This series talks about the concept of using the internet as a virtual textbook (catch up on the first two episodes here: The Internet as a Virtual Textbook: An Introduction and The Internet as a Virtual Textbook: Habit Tracking.

In this episode, Damien Herlihy looks at online reading and the type of online tools students can use to assist their reading at home. He also introduces the idea of ‘deliberate practice’ and how it might help students become better readers. By the end of his vlog, you’ll have an intensive reading routine that your students can use at home to improve their English.

The steps in the intensive reading routine outlined in this vlog are described below, along with links to the tools Damien mentioned.

Online Intensive Reading Routine


Step 1: Choose a Reading Online

Visit Newsela, or equivalent (you might have your own favourite reading site), to choose an article to use as a reading. Newsela is a database of news stories with a range of themes: science, arts, health, law, money, etc and it has one killer feature for English students – the ability to adjust the level of the article.

Step 2: Pre-Reading

After choosing the article, direct student to look at the headline, sub-headings and make predictions about what the article is about. Students bring in their prior knowledge to the reading and get an idea of the structure of the article.

Step 3: Wordsift

Cut and paste the article into Wordsift. This tool was created to help teachers find important words in a text and sort those words in a variety of ways. Students can use it to find out the most important words in a text and make sure they understand the meanings before reading it.

Step 4: Reading

One easy way to make reading practice more deliberate is to read with audio. Reading with audio means students won’t be applying the wrong sounds to the written word. Other benefits include keeping pace with the reader and helping students process the text in chunks.

Natural Reader converts written text into spoken words – use it to read web pages or cut and paste your article into the box. There are a variety of accents and voices to choose from and you can adjust the speed of the reader.

Step 5: Post Reading

Students add new words, collocations or phrases into their vocabulary recording system – online or paper. Ask them to rewrite the articles with the headings only or compare the structures used in the different levels of the same article.



Clear, J. (2018) Beginners guide to deliberate practice’ James Clear

Burton, G. (2020) ‘Glorious graphemes: linking pronunciation and spelling’ English Teacher professional, (126)

Nation, P. (2013) What Should Every EFL Teacher Know? Compass Publishing.

Newport, C. (2016) Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. Grand Central Publishing.

Newsela Staff (2015) Picture this: Apple Stores display art made with iPhones, iPads and Macs. Newsela

Newsela Staff (2020) Meet the consultant who can help businesses go zero waste. Newsela

Paran, A. (2003) ‘English Teaching Essentials: Intensive Reading’. English Teacher professional, (28).