Introducing Extensive Reading

Roberta A. Welch, Toyo Women's College


  • Key Words: Extensive reading, Speaking, Fluency tasks
  • Learner English Level:False beginner to Advanced
  • Learner Maturity Level:High school to Adult
  • Preparation Time:None
  • Activity Time:15 minutes

The Japanese college students in my reading elective are familiar with the intensive reading method of studying English. However, many of them have no experience with extensive reading. In order to introduce the concept in a way that is easy for them to understand, I create a chart on the board, explaining it to them as I make it. The chart below is what you should have on the board at the end.




General understanding and enjoyment


Language study

Easy (graded readers)


Often difficult (material for native speakers)

A lot


Not much

Fast and fluently



The following is what you might say as you write the chart.

Chart Heading

Write on the board "Extensive - READING -Intensive."

Explanation: There are two basic kinds of reading classes for language students: intensive reading and extensive reading. Both are necessary for learning the language and becoming good readers in that language. Most of you have had intensive reading classes, but perhaps you have not done much extensive reading.

1st Line

Write on the board "General understanding and enjoyment - PURPOSE - Language study."

Explanation: The purpose of intensive reading is to study the language and the culture of the countries where it is spoken.

The main purpose of extensive reading is enjoyment and general understanding. Of course, while you are enjoying the story, you are reviewing structures and vocabulary that you already know. Extensive reading is also a good way to learn new vocabulary in context.

Because you are reading for enjoyment, you can choose your own books. If you start reading a book and you don¹t like it, stop. You don¹t have to finish it.

2nd Line

Write on the board "Easy (graded readers) - LEVEL - Often difficult (material for native speakers)."

Explanation: In intensive reading classes you often read quite difficult material that was written for native speakers.

In extensive reading classes, like this one, you will read easy books. These books (hold up a few) are graded readers written for language learners like you. You will start with easy ones and gradually move up to higher levels.

Some of the books have a glossary in the back. (Show a few.) The glossary explains words that you might not know. It is a good idea to check to see if there is a glossary before you start reading.

3rd Line

Write on the board "A lot - AMOUNT - Not much."

Explanation: In most intensive reading classes you don¹t read very much, perhaps one small book for the semester or the year. For each class period you only read a few pages, probably no more than 4 or 5 pages. Is that right?

In this class you will read a lot. The word extensive means a large amount, a lot. Seventy-five pages a week is a good goal! But because they are easy books, it is not so hard. Don't worry!

4th Line

Write on the board "Fast and fluently - SPEED - Slow."

Explanation: Because you are doing a detailed study of the language, in intensive reading classes you read very slowly and carefully. You probably translate as you read.

In an extensive reading class you read quickly and fluently. Fluently means reading smoothly without stopping, without going back to read the same thing again. You will be reading easy books for the general meaning. You don¹t have to understand every word.

When you are reading Japanese books, do you check the dictionary when you see a word or kanji you don¹t know? Probably not. Well, when you read these graded readers, you don¹t have to know every word either. You can guess by the story or the pictures. You keep reading as fast as possible. You seldom stop to look up words.

After Completing the Chart

Erase the intensive reading side.

Explanation: Intensive reading is useful for detailed language study and you have other classes for that kind of reading. In this class we are not going to do intensive reading .


Point to the words on the chart.

Explanation: We will do extensive reading. It will help you learn to read more fluently. You will read a lot of graded readers. You will read for general understanding and enjoyment. At first you will start with very easy books to train yourself to read faster.

You can choose books that look interesting to you. I hope you will have fun while you are becoming better readers!


With this brief introduction the students come to understand that the class will be conducted differently from their other reading classes. They should realize that although extensive reading is not a method that they are used to, it is intended to help them develop into more fluent foreign language readers.