6 zero-preparation comprehension activities


A previous post gave 6 zero-preparation prediction activities for authentic texts. This gives your students ‘a reason to read’. To follow that up, here are 6 zero-preparation comprehension activities. Any one of these could follow any of the prediction activities.

Activity 1

Write up some figures taken from the text randomly on the board. Ask the students to work in pairs to find the figures in the text, and then explain to each other what they refer to – using their own words where possible.

When they finish, tell the students to turn over their papers so that they cannot look at the text. Point at the figures on the board and ask students what they refer to.

Activity 2

Write up randomly on the board some key words and key ideas taken from the text, choosing one item per paragraph. Ask the students to sequence them according to the article.

Activity 3

Ask each student to write down a question whose answer is somewhere in the text. When they finish, the students take turns to ask their questions to the class. Whoever calls out the answer first gets a point.

Activity 4

Each student chooses two lexical items (words, collocations, phrases) from the text which they think are a) quite difficult and may not be known by the class, and b) are useful to discuss the topic of the article. They use dictionaries to write down a definition or explanation of each item. When they finish they read out their definition, and also say the number of words in the answer. The other students scan the text to try to find the word/s, and whoever finds them first gets a point.

Note that when students are choosing items and writing down the definitions you will have to circulate and monitor closely. Exclude ‘clever’, low-frequency journalistic language and idiomatic expressions. Remind the students of criteria b) above – that the word/s should be useful.

Activity 5

Do a live, improvised True/False reading comprehension. Look through the text yourself and find an interesting fact. Paraphrase it in your own words, either accurately, or else changing some small detail so that it is not the same as what is in the text. Ask the students to scan the text to see if your statement is true or false.

Activity 6

Ask the students to write a one-sentence summary of each paragraph without using any of the main content words of the original paragraph.