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One approach to teaching texts

I wrote this a while ago for the A-level page of frenchteacher.net. I thought less experienced teachers may appreciate some advice on how to deal with texts, the "bread and butter" of language teaching.



1.  Pre-reading. Where possible arouse the interest of students for the task with simple questioning, a related vocabulary game, a brief oral presentation in English or French, or even showing a short Youtube clip.

2.  Read aloud the text (good for listening comprehension input, sound-spelling relationships, controls the pace of student reading - they shouldn't skim through too fast). With some, less focused younger classes get them to follow the text with their finger. (With weaker classes you could even give an instant translation of the entire text into English for their benefit, the aim being to maximise their understanding and maintain their interest for later - akin to a parallel reading task.)

Although you can get classes to read in silence and then complete a gapped vocabulary list, I generally prefer working through the text with them. By doing this you are also providing listening input and can, to an extent, aid comprehension with your intonation.

3.  Get individual students to read aloud. It is noteworthy that the ones who read aloud are often the best at answering questions about the text later. Weaker groups can read short chunks of text, faster classes can read at greater length. Even better get pairs of students to read aloud to each other, possibly assessing each other's performance - a great AfL task.

4.  Exploit the whole panoply of whole class questioning techniques (true/false, traditional question-answer, giving false answers, aural gap fill, defining words in TL, finding synonyms, "Comment dit-on en français" and so on). Use hands up and some no hands up. Differentiate questioning. Use quicker students as models.

5.  Get the class to turn over the text and, as a whole class activity, fill gaps orally from memory. The teacher can adapt this to the speed and memory of the class. Students like this sort of instant memory test.

6.  Do written exercises of various types - matching, true/false/not mentioned, questions, gap fill, jigsaw tasks, giving definitions, simple composition, translation. These may be better left for homework so as to maximise time in class devoted to oral and aural practice.


You will note from the list above that the focus is largely, though not exclusively, on comprehension and target language.Using questions in English may have a place in terms of clarity and distinct focus on meaning, but target language exercise types give you more comprehension "bang for your buck" (i.e. even more comprehensible input, both reading and aural), so I would generally avoid English.



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