Reading Comprehension Lesson Plans  

These reading comprehension lesson plans give your intermediate ESL students a fresh look at history and science. They provide background knowledge as well as extra practice with key vocabulary.

photo of 2 students reading (& one also writing) with text: A fresh look at science, ELA, & history topics for ESL students (grade 5 up)

The lessons feature a variety of activities-- from discussion to worksheets, writing, and a webquest. Several lesson packets look at how diseases have affected world (and American) history. They consider the ways diseases have led to scientific breakthroughs. Others discuss whales and climate change, teen sleep, and motivation.

The Word Detective packet uses excerpts from Poe, Treasure Island, and more to help students practice reading comp skills like inferences and context clues.

The lesson plans include comprehension, critical thinking, and close reading questions.

(See Improve Your Reading SkillsReading Comprehension Strategies, and Reading for Specific Purposes for background on important reading skills to consider in reading comprehension lesson plans.)

Jump directly to the lesson plans:

Free Reading Comprehension Lesson Plans

Word Detectives

Word Detective Bundle (includes Word Detectives as well as the Prefix, Root, and Suffix packets from Root, Prefix, and Suffix Worksheets)

Medical Mysteries (the packets below include parts of this comprehensive packet)

The Impact of Disease on History

Disease Detectives Webquest

The Mystery of Scurvy

Note: You will need Adobe or another pdf reader to download these pdfs. If you do not have Adobe Reader you can download it, free, here.

Free Reading Comprehension Lesson Plans

If you do not need a lesson plan, but just want some interesting reading and then some questions to practice comprehension, see also Reading Comprehension Worksheets

(The free worksheets are near the top of the page. They're followed by some worksheets related to the packets on the bottom of this page bottom  but without the lesson plans and other teacher aids.)

A Lesson on Teen Sleep

cover of the Teen Sleep pdf

In this short lesson students watch a short TED Ed video about the value of sleep, read a PBS article about sleep and the teenage brain, and answer comprehension questions about what they have learned.

(The questions can also be used as an anticipation guide to arouse student interest and find out how accurate their current ideas are.)

They also complete a crossword puzzle based on vocabulary from the video and article.

The materials were selected to be easy enough that most English language learners can follow what they say.  6 pages. Right click to download it.

 Whales & Climate Change: Victims or Heroes? 

whale silhouette

This hour-long lesson for intermediates or high-beginners includes some preliminary vocabulary and scaffolding, an article on the potential impacts of climate change on whales and part of a second on ways they reduce it, and a worksheet with reading comp questions.

Lesson Plan on Motivation

This 1 1/2-2 hour lesson practices both reading and listening comprehension, using a TED talk on Motivation. (You can find an interactive version of the questions on A Comprehension Test, and the detailed lesson plan at ESL Lesson Plan on Motivation.)

After warm-up and vocabulary exercises, students watch the video and read its transcript. Answer any questions, then give them 12 comprehension questions. (Point out this is good practice for major tests they will need to take later.)

You can download this lesson as a pdf by right-clicking here Get the warm-up survey and vocabulary matching pdf here and the comprehension test pdf here. 

Word Detectives

cover of Word Detectives

These lessons, readings, and worksheets are designed as an engaging way to introduce middle or high school intermediate-level English language learners, or mixed classes with both native speakers and ELLs, to reading comprehension skills and some important academic vocabulary.

They teach the use of inferences, close reading (along with predicting, skimming, and scanning), summarizing, context clues, and word part analysis—with some examples using common roots, prefixes, and suffixes.

Common Core Standards addressed: CCRA R-1,2, & 3—especially in the yellow fever reading and activities. The summary activity also addresses RH.6-8.2 & RH 9-10.2. CCSS.ELA-Literacy L6.4A-B, 6.6, 7.4A-B, 7.6, 8.4A-B, 8.6, 9-10.4A-B, 9-10.6—in the context clue and root and affix lessons.

This unit includes 5 detailed lesson plans for a week's worth of high interest reading, context clue, and practice activities.

* an introduction to detective work and inferences, using a retelling  of Poe's Murders in the Rue Morgue. (The original excerpt is included near the end of the pdf in case you want to use part of it with students who have higher level English skills.)

** ‘Be a Word Detective’ categorizing and gap-fill practice and its answer key

* a discussion of the Scientific Method preceded by some vocabulary explanation and examples and followed by a short quiz and answer key-- 4 pages in all

An Investigations Crossword and game ideas for practicing academic vocabulary.

* scanning, close reading, summarizing and a time line activity relating to "Solving the Mystery of Yellow Fever."

* a two-page excerpt from Treasure Island followed by a worksheet practicing context clues (and answer key)-- 4 pages (as well as a shorter version for students with more limited English.)

* practice with roots, prefixes, and suffixes

* Word Detective Quiz 

You can also get this packet (at a big discount) as part of the Word Detective bundle value pack below (along with more extensive root and affix practice: Word-Building Suffixes, Common Prefixes, Roots, Spanish cognates and games.)

Check Out These Reviews by Other Teachers

You can see reviews from some of the teachers who have used it on Teachers Pay Teachers. Come back here if you want to buy it or buy it there. (Both sites are secure and the price is the same, though I earn a little more if you buy it here.)

Click the "buy now" button to download "Be a Word Detective" for $9.50. 

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Please contact me if you have any problems or questions. If you are not happy with any worksheet, contact me for a full refund (or a credit plus 10% on another packet if you prefer.)

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Word Detective Value Bundle

I’m very pleased to finally have this academic vocabulary and word-building skills value-bundle ready to offer.

It includes

  • the Word Detectives packet above (with several high interest reading selections and practice activities), 
  • the Word-Building Suffix, Roots, and Common Prefix packets listed on Prefix and Suffix Worksheets including practice with cognates for Spanish-speakers and several games including four root memory card sets

The bundle allows great flexibility, as most activities after the first week will fit into 15 minutes or sometimes half an hour, with some reviews even shorter.

It explicitly teaches about 33 important academic words with multiple ways to practice them (most 6-8 times-- enough for a student to acquire the words and fix them in long-term memory) as well as many roots and affixes and word decoding and context clue skills.


• 4 pages teaching notes for the Word Detective bundle

• Word Detectives packet: readings, worksheets for vocabulary and context clues, and quizzes-- about 1 week

• Word-Building Suffix packet: worksheets and suffix practice, 2-3 days

• Common Prefixes packet: prefix examples and practice, 2 days

• Roots Practice + packet including a number of Greek and Latin roots, games, and cognate practice (15 minutes to 1/2 hour over 8 days-- or more for review games)

• a sample vocabulary notebook template for students to use to design their own

• new material including a Word Detective crossword and review/quiz plus their answers

It’s a great introduction to academic vocabulary, word decoding, and using context clues.

The combined contents add up to $26, but with the bundle discount (included) you can download this for your classes now for $19.50 (over 20% off the cost of the individual packets.)

(Satisfaction Guaranteed. See yellow box above.)

You can read reviews from other teachers on its page in Teachers Pay Teachers. Come back here to buy it, or get it there for the same price.

Click on "Buy Now" to download the complete Word Detective Bundle for $19.50.

Note: You may receive download files for each of the individual packets within the bundle as well as one for the complete bundle in one pdf. Feel free to open any of them or just delete the extras (or keep them if you find them easier to use as smaller pdfs), but please do not share, as you only purchased one bundle.

(If you would like copies to share, or multiple licences, please see the EnglishHints store on Teachers Pay Teachers. (See review link above, or for the packet that interests you.) Multiple licenses are 1/2 price each-- so you and a friend could each buy one for $7.48.)

Medical Mysteries: Reading Comprehension Lesson Plans

cover of the Medical Mysteries readings, worksheets, and webquest packet, with title, question marks, and pictures of bacteria & a microscope

Medical Mysteries is a one to two week reading comprehension lesson plan unit with reading selections and comprehension questions, a web quest, and other resources on the impact of diseases on history and people’s efforts to understand and control them. 

It's an introduction to the diseases that made scientific research both urgent and difficult, and to the human stories behind medical progress. 

It includes 3 reading selections followed by reading comprehension questions: The Impact of Disease on History, Solving the Mystery of Yellow Fever, and Scurvy and Sailing Ships.

The first reading selection has a side bar explaining some key disease vocabulary, and a crossword puzzle provides additional practice.

There is a web quest with instructions, suggested questions, and three useful links (not including Wikipedia) for each of 11 scientists so student groups can choose one to investigate and then introduce tso the rest of the class.

The contents page and lesson plans also suggest links to excellent short videos on smallpox, cholera and the London ghost map, the Spanish flu, polio, and pellagra (and a long video on the Black Plague using pictures and first person narratives to show its impact on medieval society for classes that have the time.) 

Recommended for  intermediate or advanced ESL students, as well as middle or high school students. 


          pg. 3-7 Teaching Notes & Lesson Plans (including suggestions for timing, an introductory question handout for students, extra lesson ideas, and optional writing activities)

Main hand-outs:

·         pg.8-10 The Impact of Disease on History (3 page article/reading)

          pg. 11 Reading Comp Questions

·         pg. 12 Crossword

·         pg. 13-14 Yellow Fever (article-- 1 page + with Questions on the 2nd page)

·         p. 15-17 Disease Detectives Web Quest

·         pg. 18-19 Scurvy and Sailing Ships (2 page article)

·         pg. 20 Questions    

          pg. 21 Looking Back (optional questions handout for a class or small groups discussion or individual evaluation of what students have learned)

4 Answer keys (grouped together since you may not need to print these—or only print one copy of each.) pg.22-25 (Impact Comp, Crossword, Yellow Fever, & Scurvy)

·         pg. 26-27 Bibliography and Credits

These lessons address Common Core standards RI.7.1, RI.8.1, CCRA.SL.2, RH.6-8.1, 6-8.3, & 6-8.7, RST 6-8.4 and 9-10.4.

See teacher reviews on the Medical Mysteries page of the EnglishHints shop on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Download it now for $ 8.00. (See the guarantee after Word Detectives.)

The Impact of Disease on History

cover for

This is a shorter version of Medical Mysteries, above.

It offers an introduction to the diseases that changed the course of history and made scientific research both urgent and difficult, together with a glossary, comprehension questions, and links to excellent videos and resources on several major diseases.

It includes the teacher notes and links, two reading selections, on diseases in history and on the search for the cause of yellow fever (both written fairly simply but accurately, and designed to appeal to middle school or high school students), each with comprehension questions and answer keys.

It also includes the optional "Looking Back" summary activity.

It does not include Medical Mysteries’ cooperative learning  or its article on scurvy.

Click below to download it for just $5.25.

Disease Detectives Webquest

Disease Detectives Webquest (pdf) cover.

This is another shorter version of Medical Mysteries, this time centering on the cooperative learning aspects. Like the two packets above, it would work for middle or high school classes, including classes with ELLs above beginner level.

It includes lesson plans for a 3(-4, with options) day investigation of the way scientists discovered germ theory and learned to control some of the worst epidemic diseases.

The lesson plan for day 1 introduces epidemic diseases and research with 2 short videos and a reading selection on the search for ways to control yellow fever.

Day 2-3 gives instructions for a webquest. Small groups of students each investigate and make a presentation on a specific scientist (starting with three provided links each.)

Suggested doctors and scientists include Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, Robert Koch, John Snow, Jonas Salk, and six others-- most familiar to students from the videos or with a brief note on the introductory page.

The lesson finishes with an optional short video on the current fight to eradicate polio, and then some suggested discussion questions ("Looking Back") to help students think critically about what they have learned.  

There are nine pages of content (12 including cover, 1 answer key, and credits). It addresses a number of Common Core Standards: CCSS.ELA-Literacy R1, R9, SL1b, SL4 and/or 5.

See a teacher rating at Teachers Pay Teachers.

You can download it for just $4.00 by clicking below.

The Mystery of Scurvy

cover for

This is also taken from the Medical Mysteries packet.

It is a single two-page article about the difficult search for the cause of scurvy, plus comprehension questions and links to videos on the search for causes and cures of other deficiency diseases.

(With cover, teaching notes, comp questions and answer key it's 6 pages.)

Download it for $2.00 by clicking below.

See also the "Words for Success" packet in Academic Vocabulary Worksheets. It has a two-page reading comprehension worksheet on an outstanding commencement address on the meaning of success, as well as practice with goal-setting and success-related vocabulary.

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