"You talk as if a god had made the Machine.. Men made it, do not forget that. Great men, but men. The Machine is much, but it is not everything. I see something like you in this plate, but I do not see you. I hear something like you through this telephone, but I do not hear you. That is why I want you to come. Pay me a visit, so that we can meet face to face, and talk about the hopes that are in my mind."The machine stops - 1909 - Forster

Sunday, March 13, 2011

COPY THAT - Does it have to be boring?

Thus a pencil and paper make excellent concentration tools
( Michael Leboeuf)

Providing students with written passages to study and analyze is obviously a good thing for them. They notice vocabulary, grammar structures and syntax and use them as models for their own texts. In a recent post Copy that Jason Renshaw stresses the importance of making students copy down the inputs/models/samples in order to fully experience the text.
For language learners in particular, the process of copying out texts is a fantastic way to slow down the language and encourage some noticing of the finer details (before the teacher with the whole class helps them notice some of the bigger picture things happening with the text). It also encourages more uptake in the form of chunks, as learners gradually learn to memorise phrases and parts of clauses in order to speed up the copying process.
I totally agree with Jason: copying things down helps students improve concentration skills, it's good for spelling and  it engages both eyes and hands.
Despite all these pros, copying down can also be labelled as a BORING activity. That's why I feel guilty  if I simply tell my students  " Copy that" without trying to spice up  this exercise a bit.
The activities which follow are an attempt to find a compromise between the need for the copying process and the demand for more challenging, task-based and creative activities.


Students read a text which is displayed on the IWB. They work on pronunciation and , after that, they are given some minutes to read the text silently.
Here is an example. The text is about Edward Cullen's physical appearance ( adapted from Wikipedia to make it suitable for elementary level ).

Then, on the IWB, the same text is displayed with the last part of each word covered with coloured ink. The students have to copy and remember the whole words.


This activity worked quite well with my students. We've been studying Martin Luther King and racial segregation. I wanted them to memorize some parts of  his "I have a dream" speech, but I didn't like the idea of handing out photocopies of the printed text.
So , using the site Mirror Writing - pniTiяw яoяяim, I wrote it backwards.
The mirrored text looked like this.

 Then an enlarged copy of the mirrored text was stuck on each student's back. In rows, they had to copy the text the right way  from the the person sitting in front of them .As soon as they finished copying ( ant it was not an easy task at all ) they could stand up, without leaving the queue,  and start memorizing the lines.

COPY RIGHT on PhotoPeach


Sometimes I do give students photocopies of the texts we have to work on, but with an extra task, as in the case of "striped" texts. This activity is very similar to HALF COPY, apart from the fact the students don't copy the whole text but  they just complete the missing parts. Anyway, I find it useful to focus their attention on  spelling of words and grammar structures as well.
Here is an example of a striped text.


This activity is a quieter version of the well-known running dictation and it is good for kinesthetic learners.
The passages to be copied are put on the walls, the students walk to the wall, read the text, remember as much as possible, go back to their desks, sit down and write. They go on like this until the whole text has been copied down. Both quickness and accuracy are required because as a follow-up the students swap their sheets and check the mistakes.


I think that writing essays, having them checked and then recopying them in final drafts can be good practice as well as productive classroom routine. It is time consuming but it helps students develop writing skills and they may even end up collecting all their texts in a personal "coursebook".

Example of a personal coursebook created by a Middle School student, by recopying her texts/short essays.

Myebook - ELISA' PERSONAL COURSEBOOK - click here to open my ebook

Does it sound like student created content? Probably it is something like that..Students are an invaluable resource and nothing must be wasted which comes from them. I totally agree with David Deubelbeiss.

I like reading posts from much more experienced and competent teachers than I am  around the world and I've been learning a lot from all of them . Still, the best lesson I've been taught is quite simple and it's a common sense solution: read a lot, think, adapt, experiment, try, take risks, vary what you do and how you do it but, most importantly, do what works for you and for your students.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


For the students who are taking Trinity level 6.

Click here to open the Glogster.