More Ways to Use Authentic Texts

I’ve suggested activities in the past to target reading and pronunciation skills. They are relatively easy to incorporate into a lesson with advanced students because they require you to prepare exercises based on authentic texts. This means you don’t have to generate any content. You are simply reformatting the content. I like to get the most I can out of a text, especially a news article, and the exercises and activities I create based on any given article usually span two and sometimes three lessons. It takes that long to focus on all the different skills, from reading to grammar to speaking.

  • To target vocabulary or syntax I like to take about half a dozen sentences from the given text and ask students to paraphrase either each statement or parts of each statement (which I then boldface).
  • To review vocabulary I sometimes use the synopsis and omit key words. This results in a gapped text and students must fill in the blanks. If you wish, the missing vocabulary can be written on the board.
  • To target syntax I create a set of sentence scrambles. For long sentences, I don’t section off each word but rather key words and phrases. For example, I might keep a noun phrase or adjective clause intact. Example: a lifelong herder/ in the middle of the Gobi / 47/  is /who lives in a ger/ Bat-Erdene/ or a yurt/  Answer: “Bat-Erdene, 47, is a lifelong herder who lives in a ger, or a yurt, in the middle of the Gobi.”(Langfitt) Variations should be discussed.
  • To target grammar I create  set of sentence errors. In the past, I’ve focused on one type of mistake, for example, subject-verb agreement.  You can copy a half dozen sentences from the text (with tricky subjects) and make half of them incorrect. Ask the students to identify which ones lack subject-verb agreement. This week with an advanced private student, I decided to do a review and I’ve copied a dozen sentences from our current article and purposefully placed one error in each sentence. There are different kinds of errors, and they each address topics previously studied.
  • To prompt discussion it’s interesting to make use of quotes. News articles are always full of them. Here’s one idea for articles on controversial issues. Collect the quotes from an article, mix them up, and show them to the students. Have them recall who said what and identify the positions of all the speakers. Then ask them to state which position they support and why.


Langfitt, F. (2012, May 24).  Old ways disappearing in the new Mongolia. Retrieved from


5 Comments Add yours

  1. janice says:

    Jennifer, this is SO helpful — especially for someone like me who teaches relatively high-level ELL adults, and who likes to bring in authentic articles like these that will be engaging and provocative to those students. I’ve been collecting this type of article for a couple of years, but you’ve given me great ideas for building on them. Thank you!

    1. Hi Janice,
      I’m glad you picked up a few ideas. If you think of others, feel free to share them.
      Best wishes to you!

      1. janice says:

        Actually, I do have another idea of how we can use such articles. Depending on our students’ language facility and the purpose of our class, we might want to work on identifying main ideas in paragraphs, or writing summaries of paragraphs or entire articles. I’ve just about given up trying to teach this to students, because it seems to be very, very difficult for students, and I’ve often been frustrated at how little success I have with this as a teacher. But maybe, m a y b e , if I modeled it with students on the first few paragraphs of the article, they might be able to get the hang of it better.
        Do you have any methods for teaching these skills that have worked well?

      2. 1. Because I’ve been working one-on-one with advanced students who wish to increase their oral fluency, I’ve focused more on oral summaries than written. However, our lesson plans often include a gapped text that summarizes the key points of an article. I usually try to elicit new vocabulary through this task, but you could create larger gaps to elicit whole ideas/ whole phrases. Perhaps the skeletal structure of a gapped text will make the task less intimidating for students who are too easily overwhelmed by the simple direction: Summarize the article. With no prompts provided, some students might not know where to begin or get lost in the midst of delivering a summary. For oral summaries I usually list 2-4 questions to guide their efforts to recall information.

        2. As for main ideas and purposes of paragraphs, have you read my other post on using authentic texts?
        Here’s one more, in which I suggest having students create questions for classmates.

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