Approach the Text Actively


Gather a number of reader comments from an online article or discussion that seem appropriate to the level of your students. Have the students read and evaluate the comments and decide whether they think the author of the comment supports, disagrees with, or has mixed feelings about the topic (or view points presented in the article). In doing this activity, students will have to pay attention to the author’s stance and the language used to create that stance. Students also have to be able to justify their choices.

A useful resource for ESL classes is the NY Times Student Opinions sites. French instructors could visit Les Clés de l'Actualité for French commentaries (see the discussion regarding the BAC for sample commentaries).

Sample Activity

What You See Is What You Get

As students read a text, have them keep a list what they “see” (e.g., characters, places, themes, events, feelings). Students should also note down their favorite words and passages from the text. They will use all this text to create a word cloud that they will share with their classmates and use as a departure for a discussion about the text.

Sample Activity

Fact or Fiction

During reading, students are provided with a graphic organizer that contains statements about the text. For example, The tone is ironic or This character is telling the truth. As students read, they fill in the graphic organizer with proof for or against the statements.

Sample Activity

Pause and Post

Prior to reading, the text is marked for pauses where students are asked to draw on a post-it and create a visual representation of what they see as they read. The image may be of the story problem, a character, location, conflict. Once complete, students can work in groups to create a joint visual interpretation.

Sample Activity

Actions with Words

For a FLES class, prepare a song or series by writing out the words and describing actions that accompany the song/series with pictures. The teacher could prepare the series on big poster board and ask volunteers to point to the words with a pointer or wand as the teacher reads the series. Then, students could read through the song and actions….then, enact the song and see how well they do.

One example is a dance series:

Dancing Flamenco

I hear the music. (put hand to ear)

I clap my hands. (clap twice)

I stomp my feet. (stomp four times)

I twirl around. (twirl and say weeeeee)

I look serious. (make a thoughtful face)

I dance flamenco! (clap, stomp, and twirl)

Word Boxes

In a FLES program, it can help students learning to read to visualize the shape of the letters with word boxes. Frame each letter in a box on word walls and/or on the board to help them visualize the writing. For reading activities, provide students with the blank word boxes and have them guess the word based on context and the shape of the letters.

Sample Activity Spanish


Instruct students to approach the text if they were a spy profiling a main character. Provide students with a graphic organizer that they will fill out during the reading process by making an ID badge for a central character. This graphic organizer may allow for biographical information, a space to draw the character, and even a place to detail key events in the character’s life.

Sample Graphic Organizer

Engaging with the Author

Before reading, inform students that they will be having an ongoing conversation with the author of their text in the form of a letter. Provide a model of what a letter to an author might look like, the types of areas it might cover, and how to greet and close the letter. Remind students to do their best to share ideas instead of focusing too closely on grammar or spelling. At pre-determined check-points during class (e.g. chapters, pages, time increments), instruct students to fill out a graphic organizer that will later help them draft a letter to the author. At the end of the reading session, students may share some of their work on a document camera to discover if their conversations with the author mirrored or diverged with their classmates’ letters.

When the reading has been completed, students may work as a class, in groups, or as individuals to compose a letter to the author using their graphic organizers and send the letter to the author (if living) or post on an online forum (if not living).

Graphic organizer as prewriting for letter:[Compatibility%20Mode].pdf

Postales Virtuales

Bring the class to a computer lab and have them explore a city in the target culture via a tourism website. It is helpful if the website also offers virtual e-greetings with images of the area. First have the students complete an activity related to exploring the area (see sample document). Next, assign students the name and email of a classmate (or the teacher, depending on privacy concerns) and ask the students to select an appropriate virtual postcard to send to their classmate. They must compose a message about what they did on their virtual trip and then they may check their email to see if they also received a card from another student. Many such programs allow for multiple addressees so the teacher should be included if at all possible.

Sample Activity Spanish