Number one for English language teachers

Memory games: Flash preview

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

A short activity to practise reconstructing a text.

Procedure

  • Before the lesson, put on the board, 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. Do this 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 the following:

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 board would contain all the words in these sentences – guess, story, the, in, ever, eyes, I, there and so on – scattered randomly. 
  • At the start of the lesson, make sure you've got the attention of the whole class and reveal the words on the board for a very short time – maybe just five seconds – then rub.
  • 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 write (some of) the words again. An alternative to a board is using a large sheet of paper that you can hold up in front of the class or stick on the  board, or a flipchart with a page that you can reveal and hide easily.
  • 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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