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Simple activities with a text for lower levels

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This is a collection of ideas one can do with a text to improve students’ reading skills. And perhaps not only the reading skills. I was trying to do the activities when I thought we had exploited the text in every possible way “dictated” by the coursebook and the students ( weak A2 level) still had problems with it.

  • Actually there were three shorter sections to read, so I grouped the students so that each group was focusing on one particular text. The reading was written in the Simple Present tense first person singular, so the students first had to read it out in third person singular, taking turns to read out the individual sentences.
  • The question words were listed on the board, together with a general revision of word order in questions in the Simple Present tense. Students were now forming questions with those question wors, write them down and finally had to ask and answer those questions.
  • Key words of the three sections were put on cards. The students took a card from the pile placed face down on the desk and they had to define, explain the words to each other: the rest of the group guessed the words.
  • On a different lesson the questions were on slips placed face down on the desk, students took turns to look at a question on slips and answer them. Then placed the questions face up on the desk and simply by looking at the questions tried to retell the story the questions were based upon. Finally the questions were taken away and students had to remember the text they have worked with.
  • One member from the group reads out the text deliberately making factual mistakes. For example if the text says: “I live in Turkey”, the student could say “I live in Norway” – the other students in the group have to listen carefully, and if they spot a mistake, say “Stop!” and correct the mistake. The reader then carries on with the text.
  • As the tasks are very often based on cards, when the groups are ready with one particular series of tasks with a pack of cards or slips, they rotate, i.e. they stand up and move over to a desk, where they find hte cards of the other text(s).
  • Sentences from the texts were taken and cut up into words. The students were in pairs and they had to reorder the cards to make meaningful sentences. When they were ready, I quickly checked the sentences. If they were correct, they could mix/shuffle the word cards, and leave it on the desk, while they were walking to the next desk where another sentence was waiting for them to reorder (previously reordered then mixed up by their peers). With this technique, students move around the classroom, concentrate on the correct order of words, meaning of words, collaborate, and revise the story of simple reading texts.
  • Students took a word – anything they liked. They wrote a sentence demonstrating the meaning of the word, but leaving the word itself out – thus producing a gapped sentence. They fixed the papers with their sentences on the walls of the classroom. The sentences were numbered. The students walked around the classroom and tried to guess the missing words of each of the sentences, by taking note of hte number of the sentence and the word they thought fitted the sentence.
  • Pictures were placed around the classroom walls. Students had to associate the words with one or more of the pictures and explain their choices.

Newspapers – how to teach about them?

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This is a collection of activities that I did in class to teach about newspapers for upper-intermediate students.

1. Headlines into sentences

We looked at headlines, and discussed their peculiar grammar (no articles, infinitives referring to future, abbreviations, etc) and some of the special vocabulary that you can find in them. This is closely connected to unit 5A in Solutions Upper-Intermediate.

Then we had loads of practice of headlines transformed into “normal” English sentences keeping in mind all the grammar rules.

2. Guess the article

We worked on headlines quite a lot. In another activity the students were given real headlines. They had to guess what the headlines might be about and write a short article on the basis of what they thought.

3. Articles into headlines

In this activity I handed out articles (from websites of different newspapers) and the students had to create the headlines. They did it in small groups – it was really great fun to compare the different headlines of the same article!

4. Compare the newspapers

We also looked at the different types of newspapers (broadsheets, tabloids, freesheets), I showed them this chart and we analyed it a bit. Then the students were put into small groups and the groups had different tasks. They had to open the websites of the newspapers, and compare them according to the articles they found there, the topics, the proportion of home news and international news, the types of news, the depth of analysis in an article, pictures, etc.

– one group compared broadsheets of different political orientations

– one group compared broadsheets and tabloids

– one group compared tabloids of different political orientations

– one group compared freesheets and tabloids

– one group compared freesheets of different political orientations

The result of hte comparison was then presented to the class and was the basis of a nice discussion.

5. Present a newspaper

This was done partly as homework on a voluntary basis. One student looked at a broadsheet and presented the news of the front page. The point was mainly what topics he could find, and the main idea of the articles were given, too. The same task was given to another student but with tabloids. They presented their findings to the rest of the class.

This task can be elaborated more, e.g. if studentss teach new words to each other or if they guess the type of paper or the political bias of the paper, or if the students presenting the papers don’t say the headlines, the rest of the group can give titles to the individual articles, thus creating the front page of a paper, etc.