6 ESL Reading Comprehension Activities for Kids and Adults

Reading Comprehension ESL Activities

Reading Comprehension ESL Activities


  • Reading
  • Activities
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

ESL teachers know that constant development of students’ reading skills is a key to further success both in passing various exams and dealing with common everyday situations. 

In this article, we are going to discuss what activities and games for reading comprehension you can implement into your lessons with kids and adults to effectively develop their skills.

Spice up your reading tasks with cool articles

Reasons to improve reading comprehension

Before moving to the activities, a true professional needs to know why exactly they are going to assign this or that task. As for improving reading comprehension, the potential aims are countless

Therefore, when focusing on reading comprehension activities, you may be following some of these goals

To build an English skill

Simple as that, developing reading skills can be a goal itself, as it is an important part of English proficiency.

Therefore, all the reading comprehension activities will definitely be extremely helpful for anybody who just wants to read better and understand more.

To immensely improve students’ vocabulary

It is not a secret that no matter how long one learns endless lists of new words, real knowledge and development come from extensive practice with authentic materials.

So, all the activities that require referring to authentic texts and understanding them are extremely beneficial for anybody who wants to be more fluent.

Have fun with flashcards

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To reduce dependency on the teacher

It is proven that good reading comprehension develops critical thinking as well as gives students confidence that they can deal with authentic materials on their own.

Therefore, they don’t always need a teacher to pick up something to watch or read. Thorough work on reading comprehension prevents students from being too teacher-dependent.

To learn more about the world

Sure, reading is not only about learning English but also discovering culture and traditions through interaction with authentic materials.

Depriving your students of the opportunity to work on their reading comprehension means depriving them of the context in which the language itself exists.

Use authentic materials

To be ready for the future challenges

This might be the most basic reason but still, it is important.

No matter how much a student likes reading or wants to learn more about culture, they will greatly need strong reading skills to pass any English exam.

Usually, this is one of the most common motivations to start thinking about how well one reads and paying more attention to reading comprehension ESL activities.

Reading comprehension activities for adults

Anticipation Guide

This is an ideal pre-reading exercise to help your students gain a deeper understanding of the reading process.

Students will need to share whether they agree or disagree with the claims in the anticipation guide (which is a set of various statements on the text) in order to make some predictions regarding the text

It is even better if you can come back to the guide after reading and compare students’ expectations with the real facts.

Short stories for all levels

Mind Mapping

Such fun games for reading comprehension take usual reading tasks to the next level!

Make mind maps with your students to track how people, themes, and events relate to one another. This project is a great addition to spoken discussions and conventional book reports, providing a new perspective on the narrative's complex plot.

There are no rules on how exactly you can do mind mapping: students can include plot twists, character relations, key words, associations with other books, movies or songs, drawings, etc. 

Afterwards, they may explain why this or that thing is important for them and compare their ideas with other students.

This activity helps students to be more attentive to details, more thoughtful, as well as reflect more than they probably would.

Character Interview

This activity is an extremely fun way of checking understanding and reflecting on the text the students read.

The only thing you need to do is ask your students to come up with a set of questions that will resemble the interview

Then, you divide students into pairs and they take turns pretending to be the characters of the assigned text and trying to answer the questions while using the information they have got from the text

Not as easy as it may seem, but still, students enjoy this activity.

Even more short stories to discover

Reading comprehension activities for kids

Story Reconstruction

This is a perfect activity to check how much information kids have managed to get from the text.

After they finish reading, you should provide students with pictures that show the bits of the plot or sentences that describe actions. Students are supposed to put them in the correct order and reconstruct the story

You may turn it into a fun group competition where groups do their best to reconstruct the story as quickly as possible.

Picture Analysis

Picture analysis is a great activity that can be used as both pre-reading and post-reading.

If you choose the first option, you have to prepare a set of pictures related to the text the students are going to read. Then, you may ask to describe the pictures in detail: what the text might be about, who the characters are, and so on.

If you want to use it as a post-reading task, then these same pictures are going to help your students to summarize the story, check understanding, and clarify certain aspects that were unclear.

What is more, this is a common speaking activity in some of the exams, so describing the picture and analyzing it is definitely a skill to learn and master!

On using boards in ELT

Plot Guess

Finally, if you want to make your young learners more engaged in reading with activities, you can cut out the ending of the story and ask them to create it in groups but, of course, mind all the details they have read previously.

It is a fun task that not only develops reading skills but also boosts students’ creative thinking.

What is even more exciting is reading the real ending afterwards and comparing it to the ones created by the students.

As you can see, developing reading comprehension skills is an important part of general students’ progress in ESL. This goal can easily be achieved with the help of great activities. 

To learn more about adapting different activities to different aims and topics, make sure you check out our course for English teachers.

Is picture analysis good for exam preparation?

Article authors & editors
  • Arina Kravchenko

    Arina Kravchenko


    Teacher of General English & IELTS



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