Have Fun With It!

image source: www.bigstockphoto.com
image source: www.bigstockphoto.com

A common piece of advice I give my students is

“don’t read the newspaper.”

Their hearts are in the right place – they want reading practice – but most of them have zero interest in the news and end up getting very little from their daily ritual of reading Metro on the subway.

If students are looking for extra work, it’s important that it’s something fun and interesting for them. My students are upper-intermediate/advanced. For the most part, their English is very good – most of the errors they make are small, basic errors like prepositions and collocations -so they just need practice rather than pouring over grammar rules.

What I tell them instead of reading the newspaper, is

“It doesn’t matter what you read, as long as it’s in English!”

2 of the sources of ‘fun’ reading activities I tell my students about are

Quiz Up

Quiz Up is a free trivia game app where you have small match-ups with other users and have to answer a series of questions about a given topic. The faster you answer, the more points you get, unlocking badges and other rewards.

The reason I like this app for students is

  • it gives them practice in reading,
  • it rewards them for being able to read quickly, and
  • there are over 700 topics which guarantees that there will be something for everyone.

I’ve seen students become hooked on this game, since everyone has at least one thing that they’re passionate about!

The topics range from educational, like idioms, grammar, and spelling, to more popular ones like Game of Thrones, League of Legends, Beer, and Beyoncé.

Through focusing on something they are interested in, students are able to work longer on practicing their English.


This is an especially popular suggestion for Korean and Japanese students, since many of them read Manga comics in their language. Manga is just the word for (usually) Japanese comic books.

Manga comics are great for students as they’re entertaining, simple, and give them a lot of practice seeing and unconsciously learning prepositions, articles, and vocabulary.

Most public libraries have collections of dozens or hundreds of issues, or better, there are a number of apps that allow you to download these comics for free.

The best for phones and tablets I’ve found is Manga Rock which allows you to download unlimited issues of one title for free at a time (or unlimited titles for around $5)

There are also websites such as Manga Fox where you can read them online (albeit a bit slower as you have to load each page individually).

My personal favourite is one called Hikaru No Go, (Hikaru’s Go) which follows a young boy as he learns the Japanese game of ‘Go’. It’s strangely captivating, even though most of the ‘action’ is just kids putting black and white stones on a board!

There are countless other ‘fun’ ideas out there for students to play with – I’d love to hear what you think!  How do you get your students motivated to read?

Hi! I’m Andrew Shedden. Like most people, I fell into ESL by accident. I was preparing to apply for my Master’s in history and decided I wanted to teach in Japan beforehand as a vacation. I got a CELTA degree so I would know what this teaching thing is all about, but one thing led to another and although I never actually made it to Japan as a teacher (or applied for a Master’s program), I’ve been teaching ESL ever since! I've been teaching EAP for over 10 years now... I love the focus on academic writing and English, since I can vicariously go back to university through my students. (I do miss it!) My other professional love is computers. I’ve been obsessed with them since I was 3, and I’m always trying to learn more about how to incorporate IT into my program and classes.


2 thoughts on “Have Fun With It!”

  1. Hi Andrew: Your message seems to be slightly contradictory. Why would you tell the students that it doesn’t matter what they read as long as it’s in English, and then tell them not to read newspapers? Many ESL students WANT to learn something about our culture, and newspapers are great places to find cultural information (particularly given that your students are upper-intermediate/advanced). Yes, there are many other sources of good/interesting reading materials, but newspapers should definitely be included!

    1. I’m not dismissing the value of newspapers – for sure, the paper is a good resource for students.

      (I especially miss ‘The Grid’, which had great informative, engaging articles)

      I’ve told some students to not read the paper because they have little interest in the articles. As a result, they struggle to learn anything because they’re not engaged.

      Instead, I encourage them to find reading material that will actually hold their interest.

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