I really can’t take any credit for this. This was an idea given to me by Lindsay Shapiro, head of department of Herzog College.
It goes like this. The problem: kids don’t really read L2, preferring to scan and search for meaning, which is appropriate in some circumstances, but doesn’t help them actively absorb language for active use, such as essay writing.
Problem no. 2: both kids and teachers fail to relate to genuine and meaningful language learning when language is learned in chunks, not as individual words. Chunks are especially important in essay writing in order to communicate idiomatically and elegantly.
The solution: this activity involves multiple levels of thinking about language as it is embedded in a text and works on this premise.
- Take a short text (150 words or less). It should neither be too hard nor too easy, but must contain target language that you want your students to use. In my case, I took a sample bagrut essay.
- Students read the text carefully, look up words they don’t understand, and then flip the text over.
- Students are now given a second text, the same as the first EXCEPT certain words (one or two in each sentence) have been blanked out. They FIRSTLY fill in the blanks with L1, then, if required, flip over the blanked words exercise and read the text from beginning to end again. Then they attempt to fill in the blanks in English. They can check their answers with the text afterwards.
- Now they are ready for the next stage. They read the text again. With both pages flipped over, they are given stage 2. This exercise has more words, in forms of chunks, blanked out. Notice I have blanked out words that I wish them to use in future essay writing:
- Now this is the hard bit. Once more, they read the original essay. Now the next page they get has almost half of the sentences blanked out:
- This is when they really start thinking about how language works. Again, if in doubt they can either write their answers in L1 and translate or flip over, and go back to the original essay.
- As a follow up activity, I give them an essay to write using a list of the chunks of language and connectors used in the essay they studied.
What I really liked about this activity was that it was good for all levels and each student worked at their own pace- when they were done I simply gave them the next level to do. Nobody felt pressured and everyone was working. I looked at the essays they found creative ways to implement target language and idiom.
What I really liked about this activity was that it really forced them to examine the language they were using, it kept them very busy and quiet and equally challenged. I’m talking about a very heterogeneous class here. They have their bagrut coming up and all need practice in essay writing, in one way or another.
There is something kind of annoying about working from the same short text again and again, and I would therefore not choose to do this every week. But every now and then for sure.
For a link to the materials (sorry, the only lesson plan is the one here) go here