Things to do with a text….apart from read it!

In most textbooks, reading tasks are limited to answering a few questions that come after the reading. And those questions often don’t actually teach or test comprehension.

When students answer comprehension questions after reading a text many of us teachers quickly move on to the next activity.  However, do we really know if the students have comprehended the text or just managed to match up the correct answers to the questions?  Also, have you never had the guilty realisation that there is so much more that you could do with a piece of text than just answer a few questions.  All those words….all those possibilities. Below are a few suggestions that I have picked up from various different websites and blog posts:

Ss can be asked to put words into order by class of word ie: find the adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, phrasal verbs, lexical chunks, tenses, passive speech, reported speech etc etc.

Ss can read through the text and identify any unfamiliar words, either underline them and then work with a partner to find the definitions or in small groups to discover if peers already know the meanings.

To introduce a competitive element ask students to pick out one word that they ‘like’ and see how many different ways it can be inflected ie: worth, worthy, worthiness, worthless, worthwhile etc.   To extend this activity, ask students to find synonyms of the word ie: worth – quality, value, price merit, importance etc. etc.  This game is has endless possibilities including antonyms, idioms using the word, collocations of etc etc.

Do a “jig-saw” reading. Before class, take the reading and cut the paragraphs apart. Put them on the copy machine in the wrong order. It helps to put a box next to each paragraph for learners to write the numbers. It is also easier if you tell them which paragraph is first. Learners read and try to put the paragraphs in order. The ability to find the order shows the students and you that they’ve not only understood the words, they also understand the organization and relationships between ideas.

Much of reading is really “reading between the lines.” Learners need to understand the ideas behind the information in the text. Look for inference opportunities in the text. How does a given character feel about something? How do you know? Has that character ever been here or done this? How do you know. One good way to help them infer is to have the read part of the story. Stop them at a critical point and, in pairs have them predict what will happen next. This helps students make the jump to inferencing.

Deciding fact/opinion, same/different, etc. Later, if you want, it can include higher level decisions like agree/disagree or good/bad. Students make some kind of decision. At an elementary level, it can be as simple as asking the learner, “What character is the most like you? Why?” At a higher level, have them find elements in the story that do or don’t parallel their own lives. They have to explain why.

After a reading, simply ask the students, “Did you like this story or not? Why?” Being able to answer is a true test of understanding. One good way to get at this is to ask each learner to draw a picture of one scene from the story.  When they complete their drawings they can turn to the person next to them and explain the pictures. it in.  Group feedback can include perhaps voting for their favourite drawing and explaining why.

And if you are feeling really lazy you can always ask the students to read the text and, in pairs invent questions related to the readings to ask their fellow students.

….I wonder if I can  make one text last a whole week?