Brochure Scanning: An ESL Reading Activity


Brochure Scanning: An ESL Reading Activity

Skills: Reading/Speaking
Time: 10 minutes
Level: Beginner to Low-Intermediate
Materials: Brochure/Timetable

Scanning is reading for specific information and it makes an excellent ESL reading activity. Language learners tend to focus on trying to understand every word, so they need to practice quickly finding specific key words. This will increase their reading speed in general and help move them towards more natural reading practices. To provide realistic practice, collect travel brochures, bus timetables and menus. If you do not have local access to any of these, a quick Google search will give you a wide variety. Here are a few sample scenarios you can use depending on the level of your student.


Find a vacation bargain. Give your student a budget, length of travel, and any other limitations, such as “type” holiday (beach, historical, adventure, etc.). This is highly variable according to the materials you have available and your student’s level. The student should scan the brochure for trips that match the criteria. To add more speaking, begin by discussing the student’s idea of a great vacation, and then work together to find a trip that matches those criteria.

High Beginner

Try a new restaurant. Have your student find menu items with certain qualities, such as vegetarian, lamb, or no onions. Can he/she make a reservation for 8PM on Monday? What is the phone number for reservations? And so on.


Take a bus from point A to point B for a meeting at a given time and then return. Have the student use a bus timetable to plan the journey. Have your student quickly scan the brochure to find the requested information. You can either have the questions printed in advance, or you can ask him/her to find certain information.

Any Level

As a pre-reading activity, reproduce several paragraphs from a novel and give your student 2-3 basic questions to answer such as:

Who is this about?
What are they doing?
What color is the character’s hair?
What is the character wearing?

Teaching Tips

If your student is lower level, have printed questions for him or her to use with the brochure. For example, “What time is the last bus to _____ on Sunday nights?”

If you are looking online for printable realia, add “PDF” to your search and the results will begin with PDF files that match your search terms.

If you can get a Flight Centre or Thomson brochure, you can a lot of mileage out of it beyond scanning. They are basically magazines with hundreds of travel packages of all types and for a range of budgets, although nothing is too luxurious. The higher your student’s level, the more freedom you have to expand the activity.


1. In advance, get a brochure or print one from the Internet. Restaurant menus, bus timetables and travel brochures are perfect for this. See the examples above for some ideas.

2. Prepare some questions for the student to answer using the information in the brochure.

3. Explain to the student that he/she is not to read word for word. He/she should only be reading to find the answers to the questions.

4. Have him/her find the answers to the questions.

Like this ESL Reading Activity?

It’s from 39 Awesome 1-1 ESL Activities: For Teenagers and Adults. In the book, you’ll get 38 more equally awesome ESL activities across all 4 skills (reading, listening, speaking, writing) that you can use in your private lessons. No more watching the clock waiting for the lesson to be over. No more bored students! No more wasting a ton of time on lesson planning.

You can get the book in both digital and print formats. The digital one can be read on any smartphone, tablet, Mac, or PC by getting the free Kindle reading app.

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