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close this bookTeaching English as a Foreign Language - to Large, Multilevel Classes (Peace Corps, 1992, 243 p.)
close this folderIndependent study
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentPreparing for a lifetime of learning
View the documentTeacher concerns
View the documentMaterials and activities
View the documentGrammar practice activities
View the documentFinal notes
View the documentQuestions to ask yourself

Materials and activities

Note: Items marked with a * are suitable for students to produce.


These are suitable sources: magazines, newspapers, want ads, catalogues, indexes, advice columns, maps with directions, cookbooks, filled-in forms, postcards with messages, letters, etc. If you want your students to generate this kind of material, provide a variety of magazines, newspapers, etc. and task them with finding an article that interests them and writing 5-10 comprehension questions on it.


Beginning level


Which number is in the middle?
Which number is in the top left corner?
Which number is in the bottom right corner?
Which number is in the middle of the bottom line?

Intermediate level

True/False Questions

a. The capital of Thailand is Kathmandu.
b. There are more people in Thailand than in Nepal.
c. Nepal is a smaller country than Honduras is.
d. Thailand and Honduras both produce textiles.

- MATCHING EXERCISES In these exercises students match cues and responses as in the self-correction jigsaw activities described earlier. The materials can be easily varied to accommodate different levels. For example, at an elementary level, students may be matching the parts of cut-up proverbs, while at a more advanced level they may be trying to match headlines cut from newspapers to their accompanying articles or advice column letters to their responses. In many cases these activities can be used as preparation for national exams. For example, literary figures or references can be incorporated into the materials.


In these exercises, a reading passage, set of instructions, or dialogue is cut up into parts, and the student's task is to reconstruct it by putting the parts in the right order. This is a very intensive reading exercise and can be used with simple new texts or as a way of recycling texts the students familiar with. If the idea of keeping track of all the bits of paper is too much for you, another way to do the exercise is simply to write out the sentences in a different order and ask the students to number them in the correct order. A set of instructions that can be used in this way is given below. As you can see, any simple task could be used to produce such a set of instructions, but it is very important to use a task with which your students are familiar. For this reason it may be best to use student-generated material.

Washing Your Hands a Take your hands out of the water. b. Rub your hands together. c. Turn off the faucet. d. Put your hands in the water. e. Pick up the soap. f. Rub your hands together with the soap. g. Turn on the faucet. h. Put the soap down. i. Put your hands back in the water. j. Put in the plug. k. Turn off the faucet. 1. Dry your hands.

- CLOZE PASSAGES The words that are omitted from these reading passages may be done on a simple count basis, for example, taking out every seventh word. However, if the students themselves are producing them, it will be more thought provoking if they are tasked with taking out words of a certain type, such as prepositions, verbs, etc.

- READING MAZES These are stories in which the student has some choice in what happens. As an exercise, students can be asked to write out their version of the story, or to add their own choices to an existing story, or to make another story.

Reading mazes


These can take the form of general knowledge quizzes and can include: At what temperature does water freeze? Where does the sun set? You can also ask questions connected to content area studies, which could be another opportunity to prepare for national exams in literature, etc. Or the questionnaire can take the form of the personality quizzes often found in women's magazines in the United States. An example of this type of Questionnaire is given below:

How Passive Are You?

1. Do you often start arguments?
2. Do you find it difficult to forgive?
3. If someone is rude to you are you immediately rude back?
4. Do you get angry with someone who pushes in front of you in a line?
5. Will you do just about anything to win an argument?
6. Do you like to give orders?
7. If you thought your boyfriend/girlfriend was cheating on you, would you immediately ask him/her about it?
8. If you thought someone was Iying to you would you accuse them?

If you answered YES to four questions or more, you are able to stand up for yourself.

If you answered YES to all eight questions, you will never have trouble sticking up for yourself but some people might find you very bossy.

If you answered YES to fewer than four questions you are a passive person. You probably have difficulty dealing with unpleasant situations. You need to practice sticking up for yourself.

Since the value we place on personal characteristics varies culturally, such questionnaires can provide a useful entry into a discussion of differences among cultures.


In these exercises students are asked to read and solve puzzles Several examples of this type of puzzle were given in the chapter on group work. Another example is given below;

Heather, Mary Jo, and Brendan have different jobs: teacher, computer programmer, and musician.
The teacher is a woman.
Heather can't play a musical instrument.
Mary Jo is no good with machines.
Heather likes to work by herself.
Who has which job?


Writing is a quiet activity that particularly lends itself to independent study. However, any kind of free writing will inevitably involve the teacher in marking. For this reason we have arranged the activities in this section from controlled to free.

* TRUE/FALSE STATEMENTS In this activity the students are given a list of statements and copy only the true ones.

* CHANGING PARAGRAPHS In this controlled writing activity the students are given a paragraph and asked to make certain changes to it. For example, the paragraph may be given in the present tense and the students may be asked to change it into the past tense. Or a paragraph may be given in the first person and the students are asked to change it into the third person.

* SCRAMBLED TEXTS Students write out a scrambled text in the correct order.

* FORM FILLING Provide the students with a large variety of forms and let them try their hand at filling them out.


Provide two pictures with a number of differences between them and ask the students to write down the differences. Such pictures are often available in magazines, newspapers, and ESL texts.


Students are given a message and told that they must send this message by telegram. They are also told the cost of each word and the amount of money that they can spend on the message. The object is to send the message in the fewest words possible.


Students are given cartoons with the speech balloons blanked out and asked to fill in appropriate dialogue. These can then be displayed for other students to read.


Students are asked to build a model using a building system like Lego and then to write down instructions for how to build the same model. This exercise could also be done by using colored paper cut into shapes, or simply by drawing a picture.


In this exercise the students read a story which stops part way through. They are then asked to finish the story. Here is an example suitable for an intermediate level.

Harjinder was walking down to the river as she did every morning. But when she came to the place where the path divided, she thought she saw something brightly colored in the tall grass. She wanted to find out what it was, but in her haste she slipped and twisted her ankle. It hurt so much she couldn't even stand up. Just then she realized that the brightly covered object was a snake, and


Students can be asked to contribute items to }joke books, riddle books, ghost story books, etc.


You can use independent study as an opportunity to get feedback from individual students. For example, you can provide them with questionnaires about learning preferences or ask them to fill in learner logs in which they write about their language-learning experiences. A simple format that you might use to get input from your students is given below:

Giving feedback