Make Grade-Level Texts Fall-Out-of-Your-Seat Funny and Memorable for ELLs

Madlibs Method Fun and Effective ESL Reading Activity

Duration: 5-20 minutes

Type: Group/Partner

What You’ll Need for This ESL Reading Activity


  • Challenging or Key Portion of a Grade-Level Text
  • Copies of the Text for Each Student (Photocopy or Digital)
  • An Open Mind About Student Humor
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Overview of This ESL Reading Activity:


This is such a fun activity to help engage your EL readers! After reading and practicing a text, all you do is substitute words from the text with words the students come up with. Then you read it back and giggle. Warning. I’ve had students fall out of their chairs laughing.

How to Organize This ESL Reading Activity


1. (Optional) Do the following before class for best results. Make a copy of a text (or portion of a text) and number words from the text that you want the students to change. Make a page with the numbers and blanks next to the numbers as well as the parts of speech each number needs. You can of course just have students create this on a scrap sheet of paper during class if you have the time.

2. Before Class: Make copies of a text for your students, or provide students with a digital copy that they can annotate if you’re teaching online. (i.e. NearPod works well for this using the Draw It feature.)

2. Practice the text in class as you normally would, focusing on comprehension and important vocabulary. 

3. Pass out the numbered pages with the blanks for students to fill in with a partner. (Or you can have students write the numbers and blanks on a page and you can tell them what parts of speech to write as you go.)

4. Next, read through the text with the students again and tell them what words to number. 

5. Afterward, students go through the text and replace the words with the ones they chose. 

6. They then read back their texts and giggle. You can have students swap texts for some more laughs. You can even have tje class vote for the best version.

Benefits of This ESL Reading Activity


1. Students get lots of reading practice with a difficult text, helping them digest the grammar and vocabulary while at the same time having a good laugh.

2. Due to the humor, students are really motivated to understand which helps them grapple more easily with difficult sentence structures and vocabulary.

3. Since the texts often get read many times over, some of the sentence structures and vocabulary get committed to memory and you’ll see it appear on writing assignments!

Have you tried this activity? Anything you would add or change? Let me know how it went in the comments?

1 thought on “Make Grade-Level Texts Fall-Out-of-Your-Seat Funny and Memorable for ELLs”

  1. Thanks for the tip. It sounds interesting. It would be great if you could share some of the texts you have used for this activity here. I suppose not all texts are suitable and work well. It would be a great help. Eva

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