Posted tagged ‘authentic texts’

Still Thinking It Over: More ways to practice phrasal verbs

May 31, 2012

Hopefully, some of you were able to try out the Think It Over activity from last week.  When I worked with an advanced private student, we quickly got through Tasks 1 and 2, and then focused on finding one-word equivalents for phrasal verbs, which we did with an article he had read in preparation for our lesson. This made me think it would be useful to list some possible ways teachers can turn an authentic text into a phrasal verb activity.

  • Last week, a reader and fellow blogger, Bekah Palmer, suggested that we delete all prepositions from a text and ask students to decide if the verb was the first word of a phrasal verb, and if so, what the particle(s) would be.
  • Like  Bekah, I’ve turned existing sentences into controlled exercises. One way is to pull sentences with phrasal verbs from a text after reading it and remove all the particles. Students must fill in the blanks based on what they’re able to recall and their knowledge of particle meanings: “Britain officially slipped ________ recession.”  A second way is to pull sentences with phrasal verbs from a text before reading it and give a choice of particles. For example, “Britain officially slipped (back over/ across/ back into) recession.” (Taken from NPR article One After Another, European Leaders Get the Boot.)
  • You can underline a set of phrasal verbs within a text and have students match them to their one-word equivalents on the board. Advanced students should actually be able to provide many of these one-word equivalents. In my last  lesson with  my advanced private student, I decided to give an inline choice of particles and then ask for a one-word equivalent. For instance, “Authorities could require people [depositors] to take (in/ out/ over) a new form of currency…” (from  > He correctly chose “take out” and then reworded the phrasal verb as “withdraw.”
  • I’ve also given communicative practice with phrasal verbs seen in a text by incorporating them into discussion questions. For example, what are some common reasons to take out large amounts of cash from the bank? How often do you withdraw money?

Do you have any preferred way of practicing phrasal verbs with upper level students?

Getting the Most Out of Authentic Texts

July 7, 2010

If you’ve decided to bring in an authentic text to share with your students, what do you plan to do with it? You can use a text to meet a number of objectives, which include but are not limited to:

  • Teaching text organization and comprehension of main ideas.
  1. Scramble the paragraphs of a short article and have students work in pairs or small groups to reassemble the text.
  2. Remove the title as well as any section headings. Challenge students to create a main title as well as suggestions for section headings. Compare their ideas to the original ones written by the author.
  3. Present a gapped text. On the board write the 3-4 missing sentences from the article. Be sure that the sentences are removed from different paragraphs so that the main ideas/ subtopics are clearly different. Have students work with a partner to insert the sentences in the most appropriate places.

These kinds of exercises facilitate thinking in English and not simply about English.


  • Teaching suprasegmentals.
  1. Practice intonation patterns. Select an excerpt from a dialogue (play, film script, novel, etc.) that contains a good mix of sentence types (yes-no questions, wh- questions, sentences with a series of items, etc.) which are ideally said by different characters. First reading: The teacher reads and the students identify the pattern (e.g., rising intonation). Second reading: Place students in small groups of three or four and assign each member a pattern (e.g., Student A – rising, Student B – falling, Student C – rise fall). The sentences will be read in the order they are written, but all the sentences of a given pattern must be read by the same student. Third reading: The students will assume character roles, including a narrator if necessary.
  2. Practice rhythm through thought groups. Select a short article or brief excerpt. As a class, mark appropriate places to pause. Read the text orally as a class and a second time in pairs, observing the noted thought groups.

These reading activities allow you to choose a highly appealing source, such as a popular film, a TV show, or a speech made by a celebrity. If the resources are available, you could compare a student reading to the original recording.

Related ideas can be found in my posts on paraphrasing and editing.

Four Pitfalls of Working with Authentic Texts

July 6, 2010

Bringing authentic materials into the language classroom has definite benefits. With a teacher’s support, “real” language becomes more accessible. However, there are some dangers we need to avoid.  Pitfalls include:

  • Selecting texts that are too advanced. Many authentic texts, especially in the media and academia, are too challenging for lower level students. The vocabulary and grammar used by the writer present unfamiliar items in too large of a number to allow adequate comprehension. Even for upper level students, we need to be sensitive to the amount of new information and the number of unfamiliar words and structures.
  • Restricting exposure to authentic materials among the lower levels. Authentic doesn’t necessarily mean complex. Simple advertisements or excerpts from song lyrics can present digestible chunks of real language to lower level students.
  • Presenting too much at one time. As mentioned above, students need manageable amounts of authentic text. An article might superbly discuss and exciting topic from several points of view, but for the purpose of a language lesson, does the entire article need to be discussed? Sometimes an excerpt will suffice, and students can be encouraged to finish the text on their own. In other cases, simply breaking the text into parts over the course of a lesson or two different lessons makes the material more digestible.
  • Working with a text quickly and superficially. A single reading even with a teacher’s support doesn’t allow a student to get the most he or she can from the material. Increased familiarity allows for heightened sensitivity, and chances are with multiple readings a student will pick up on a language item completely on his or her own. You may be using the text to call attention to the used of adverb clauses, but during the second or third reading one student may take note of a new idiom.  Another student may finally realize the correct way to punctuate a direct quote. If possible, you may be able to recycle the same text in the context of more than one lesson with the same group of students. One day the focus may be on the grammar of the text. Another day you may base a class discussion on it.

In my next posting, I’ll share specific ways an authentic text can be used in the context of a lesson. Perhaps you’ll recall activities and strategies you’ve used as well.


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