15 Ways to Attack a TextPosted: June 3, 2015
Reading is no longer seen as a passive skill. Readers co-construct texts, and great teachers go beyond gist and comprehension questions, tapping into students’ creative and critical faculties. Here are 15 ideas for approaching and exploiting texts in class:
Use titles to predict the content. The students make wh- questions after reading the title: what do you think the text is about? Where might it take place? Who is involved? Or turn the title into a question. Title: “Inspiring leaders.” Questions: “What makes inspiring leaders? Who are the most inspiring leaders?” Brainstorm the topic. What vocabulary do you expect to find in the text?
“Zoom in”: examine language use and writers’ strategies (irony, humor, gaps in the narrative). Why do writers use them? Then “Zoom out”: look at the context and surrounding features of the text: when was it written? Who by? For what audience?
“Dig into” a text to find useful expressions. Select key words and then look left and right of these words. You’ll find useful collocations.
Students re-tell the story using key words. Or the teacher re-tells the story with mistakes/changes. Students shout “stop” when they hear these; then they correct the teacher.
Students invent extra details about parts of the text. Or they write continuations, alternative beginnings or alternative endings. Or give simple sentences based on the text, which students expand, e.g. “The story is about a man” becomes “The story is about a German traveller who went around the world in a car.”
Students write a summary of the text in 30 words. A partner reduces it to 20 and returns it to the original student. The first student reduces it to 10. Or the students write an alternative headline or title.
Give a gapped version of the text. Or get students in pairs to orally reformulate the text from 10-15 key words.
Get students to question texts. Does the author provide evidence? Is there any bias? Does the text deviate from our expectations? Did the author leave anything out? Or use KWL charts (Know/Want to Know/Learned) that students fill in before and after reading a text. Did they find out what they wanted to know?
Students translate different sections of the text. They swap translations and try to re-translate back to English without looking at the original.
Students get “inside” the text: they write a “counter-text” or change some details of the original, email a character at a key moment, or write an imaginary dialogue between people in the text.
Use two texts on the same subject or in the same genre. The students either do a jigsaw reading or read both texts and discuss the differences.
Read the text to the students. They listen for stress, intonation, or emphasis, or mark the pauses. Then they read it aloud in pairs.
Present a simplified version of the text. Focus on conflicts. Put students into roles to act out the story. Make sure they have time to prepare. Or “hot seat” someone in the text: get your best student to act as the main character. The others formulate questions to ask him/her.
Ask for a personal response. How does the text affect us? Could it happen to us? Has it already happened? Or students discuss the text in relation to their lives.
Students describe or present favourite texts. These could be of any kind: novels, poems, articles, official documents.