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Reading Exercises for Teaching Online English Lessons

When prepping for your online ESL teaching job, you probably find yourself overwhelmed by the plethora of information at your fingertips by simply searching “best articles for teaching English online.” Long gone are the days of relying on textbooks for materials for your online classes. Now at the press of a button, you can find nearly one billion results, which can be intimidating. Look no further, as I’ve given here some of the best sources to use when teaching English online.


How do I start?

The first thing you must do is ask yourself what is the purpose of incorporating reading into your ESL lesson. Is it going to be the focal point of the lesson? Will it just be an article for them to skim before the lesson so they can get a feel for the topic before the lesson even begins? 


Identify the purpose by asking yourself these questions:

Do I want us to dissect the text together? 

If you answered yes, then you don’t want the text to be too long. This would eat up valuable classroom interaction, and not allow nearly as much time for comprehension questions and conversation later on. One good resource for texts to dive into while in class is Heads Up English. Here you can find many texts organized by level, with warm-up, comprehension and discussion questions.  In addition, difficult words are underlined in red to draw attention to words students might struggle with.

Another great option for in-class reading would be Breaking News English.  With nearly 3,000 articles, updated regularly with relevant content, one of the greatest advantages is easily the number of activities included. You can choose ones which you deem most appropriate for your ESL lesson, therefore dramatically reducing your prep time.


Do I want to assign my students the text to read ahead of time?

As you are creating your online course and individual lesson plans tailored to your students, one of the first questions you might ask your English students could be “Can you do homework outside of class?” If they enthusiastically respond that they are interested in spending some time outside of class preparing for the lesson, you might consider sending them a link two or three days in advance so they can take time to dissect the text themselves.  Invite them to use English-to-English resources such as Merriam Webster's Learner's Dictionary in order to interact as much as possible in the target language rather than relying on translating websites, which often do not offer a correct translation.

Engoo’s Daily News is one of the best for intermediate students, including detailed vocabulary information before the article, a mid-sized article, followed by comprehension and/or discussion questions.  Content is updated daily, thus offering you never-ending options. One drawback is that lessons are designed for 25-minute classes, so if you are using the material for a 1- or 2-hour class, additional resources will need to be included.


Is the lesson heavy on pronunciation, and are my students advanced?

For advanced students, The Conversation is a great resource for real-world articles without being so reliant on advanced vocabulary and phrasal verbs, as is often found on other news sites.  The article can be assigned in advance for students to study on their own before class, or it can be used as a pronunciation activity by having them read aloud and allowing the teacher the opportunity to correct their mistakes. However, one disadvantage is that additional prep time is needed on the part of the teacher content-wise, as there are no questions or comprehension exercises to go along with the articles.


Do I want to emphasize vocabulary?

If you’re seeking out more vocabulary-intensive lessons, look no further than Learn English - British Council. Here you will find lessons for all levels, even A1, which you can incorporate directly into your online classroom.  Activities are included which focus on vocabulary and phrases, as well as sentence structure. The length of the text is normally perfect size for in-class reading.


Now, you’re all set!

By using these questions to identify the purpose of integrating English texts into your online classroom, and subsequently choosing the best website for you, you can cut your prep time by more than half.  If you simply type your relevant topic into the search bar of one of the aforementioned websites, you are sure to find what you’re looking for. 


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