READ, COVER, WRITE, CHECK.
Here we have a task which can work with absolutely anything you’re reading in your day-to-day life: tweets, news articles, work emails (although destroy your work after if there’s anything confidential!), novels, Instagram captions.
Choose a short text which you have read before and understand well. You only want a small section, a paragraph will do.
Read a short section (short enough to memorise - 5-10 words), then cover the text with your hand and copy out from memory.
Uncover the text to reveal the next short section and do the same again. Continue until you have copied out the whole text.
Compare your text with the original and identify any differences there may be.
This is a really great activity for identifying vocabulary or structures which, while you may understand them passively, you are not yet able to produce yourself. Perhaps you can’t remember a word you thought you knew, or you forget to include a particular preposition. It’s amazing what you can’t remember even though you were just looking at it.
I encourage you not to try to check what you’ve written as you write, just write what you think is correct and move on.
Add a time limit. When I’m doing this in class, I generally set a 3-minute time limit. At the end, students count the number of words they’ve managed to copy and also the number of mistakes they made. Their final ‘score’ is the number of words subtracted by the number of mistakes (sometimes I subtract 2 points per mistake, if I’m feeling mean). This encourages you to write as quickly as possible while still maintaining accuracy. It also means you have a number at the end and, as you repeat this task again and again, you can track whether that number changes or not.
Repeat the same text. Repetition is amazing. If you found a text a bit of a struggle, keep it somewhere safe and return to it a week or a month later and see if you do any better this time.
Personalise it. If there’s a particular type of text that you need to write a lot, why not do this task with examples that you know to be correct? For example, if you need to send email to clients but feel a bit unsure about the language to use, why not ask your colleagues if you can do this task with emails that they’ve sent?
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