iPass IELTS Blog

cover_eBook Download our eBook

A Reason to Read

Some classroom activities for primary EFL teachers to initiate motivation!

It is sometimes difficult enough to inspire children to read in their own language but encouraging them to read in a foreign language is naturally even more challenging. However, with the wealth of wonderful children’s stories that are available today together with some helpful pointers as to how to tap into children’s natural curiosity and imagination it shouldn’t be as difficult as you may think.

Here I have selected 3 different pre-reading tasks designed to arouse students’ interest in a story by drawing on their existing knowledge of the world and knowledge of English, in order to create a sufficient desire to read it. The ideas have been adapted from Andrew Wright’s excellent resource book ‘Creating Stories with Children’.

The first two ideas are examples of how illustrations of characters or setting can be exploited to provide a visual, pre-reading stimuli. They also activate students’ resource bank of vocabulary associated with people and places as well as drawing on their prior knowledge and experience of those subjects. This is intended to prepare them for the reading stage by assisting their overall comprehension and hopefully increasing their enjoyment of the story. 

The third idea is an example of how a selected scene can provide an accessible point of entry into the story. It not only gives the students a taste of what the story is about but also invites them to predict what happens next. This in itself creates a desire to read, as they will be curious to compare the original story with their own predictions. The creative writing stage, suggested as a follow-up task, also provides a stimulating final outcome and can be adapted to incorporate ICT integration, an additional motivator!

1. Character Building (adapted from 2.1 Particularising People)

Suggested text – Cinderboy by Anholt & Robins, Orchard Books

Aim – to stimulate interest in central character(s) and activate key vocabulary

Stage 1 – Display a silhouette drawing of the main character, drawn on a large piece of white paper. Explain that everyone in the class is going to help to build a profile of the character by listening to information given by you and by guessing additional details prompted by your questions.

Stage 2 – Dictate details of the character’s appearance (facial features, hair, clothes) and invite students to come up and sketch them onto the silhouette. Weaker students (linguistically or artistically) can also help at this stage by adding colour to the character poster.

Stage 3 – Write some sentence starters on the board to remind students of language used to describe other features of the character such as personality, behaviour, family, likes/dislikes, hopes and abilities.

He likes/doesn’t like …
She loves/hates …
He is …
She’s got …
He wants …
She can …

Stage 4 – Mime some actions to the students to give them clues about the character.

He loves football.
He’s got a wicked stepfather.
He wants to watch Royal Palace in the Cup Final.
He doesn’t like his lazy stepbrothers.
He is very unhappy.
He is hardworking and kind.
He can score goals.

Students can either write or depict the information onto the poster.
Invite more able students to ask questions about the character to elicit information.
Is he …? Has he got …? Does he like …? Can he …?

Note: this is a great way to exploit both the front cover of a book and the story synopsis on the back, especially with a book that doesn’t have many illustrations in the text.

Follow-up idea

2.Imagine the setting (adapted from 2.2 Particularising Places)

Aim – to focus students’ attention on where the book is set and to create sensory associations with the location.

Stage 1 – Ask students to close their eyes and listen to any sounds they can hear either inside or outside the classroom. They make a list of the things they hear (someone coughing; someone shouting; car horn).

Stage 2 – After a few minutes tell them to compare their lists in small groups and add any new sounds to their own lists. This is a good time to check vocabulary.

Variation – you could use sight or smells as an alternative to sounds

Stage 3 – Show the students a vivid picture from the story which shows the general setting of the book (a forest; a city; an island) and ask them to imagine what sounds they would hear in this place (waves; birds singing; traffic noise). Write up their suggestions as a class list on the board.

Follow-up idea – students use the words to create a list poem. An acrostic poem might work well.

Furry animals
wOod creaking
Running water
LEaves rustling
Snakes hissing
Tiny insects

Note: This is not only a nice activity to get students using their imagination but also a great way to settle them down at the beginning of a lesson.

3.Plot Prediction – (adapted from 2.4 Particularising Situations)

Aim – to arouse interest in the story using a language focus and to create a need to read.
Preparation – a written summary of the scene (on OHT or Storyboard program)

Stage 1 – Mime a short sequence of actions from a key scene in the story. The scene doesn’t necessarily have to be at the beginning of the story but it should lead up to an interesting climax, which is open to interpretations as to what happens next.

Stage 2 – Having watched your mime, the students call out words and phrases to describe what you were doing. Write up any correct words from the summary on the board. Mime the scene again if necessary, emphasising or pausing at specific actions to generate more interest and language input.

Stage 3 – Give students a gapped version of the summary and show them on an OHT where to insert the correct words they have called out. Students then work in pairs or small groups to reconstruct the whole summary. If you have prepared the text using Storyboard (http://www.wida.co.uk) students work together on the computers to reconstruct the complete version.

Follow-up idea – Invite the students to suggest ways in which the story continues following the scene you mimed. Write up their suggestions on the board. In pairs, students choose one of the ideas and write a continuation of the story.

Note: This could be done as a ‘Pass the story’ activity. After a 5 minute time limit students have to pass on their stories to another pair who read it and continue it further. Weaker writers may only add one or two sentences whereas stronger students are free to write as much as they can. Do not do any correction at his stage to inhibit the flow of ideas! Students continue passing the stories until they receive their original stories back again. Once students have read their classmates’ contributions they can try and correct any errors they find, and discuss them in a final class feedback session.

Recommended Books

Creating Stories with Children by Andrew Wright

Cinderboy by Anholt & Robins



Comment On This Post


Songs are an excellent way of motivating children to learn English and to reinforce language. Some of my songs are available on Youtube at the following addresses

Zag’s Song (aliens, ecology)


Have You Seen the Easter Bunny? (Easter)


Animals (wild animals)


Knock Knock Knock (Christmas)


By Sheila Margaret Ward on 2009 02 27

Your Details


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?


Jochen, Germany

Jochen, Germany

After a year of studying English in order to prepare for IELTS (and after 3 failed attempts to get overall band 7) I can now announce that after finding iPass I have passed it with 7.5 in each part of the test! It is important to emphasize that your online course was by far the best. The combination of self-studying with the help and guide of your personal feedback and training regarding the speaking and writing test was outstanding.

But, more than that, I got a feeling that the iPass tutors were really interested in bringing me through this test with their competence and personality. Thank you, thank you for your sessions with me, not only helpful and efficient in terms of improving my English, but also your encouraging words in every meeting helped me a lot to keep on track, to keep on studying…

Previous blogposts

What's new?

iPass super subscriptions - only €5!!

Don’t miss our 50% discount on the first 50 iPass IELTS super subscriptions!!

SIGN UP with this discount code: SUB50AM

And pay just €5 a month!!

Get our weekly newsletter for top IELTS tips and exclusive course discounts!!

* required
Free Course Demo