While the previous installment of this series provided ideas for using sentences from your teaching material, this time around I will list activities for doing extra work with a paragraph or short text.
Write a short paragraph on the board. Ask students to select a word from the paragraph and make a good sentence about themselves, their friends, their family, or their school. Give everyone a couple of minutes to write down their sentences. Next, ask a student to read their sentence. Erase from the board the word that the student used in the sentence. Repeat this process until roughly 2/3 of the paragraph is gone. Now challenge the class to read out the paragraph chorally. Do they remember the missing words?
Our Questions to You
Ask students to revisit a short text they read before. Tell them you want them to write 9 questions about the text, 3 content questions (questions about the people and events in the text such as Where did the man go? or How much money did he spend? ), 3 language questions (questions that relate to grammar and vocabulary such as How do you spell nutrition? or What is the opposite of early?) and 3 personal questions (questions that ask for a personal response such as Have you ever been to a hospital? or What is your opinion of people who smoke?) Circulate and help students generate ideas when necessary. When most of the class has finished writing 9 questions, put a chair in the front of the class. Choose one student to sit in it. Announce to the class that for the next 2 minutes, they will ask this student their questions. When finished, the seated student can choose another student to take their place. Repeat 5 or 6 times.
(The previous two activities are based on some excellent activities from Language Activities for Teenagers edited by Seth Lindstromberg.)
Phrases We Share
Before class, prepare some blank cards (the number of cards should be the same as the number of students). Choose ten phrases from a text the class hasn’t read yet and write each one on a separate card. If you have more than ten students in your class, repeat the phrases on some cards. When class begins, tell the class they are going to have a mingle. They need to walk around the class and briefly say the phrase on the card to another student. Each time, they need to speculate what this text will be about based on the phrases they have encountered. After they have finished, ask the students to write on the board what they think the topic is. Next, allow them to look at the text and see if they were right.
Mark Up The Text
Tell your class that you want them to interact with the text they are about to read by adding symbols. Give them a few examples. A check mark can indicate information they already know. An X mark can indicate something that they are not sure about. A question mark can show that they have a question. You might wish to use this coding system:
Text Codes – (from Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading)
or you can produce a different system that your students might find more appealing.
After they’ve finished reading, and added a few symbols to their page, put students into pairs to discuss. Finally ask students to tell the class what symbols they wrote and why.
(The previous two activities are based on ideas from the marvelous book Texts and Lessons for Content-Area Reading, written by Harvey “Smokey” Daniels and Nancy Steineke.)
Reading Comprehension Game
Before class, prepare 9 comprehension questions about a short text your students read recently. Write each question on the sticky side of a post-it note, then put numbers 1-9 on the front (one number on each note). Put these on the board.
In class, put students into small groups. Give two roles to members of each group, a runner and a secretary. The runner will go to the board and get a post-it for the group, the group will look for the answer, then the secretary will write the answer down. Next, the runner will return the question to the board, and start the process again with another question. You can make this into a competition by awarding a small prize to the group that finishes all 9 questions the fastest. Round things off by checking the answers with the whole class.
This activity originates from Amy Lightfoot’s article “Raiding the Stationery Cupboard” which appeared in the November 2012 issue of English Teaching Professional.
Correct the Teacher
Choose a short paragraph your students have studied before. Tell the class you are going to read it aloud to them. Also, inform them that you are a little tired, so you might make a few mistakes. Encourage them to listen carefully and correct any errors they hear. Now, read out the text, throwing in a few mistakes here and there.
Note: this activity is a familiar one in ELT. It provides some solid listening practice, along with review of a text.
Notes on the Board
After students have read an interesting article in the coursebook, write two headings up on the board. On the left side, at the top, write: WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THIS TEXT. On the right side, at the top, write: WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO KNOW. Tell students that you want them to write their thoughts and opinions about the contents of the article on the left side of the board, and their questions about the article on the right side. Provide plenty of markers for students to write with. After the class has stopped writing, bring them back to the board to answer questions and add extra comments.
Hall Houston teaches at Kainan University in Taoyuan County, Taiwan. His articles have been published in periodicals such as It's for Teachers, Modern English Teacher and English Teaching Professional. He has written 3 books: The Creative Classroom: Teaching Languages Outside the Box, Provoking Thought: Memory and Thinking in ELT, and The ELT Daily Journal: Learning to Teach ESL/EFL.