Interactive immersive reading

This is another special multimodal story from The Guardian and explains the fate of a family who were affected by a bushfire in Tasmania.



The Guardian: Firestorm.


Snow Fall: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

Interactive immersive reading

This story is definitely for high level students, advanced or proficient levels.  It’s a fairly topical story this time of year.  I recently found myself teaching my elementary students the meaning, pronunciation and etymology of the word ‘avalanche‘ after the disaster at the Hotel Rigopiano near Gran Sasso mountain last month .  We attended a concert here in Doha which was arranged to help raise money for the Municipal Councils of  Fiastra and Acquacanina in Le Marche, Italy.  These two villages were affected by the recent earthquakes in Italy.


Included in the story are interviews with people affected, videos, maps of the area, and animations.


The New York Time: The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek

Immersive Interactive Reading

Multimodal media is another way of providing students with the authentic contextualised input that is required when learning a language.  Immersive interactive reading is now freely available online and uses images, music, graphic design, animation and videos of spoken and written language.

Richard Kern (2015:194) notes that multimodal communication isn’t new and has in fact been the norm for most modes of communication for a long long time; just think of those beautifully designed medieval manuscripts or rebus books, theatre performances, science textbooks, concrete poetry, comic books, newspapers, magazines, television, the list goes on.

I often read The Guardian online and have come across news stories or special segments which include multimodal media.  I have included some of these articles here as I think not only are they very interesting but can also be of great help to learners of English.

If you are interested in finding out more about the integration of reading material into classroom practice, I recommend reading the article by Klaus Brandl.

I have mainly used these interactive reading stories as homework exercises; we discuss some of the main issues in class and students can offer ideas on what they expect to find in the stories.  I’ll also pre-teach any interesting language.

Brandl, Klaus (2002) Integrating Internet-based reading material into the foreign language curriculum: from teacher- to student-centred approaches.

Kern, Richard (2015) Language, Literacy, and Technology.

Digital Fiction

I’ve always preferred holding a paperback book in my hands, turning the pages myself and watching as the book acquires its own creases as it ages in my possession.  It took me a while before I actually decided to buy an ebook reader which I could upload a wide range of books on my travels.  There are advantages and disadvantages to both formats and  I love them both.

Digital media does offer some interesting innovations to the way we read.  The reader can choose the direction they wish to take in a narrative.  I used to love those maze reading books in which you were given an option to jump to different pages depending on a particular decision you wished to take.  Audio and visual aspects can also be used in more creative ways.

In We Tell Stories, Penguin has chosen six stories which are specifically designed for the internet.  They are stories that are based on other famous classics but allow readers to interact with the stories differently from traditional print media.



Penguin Readers

I’m a big fan of graded reader or easy reader books.  When I was starting learning Spanish and Italian they were an important part of my exposure to authentic contextualised vocabulary.  I also really enjoy reading so these books were an excellent way of combining two hobbies.  I often tell students that they should find reading material related to their hobbies to develop their awareness of language conventions and get more exposure to the target language.


Don Camillo was a graded reader book which I fondly remember from studying Italian at university.  He is a fairly well known character in Italy, possibly a little dated now, but it introduced me to a popular cultural figure who has starred in a number of films and even a BBC television series.  I remember Lola Lago as the accompanying audio really helped develop my listening skill as well.  It’s a mystery story and was suitably interesting to keep me listening and then read again.

I try to get my students to read these types of books.  They are widely available in local book stores and are produced by the largest publishers, including the Cambridge English Readers from Cambridge University Press and Oxford University Press Graded Readers.

Pearson’s Penguin Readers also come in graded formats and there are freely available sample chapters on the website.  To gain access you need to create an account – it’s free.


I currently have a pre-intermediate class which I would like to introduce to these types of books.  The samples on offer for this level include the following:


After carefully reading and listening to all of the material, I’ve decided to use the Braveheart sample with this particular class.  There are two audio files for the two introductory chapters and I can get more use out of it.  The theme is also more accessible for this particular class.

There is also a download area with worksheets offering activities for various chapters in the books.


TOON Books

TOON Readers offers an entirely FREE selection of resources which allows children to read and listen to stories using “Read To Me” or by activating audio prompts on individual balloons when they need a little extra help.

TOON Readers were developed in cooperation with Professor Garfield, a non-profit educational collaboration between Garfield the Cat and Ball State University.

I found the Jack in the Box interesting.  It was created by Art Spiegelman, a famous American graphic novelist best known for his book Maus.

These can be used in class or shown to parents who can help encourage students to read English texts at home.  I posted links on our Class Dojo page to motivate parents to try using these stories at home.

Read Theory

This website is one I use regularly.  It offers students the possibility of developing their reading skills and explains different strategies they need to apply.

This video provides a short introduction on how to get started:

One of the characteristics of Read Theory that I really like is that students can work independently on developing their reading skills if they feel that it is this skill they need to spend more time on.  The teacher can monitor progress and view automated feedback on student performance at the Progress Reports page.