A few weeks ago I shared my love for a simple ICT tool that helps you create your own open cloze texts. This time, I’ll show you an idea I came up with and tried in online lessons a few months ago. It goes like this, I put in my mixing bowl a bit of text reconstruction (dictogloss), haiku style writing and the open cloze tool and it looked a bit like this…
Just kidding! I was just desperately trying to throw some Greekness in the post, cause I’ve missed my country! Enough sidetracking, let’s start with the activity!
The salad activity aka combining the three elements
First, let’s start with some theory
Scott Thornbury suggests that the inherent quality of reconstruction activities, helps students notice explicit language features and also gradually increase their understanding of syntactic, discoursal, lexical and phonological features, making them a valuable ally regardless of the chosen syllabus (Thornbury 1996). In this activity, I created a partial dictogloss in which the teacher provides some content words in order to help the students focus on the task and reduce the memory load (Thornbury 1996).
A haiku on the other hand is a type of poem that consists of 17 words in a 5, 7, 5 pattern. You can find more information and some examples of haiku poetry here. Over the year, I’ve seen more and more teachers using Haiku poems. The idea is by forcing the students to use a specific number of words, they will have to carefully consider the words used and force them to make informed word choices. In this activity, we won’t follow the 5-7-5 pattern of a haiku but we will borrow the restriction on the number of words that qualifies a poem as a haiku. In other words we will give the text with gaps for each missing word. It’s not a gap-filling because we don’t provide the words. It’s not a open cloze because there is not enough context for the students to find the words by themselves. It is a partial-dictogloss with a restriction on the number of words; hence the connection to a haiku
Finally, in my previous post, I’ve explained in a bit more detail what the open cloze software does! But just briefly it’s a simple web browsed ICT tool that lets you create open cloze exercises by hiding the words that you choose in a text.
The dictogloss activity
Take whichever text you want that covers your lesson’s goals. As long as it includes examples of the target language, It can be adapted from an ELT textbook or an authentic from another source. The idea is that you copy-paste the text in the open close software like this.
Make sure you click ‘text only’ and ‘no clues’. The former because we don’t want our students to receive immediate feedback on their answers and the second because this isn’t a gap-fill. To finish creating the text version we are going to give them, click ‘let me choose’ on the right. Select all the text and click on the plus icon like this
And this is how the final text that we will give to the students looks
I need to admit here that this is the lazy version of doing it. We just chose the whole text and it omitted the maximum number of words ‘randomly’ (Honestly, I haven’t figure out yet how the tool chooses to remove words when you select the whole text). It takes less than 10 seconds to create a 30-40 minute activity if you already have the text. However, if you want to have more control over the words that appear you can select individual words and click the plus icon for each selected word separately.
Instructions for a dictogloss activity
- Tell your students that you will read a text and that they need to pay very close attention to what you here.
- Read your chosen text aloud
- When you finish reading they can write down any words they remember. Tell the students to compare with their partner
- Read the text again. The students listen and when you finish they start making notes again and then compare with their partners
- Now give them the partial dictogloss that we created and ask them to recreate the text with the partner using the notes.
- Read one last time and let your students work again with their partner.
- Put the students into groups to compare their text with a new pair. If you want to can continue the checking and writing stages by putting the students in larger groups once more!
- Show your students the original text and let them compare them and identify the differences and/or mistakes.
(Adapted from ‘The practice of English language teaching’ by Jeremy Harmer)
If it’s the first time you’re doing an activity that forces a specific number of words then I would choose a shorter text and gradually try to build their skills up from there.
I’m always eager to find ways that make my life as a teacher simpler and easier and text reconstruction activities require so little preparation from us, are student-centred and driven; they promote pair work (S-S) & group work (Ss-Ss) (interaction patterns). Give your students time to look at the differences between their version and the original. It is this noticing part that will scaffold language learning!
What about you? Have you been using reconstruction activities in your lessons and if yes for how long? Do your students find them useful and enjoyable? Let me know in the comments below
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