TeachingEnglish
Revisiting texts

We often encourage our students to infer words from the context as they read and, as a result, they fail to notice useful lexis in the texts we use.

This is especially true in case of chunks consisting of the words students already know. For example, students may be familiar with run and risk but not know the collocation run a risk. However, since the meaning is transparent they will probably “glance over” it when meeting it in the text. This series of activities is aimed to draw students’ attention to the useful lexis in the texts.

The text I use is taken from the LearnEnglish website and can be found by following this link (page 2). The activities can be adapted for any text or dialogue (reading or listening).

Activity 1: Extract useful lexis

After students have become familiar with the content of the text, ask them to silently underline the following:

1. An expression which means “to watch without giving all your attention” (para.1)

2. A chunk which means “almost did not touch books” (para. 1).

3. Adjective + noun collocation which describes a person who is very interested in something and does it regularly (para. 2)

4. Noun + noun collocation which means “opinions” (para. 3)

5. A two-part verb which means “searched” (para. 3)

6. Adverb + adjective collocation in which the adverb which usually means “not alive” means “very” (para. 3)

7. A chunk which means “it cannot be easily explained and you don’t know why it happened”. (para. 4)

8. A chunk which means “you need a lot of time to deal with something” (para. 4)

Answers:

1.    have half an eye on…
2.    hardly turned a page
3.    avid reader
4.    points of view
5.    hunted out
6.    dead serious
7.    for some reason
8.    take a long time to get through

Make sure you give students a paragraph number not to make the activity unnecessarily daunting.

After they have underlined the lexis you think should be pointed out, tell students to compare with their partners in pairs or groups, then check with the whole class.

This activity not only highlights useful lexis but also sensitizes the learner to the kind of language they should notice while reading.

Activity 2: Reconstruct the text

A week later you can give students the same chunks and multi-part verbs as above (you can also add more) and ask them to recall why they were mentioned in the text and retell the story using the them. Another variation of this activity is to get students to put the chunks in the correct order as they appeared in the text.

Activity 3: What do they stand for?

Give your students the text or part of it with the chunks you focused in earlier lessons replaced by initials, for example, p.o.v. for “point of view”. Ask students in pairs to recall the chunks.

If they find it difficult, you can provide definitions (like in activity 1) Here is a part of the same text taken from paragraph 5 with initials instead of some collocations and multi-part verbs.

Working life was hard to get used to after so much theory. It was the end of books for me. There didn't seem to be much in books that would actually g. t. d.. To do things you had to answer the telephone and work a computer. You had to t. a. and speak to people who weren't at all interested in philosophy. I didn't stop reading, you can't avoid that. I read all day. But no books c. m. w., only manuals and pamphlets and contracts and documents. Maybe most people s. their n. for stories and ideas with TV and, to t. t. t., it was all I needed for ten years. In those days I only had a book "o. t. g." for the duration of aeroplane flights. At first I would come home and watch TV o. d. Then, I moved the TV so I could watch it from bed. I even rigged up a switch so I could t. it o. without getting out of bed. Then, one fateful day, my TV broke and my landlady t. it a.

Activity 4: Correct the teacher

The teacher is usually the one correcting language in class. However in this fun activity students and teachers reverse the roles: students correct the “mistakes” the teacher makes.

Read the text aloud and deliberately change the chunks that you have focused on earlier. For example, “As I write this, I have my eyes glued to an old James Bond film…” (instead of “I have half an eye on”). Make a short pause after the wrong chunk to allow your students time to think and produce the correct chunk.

Teacher: “I suppose I was a lazy reader… of literature between the ages of…
Students: Avid reader!

Shouting out is encouraged here, however you can also get your students to write the chunks individually and then compare with partners. Here is the same excerpt as in the previous activity with “wrong” chunks.

Working life was hard to get used to after so much theory. It was the end of books for me. There didn't seem to be much in books that would actually help me in life. To do things you had to answer the telephone and work a computer. You had to go all over the world and speak to people who weren't at all interested in philosophy. I didn't stop reading, you can't avoid that. I read all day. But no books entered my life, only manuals and pamphlets and contracts and documents. Maybe most people satisfy their need for stories and ideas with TV and, to tell you a lie, it was all I needed for ten years. In those days I only had a book available for the duration of aeroplane flights. At first I would come home and watch TV while eating. Then, I moved the TV so I could watch it from bed. I even rigged up a switch so I could close the TV without getting out of bed. Then, one fateful day, my TV broke and my landlady removed it.

As you can see from the order of the activities above, they move from receptive, where learners merely guess or recognise chunks of language, to more productive, where they are encouraged to actually produce the language.

Conclusion

Reusing texts for language work does not require much preparation on the part of a teacher but it provides students with a valuable opportunity to recycle new lexis. Activities such as described above encourage students to focus not only on the meaning but collocations and lexical chunks, and promote increased attention to the language in general. They also extend the “lifespan” of coursebook material and remind students of the importance and benefit of going back and reviewing the previously studied material.

Written by Leo Selivan

Average: 4.1 (67 votes)

Comments

Madino4ka's picture
Madino4ka

Points to agree or disagree with the author

Leo Selivan, the author of this article named as “Revisiting Texts”, tells that revisiting studied materials occasionally helps to recognize important lexis in given texts. He writes that instructors today use the method of guessing meanings of unfamiliar words or expressions while students read the texts for the first time. As a result, many students may not pick up the crucial message or points to learn through the text. In my point of view, it is very true claim. Nowadays, guessing is really one of the interesting activities of both students and teachers, but if we do not revise given topics frequently, we will not learn them. Therefore, the author suggests some activities for the instructors to follow in order to encourage students to notice the useful lexis of the texts.
There are given 5 activities. Activity 1 is called Extract useful lexis. The students should underline the key expressions after the teacher gives synonyms of those words or collocations. Then, they compare their answers with each other. This activity helps to learn useful lexis and sensitizes the students to the language usage. I think this method is really useful to notice the important parts of the lexis, and it is very useful.
In the second activity, reconstruct the text, the teacher gives the same chunks and asks them to recall the reasons of why these terms were used in those texts. Afterwards, students should make up stories with these expressions. As for my thoughts, the author gives this method because it aids to learn the studied expressions by heart and to use them in practice.
The third activity, “What do they stand for?”, focuses on the initials of the previously given chunks of the texts. The students must find the chunk itself by given initials. The author gives “p.o.v” for point of view as an example. If the students find it difficult, the teacher may use definitions of the words.
Leo Selivan also provides with the next two activities that are called “Correct the teacher” and “Avid reader”. Here the aim of the activities is inspiring students by giving the chance of finding mistakes of the teacher. As the instructors read the texts, they intentionally should make mistakes in some parts of the texts. Then students should correct them as the mistaken parts were studied previously. The author says that it has fun, and makes the students feel enthusiastic. I also agree with the author in this point.
Overall, Leo Selivan wrote that revisiting texts is very efficient way of being attentive to the language in general. Also, the activities are of the help to review learned material. I consider that the author illustrates the article very effective and supportive. His ideas are accurately developed, and provided activities are very beneficial, I speculate.

My own opinion about the article

First of all, I should mention that this article was very interesting and helpful for me. As the author says that inferring the words from the context is good method, it has also drawbacks. I also always consider this claim as a fact. The reason is that I also not always look through the dictionaries as I come up with the unfamiliar terms in the texts. I try to guess the meaning of the words by context after what I do not work on these new materials. I think this kind of awkward situation is familiar for many students, and it leads to slow improvements in discourse level. That is why, revisiting the texts frequently in class with teacher is beneficial for the students. By this way, first, they will be able to learn the studied material constantly, to improve their memorizing abilities, to recognize the types of lexical language. As well as being beneficial, revising activities also inspire and make the students enjoy the classes.

In terms of the activities suggested by the author, I think that all of them are progressive. Searching for synonyms or the expressions helps the students to save their both time and effort comparing with translating all words into their own language. I also liked the third and the fourth activities because of their requirements. Here the great deal of job is done by students. As for me, pointing out initials of studied terms is new method. And I find it very interesting and helpful for learners. This method of using initials of words can be easy to recall the expressions for a long time. The next activity is very encouraging, I consider. The reason why I think so is that people usually can not recognize the mistakes that they made till they are done by others. If you see that someone makes a mistake, you notice it quickly and will try not to experience this fault by yourself. The students and the teachers can also be compared to this situation. Finding out the teacher’s mistakes and correcting them help us to memorize the right terms.

I am of the opinion that this article and activities are very helpful, and can be used in any language classes in any level.

Points to consider for the author

To begin with, I ought to tell that Leo Selivan wrote the article very professionally and gave the understandable content of the theme. Furthermore, the ideas are connected coherently as well as examples and activities. Taking into consideration all these factors, I also want to comment that it would be better for the author if he added some more points.
Firstly, the method of inferring the unfamiliar terms has its own advantages too. It would have been more precise if the author should have mentioned about it. Moreover, the ideas of the author are designed with only theoretical points. In other words, there is a lack of lively examples or facts concerning the issue.
Finally, I found the last activity little bit incomprehensible. I could not manage to understand the instructions of the activity fully. Therefore, I think the writer needs to add some points about this activity.
Overall, I should highlight that the author did his best and gave very good guides or pieces of advice to the teachers. The article is very applicable for any language classes.

debdulal chakrabarty's picture
debdulal chakrabarty

The subject is well discussed in a very lucid language. 'Collocations' which are very important in English language giving a more specifically meaningful structure to the 'Semantics' have been explained in an understandable manner. My regards to the author for this wonderful work and I wish him all the very best to write for us more in the future.