8 Reading Activities for High Schoolers That They'll Actually Enjoy

These reading activities are entertaining enough to keep teens engaged while they grow their literacy skills.

Updated December 25, 2023
high school students reading

Reading and writing skills are important at any age, but we know it's not always easy to keep older kids engaged. Reading activities for high school have to be really compelling to compete with all the other things vying for teens' attention. These fun literacy activities will have them putting down their phones and picking up their pencils.

Need to Know

Literacy is a broad term used to describe skills related to reading and writing. While much of the focus on literacy takes place in elementary school, there's definitely a need for continued development of skills at all grade levels.

Fun Reading Comprehension Activities for High School

There's no denying that a major component of literacy is reading comprehension, or the ability to make sense of the words on a page. The thing is, it's not always an easy thing to teach because it's such a broad topic. Students need to understand different kinds of texts across many aspects of life including work, home, and family.

These activities help you zero in on specific aspects of reading comprehension while keeping kids' attention.

Create a Quiz

Instead of having students take quizzes or tests after reading a novel, we love the idea of allowing the students to create the quiz. A test is meant to see what a student has learned after studying specific materials. This activates a student's ability to remember information, but it doesn't do the job of teaching reading comprehension.

Creating a quiz will make students think more specifically about what information was important and how to examine whether someone else has learned that information. This is a tricky way to teach reading comprehension because they have to work hard to know the material before they can write a quiz about it.


Create a list of short stories appropriate for your class


  1. Ask each student to choose a short story from your approved list.
  2. After reading the story, challenge students to create a comprehensive quiz about the story. Quizzes can be no less than 10 questions and no more than 20. Questions can cover a variety of topics such as characters, plot, and theme.
  3. Once the quiz is complete, have students create an answer key.
  4. Assign the selected stories as homework, or read and discuss them as a class. Use the student-created quizzes to gauge individual understanding of the story.

Online Profile of a Villain

We love this creative literacy activity that really lets kids get into the details of characters. The concept is simple; readers must select a book based only on a fake online profile created using its content. There are no cover images, author names, or plot summaries visible. This is fun way to get students focused on understanding characters and reading outside of their comfort zones.

An awesome bonus is that a student will need to consider all context clues if they hope to find a book in their preferred genre. If they end up with a genre they might not choose, they get to see how they feel about it (it might just be a new fave).


  • Ask each student to think of a book they would recommend to a friend. Supply reading lists if necessary.
  • From the chosen book, each student should then write a character summary of the most villainous character.
  • You'll need to have card stock and markers on hand.


  • Using the character summary, students should create an online profile of the villain. Remind students that a profile highlights positive qualities so they will need to put a positive spin on any negative traits.
  • Write the completed profile on the piece of card stock. Illustrations and creative text techniques are allowed to enhance this new cover for the selected book as long as they do not include an obvious clue as to the villain's identity.
  • All students should place their completed book covers at the front of the room.
  • Choose an order and have students select a character that they might want to learn more about. The book they select will be the next reading assignment.

World Mapping

Many children's stories and fantasy books have a map of the fictional world included. These maps can provide a fun backdrop for a unique listening and reading comprehension activity. Students will be challenged to hear their partner above all others and interpret their words into an image.

students working on a project
Need to Know

Active listening skills are an integral aspect of adolescent literacy and a big component of reading comprehension. Listening not only involves hearing a word but also interpreting its meaning, and that's great practice for understanding and processing what you read.


  • Select two to five "other world" maps illustrated in popular fantasy books, like Winnie the Pooh or Lord of the Rings.
  • Prepare a step-by-step script of directions for drawing each map.
  • You'll need to have blank paper and colored pencils for each pair of students.


  1. Separate the class into pairs. Give one person from each pair the script and the other person a blank paper and colored pencils. It's suggested that no two groups have the same world.
  2. All pairs should start the activity at the same time. This will create a loud atmosphere full of distractions.
  3. To start, the script reader should begin telling his partner the directions in the correct order. The person with the paper will need to listen to his partner, follow the directions, and create a world map.
  4. Once all maps are complete, groups with the same script can show a comparison of their world map.
  5. Open a discussion about what part of the activity was most difficult and why.

Activities to Connect Literacy and Modern Media

Viral videos, countless social media platforms, and entertainment flood the lives of teenagers today, but reading and writing don't have to compete for attention with them. We love the idea of incorporating all kinds of media into reading activities for high school to entice teens to participate and help them expand their knowledge to real life.

Make Your Own Photo Meme

Our phones are absolutely flooded with photos these days, and Instagram is a fixture at this point. Memes are all about combining words with photos, and coming up with the right words is a big part of literacy. The goal of this activity is to give students some light-hearted practice at writing. Students will be challenged to come up with text on the spot, but the humorous nature of the photos should help keep stress levels low.


  • Print funny images from the internet, leaving space on the paper to write under the image. On the back of the image write a genre such as romance, dystopian, science fiction, comedy, drama, or mystery.
  • Give each student one image and a few minutes to examine it.


  1. Instruct students to write a funny sentence or two describing their image as it pertains to the given genre, basically creating their own meme. For example, an image of a kitten wrestling a rabbit with the word "mystery" on the back might prompt a caption like "I'm not kitten. Somebunny got hurt, and we need to find out whodunnit."
  2. One by one, ask students to share their meme with the class.
  3. After each speech, have the class guess what genre the meme would fit in.

Re-Tweet Poetry

Communicating effectively without a ton of words is a skill that can take some practice. On X (previously known as Twitter), the limited character count of posts challenges writers to get a point across in a concise manner.


Assign a poem to each student. Have the students read the poem before the activity.


  1. Familiarize the class with the guidelines for X, namely the maximum character count of 280.
  2. Students must first rewrite each stanza of the poem to fit into a single 280-character post while still conveying the tone, mood, and point of the stanza.
  3. Once the entire poem has been rewritten as a series of tweets, students should create two hashtags to accompany the posts. The hashtags should relate to either the theme, title, or author of the poem.

Analyze Song Lyrics

Teenagers live by their soundtracks, maybe even more than they did in previous generations. Incorporating this love for music into a lesson about comprehension and writing can be pretty powerful. Students will need to interpret the meaning behind song lyrics, specifically if there is one controversial message that stands out.



Ask each student to choose a favorite song and submit it ahead of time. Check lyrics for availability and appropriateness before approving students' song choice.


  1. Present each student with a copy of the lyrics for their chosen song.
  2. Ask each student to write a literary analysis essay using the chosen song.
  3. As an added learning experience, you could ask students to present their song and analysis to the class.

Activities to Focus on Words and Their Meanings

Vocabulary lessons can be incredibly dull and boring when they involve memorizing lists and reciting them back to the teacher. The thing is, being familiar with an extensive vocabulary can help students sound more professional in adult settings. These fun activities can help.

Beach Ball Vocab Lesson

Active lessons are awesome when you need to gain and keep the attention of teenagers. This age group is best suited for an active in-class game because they should be able to keep on task while having fun.


  • Use a permanent marker to create distinct sections on a beach ball, create as few or many as needed.
  • In each section, write a command dealing with the use of a vocabulary word. Some examples would be: change to an adverb, define the word, use it in a sentence, think of a rhyming word, and think of another word with the same root.

How to Play:

  1. Instruct students to sit on their desks or have all the desks arranged in a circle before game play.
  2. Write a vocabulary word on the white board, call out a student's name, and throw them the ball.
  3. The student should then shout the answer to whichever prompt is closest to their left thumb as it pertains to the word on the board.
  4. If the student answers correctly, the teacher should choose a new vocab word before the student calls out a classmate's name and throws the ball to that person. If the student answers incorrectly, the same vocab word is used and the ball is thrown to the next player.
  5. Continue game play until all vocabulary words have been used or time is up.

Comic Strip Scene

Comic strips offer a place to showcase an entire story in very few words (plus their just really fun). This activity will require students to tap into their creativity and vocabulary skills in rewriting a scene from a play.


  • Scenes from a play
  • Blank paper
  • Colored pencils or markers
  • Thesaurus


  1. Assign a scene from a play to each student.
  2. Instruct students to create a comic strip inspired by this scene. The purpose of the comic should mirror that of the scene, but the tone should be humorous as that is typically how comic strips are written. The basic idea is to capture the essence of the scene in images and only a few choice words. No text from the scene should be copied in the comic aside from character and location names.
  3. Display and discuss the comic strips as a class. What were some of the most effective ways a particular scene was portrayed?

Connect the Dots and Have Fun

The best reading activities for high school involve covering a wide variety of skills related to the use of language. Help high school students prepare for successful adulthood by incorporating different activities that include each of these skills, but don't forget to have fun at the same time.

8 Reading Activities for High Schoolers That They'll Actually Enjoy