Straight talking ELT

DEAR time

I first came across DEAR time about ten years ago when I was teaching at the British Council, Bilbao. I tried it out with different types of classes – primary, teenagers and adults. As with most classroom techniques, it worked best when I spent time explaining the idea and then followed through by making DEAR time a regular feature of the lesson – a routine.

What does DEAR time mean in an ELT context?

DEAR = Drop Everything And Read. The name says it all. When it is DEAR time in a lesson, everybody drops what they are doing and reads. The main aim is to encourage independent reading. The following rules usually apply in an ELT context:

  1. Everyone in the room should read

… and that includes the teacher. Some teachers find this a useful time to read ahead in the Teacher’s Guide or to read through their students’ compositions but there are no strict rules so teachers can read whatever they like.

  1. Students choose their own (English) reading matter

Some might choose a graded reader or a novel. Others might prefer a newspaper article or an online blog about their favourite sport or actor. Some students need help choosing, others prefer to be left alone.

  1. Reading for pleasure

This reading should be for pleasure so it should not be rewarded or assessed in any way.

  1. Quiet please!

Everybody should be quiet and there should be as few disruptions as possible during DEAR time. This means a certain amount of prior organisation, with students being able to access their choice reading matter easily.

  1. Where DEAR time is implemented, it usually lasts between 10 and 15 minutes. There are no strict rules but it is important for students to know how long it lasts. Some teachers start off with 5 minutes and increase the time week by week as students get used to the routine.


There are several variations of DEAR time. It is sometimes called USSR (Uninterrupted Sustained Silent Reading) or SSR. It is also called FUR (Free Uninterrupted Reading) or FVR (Free Voluntary Reading).

What about you?

Have tried DEAR time with your classes? How do you encourage your students to read?  Do you think the classroom is the right place for reading for pleasure? I’d love to hear about the experiences. Please feel free to post a comment.

Some final words and further reading

DEAR time encourages reading in general. It helps students develop reading skills in a secure environment where the main aim is pleasure, not passing an exam. DEAR time increases students’ range of vocabulary.

Watch Stephen Krashen talking about Trends in Sustained Silent Reading – at the KOTESOL International Conference 2011

Download a pdf of Stephen Krashen’s article Free Voluntary reading: New research, applications and controversies (April 2004) Krashen


2 responses to “Straight talking ELT

  • Robin Newton

    Interesting article 🙂
    Personally, I really like having a time in class when everyone’s reading, though I’m not so keen on the “drop everything …” part as sometimes students are really on task with something and it doesn’t seem right to interrupt them. Instead, I’ve always preferred to have a quiet reading time with primary classes when they come back from a break. Everyone comes in, takes a book and sits down with it for a while. It’s a good way to settle them down and doesn’t break up the flow of a lesson.

    • katherinebilsborough

      Hi Robin, thank you for taking the time to read the article. Love your idea of reading time to settle the pupils after a break. And I totally agree with the ‘flow of the lesson’ comment. It isn’t always a good time to ‘drop everything’. Can you imagine a learner-centred lesson where the pupils themselves had the power to announce ‘Drop everything’ themselves and not just the teacher! Now that would be interesting.:)

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