Exercises based on texts

Making a difficult text easier

Before reading the text, give yourself a precise objective :

Recapitulate mentally what you already know on the subject. Write down about 10 to 20 words you think will be in the text. Write 3 to 5 questions you think the text will answer. Then :

- Read the first paragraph and underline the key points.

- Read the last paragraph and underline the key points.

Then, if you think it is necessary :

Add or eliminate words from your list of 20, based on the information in the first and last paragraphs. In the same way, modify your list of questions.

Read the whole text as quickly as possible – 3 minutes maximum per page – to find out if the text contains answers to your questions. Ignore all other information.

Read the text again very quickly and underline any of the words on your list.

If you still find the text difficult :

Highlight all the content words you understand (nouns, main verbs, adjectives, adverbs) but not the ‘grammar’ words Consider the text as a telegram and guess the meaning. Accept that understanding about 80% is OK.

Summarizing

The First Day

  • Select about 20 key words from the text.
  • Write them on a separate piece of paper.
  • On another piece of paper, or orally, make sentences using any three of these words.
  • Make sentences using as many of these words as possible.

The Second Day

  • DON’T look at the text; look only at the list of 20 words.
  • Use the list to write a summary – or do it orally by recording it onto a cassette, computer, iPod …
  • Check it with the text.

Summarize in exactly 10 words

  • Read the text and make a list of the important points.
  • Rewrite each point in exactly 10 words.

Contraction Exercise

  • Rewrite each paragraph of the text as just one short sentence.
  • Join these sentences together, making any necessary changes, to make a summary of the text in the fewest sentences possible.
  • Then, write one sentence to summarize the text.

Prediction

This is an exercise for two people.

Description of the exercise

One person, A, reads the text aloud. Another person, B, listens. When A pauses, B has to guess the next word. A tells B if his guess is:

  • the same as in the text.
  • different from the text, but logical and grammatical.
  • impossible – in this case, B has another guess.

Procedure

Choose a text and prepare to be A. Decide in advance where you are going to stop. It must be possible for B to have a chance of making a good guess.

Example :

« The Prime/ Minister said in her/ speech that unemployment would go/ down before the next/ election. »

In this example,  » /  » shows where it is possible to stop. Don’t stop too often in short sentences.

Reduction

Choose a text not more than two pages long.

Draw a line through, cross out, eliminate all :

  • unnecessary adjectives,
  • examples, anecdotes,
  • repetitions,
  • other nonessential words or sentences.

You should be able to eliminate at least 50% of the text in this way.

Reduce it still further by copying what is left onto a piece of paper. As you copy – join sentences together.

  • include information from one sentence in another,
  • pre-modify nouns where possible

Example : « The engineer who came from Texas… » can be changed to « The Texan engineer… »

  • Use shorter paraphrases

Example : « The year the Second World War ended… » can be changed to « In 1945, …  »

You should now have a written text about 25% of the length of the original.

If you want to reduce it still further, redo all the exercises on the text you have just produced.

Facts & opinions

Underline all the facts mentioned in the text in one colour, and all the opinions in another colour.

Do you consider all the facts mentioned to be true ?

What is your basis for deciding if they are true or not :

  • personal experience?
  • reading?

What assumptions is each opinion based on? What is your own opinion? Why ?

For and against

Read the text and make two lists:

  • one of advantages, all the positive points about the subject,
  • one of disadvantages, all the negative points.

Continue each list with further points for and against from your own general knowledge.

Different points of view

Rewrite Rewrite the text from a different point of view, or in a different style, or as if you were one of the people mentioned in the text.

For example:

  • popular newspaper style,
  • serious newspaper style,
  • against the position put forward in the text,
  • as a dialogue,
  • as a report style,
  • left-wing point of view,
  • right-wing point of view,
  • religious point of view,

Contrasting and contradicting

Underline all the expressions used to contrast or contradict information or opinions.

List them and add any others you know.

Use these to contrast and contradict other information in the text.

Interviewing

An exercise for 2 people.

Preparation

Rewrite in note or chart form all the important information in the text.

Write about 10 questions to which there are answers in the text, or to which answers can be deduced from the text. Only write questions about important points.

The interview

With the second person – one of you is the journalist doing the research for this text, the other is his informant, the person who has all the information.

Without looking at your notes, take first the role of the journalist, then the role of the informant.

Spot the mistakes

First Step

Copy out a paragraph from a magazine or book (or do the same thing on computer with an article off the Internet) making deliberate mistakes but don’t make too many changes or the exercise will become impossibly difficult. Make the kind of mistake you often make yourself.

Examples of mistakes

  • Spelling
  • Word order
  • Tenses
  • Prepositions (on, over, before, etc.)
  • Articles (the, a, an)
  • Punctuation and capital letters
  • Vocabulary

Second Step – a few days later

Without rereading the original, correct your mistakes. Then, check with the original.

Online interactive spot the mistakes/find the differences exercises :

Mixed up sentences

First Step

  • Copy a sentence putting the words in random order.
  • Do this with five or six sentences.
  • Choose short sentences to begin with.

Second Step – a few days later

  • Without rereading the original,
  • put the words in order to make sentences.
  • Then check with the original.
  • You may have made something different which is also correct.

Mixed up lines

First Step

Photocopy about 20 lines of text. Cut up the photocopy into separate lines of text and put them in an envelope.

Second Step – a few days later

Without rereading the original, put the lines in order. Then check with the original. You may have made something which is different from the original but which is also correct.

Mixed up paragraphs

First Step

Photocopy an article with about ten paragraphs. Cut up the photocopy into separate paragraphs. Mix them up and put them in an envelope.

Second Step – a few days later

Without rereading the original, put the paragraphs in a logical order. Then check with the original. You may have something different which is also correct.

Vocabulary exercises

Unknown words

Techniques for guessing new words

  • Underline all the words and expressions you don’t understand in the text.
  • Guess the meaning of each one and write it down (either an English synonym or a paraphrase or a translation).
  • Can you recognize any part of the word? Does it resemble a French, Latin, German, etc. word?
  • What do any suffixes or prefixes tell you?
  • Identify its function in the sentence (noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc.) Its position in the sentence, and also certain suffixes, will help you to do this.
  • Does the context help you to understand the word?
  • From the context, is it probably positive or negative in meaning?
  • Translate the sentence into your native language, with a blank for the word you don’t know. What word is the most natural to put in the blank?
  • When you have made a guess for all the words you don’t know, go back to your first guesses again. You will probably now be more certain of them.

Finally, check your guesses with an English speaker or a dictionary, but only if you are still really unsure.

Prefixes

Examples:  un-, non-, en-, re-, il-, ir-, de-, pre-, ex-, etc.

  • Underline all the words in the text which have a prefix.
  • Make lists of all the words with the same prefix.
  • Add these prefixes, where possible, to other words in the text.
  • Does adding a prefix change the grammatical category of the word (from noun to adjective, for example)?
  • Check these words with a dictionary.

Suffixes

Examples : -able, -tion, -sion, -er, -ship, -less, -ful, -al, -ly, -ed, -ive, -er, etc.

  • Underline all the words in the text which have a suffix.
  • Make lists of all the words which have the same suffix.
  • Where possible, add these suffixes to other words in the text.
  • Does adding the suffix change the grammatical category of the word (from noun to verb, for example)?
  • Check these words with a dictionary.

Verbs and nouns

Make a list of all the words in the text which can be used as both verbs and nouns.

Examples : play – talk – garden – list – time

  • Use any three of them together in one sentence.
  • Use as many as possible of them in one sentence.
  • Use each of them as both a noun and as a verb.

Affinity categories

Choose two paragraphs from the text.

Make a list of all the :

  • nouns,
  • adjectives,
  • verbs.

Either in separate groups or all together, regroup them by affinity.

  • Add any more words you know to each group.
  • Find a title for each group.

Example : house, hospital, prison, office block = BUILDINGS

Word families

Look in the text for words from which you can make derived words with suffixes, prefixes or other changes in a more or less regular way.

Write them in columns.

Check your work with a dictionary or an English speaker.

Opposites

Read the article slowly and find opposites for as many words and expressions as possible.

Examples

  •     fertile / infertile
  •     already / not … yet
  •     employer / employee
  •     put on / take off
  •     hesitate / make up one’s mind

Many meanings

First, find all the words in the text which you know have more than one meaning and make a list of them.

Use a dictionary to find more.

Put any three of them in one sentence :

  • all with the same meaning as in the text.
  • all with different meanings from that in the text.

Second, make a very long sentence using all the words on your list, with the same meaning as that in the text or with a different meaning. You can use the same word more than once.

Third, make a short story of several sentences using all the words on your list, choosing beforehand either to keep the same meaning as in the text or to change the meaning systematically. You can use the same word more than once.

Definitions

Choose about 10 words from the text that are either :

  • key words,
  • words that you find difficult to use,
  • words that are new to you.

Write definitions of them.

Compare your definitions with what is given in two or more dictionaries.

Metaphors

Underline all the metaphors in the text.

Explain and paraphrase all the metaphors.

Example

  • ‘to head a delegation’ means to direct a delegation as the head directs the body.

Grammar Exercises

Verb tenses and « triggers »

« Triggers » are time expressions which determine, or strongly influence, the use of a particular tense.

  • Choose a short text or part of a text.
  • Highlight each verb tense in a different colour.
  • Look for « trigger » words for each tense.
  • Highlight these words, too.

Example

« He WENT there three weeks AGO. »

  • the tense is the Simple Past
  • the trigger word is ‘ago’

The trigger may be in the preceding sentence.

Time expressions

Highlight all the time expressions (for example :  tomorrow, in 1985, as soon as, ago).

Rewrite each sentence without its original time expression, but keeping the same meaning.

Is there a difference in emphasis ?

Frequency expressions

Examples of frequency words : often, never, sometimes, always

  • Underline all the frequency expressions.
  • What is their position in the sentence?
  • Find, where possible, opposites to each one.
  • Make a list of all the frequency expressions; add any others you know.
  • Order them from most to least frequent.

Compound words

Examples of compound words

  • noun + noun : homework
  • -ing + noun : camping site
  • verb + preposition : kick-off
  • verb + noun : pushbutton
  • adjective + noun : fast-food

Exercises

  • Mark the tonic accent (stress).
  • Paraphrase them (ex: homework = work you do at home)
  • Create other words on the same model (ex: office work).
  • Check your words with an English speaker or with a dictionary

Noun phrases

Technical and scientific English often uses noun phrases instead of verb phrases.

Example of a noun phrase : He began his conquest of space.

Example of a verb phrase : He began to conquer space.

Underline all the noun phrases in the text.

Rewrite them as verb phrases.

Look for other information in the text that can be rewritten as noun phrases.

-ing words

Highlight all the words ending in ‘-ing’.

Make lists of all the different categories of ‘-ing’ words; that is, their different functions in the sentence.

Examples of some of the different categories

  • He’s swimming.
  • He’s wearing a swimming suit.
  • He likes swimming.
  • Swimming is pleasant.

Rewrite each sentence without using the ‘-ing’ form.

Is there a change in meaning ? What is it ?

Find sentences in the text which can be rewritten using an -ing form.

Is there any change in meaning ? What is it ?

Adjectives

Underline all the words and expressions which function as adjectives in the text.

Examples :

  • Ford car
  • camping site
  • weekend job

Put them into different categories, according to criteria that you decide for yourself.

Name your criteria.

Add 2 or 3 more to each category.

Check them in a dictionary.

Make sentences using any three of them.

Articles

Underline or highlight each ‘the’, ‘a’ and ‘an’ in the text.

Make four lists of nouns in the text. Those preceded by :

  • the
  • a
  • an
  • ø – no article
  1. What conclusions can you come to?
  2. Can you move any of the nouns to a different group (ex: ‘a government’ to ‘the government’).
  3. What is the difference in meaning ?

Quantity words

Look through the article and underline these quantity words :

  • many – more – least – much – fewer- less – few – a lot.
  1. Notice which words they describe.
  2. Which quantity words can describe the words in List A and which List B ?
List A List B
  • time
  • whisky
  • money
  • information
  • cars
  • machines
  • people
  • contracts

 

Copy lists A and B onto a big sheet of paper or a computer and then :

  • Add 5 more words to each list from the article.
  • Add 3 other words you know to each list.
  • Add the quantity words ( many, more, etc… ) under the list of words (A or B) they are used to describe You can put some quantity words in both lists.
  • Rewrite the quantity words in pairs – contrasting the word used for list A with the word used for list B.
  • Which quantity words can be used in the expression : « as —- as » ?
  • Which quantity words can be used in the expression :  » —- than » ?
  • Which quantity words can be used in the expression : « How —? »

Difficult sentences

Choose a difficult sentence.

  • Explain (if possible, to another person) exactly what you don’t understand in the sentence.
  • Underline or highlight all the parts you understand.
  • Translate it aloud into your native language with « filler » words for the parts you don’t know (examples of filler words in French: machin, machine).
  • Do you need other information to be able to understand it ? What information.
  • Do you understand it better now ?

Linking words

Examples of linking words

however; after all; on the other hand; therefore, and, but …

  1. Underline and list all the words and expressions in the text used to link, join or introduce ideas.
  2. How many are there?
  3. Add any other linking words you know to the list.
  4. Rewrite parts of the text using these words where possible.

Notes

  • Some linking words are rare (thus, moreover, furthermore…) and are only used in very formal writing.
  • Unless you want to appear ridiculous, do not use more than one or two of these rare words in a page. Use more neutral synonyms (so, in addition….)

Sentence joining

Choose a paragraph with a lot of short sentences.

Join each sentence to the next one in as many different ways as possible.

Express the paragraph in the fewest sentences possible; that means making the longest sentence(s) possible.

Long to short

Choose a very long sentence and rewrite it as a lot of very short sentences.

Join these sentences together in as many different ways as possible.

The meaning may, of course, change.

Passive and active voice

Highlight all the passive sentences in the text.

  1. Explain why the writer chose the passive for these sentences.
  2. Would you have made the same choice ? Why ? Why not ?
  3. Is it possible to change the passive sentences into active ones ? Why ? Why not ?
  4. Is there always an active equivalent of a passive sentence ? and a passive equivalent of an active sentence ?

« If » sentences

Highlight the tenses in all the sentences in the text containing ‘if’. A different colour for each tense.

  1. How many different sorts of ‘if’ sentences are there ?
  2. What point in time does each sentence refer to ? (ex: now; 1968 )
  3. What form of the verb is used for each point in time ?
  4. Read the text and comment on each point of information, imagining, where possible, the consequences if the opposite were true with an appropriate ‘if’ sentence.

Example

  • « America and France view each other with intense suspicion. »
  • If America and France did not view each other with intense suspicion they might collaborate in finding a solution in the Middle East.

Notice how the tenses change.

Tags

Examples

  • « It’s hot, isn’t it ?« 
  • « You don’t like whisky, do you ?« 

Choose a text with a lot of dialogue.

  1. Underline all the sentences with tags.
  2. What is the intonation on the tag ? Does the voice go up or down ?
  3. Which sentences are followed by ‘?’ and which by ‘.’ Why?
  4. Rewrite the tag questions as ordinary questions. What is the difference in meaning ?
  5. Rewrite them with positive instead of negative tags (or vice versa). What is the difference in meaning ?
  6. Choose a famous person and prepare to interview her/him with:
    • a list of ordinary questions.
    • a list of ‘tag’ questions.
    • a list of statements. (These may be preceded by ‘so’, or followed by ‘then’.)
  7. Find a transcript of an interview in a magazine and analyse the questions asked. Explain the journalist’s use of different types of questions.

Making questions

Choose a sentence from the text.

Make as many different questions as possible to which the sentence could be an answer.

Example : John kissed Mary.

  • Who kissed Mary ? John kissed Mary.
  • Who did John kiss ? John kissed Mary.
  • What did John do to Mary ? John kissed Mary.

How does the intonation of the sentence change when it is spoken as an answer to different questions ?

Read the questions again and this time, give the shortest possible answer to each of them.

  • Who kissed Mary ? John.
  • Who did John kiss ? Mary.
  • What did John do to Mary ? He kissed her.

Paragraphs

  • Explain why each sentence in a paragraph must logically follow the other. (linking words; content; etc..)
  • Explain why each paragraph must logically follow the other (linking words; content; etc..)
  • Are there any paragraphs which could logically change places ?

Rewrite exercise

Choose a sentence and rewrite it without changing the basic meaning of the sentence but :

  • eliminating as many words as possible.
  • changing the word order.
  • replacing one or more words in the sentence.
  • in as many different ways as possible.

Fill in the blanks

Make your own gapfilling « Cloze » exercise. Choose a paragraph of about ten lines.

  • Make a copy of it.
  • Remove all the unimportant words and replace them by lines. Keep the content words that help you remember the meaning but don’t keep the grammar words.

Example, using the paragraph above :

Remove ___ ___ unimportant words ___ replace ____ __ lines. Keep ___ content words ____ help ___ remember ___ meaning ___ ___’_ keep ___ grammar words.

  • Some time later, fill in the blanks without looking at the original.
  • Check with the original.

Variations

Leave out :

  • Every 5th or 7th word (the original Cloze test)
  • All the prepositions
  • All the verbs
  • All the articles (a, an, the)
  • All the words you find difficult

Pronunciation exercises

Stressed syllables

Choose a paragraph and mark the stresses (tonic accents) on all the words of two or more syllables.

Check with a dictionary or a native speaker.

Classify the words and look for regularities. Add other words you know to your groups.

Example 1 

begin, between, before

Example 2

nation, relation, construction

The « schwa »

This sound is found in French in words like « je », « te », « ne », « me »… It should not be confused with the sound in « jeu » which requires more energy to pronounce.

Copy the following text onto a piece of paper, separating the syllables of the long words.

« As soon as Richard had gone out of the house, Elizabeth got up and dressed as fast as she could. »

  1. Count the syllables.How many syllables did you find ?
  2. Mark the stressed syllables by putting a small accent at the beginning of the accentuated syllable. Look in a good dictionary to see how they do it.How many tstressed syllables did you find ?
  3. Underline all the schwa sounds (or write the phonetic symbol, if you know it).How many schwa sounds?

answer 1 : 24, answer 2 : 9, answer 3 : 11

Vowels

Read the text slowly and make lists of all the words which have the same vowel sound – the spelling may be the same or different.

Example 1

up, enough, touch, run, money, Monday, some, does

Example 2

sit, women, minute, give

Check your list with a dictionary and, if possible, an English speaker.

Pronunciation and spelling

Before you begin. Find the pages in your dictionary which contain the explanations about the pronunciation of English. You should not have too many problems with the consonants, but you should check that you can pronounce each of the vowels and diphthongs in English.

Select one of the key words given and always use that key word for that sound.

Take a big sheet of paper, turn it sideways (landscape) and draw as many columns as there are vowel and diphthong sounds in English.

At the top of each column, write the key word you have selected and the transcription used by your dictionary for this sound.

Now you are ready to begin the pronunciation exercises which follow:

  1. Read through two or three paragraphs of a text and underline the letter ‘o’ each time it comes up, either alone or with another vowel. (‘oa’, ‘ou’… etc.)
  2. Try to class all these words, putting them in columns according to the pronunciation of the syllable containing the letter you have underlined. (You may have to make up to ten or even more columns.)
  3. When you have finished, check your work in the dictionary. (Don’t worry if you have made a lot of mistakes. This exercise is very difficult the first few times you try it, but it becomes easier quite quickly!)
  4. Read each list aloud, being very careful to say the syllables in the same way if they are in the same column. Read through two or three paragraphs of a text and underline the letter ‘o’ each time it comes up, either alone or with another vowel. (‘oa’, ‘ou’… etc.)
  5. Try to class all these words, putting them in columns according to the pronunciation of the syllable containing the letter you have underlined. (You may have to make up to ten or even more columns.)
  6. When you have finished, check your work in the dictionary. (Don’t worry if you have made a lot of mistakes. This exercise is very difficult the first few times you try it, but it becomes easier quite quickly!) Read each list aloud, being very careful to say the syllables in the same way if they are in the same column.
  7. Read each word a second time very, very slowly, lengthening each sound so as to hear it clearly.
  8. When you are sure you have the correct pronunciation for each word, reread the whole paragraph, making sure you read these particular words correctly. You may like to say clearly only those words you have looked up in the dictionary, and mumble (that is, say quietly an approximate sound) all the others.
  9. Now do Numbers 1, 2, and 3 again, this time underlining the letter ‘a’ each time you find it, either alone or with another vowel. (‘oa’, ‘ai’… etc.) This time, however, when you read the whole paragraph, read aloud the words from your new lists as well as those from your previous lists.

You should do this exercise five times, once for each vowel letter, reading the words first in their lists and then in the context of the text.

At the end of the exercise, you should be reading all the words in the paragraph.

Read the paragraph a last time, this time concentrating on making it sound as English as you can. Imagine you are English and roll the language around on your tongue. The paragraph should sound rhythmical and musical.

Make it sound as English as possible.

Shadowing

When you want to learn a song, you sing with a person who knows the song or with a recording. Do the same with recordings of English – not only songs, but stories, poems and dialogues. You will need to have the written text as well as the recording.

With your recorded text : 

  1. Choose a short sequence.
  2. Listen and read with the recording; subvocalising but not speaking aloud.
  3. Listen again and read the text aloud very quietly at the same time as the speaker (do not repeat afterwards as this brings in an element of memory).
  4. Let your voice be guided naturally by the recorded voice.
  5. Do it again several times, gradually turning down the volume on the recording and speaking louder yourself.

Exercises based on pictures

Situate the picture

The object of these questions is to help you analyse the picture you wish to work on and clarify your ideas about it.

  • Who took the picture ? Why ?
  • Who is the picture intended for ? Why ?
  • What is outside the picture ? to the left ? to the right ? behind ? in front ?
  • Is the picture posed or real life ?
  • What happened before the picture was taken ?
  • What is going to happen afterwards ?
  • What will be the final outcome ?
  • What does the picture evoke for you ?
  • Situate the picture politically – socially – economically.
  • Who do you identify with in the picture ?
  • Relate the picture to your life.
  • Make a value judgement of the picture.

People

For each person in the picture, note where possible, their :

  • Age
  • Sex
  • Social class
  • Profession
  • Dress
  • Physical appearance
  • Position
  • Character
  • Nationality
  • Emotions
  • Relation to other people in the picture
  • Other details…

Objects

For each object in the picture, note where possible, its :

  • Size
  • Shape
  • Function
  • Material
  • Origin
  • Cost
  • Position
  • Colour
  • National origin
  • Age
  • Relation to people and other objects in the picture
  • Other details.

A scene

Look a picture of a scene and note the :

  • Place
  • Time
  • Weather
  • Sounds
  • Smells
  • Season
  • Country / town
  • Atmosphere
  • Other details…

Imagine…

Choose a picture of people interacting together.

  • Imagine you are one of the people in the picture. Describe yourself.
  • Imagine what the people in the picture are thinking.
  • Imagine a dialogue between the people in the picture and write it.
  • Imagine the biography of one of the people.
  • Imagine…

Questions

Make a list of all the question words you know.

Examples : « What…? »; « When…? »; « How long…? »

These are called « Wh- » questions because, in English, question words often begin with « wh- », but not always. Using these words, make as many « Wh- » questions as you can about the situation in the picture.

Examples : « What is the machine made of? »; « How far away is the man? »

Make a list of questions to ask one of the people in the picture. If you have a partner, ask them your questions.

If… If only…

Choose a picture with a lot of details.

  • Make a list of statements about the picture beginning with: « If… ».
  • Make a second list of statements beginning with: « If only… ».
  • What difference is there between the two kinds of statements?

Describe and draw

Choose a simple picture of a street or domestic scene. Cartoons can be useful.

  • Write a description of the picture so that someone could draw it using your description.
  • Put in as many details as you can.
  • If you have a partner, describe your picture and have them draw it – without looking at if first, of course !

Feelings

Choose a picture with a strong emotional impact.

  • Make a list of all the verbs, adjectives and nouns inspired by the picture.
  • Include your own feelings and reactions to the picture.
  • Use a dictionary to find the words you don’t know in English.
  • Put them into groups by affinity.
  • Write sentences using any three of these words until you have used each word in at least one sentence.
  • Put your sentences into a logical order.
  • Make any changes necessary to make a logical paragraph.

Invent the unknown

A good exercise for dull and uninteresting pictures of people. Make a list of what you don’t know about one of the people in the picture.

Examples

  1. I don’t know his name.
  2. I don’t know where he lives.
  3. I don’t know if he believes in God.
  4. I don’t know who he votes for.

Imagine answers to your questions and write a paragraph about the person.

Listening exercises

10 – 20 Words

Read or listen to the title only and write down about 10 to 20 words you expect to hear.

Listen to the recording and underline the words on your list if you hear them.

3 – 4 Questions

Read or listen to the title only and write down 3 or 4 questions which you expect to find answered.

Listen and decide which questions are answered.

Listen again and note briefly the answers.

I believe…

Before listening to the audio or video recording, write down in note form what you know and/or believe about the subject.

Listen and note what :

  • agrees with what you have written,
  • contradicts what you have written.

Key words

 

Read the transcript and make a list of (or highlight) the key words and phrases.

Listen to the recording, trying to hear only the key words.

Switch off the recording and read through the transcript a second time.

Listen to the recording again.

Stop and guess

Choose a video or audio recording of a story or interview.

  • Listen to the whole recording one or twice to get a very general idea about what it is about.
  • Put the recording on again, but this time, stop it from time to time and guess what is going to be said next.

Difficult words

Listen to the recording.

Read the transcript and note or highlight the words and phrases you did not understand when you listened to the recording.

Listen again without looking at the transcript.

Fill in the blanks

Make a photocopy of the transcript.

White out (with corrector fluid for example) the parts you find difficult.

If you have the text on computer, do the same with a word processor.

Look up the meanings of the difficult words in dictionary.

Put a list of these words under the text, but not in the correct order.

Left hand/right hand

Using a large sheet of paper, cover the right-hand (or left-hand) half of the transcript.

Listen to the recording looking at only the other half of the transcript.

Dictations

Everyone has experience of dictations, but not everyone realizes they can be much less stressful to do alone than in the traditional way in class. It can even be a fun guessing game!

  1. Choose something that does not have difficult vocabulary – the objective is improving listening comprehension, not vocabulary.
  2. Listen to the video or audio recording, and write or type what you hear.
  3. Work on just a few sentences at a time.
  4. Make a list of the words and phrases you don’t hear.

Shadowing

When you want to learn a song, you sing with a person who knows the song or with a recording.

Do the same with recordings of English – not only songs, but stories, poems and dialogues.

  1. Choose a short sequence.
  2. Listen to it once, and follow the text, not speaking aloud but just subvocalising along with speaker.
  3. Listen again and read the text aloud very quietly at the same time as the speaker (do not repeat afterwards as this brings in an element of memory).
  4. Let your voice be guided naturally by the voice on the cassette.
  5. Do it again several times, gradually turning down the volume on the recording and speaking louder yourself.