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Extensive Reading: Choosing a Book and Assessing Students

Extensive reading is the use of interesting texts for general language development and comprehension. It differs from intensive reading in that students do not get tested on all the details of the plot and do not stop on every new word.

The aim of having your students do an extensive reading is mainly for them to practice the language, develop their overall comprehension and be exposed as much as possible to the language they are learning.

Very often students feel a little at a loss with this kind of activity because they expect to be tested more and to be asked to learn all the new vocabulary.

They are so used to intensive reading activities that their reading fluency does not always reflect their actual ability or level when learning a new language.

It is very important to help students develop reading fluency so that they can also develop their comprehension of new vocabulary from context. Furthermore, extensive reading will also help them improve their overall sentence structure and writing style.


Make sure your students choose a book that they want to read. If they are interested in the book, they will feel more compelled to finish it. Depending on your teaching situation, you can offer students a small selection of books for them to choose or you can even take them to the library.

Ask students to select anywhere between 4 and 10 books just according to their title and book cover. Then, ask students to check them one more time to see if they are appropriate for them. If they understand the title, the blurb in the back cover and most of what they read on any page they check randomly in the book, the level of the book is good for them. The book should be easy or slightly challenging, but not hard for them.

Remind your students that understanding a book does not mean understanding every single word used in it. If necessary, remind them of reading in their own language and how sometimes they also encounter words they have not heard or read before. Once they have narrowed their selection, ask them to pick the book they are most interested in.


Depending on how often students come to your class, and how much time they have available during and/or after class, you can decide when to ask students to read. You can give them 15 to 30 min in class for them to read silently and you can monitor that, or you can assign reading a certain amount of pages or chapters per day, week or month.

With lower level students it is better to have them begin their reading in class so that you can monitor their work and remind them not to look up every word in their dictionaries. It is important to give students a clear schedule and an expected completion date.


Bear in mind that if you assess extensive reading in a detailed way, it turns into an intensive reading exercise and loses many of its advantages. It is ideal for students to feel that this is a fun activity that they can enjoy (and learn from without noticing it).

A good strategy is to give students completion marks for having read different parts of the book and simple activities that do not involve testing their comprehension of plot details. Ideas for activities and tasks to complete while doing the extensive reading will be posted on the next blog.

Learn to teach reading skills using Communicative Language Teaching methods with an internationally recognized TESOL certificate course.

Related Articles:

Extensive Reading: ESL Activities And Tasks

Extensive Reading: Encouraging Students to Become Independent Learners

Pre-Reading: Top-Down Processes in Teaching Reading

Reading Comprehension for Large ESL Classes

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