.

6. Annotate the text

As students read, encourage them to note their reactions to the text in the margins.

They can place a question mark when they don’t understand something, a star when something is important, and an exclamation mark when they are surprised.

7. Consider other perspectives

After students have read the text one time, ask them to read it again and pretend they are reading it from someone else’s point of view.

8. Participate in a jigsaw activity

This collaborative technique works well for longer texts.

Assign each student to a “jigsaw” group then give each student a section of the text to read. When they have finished, have them get together with members from the other groups who've been assigned the same section.

In these new groups, students discuss and become “experts” on their section. Students then return to their original “jigsaw” groups and teach their group members about their section.

9. Put text in order

Cut up the reading and have students put it in order. This activity requires students to think logically as they examine sequencing words and transitions.

10. Create a Venn diagram

Students are often asked to read articles that compare and contrast two or more topics. (For example, see Ellii’s lesson on J-Pop Vs. K-Pop.)

As students use this graphic organizer to note the similarities and differences of two or more items, they will better understand the relationship between them.

Improve their reading experience with Immersive Reader

In addition to these activities, students can also optimize their reading experience by using Microsoft’s Immersive Reader, which is now available on the Ellii platform.

The Immersive Reader promotes accessibility for learners of all ages and abilities. By implementing it in class, you can help improve student comprehension and focus.

Share your thoughts

What activities do you have your students do while they're reading? Please share your ideas in the comments below.

Not an Ellii member?

Get unlimited access to 1,000+ lessons and 3,000+ flashcards.

Sign Up

Comments (4)

Dee Morales(Guest)

I have my students circle/highlight unknown words, annotate while reading, and provide them with question frames for them to ask critical questions.

Reply to Comment

Tara Benwell(Author)

Thanks for sharing your methods, Dee!

Grace Donkor(Guest)

Thank for sharing your brilliant ideas

Reply to Comment

Ann Dickson(Author)

Hi Grace,

I'm glad you found this post useful. Thanks for stopping by!

Leave a Comment

Log In to Comment Reply

Comment Reply as a Guest
  • **bold**_italics_> quote

    This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

    Thinking of joining Ellii?

    Complete this form to create an account and stay up to date on all the happenings here at Ellii.