Tag: extensive reading

Sherlock Holmes – Diamond Secret
Sherlock Holmes – Diamond Secret

Some posts are easy to write and some take a lot of time to create. This one is the latter case. It took me three months to draw and rewrite the Sherlock Holmes story for pre-intermediate students.

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In this post, I would like to share with you a graded comic called Sherlock Holmes – Diamond Secret. The original comic is published by digitalcomicmuseum.com under CC0 license. I took the original story and copied only the outlines and I simplified the dialogues. You can read the resulting story here.

Sherlock Holmes – vocabulary

Before you read the story, it is a good idea to learn the vocabulary from this story. To make the learning enjoyable, I have created the following crossword.

Sherlock Holmes – crossword

The correct answers are here:


1. Secret
2. Anchor
3. Smuggler
4. customs
5. expect
6. diamond
7. wonder
8. button

Sherlock Holmes – video

You can read the comic in the following video. The video goes at the speed of 100 words per minute. As the video is at Youtube, you can try to speed it up in the Settings.

I made the comic black and white to make it simple to print. I know it does not look as well as in colour, but it is much cheaper to print enough copies for the whole class.

You can download the pdf file here:
[sociallocker] Sherlock Holmes – pdf file [/sociallocker]

A few words on reading

The text above can be used in two ways. It can be used for practising the speed reading or it can be used for extensive reading.

By working on speed reading, your students will improve their speed of reading and they will improve their comprehension. I play the video first in the speed it is, then I increase the speed to 150% and I ask the students to read the story again and I play it at 200% speed.

Extensive reading is a perfect means of refreshing vocabulary knowledge and creating collocations in one´s mind.

Is extensive reading dead?
Is extensive reading dead?

Most of teachers do not read research papers. There are several reasons for this. First, many teachers do not have enough time to study. Second, these papers are usually pretty difficult to read and understand. And third, they contain a lot of statistics and language teachers are not very good with numbers.

To be honest, I love language teaching research. I try to follow the latest papers and compare their results with my experience and I try to adjust my teaching on the basis of their results. And here I would like to share the most interesting papers with you in a simplified form.

Is extensive reading dead – Research

The first paper which I would like to discuss is called “Retention of new words: Quantity of encounters, quality of task, and degree of knowledge” and it was written by Batia Laufer and Bella Rozovski-Roitblat. It was published in Language Teaching Research 2015, Vol. 19(6) 687 –711. The name sounds a bit complicated but the paper examines what the learners must do to learn new vocabulary.

For a long time, research suggested that extensive reading is one of the best ways to learn new vocabulary. It was supposed that the more often students meet a word the more likely they are to learn it. Therefore, it was recommended that students should read a lot and it was expected that in the end they would know a lot of vocabulary.

This new research took this expectation and put it to a test. They asked the following questions:

  1. Is it enough to read a lot to improve my vocabulary?
  2. How many encounters are enough to learn a word?
  3. Is extensive reading the most effective way to learn new vocabulary?

And what did they find out? If you do a vocabulary exercises you will learn many more words than if you just read. Even if you read and look the unknown words in a dictionary it does not help much (some tests even show that it does not improve your knowledge of vocabulary at all). Put simply, if you memorize the words, you will save time and you will know much more. In fact, the tests showed that you will know up to 20 times as much.

So, does it mean that extensive reading is dead? It depends: If you have used it for teaching vocabulary (and I did), it is time to think again and abolish this practice. However, if you need to improve students’ reading, I am sure that extensive reading is a good means to achieve this.

To sum up, the research paper “Retention of new words: Quantity of encounters, quality of task, and degree of knowledge” shows that it is better to use vocabulary exercises than extensive reading for vocabulary teaching.

Jack the Giant Killer – part 2
Jack the Giant Killer – part 2

Jack the Giant Killer_img2In the first part of the comic story we met Jack and we learnt about 30 new vocabulary item. Now, it is time to finish the story and learn some more vocabulary. In this post there are several activities to learn or teach the new vocabulary, two games to check your vocabulary knowledge and comprehension and a video with the story. I hope you will find all the activities interesting.



Extensive reading – video

All the activities in this post are connected with the following video:

If you like the story below there are several activities to exploit it and to learn or teach a bit of English.

Extensive reading – vocabulary

To be able to understand the video well, you need to know a lot of vocabulary. The following file contains 30 words and their definitions.

Vocabulary for Jack the Giant Killer part 2

You can print out the file and use the free spaces either to write your own sentences, or your translations of the words or associations to remember the words better.

If you want to practise the vocabulary, try the following file. It contains 4 crosswords and word puzzles to practise the target vocabulary.


There are many people who prefer learning online. For those there is a HTML5 quiz:

If you like playing it on the whole screen, click on the button below:

Vocabulary quiz

Extensive reading – comprehension

If you are going to play the video in your class the following mind map might come handy. Print it out and students should complete it.
Mind map_Jack the giant Killer_comprehension

Start with the section PART 1 which students should complete before they watch Part 2. (If you did not see part one, you can find it here). Then watch the video of part 2 and complete the rest of the mind map. Check the answers together and then the students can use the worksheet to retell the story.
I have included vocabulary section there, even though I deal with vocabulary above. However, I feel that if students choose vocabulary which they consider useful, they will remember it better.

Once again, if you prefer online activities, here is a game to check your comprehension. It is called on Target and your task is to answer the questions and shoot as many bad ducks as possible. You can get a bonus if you shoot one of the bottles on the sides.


If you want to play the game on the full screen click the button:
Comprehension game – On target

Jack the Giant Killer – comic story part 1
Jack the Giant Killer – comic story part 1

Students like reading comics. Comics are often the only thing students read. When I started an extensive reading project last year, students did not mind reading comics, however when we moved to short stories, more than half of them stopped reading and started to hate the programme. On the basis of this experience I have prepared a fairy tale comic for students to read.

[showmyads] To be able to read a text and understand it, it is essential that you know the words. The more words you know the more you can enjoy the text. That is why I have so many materials dealing with the vocabulary here. First, learn the vocabulary with our associative method and then play the games. Once you know the words, watch the video and answer the comprehension questions.

Jack the Giant killer – vocabulary

First, learn the vocabulary using our associative learning method.

Associative learning method

When I study vocabulary, I am able to learn about 50 words a day. And here is how I do it.

The Associative learning method.
Take each word and find in your mother tongue or any other language you know some words it reminds you of. Thus for example, when I see the word GIANT I come up with these associations: Gigantic, Gigi (my former student´s nickname, anténa (antenae). When I create these associations I move to another word. I go on like this with four words. Then I cover the English words and I see just their translations and I recall them.
In this way I go on for as long as I feel like it and my vocabulary grows.

Vocabulary activities

Here are the words and materials to learn them using the associative method. You can verify your knowledge of the words at the end where there are two quizzes. If you pass the test you can play a game. All of the activities are in HTML 5 so you can learn using your mobile whereever you are.

For a better mobile experience it is better to click over here and see the activity full screen.
Vocabulary – associative method

If you prefer doing these activities offline, you can print out the following worksheets and try them out:
Word games_part01_giant

Word games_part01_key

Giant_page_pdf – associative method worksheet

If you like crosswords on your computer, you can try the following one. It is in HTML5 so it will play on all mobile devices too:
Jack the Giant killer – crossword

Jack the Giant Killer – video

Now, that you know the vocabulary, you can watch the first part of the video and enjoy it.

And now try the comprehension quiz. If you pass the quiz you can play the game called HOT RACE. The quiz is in HTML 5 so it will play on any mobile device. However, the game is only in Flash and it will play on your desktop only.

If you want to play the quiz on full screen, click the following button:
Comprehension questions – part 1

Associative learning method – comments

  • How did the method work for you?
  • How many words were you able to learn this way?
  • What problems did you encounter?
  • Is there anything more you would like to tell us?

Do not hasitate and comment below. Thank you 🙂

The Kiss story by Kate Chopin
The Kiss story by Kate Chopin

Kate Chopin was an American author from the end of the 19th century and she wrote very interesting stories. I have taken one of the shorter ones and simplified it for pre-intermediate students.

The Kiss is a story about love and money. It is about a girl who has to choose between real love and a lot of money. What will she choose?

The Kiss – mind map

Even though the story has been simplified there are still some words that may cause problems. The words are listed in the following mind map which can (and should) serve as a worksheet. Print out the pdf worksheet file or the picture and translate the vocabulary into your MT.
The Kiss by Kate Chopin mind map extensive reading

The Kiss Kate Chopin mind map.pdf

The Kiss – story

Now, that there are no unknown words it is time to read and listen to the story. Take the mind map, listen and answer the comprehension questions. It would be best to listen to the story at least twice.

The Kiss – games

Now there are several games and activities to check your knowledge and understanding of the Kiss story.

First, you can try two dictation activities. Listen and click on the sentences you hear.
The Kiss – Dictation 1 The Kiss – Dictation 2

Now you can play several comprehension games. First, you could try the Hoopshoot game. (This game is in Flash and might not play on your mobile device).

The Kiss – Basketball game

The second game is called Penalty Shoot out. Answer the questions and score! (This game is in Flash and might not play on your mobile device).

The Kiss – Penalty game

The third game is the most difficult one. It is called Fling the teacher and you have to answer all 15 questions correctly to win the game. (This game is in Flash and might not play on your mobile device).

The Kiss – Fling the teacher game

The last activity is called Storyboard and your task is to reconstruct the original text. This one is really difficult!!! Are you up to the challenge???

The Kiss – Storyboard

Other stories

If you like the Kiss, you might like the following stories too:
Two dates chapter 1
Two dates chapter 2
Two dates chapter 3
Two dates chapter 4
There are several short articles and activities at www.englishlearningmagazine.com:
Amelia Earhart story
Prague story
There are two more stories with vocabulary at our sister site:
Flatmates vocabulary 1
Flatmates vocabulary 2