Pre-written Readings and Tasks

Providing students with readings and tasks is another way to deliver input while taking a bit of a break from the co-creation of stories.

It’s still February and my 8am class has missed five days of class due to the snow, it snowed again yesterday, I’m sick, and my 4-year-old forgot how to hold his liquids through the night. Forgive me if I’m a little cranky. Honestly, I need a break. I’m all out of energy to be co-creating stories right now.

Enter pre-written readings and tasks.

Last quarter I posted about the Hero’s Journey, which is an idea for taking learners on an adventure in L2. After the self-proclaimed Diva of Second Language Acquisition was generous enough to have a phone conversation with me before the start of the term, I redesigned my whole course. I even changed how I use the Hero’s Journey in my classes.

We still define a main character, a supporting character, and an antagonist to start the term. But unlike quarters past, now I write the whole story in level-appropriate chunks and follow them up with input-oriented tasks (e.g. comprehension questions, multiple choice, true false, check boxes for which applies to you, etc.). Students read the short passage (under 300 words) and then do the follow up activities. Once they finish a reading and its corresponding tasks, we sum up the activity as a class and move on to the next reading and the set of tasks. Over the course of the term, students will make it through an entire novella. Below is an example from a novella that is currently in draft. Hopefully you can read this image of text.

Notice that I write these in the first person. It’s necessary to give students reps in the language in different contexts, and first person gets overlooked in the input sometimes.

Pre-written readings and tasks can take anywhere from 10-60 minutes, and I generally use them to fill up an entire class period. It enables learners to read and process L2, while giving us all a break from the storytelling process. Co-creating stories is exhausting, and you and your learners will burn out if you’re not careful.

I’ve discovered that these regularly scheduled breaks from co-creating of stories are a wonderful for my learners’ and my own sanity, especially at this time of the quarter when we’re all sick, tired, cranky, etc. I think that the tasks are also useful because they disguise input in a way that looks more like output.