This was originally published on July 20, 2019 at

How to read for language development

I honestly believe that the sheer fact of being reading constantly and on a wide array of topics — books of different genres, newspaper articles, blogs, reports and so on — for information and/or pleasure is good enough and will be extremely beneficial linguistically. I will list below, however, some of the ideas I’ve tried out and which will hopefully help you as well.

– Have a vocabulary notebook at the ready whenever you’re reading at home or at work, but be selective. You’re not going to look up every word you don’t know in a dictionary, for that would make the whole process really tiring, and we’re aiming at fun! When making notes of a new word/phrase, be sure to include its phonemic transcription, part(s) of speech, definition and perhaps most importantly, the word in a sentence; that can be the context you found the word/phrase in and, even better, also in a sentence of your own.

– Establish language goals for yourself as you read. E.g. a) In this chapter I’ll focus on adjective-noun/verb-noun/adverb-verb collocations, and will try to find at least one example of each; b) in the next two chapters I’ll focus on phrasal verbs and idioms/dependent prepositions/perfect forms, and find at least X examples of each. – Make sure you write them down in your notebook as suggested above.

– Another interesting activity on collocations you can do is select random sentences from texts and books you’re reading and try to come up with different adjectives and verbs which would also collocate with the nouns used in the text, or think of other conjunctions which could replace the ones used etc. You can then use to check which of the uses/collocates is the most common. You can do that by typing two or three words or phrases in the search bar, separated by commas. Then click on ‘search lots of books’. (This Google tool was brought to my attention by my friend Natália Guerreiro. Thanks, Natália!)

– Start a book club with a few teacher friends. Choose the books to read either by vote or on an every-member-chooses-one basis. You can set yourselves a few of the tasks mentioned here or others, and get together at least once a month to discuss the book. There are many books that come with pre-prepared questions for book clubs, and as you discuss the books you can try and use some interesting language someone will be in charge of bringing to each meeting, e.g different ways of saying ‘I think’, interesting adjectives/idioms etc. to describe books and characters (English Idioms in Use Advanced has a unit –24– devoted to that).

– Read reviews of books you want to read (You’ll find great ones here) and explore them the same way you would a book/article. They’ll help you a lot with choosing what to read next and also with language to describe books, films, plays etc.

– Write reviews or a book recommendation of what you’ve just read, and have a fellow teacher read and give you feedback on it. As payment for their services, give them the book you were reading! 

See you next month!

Adapted from this previous post.


– Thornbury, S. 2006. ‘An A-Z of ELT’. Macmillan.

– Harmer, J. 2010. ‘How to Teach English’. Pearson.

– Aebersold, J. A.; Field, M. L. 1997. ‘From Reader to Reading Teacher’. Cambridge.

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