Essay Strips - Low Prep ESL Activity

When you give your students a passage to read, how can you be sure that they are actually reading & comprehending the text? How do you make reading more engaging?

Created out of necessity while working with a class of students who didn't like to read & inspired by an activity on Breaking News English, here's another Low Prep activity that you might want to try out in your ESL class. Try it out in your class & let me know how it went in the comments!

Skills Engaged: Reading, Grammar, Cooperative Learning
Materials: Whiteboard, poster/easel papers, & markers
Time: 20-30 min

Step by Step:

  1. Convert a short passage you want your students to read into less than 10 fragmented phrases (so it can fit onto 1 poster paper). You've done this before with sentences for sequencing but, you can also do them for grammar by separating within sentences. For example, (pic below) this is what I've done for a High Beginner class to introduce the concept.
  2. Determined the order of your fragments (numbered below in black ink) so that you don't get mixed up in class. Remember to always write the first phrase first & label it as such. This activity can get confusing so having the first phrase as an anchor is a big help.


  1. (Pic above) Write down the fragmented phrases on the board in the predetermined order.
  2. Group your students.
  3. Distribute the poster papers & markers to each group.
  4. Have ss copy the fragments on the poster papers as illustrated.
  5. Have ss cut out the phrases into strips.
  6. Have ss arrange the strips in correct order.
  7. Walk around to monitor & explain vocabulary. Resist confirming student answers unless they are really struggling or running out of time.
  8. When going over the answers, remember to ask ss for their reasoning.

  • Used to introduce a topic for an extended investigative/exploratory/reading/writing/project lesson.
  • Used to focus on a specific grammatical aspect (like pronouns/possessives/conjunctions/prepositions/adverbs).
  • (Pic below) An extended essay strip worksheet with vocab/comprehension questions. Plenty on Breaking News English.
adapted from

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