This is a guest post, written by Tiago Bueno.

A must-read! I learned so much from his detailed description and background essay. I particularly liked strategy number 3: forming questions/generating goals.

Huge thanks for sharing your hard work on The TEFL Zone, Tiago!


You can connect with Tiago on Linkedin or follow him on twitter.

Hi, I’m Tiago. I’m an EFL teacher from Brazil, currently based in Thailand. I recently finished a Delta Module 2 course and in this guest post I’m going to tell you all about my experience with my receptive skills reading lesson, how I chose a focus, the background essay, and the lesson. I hope this post can give you some ideas for your own reading lessons, and also help other Delta Module 2 candidates who are considering focusing on reading for their receptive skills LSA.

Moving beyond comprehension questions

I’ve always enjoyed teaching reading lessons, so when I started Delta Module 2, I was really looking forward to learning more about reading and different ways of teaching it.

I was particularly interested in different approaches because about a year after I finished my CELTA course, I started questioning the traditional framework we learn on the course to teach reading skills, which usually involves these stages:

This is the traditional approach to teaching reading with an easy-to-follow framework that teachers can use with pretty much any text. 


 ..there are several issues with this approach (Watkins 2017, Nation 1979).


 During the pre and post reading stages, a lot of class time can be spent on activities that do not involve reading at all. We’ve all been there: long lead-ins or pre-teaching vocabulary stages that end up taking half of the lesson, leaving little time for actual reading.


Is this approach really authentic? Outside the classroom, we don’t usually read to answer comprehension questions set by a teacher or a coursebook writer.


Are we teaching or testing reading? I think by using the pre/while/post framework with comprehension questions, we are mainly testing reading comprehension rather than teaching it, as Watkins (2017) and Nation (1979) also suggest.


Although this approach helps learners practice reading, it doesn’t necessarily develop their reading skills. As Nation (1979) puts it, comprehension questions might help learners understand a text, but it doesn’t help them with tomorrow’s text.

Another good point…

Sally Hirst, one of my amazing Delta tutors, put it in a way that really drove the point home for me. During a forum discussion, she said that the pre/while/post framework we learn on CELTA and other initial teacher training courses will allow us to help our learners to read and understand a text, and that’s a good start, but the learners might go home only knowing more about whales or ancient Egypt or whatever the text was about or, as is often the case in coursebooks, they may go home also having seen more examples of the present perfect, knowing the names of more sea animals, but that’s about grammar and lexis rather than reading.

We should also consider how our lessons contribute to our learners’ reading overall, to the next time they try and read something on their own – another text of this type or another text where they have a similar purpose for reading.

Now you understand why..

I looked for alternative approaches to improve my reading lessons.

I wanted to find the balance between:

  • giving learners reading practice
  • testing their reading ability
  • focusing on strategies and skills they could transfer outside the classroom

The Background Essay

👣 Step one: Do a Needs Analysis before you choose your focus. 📝💬

 What do your learners need or like to read in English outside of the classroom? This will help you choose a genre or text type and will also make sure that you are addressing your learners’ needs and interests.

My group consisted of 8 adult Turkish learners. I had a chat with them about what they like or need to read in English outside of the classroom and most of them said they enjoy reading news articles in their L1, but they often struggle when they try to read them in English, so I thought a lesson which focused on helping them do something they enjoy in English could be useful. This was my essay title:

 Helping learners develop effective top-down strategies to understand the main idea of news articles

Another reason for choosing news articles is that they engage learners in extensive reading (the reading of texts for pleasure for long periods of time outside of the classroom).

There is strong evidence (Grabe 2009, Watkins 2017) that this can benefit learners in many ways, such as:

👣 Step two: Start researching your chosen area. 📚

What is involved in reading news articles? How do proficient readers read them? What problems might learners have when trying to do the same? How can we help them do it better?

I read quite a few books and articles (16 in total!) but the one I found most useful and interesting was Grabe’s Reading in a Second Language: from theory to practice (2009). He provides a detailed and evidence-based account of the processes involved in reading and what proficient L1 readers do and the implications for L2 reading instruction.

We usually read them for pleasure with a view of comprehending the main ideas in them.

In order to build main idea comprehension, we need to identify the main points in a text which, according to research (Grabe 2009, Pressley 2002), involves the use of top-down comprehension strategies.

Based on decades of reading strategy research, Grabe (2009: 208-209) explains that ‘a number of specific comprehension strategies have been identified as empirically supported by multiple research studies as providing the strongest support for reading comprehension’. The strategies are:

  • Summarizing
  • Forming questions/generating goals
  • Activating prior knowledge
  • Monitoring comprehension
  • Using text-structure awareness
  • Answering questions and elaborative interrogation
  • Using visual graphics and graphic organizers
  • Inferencing

👣 Step 3: Narrow it down

For my assignment, I decided to focus on the first 5. I analyzed what is involved in each of them with reference to news articles, problems learners have with them, and suggested activities to address those issues.

I got a distinction for the essay, which you can download here.

The lesson

For the actual lesson, I chose 4 of the strategies I analyzed in the assignment.

1. Using text-structure awareness
2. Activating prior knowledge
3. Forming questions/generating goals
4. Monitoring comprehension  

I chose articles that were:

  • short
  • authentic
  • not related to the pandemic (to give them a break from Covid-related stuff).
  • kind of funny


“Police capture ‘super obedient’ lookout parrot trained by Brazilian drug dealers’’

“Turkish burglar’s headache was his downfall”“UK police arrest the world’s unluckiest burglars”


I used a Know – Want to know – Learned (KWL) chart in the lesson to raise learners’ awareness of the strategies and practice them. I know it is hardly original but, as Grabe (2009: 231) points out, it is a useful multiple-strategy instruction process, supported empirically, that combines 3 of the strategies I wanted to focus on:

  1. activating prior knowledge
  2. generating questions/setting goals for reading
  3. monitoring comprehension.

 It also reflects what good readers do: using a repertoire of strategies rather than overusing single strategies (Grabe 2009: 207).


The lesson started with a brief discussion about reading news articles, the purposes for reading them (usually for pleasure) and how we do it (we try to get the main ideas).

Activating prior knowledge and generating questions

I then introduced one of the texts and got learners to write down 3-5 things they know about the topic of the headline and 3 things they wanted to find out in the text. They then compared their ideas in pairs in breakout rooms.

Here is one of the KWL charts that I made to model the use of the strategies or to help learners in case they got stuck.

Text-structure awareness

Next, I showed learners the different parts of a news article (headline, subheading, lead paragraph, body) which they had to match with their purposes, which was then followed by a discussion about where they could quickly find the main ideas (headline, sub-heading, and lead paragraph).


Learners then read the first article in order to find the answers to their own questions. This was followed by a pair check and a reflection stage in which learners discussed the following questions (the answers I hoped learners would arrive at are in brackets):

  • What did you do before you read the text? (wrote down what we knew, generated questions)
  • Why did you read the text? (to find answers to our questions) i.e., monitoring comprehension
  • What did you do while or after reading the text? (wrote down what we learned) i.e. monitoring comprehension
  • How can these strategies help you find the main idea of news articles? (because that’s what we do in real-life reading, we bring our knowledge to the text and we want to find something out, and we monitor whether we found the answers to our questions.
  • Do you think you already do this when you read in your own language, without thinking about it? (probably yes)

Learners then practiced using the strategies with the other two articles, and I wrapped up the lesson with a final reflection stage.

Things that worked well  

It was the first time I taught a reading lesson entirely focused on reading strategies and with a different framework, so you can imagine how nervous I was, but the lesson went reasonably well.

There was a lot of reading in the lesson! 3 different short news articles; my learners enjoyed the funny crime stories.

I was glad to see real progress throughout the lesson, especially with regard to the quality of the questions they generated for the articles, which was something that quite a few of them struggled with when I introduced the first headline.

During the reflection stages, the learners identified how the strategies helped them.

I felt my aims were largely achieved. Plus, I picked up on all my weaknesses in my post-lesson reflection, which ended up corresponding to the issues in my tutor’s report.

Challenges 🤔

This was my third LSA, and up to that point I had been teaching my own learners face-to-face, but a new wave of COVID-19 hit us here in Thailand where I’m currently based and I had to teach the learners provided by the center where I did Delta Module 2 on Zoom for the remainder of the course (LSAs 3 and 4).

So, LSA 3 was the first time I got assessed online and my nerves got the best of me at times. I forgot really simple, basic stuff, like demoing, and checking instructions consistently.

I also rushed the reading of the third and final article and the last reflection stage.

But all things considered, I was reasonably happy with the lesson and I got a merit for it.

The bottom line

I really enjoyed the research I did for this LSA and how much I learned about the processes involved in reading and the strategies good readers use, and I particularly enjoyed trying out a different way of teaching reading.

If you are also tired of the comprehension approach, why not experiment with something new? You can start small by trying something different for one of the while-reading stages. There are a few suggestions in my background assignment that you might find useful and interesting for your learners.

Suggested reading

I highly recommend Watkin’s Teaching and Developing Reading Skills (2017). It’s full of interesting activities to get learners to engage with texts in a more meaningful and authentic way, and there are also lots of ideas to develop reading strategies. Most of the ideas in the teaching suggestions section of my background assignment are based on his work. Oh, and I definitely recommend reading Grabe if you would like to deepen your understanding of reading and what good readers do. One of the best books I read in the course.


Grabe, W. 2009. Reading in a Second Language: from theory to practice. CUP.

Pressley, M. 2002. Comprehension strategy instruction: a turn-of-the-century status report. In C, Block & M, Pressley (Eds), Comprehension Instruction: Research-based best practices. Pgs. 11-27. Guilford Press.

Nation, I.S.P. (1979) The curse of the comprehension question: some alternatives. Guidelines 2: 85-103

Watkins, P. 2017. Teaching and Developing Reading Skills. CUP.

My Background Essay Bibliography


Anderson, N.J. (2009). ACTIVE reading: The research base for a pedagogical approach in the reading classroom. In Z. Han, and N.J. Anderson (Eds), Second Language Reading Research and Instruction (pp.117-143). Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.

Grabe, W. 2009. Reading in a Second Language: from theory to practice. CUP.

Grellet, F. 1981. Developing Reading Skills. CUP.

Nuttall, C. 2005. (3rd ed) Teaching Reading Skills in a Foreign Language Macmillan.

Pressley, M. 2002. Comprehension strategy instruction: a turn-of-the-century status report. In C, Block & M, Pressley (Eds), Comprehension Instruction: Research-based best practices. Pgs. 11-27. Guilford Press.

Thornbury, S. 2005. Beyond the sentence. Macmillan.

Thornbury, S. 2017. The New A-Z of ELT. Macmillan.

Urquhart, A. H. & Weir, C. 1998. Reading in a second Language: Process, Product and Practice. Longman.

Watkins, P. 2017. Teaching and Developing Reading Skills. CUP.


Carrell, P., & Eisterhold, J. (1983). Schema Theory and ESL Reading Pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, 17(4), 553-573. doi:10.2307/3586613.

Cook, G. 1997 Key Concepts in Language Teaching: Schemas. ELT Journal Vol 51/1: 83.

Field, J. 1999 Key Concepts in Language Teaching: Bottom up and Top down. ELT Journal 53/4: 338.

National Reading Panel. 2000. Report of the National Reading Panel – Teaching Children to Read: An Evidence-Based Assessment of the Scientific Research Literature on Reading and Its Implications for Reading Instruction. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.

Newton, J. 2016 Comprehending misunderstanding. ELT J 71/2. doi: 10.1093/elt/ccw096.

Rosenshine, B. Meister, C. & Chapman, S. 1996. Teaching students to generate questions: A review of the intervention studies. Review of Educational Research 66, pgs. 181-221.

Usman K. & Raisha, S. 2017. EFL students’ reading comprehension problems: linguistic and non-linguistic complexities. English Education Journal (EEJ), 8 (3) 308-321.


Amos, J. April 19th, 2021. Nasa successfully flies small helicopter on Mars. BBC News. URL:

Cecco, L. April 17th, 2021. Ontario gives police sweeping powers as Covid crisis spirals out of control. The Guardian.

Ghosh, P. April 28th, 2021. Covid: One dose of vaccine halves transmission. BBC News. URL:

Hoare, C. May 6th, 2020. Bombshell new theory on Tutankhamun’s death revealed. Express. URL: Page, S. April 28th, 2021. Biden surprises in first 100 days. USA Today. URL: surprises-first-100-days-bold-policy-fewer-gaffes/7375074002