Unit 5: Extensive Reading: Encouraging Lifelong Learning


In this final unit on success in reading, we will look at ways of sustaining the habit of reading with efficiency, and of using this habit to read texts outside the curriculum.

Several analogies have been used to describe reading. It has been compared to a battle because a reader selects strategies to “attack” a text; victory is won when the text “surrenders,” or yields meaning. It has been compared to marching; both activities require you to move purposefully and rapidly towards a destination. It has been compared to solving a puzzle; it requires a reader to draw on all of his or her background knowledge and focus on the textual cues to work out the meaning. Reading can also be like a pleasurable stroll, especially when you are reading literature. You stop by words and expressions to appreciate their beauty, and notice how they contribute to making your journey worthwhile. And it has even been compared to peeling an onion. A reader has to skim off the surface, working through layers of meaning to reach the core. These analogies highlight the different characteristics or processes involved in reading: it is rapid, purposeful, flexible, interactive and evaluative, and it involves comprehending and learning. In this unit, and in the preceding four, we have tried to give you strategies to engage your students in “attacking” a reading text, uncovering the various meanings in a text and taking a great deal of pleasure in the process.

Unit outcomes

Upon completion of this unit you will have:


  • helped build a “reading culture” in the class, to enable your students to sustain the habit of reading,

  • helped your students follow the logical sequence of ideas in a narrative,

  • helped your students recognise some of the common styles of reading passages, and the functions and directions of each, and

  • encouraged students to read a variety of academic and non-academic texts outside the curriculum for both knowledge and pleasure.



Jigsaw reading:

A popular way of making students read in class. Students are divided into groups and each member in the group is asked to silently read a different part of the text. The full picture is then pieced together when all the members of a group come together to discuss and complete the task.


Survey(S), Question (Q), Read, Recite, Review (3R): A technique used for efficient and active reading. Students begin by surveying a text by reading the cover pages and introductory pages of a book, or the first and last paragraphs of a passage, to form an idea of the contents before actually reading the book/passage. This is followed by them asking two or three questions to guess what to expect in the book. Then comes reading the book, using skills like skimming, scanning and guessing meaning from the context. After that comes reciting — recalling consciously what has been read. Finally comes reviewing — evaluating their overall experience of reading the book.

Teacher support information

This unit should help you encourage your students to use the strategies, information and ideas presented here beyond the current academic year. We appreciate the problems a teacher faces in trying to make room for extensive reading along with all the other components of the regular English curriculum for the school, but we hope that the ideas in this unit will help you take up the challenge and extend your students’ reading programme to the next form or year. Why? Because you may be the only way your students are exposed to English. Your encouragement and guidance will help them maintain the reading skills they learn from you throughout their life. If you can actively engage your students in the activities in this unit, as well as those in the previous four units, it will contribute immensely towards their lifelong learning.

Case study


Case study

Angela was in her last year of school. She came from a very humble background: her parents could not afford to buy her books or magazines to read in her spare time. Angela did not want to let her family situation stop her from studying for a professional degree, but she realised that she had very little knowledge of things happening outside her region. Then her teacher, Mr Kimolo, who had always encouraged her to go on to college, stepped in.

Mr Kimolo realised that Angela’s problem was not unique — most of her classmates came from similar backgrounds and for many of them, this school year might be their last chance to gain some world knowledge. He discussed the situation with his colleagues, family members and friends, and asked everyone to contribute something in English — storybooks, novels, magazines, newspaper supplements, travel guides and brochures, and any other reading material that would give his students insights into real life outside the classroom. Mr Kimolo also wanted his students to realise that there was a variety of reading material beyond their textbooks, and that they needed to read and understand the information presented there to improve both their knowledge and experience.

Mr Kimolo then had his students design a modest bookcase which they put in a corner of the room. All the reading material was kept there, and each student was responsible for the book he or she borrowed. Mr Kimolo encouraged them to read and discuss the books, both in and outside the class, using the reading techniques he had been teaching them during the last year. He encouraged them to consciously use terms like “skimming,” “scanning,” “silent reading,” “SQ3R,” etc., while reading and discussing the books. Being able to understand and use such “adult” knowledge made them feel important, and helped them to stay disciplined in their reading habits.

By the end of the year, the students had developed the habit of passionately discussing, arguing about and criticising books during their leisure hours. Mr Kimolo was also pleasantly surprised to hear them discuss the day’s events, review films, plays and other social events happening in their town, and so on. He realised that, with just a little encouragement, he had opened a door to a different world for them. He was confident that they had become efficient readers, and would be able to benefit from this throughout their lives.

Points to ponder

  1. How do students decide which books are important for them to read? Is this a decision that should be made only by their teacher, or should students also be allowed to experiment with various reading materials?

  2. Nowadays children, especially those in urban areas, spend more time on their computers than with books. How can we make them do both — read books and use the computer? As a teacher, would you encourage your students to read e-books on the Internet and have class discussions on them?


Activity 1: Creating a “reading culture” in class

Activity 1

The main aim of this activity is to build the students’ confidence in their reading skills by creating a relaxed atmosphere so that each student can read outside the class according to their own taste and pace. This activity is meant to foster the habit of extensive reading, which is an integral part of language development. Studies have shown that when students are “immersed in meaningful texts, without tight control over syntax and vocabulary, children appear to learn the language incidentally, and to develop positive attitudes to books” (W. Elley (1991). Acquiring Literacy in a Second Language: The effect of book-based programs. Language Learning, 41, pp. 375–411.)

As we are all aware, most students talk more freely with their peers than with their teachers. We can use this habit to encourage group reading activities outside class hours, for “out-of-class” reading. We can then foster extensive reading in the class without sacrificing other aspects of our teaching.

For this activity, divide the students into small groups, allocating one or two stronger readers to each group, and allot one teaching period per week in the class timetable for the reading programme.

Encourage your students to create and set aside a corner of the classroom for a book corner with books collected as suggested in Resource 1. Ensure that it has a wide range of text types: comics, magazines, newspapers, short stories, abridged classics, children’s literature, mystery books, science fiction, children’s knowledge books, maps, illustrated tour brochures, etc. Remember to include some materials suitable for the weaker readers as well.

Give the students time in class to choose a book to read. Remind them to use the survey techniques they learned in Unit 4: ask them to skim the book jackets, scan the contents page, read the blurb, the preface, introduction, etc., before they select the book for “out-of-class” reading. Give them 20 minutes for this preparatory activity. Monitor the kinds of books they select, but help only if someone seeks your opinion directly, or you find that someone has chosen a text that he or she will not be able to cope with.

Allow a week for the students to read their chosen book at home. Tell them that they have to bring back the book to class for the next reading class, and to be prepared to join in a discussion on their reading within their groups.

After reading the book, they should prepare a short summary of the book in the style of a film trailer or promotional — that is, briefly introduce the book and then stop at an interesting point, leaving their listeners wanting to read the book. (For example, finishing their brief summary with a question or a hint about the ending: What do you think Ryan decides at the end? To start afresh or to come back to Tracy? To find out what happened to Ryan, read on…/Jack Richards, the author, traces Ryan’s life and keeps us in suspense until the end…

Activity 2: Jigsaw reading

Activity 2

This activity helps students to recognise the sequence in paragraphing in a reading passage. The task of selecting the right order will depend on an awareness of logical sequencing based on linguistic cues such as the use of linkers, cohesive markers, pronouns, tense forms, etc. The task can be done comfortably in the class and students can work either individually or in small groups. This can be used as a standalone task or a pre-reading task. The purpose of this task is to make students understand the logical sequence in which a story proceeds, or in which ideas are presented in a book. This is a crucial part of reading efficiency.

For the activity, follow the steps below:

  1. Divide the reading passage paragraph by paragraph and make as many sets as there are groups in the class.

  2. When you use this activity for the first time in the class, have a five-paragraph story, like the one given in Resource 2, so that there are five students in a group and each has to read a paragraph.

  3. Shuffle the paragraphs and distribute the sets to the groups.

  4. Tell the students that they have to put the paragraphs together in an appropriate order. Ask each of them to begin by reading their paragraph and telling their group what it is about.

  5. Ask the groups to share with the class the ordering they have agreed on. Allow them to explain why they selected that particular order.

  6. This activity can be a pre-reading task before reading a longer narrative. On the basis of the paragraphs they have read and ordered, the groups can be asked to predict how the story might continue. Each group should present their prediction to the class.

  7. You can raise the difficulty level of the task by giving longer passages with more paragraphs, or with discursive or expository texts. This will draw the students’ attention to a range of linkers and cohesive markers, and how they signal the structure of the text.

  8. This task can be pitched at an easier level for younger students by using scrambled sentences instead of paragraphs.

Activity 3: Understanding text style: Types of passages

Activity 3

In real life, outside the classroom, we read a variety of materials, most of which are written in different styles. For example, a short story does not have the same style as a description of, say, a tourist spot. Or a magazine article comparing the spending habits of the middle class with those of the upper class will not have the same style as a report on a scientific discovery. Unless students are familiar with these various types of styles, they are unlikely to get the most out of what they read. In this activity, we will help you introduce your students to a few styles of prose passages such as narrative, descriptive, comparative, expository and argumentative passages. (See Resource 3 for a description of these passage types.)

As a pre-reading activity, divide the students into pairs and give each pair the two passages in Resource 4a to discuss and note the differences in the way the passages are written. They should be able to notice the use of certain discourse markers (practised in Unit 4), the choice of words, the sentence structures, the beginning and the end. Tell them that the first passage is called a narrative passage, and the second one is a descriptive passage. Draw their attention to the characteristic features of such passages from the information given in Resource 3.

Now have them sit in groups and identify one narrative and one descriptive passage from any of their course books, and say why they have defined the passages as narrative or descriptive. During the discussion try to bring out the aspects of the style that will help them identify similar passages in future. This technique is part of what we call experiential learning, where we engage students in tasks to discover something for themselves.

In the next step, show them a comparative passage (such passages are easy to find in History or Social Studies textbooks) and have them notice how two things, people, events or situations are compared. They should also underline the discourse markers used for comparison. This will help them realise how to identify a comparative passage, and how to differentiate it from a narrative or descriptive passage. Now show them the style of writing of a science experiment. Such an expository passage, which informs, defines, describes and explains, is commonly found in academic textbooks and the information given there is usually supposed to be remembered in detail. Finally, give them an argumentative passage (e.g., an essay on a great man, such as Nelson Mandela, or the one given in Resource 4b) and ask them, in their groups, to note down what is different in this passage as compared to the four passages they have already looked at.

After the students have spent some time comparing the styles of the different passages, have them draw up a table of the features they have noticed, and put these up in a chart on the display board.

To help the students carry their new knowledge beyond the classroom, have them search the book corner for each type of passage. After the whole class has made a selection, the students can classify and store passages under these headings. Of course, the students need to be shown that not all passages can be clearly demarcated into different passage types, and that the same passage may have a combination of several types of writing styles. The important point here is for students to be able to recognise different types of passages when they see them, and to understand the function of each.

Unit summary


In this unit you learned that reading is a lifelong activity and that we need many different strategies to teach our students to read efficiently and fluently. The strategies demonstrated in the explanations, activities and resources can be used to continue reading programmes beyond high school. They not only help with reading but also provide strategies to improve one’s writing skills. Understanding the sequence of ideas presented in a text, recognising the style of a text, understanding the role of discourse markers and using survey techniques to prepare to read — all foster lifelong learning, and should be introduced to students through extensive reading activities at the JSS level. This unit tries not only to teach some new strategies, but also to consolidate the learning points from the previous units. It should have helped you give some direction to your students’ extensive reading habits.



  • Do you think this unit has covered important reading strategies?

  • Did you find the activities relevant to the unit?

  • Were the resources useful?

  • In your opinion, what should have been done differently?



  • Give your students a descriptive passage and ask them to transform it into a narrative passage, following the guidelines about different types of passages given in Resource 3. Then record the decisions they took and the changes they made during the task.

  • Select a few passages for weaker readers to read. Note down the particular aspects of the content and style of the passages that helped you select these passages.


Resource 1: Creating a book corner in the class

Resource 1

The school library has always been the centre of learning for both staff and students. However, logistics may prevent students from visiting it as much as they should. With the help of students and parents, teachers can start a book corner in the classroom. This initiative alone can improve students’ confidence in reading.

A book corner need not always be expensive. Teachers can start by encouraging students to bring books that they or their siblings or friends have already read. Teachers should also bring in some of their favourites or some bought at used-book stores, garage sales, etc. Try to include fiction plus some non-fiction like biographies, history, travel, food, etc.

Various publishers and websites have lists that you can consult. For example: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_children's_literature_authors

Sometimes titles are reviewed by teachers and listed according to age-appropriate reading interests. See, for example, some of the titles listed at http://www.teachersfirst.com/100books.cfm:

Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls 
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien
Summer of the Monkeys by Wilson Rawls
The Cay by Theodore Taylor 
The Sign of the Beaver by Elizabeth George Speare

Teachers can also visit websites that give tips to parents and teachers. For example:


The contents of this page are given below:

Encourage your children to read!

Building strong reading skills and an interest in reading is one of the most important things parents can do for their child's academic development. There are many ways to help children develop an interest in reading.

Let the child choose a book to read. Fiction is fine, but non-fiction titles — biographies, science, and history — are also great topics.

Show that you like to read. Set aside some time each week to read a book of your choice while your child reads also.

Read a story to your child. Try reading a chapter each night at bedtime for a great evening routine.

Visit your public library. It’s the world’s best summer entertainment deal!

Let your child build his own library by setting a shelf aside for his or her “special” books.

Do you have a reluctant reader? These strategies can help:

Look at a book before your child starts reading it. Guess what might happen and who the characters might be. When the child finishes the book, let him or her tell you whether your predictions were accurate.

Build your child's vocabulary. Introduce new words each day and use them!

Music and rhymes help young children develop strong reading skills, especially when reading aloud.

Encourage reading with a reading chart using stickers or other indicators of your child's progress. Remember, too, that there is no substitute for praising success at reading.



Copyright © 2003-2010 by The Source for Learning, Inc. All rights reserved.

Resource 2: Jigsaw reading: Sequencing paragraphs in a text

Resource 2

Here are five paragraphs from the novel Wanderlust by the Indian author Joydeep Choudhury. Divide the students into groups. Each student in the group should read one paragraph. Then the group should work together to decide on the correct sequence of the paragraphs.

  1. Rohit Malhotra had turned forty a few months ago but his looks did not betray his age. He looked a lot younger than his years. In these years of life, he had seen a lot and experienced every kind of lust. But no lust quite matched his wanderlust.

  2. His motorbike and he, a pair made for each other, had hit the roads every couple of months in their travels to the hills. Together, they had covered almost every inch of the hilly terrain in Himachal, Uttaranchal, Kashmir, the North-east and all the way down south in the Nilgiris. Even at the height of militancy in Kashmir, Rohit had followed the tug of his wanderlust and travelled on his trusty motorcycle, riding between the bullets and never once getting hit.

  3. He had slept in an abandoned shed alongside the road in Kausani and taken shelter from rains for two long days in a small nook in a hill near Dhanaulti — surviving off dry fruits and rainwater. He had also lived for four days with a local Naga tribal family in Tuensang when he ran up a high fever. Life always threw him a lifeline when he needed one.

  4. Rohit rode on, gently pulling the throttle and feeling the engine rev up. At this age, he no longer felt thrill in speed but quite enjoyed the powerful purr of his 250cc Yamaha. He rode leisurely, occasionally stopping by the side of the hilly tracks to soak in the ambience of the mountains. He had an intimate equation with the hills and his soul spoke a language of silence that only the pines and cedars could understand.

  5. Rohit had left Shillong a trifle late in the morning, after a hearty breakfast of toasted bread, boiled eggs and delicious steamed momos served with a pot of piping hot coffee. The sky was a clear blue with nary a speck of cloud in it. The breeze was cool but not chilly. This was July, the peak of the monsoon season in Meghalaya, hardly the best time for a biker to hit the roads.

(From Wanderlust by Joydeep Choudhury)


Resource 3: Types of passages

Resource 3

Type of passage



A narrative passage describes a sequence of fictional or non-fictional events. An important feature of narrative style is a chronological presentation of events, usually with a clear beginning, middle and end. A narrative passage includes descriptions of objects, people and events that resemble real life, people’s conversations, a climax or interesting finale. We usually recognise a narrative style by its use of expressions like Once upon a time..., a long time ago..., then..., after that..., in the end..., etc. We also find familiar words, personal pronouns and informal language.

Along with exposition, argumentation and description, narration, broadly defined, is one of four rhetorical modes of discourse. More narrowly defined, it is the fiction-writing mode whereby the narrator communicates directly to the reader.


A descriptive passage presents the characteristic features of an object, person, event or situation. It can describe the appearance of something, or how something works or behaves. Descriptive passages are usually of two types: static description and process description. Static descriptions describe the appearance of something, and usually contain verbs of being or having (is, are, has, have, contains, shows, includes, etc.). Process descriptions, on the other hand, describe how something works or behaves, and usually include verbs of doing (works, moves, opens, closes, pour, stir, shake, twist, etc). Descriptive passages do not include personal opinions or judgements; they try to give an objective account of the thing described. Descriptive passages also contain qualifying adjectives such as beautiful, kind, strong, bright, soft, hard, etc. In a process description we find discourse markers showing the sequence of steps, such as first, secondly, then, after that, finally and so on.


A comparative passage, as the name suggests, requires us to compare two or more objects, people, events or situations. When we compare, we talk about both the similarities and differences between the things compared. When we contrast two or more things, we focus more on the differences than similarities. Comparative passages usually include discourse markers such as on the other hand, when we compare, the difference between these, the similarities observed include, however, although, but and so on. A comparative passage can be written in two styles: describing all the features of the first thing under comparison in a paragraph or two, and following a similar step for the second object. Or, one by one, all the feature of both the objects are compared, showing the similarities or differences between the two.


Expository writing is used to inform the reader, to explain, describe or define a subject — but not to express the writer’s opinion. College and university students use this type of writing a lot, but it is also used in recipes and other texts that have an instructional or directional purpose. Expository texts are usually written in the third person, but the second person may also be used.


An argumentative passage uses evidence, facts and data to convince readers of a writer’s position on a subject. Argumentative passages usually contain discourse markers such as if, since, because, therefore, however, on the other hand, in my opinion, etc., to express a condition or cause and effect relationship, to counter a previous viewpoint, etc. Such passages usually do not include personal or informal language. Argumentative passages are never neutral — they always express a certain side of an argument.


Resource 4a: Narrative and descriptive passages


Resource 4a

A narrative passage

A long time ago, when the world as we know it now did not exist, two men were gathering fruit on the shore of an island. They followed the routine they had been using since childhood: harpooning the fruit on the tree with a sharp wooden harpoon, tearing it apart with their fingers and eating it up. The water lapped the shore of the island gently, the waves sliding up the shore and receding, never stopping still. Suddenly there was a deep rumbling from somewhere inside the earth, and then the earth shook. It was a sensation never before experienced by the two fruit-gatherers, and they were too shocked to even scream. Then the fruits began to fall off the branches. One by one, the fruit rained on the two poor men, and they could neither hide nor sit still. Slowly and quietly, the waves crept upon them, growing larger with each shake, until they looked like angry white columns. The earth boomed and cracked open, leaving deep cuts on its surface. A final tremor lifted the two men and carried them out to sea. After an agonising moment, the next wave deposited them back on the branch of a mango tree.


A descriptive passage

An earthquake is caused by the movement of fragments of the earth’s crust, called plates. The plates can move due to an underwater eruption of a volcano, a meteor hitting the earth, or a nuclear explosion. When an earthquake occurs, sudden cracks appear on the surface of the earth. This may cause buildings to crack too. The movement of the plates also causes waves in the sea to rise up, trees to fall down, and the shape of the land can also change. Earthquakes can cause a lot of damage to property, and sometimes even loss of life. For example, when a building collapses, people can die under it. The sudden shaking can uproot trees or cause fruits to fall off the tree. Scientists have been working hard to study how earthquakes occur, but they have not yet been able to predict earthquakes. People all over the world, especially those living in “earthquake zones” like Japan or India, always live with the fear of earthquakes.

Resource 4b: An argumentative passage

Resource 4b

There is a general impression amongst the public that our schools and colleges educate students. That some kind of uncritical knowledge is imparted to them is beyond any doubt. Students are made to copy notes, learn them by heart and reproduce them during examinations. Those who learn by heart and reproduce their learning to the exact letter are considered to be the best. Those who do not succeed in the exercise are termed “failures.” The examination results are all about grading in memory work that has nothing to do with education. An educated person is one who has developed the qualities of mind and heart, who can critically evaluate things and objectively decide the course of his or her action based on factual information.

Teacher question and answer


Question: What if I cannot find enough passages in different styles (expository, narrative, etc.) in my students’ course books to demonstrate the different styles of passages?

Answer: Since these activities are meant to encourage extensive reading, it is actually advisable for you to bring passages written in different styles from outside the curriculum. This will give students some much-needed exposure to a variety of literary and non-literary styles.