Number one for English language teachers

Memory games: Flash preview

Level: Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate, Advanced Type: Extra

Short activity to practise reconstructing a text.


  • Before the lesson, prepare an OHT* which contains, randomly distributed, the constituent words of phrases or sentences which you worked on in a previous lesson – e.g. they occurred in a text, in a practice exercise, or in an error-correction phase – either because you want to do some more work with them today, or simply because you want to revise them quickly. For instance, if you wanted to focus on:

I couldn't believe my eyes
You'll never guess what happened next
To cut a long story short
It was the first time I'd been there
Did I ever tell you about the time I was in Cornwall?

  • Your OHT would contain all the words in these sentences – guess, story, the, in, ever, eyes, I, there and so on – scattered all over the transparency. 
  • At the start of the lesson, make sure you've got the attention of the whole class and reveal the OHT for a very short time – maybe just five seconds – then switch it off.
  • Ask the learners to reconstruct, in writing, the phrases or sentences they 'saw'. You could tell them how many there were, or not. You could make the activity competitive, or not. If they find it difficult, you could flash the OHT again. NB: Good alternatives to an OHT include:
  1. A large sheet of paper that you can hold up in front of the class or stick on the board.
  2. The board itself, if you can reveal and mask it quickly. 
  • You could also use this approach to introduce language which is newish and which is going to be the focus of the lesson, provided you feel the learners will be able to make a pretty good attempt at reassembling it.
  • You could also use the same 'flashing' technique with a complete, coherent text – one which the class have worked on before, or a summary, or the first paragraph of a text they're going to read today.
  • After they've seen it for a few seconds, ask them to reconstruct it in groups. Be careful: some people might find this frustrating, but it's good training for those who always insist on slow, careful, word-by-word reading.

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