Introducing the Readogloss

Many of you will be well acquainted with the fabulous ELT activity of dictogloss – if you’re not, then you can read more about it here.

Dictoglossing has become so popular in the ELT classroom that it is now a verb: to dictogloss a text. Yet, it isn’t a recent phenomenon, as it has been around for quite sometime – Thornbury made reference to it in an article in the ELT Journal way back in 1997 (see references).

However, this post wants to take the traditional dictogloss one step further and introduce  a slightly altered concept, termed the readogloss

Background Information

A dictogloss can come in many shapes and forms. Regardless of how you set it up, there are many reasons why a dictogloss is an excellent activity for language learners. However, the benefit which stands out most is the fact that it promotes the cognitive processing of language: through this activity, learners are encouraged to “notice” salient features of language, be that grammatical forms, lexical items or discourse markers (Thornbury 1997).

Due to its nature, a dictogloss requires a multi-skilled approach: learners have to listen, take notes, write and speak with their partner. For some learners, this approach might be quite pressurizing, but it is generally well regarded, as it reflects real life communication, where several skills are employed simultaneously.

A readogloss encourages noticing and it also makes use of a multi-skilled approach. The difference between a dictogloss and a readogloss lies in the fact that the latter is based more on reading than listening.

Running a Readogloss

Like with a dictogloss, you take a text which you want to use with your learners. It might be a good idea to go for a text which is rich in the target language you want them to notice, be it a specific grammar point or a particular set of lexical items.

Unlike a dictogloss, you don’t read the text aloud. Instead, you give it to the learners to read with a gist activity.

Then, just like with a dictogloss, you ask them to find and highlight/underline keywords. How you go about this will depend on you and your learners. I usually ask mine to highlight all of the important nouns, which carry the meaning of the text, and then I get them to do the same with the verbs. You could equally ask them to highlight the main ideas in the text or leave the type of words they highlight to their own discretion.

Either way, by this stage the learners should have processed the main ideas of the text and have the key words/ideas highlighted. Now with a partner, get the learners to transfer what they have highlighted to a sheet of paper. Once they have finished, hide the text or take it away.

Now, using what they have got, the learners have to rebuild the text as closely as they can to the original. Point out the fact that you aren’t looking for a carbon copy but getting it as close to the original is the aim. With teens you could even gamify this, with the winning being the one which is closest to the original.

Rounding it off

Given that the underlying aim of this type of activity is to encourage noticing, it is important that the learners compare what they have produced with the original text. While doing this, they should be encouraged to notice the gap between the original text and their version.

If the text was chosen because it is particularly salient in a specific feature of language, such as a tense or discourse markers, then you might want to encourage the learners to notice this. If there is a significant gap between the learner’s version and the original in terms of the target language, then a language lesson on that topic might be worth considering.

Why a Readogloss?

As the dictogloss is such a successful ELT activity, it begs the question: Why change it?

I have recently tried dictoglossing texts with several groups of advanced learners, and the results have been poor: they were resistant to the idea, didn’t see the point of it and did a half-hearted job. Although I kept trying, the activity simply kept failing. So, with the hope that an altered version might work, I came up with the readogloss and tested it out – it worked wonders and was received much better. The learners were much more engaged and made a bigger effort.

So, if you want to try something different or if your learners aren’t responding well to dictoglossing, then give a readogloss a try and let me know how it went with a comment below.

Step by Step Guide

For ease of reference, here is a bullet-point step by step guide:

  1. Choose a text relevant to your learners
  2. Learners read the text once while completing a gist activity
  3. Learners highlight the key words/ideas in the text
  4. In pairs or groups, learners transfer what they have highlighted to a sheet of paper
  5. Learners reproduce the text based on their notes
  6. Learners compare their version with the original and notice the difference

8 thoughts on “Introducing the Readogloss

  1. @anthony @hana that tweak – giving them just the lexis – sounds like a grammaring activity to me- also worth exploring. Dianne Larson Freeman has written some good stuff on it. Was one of the most interesting things I learnt about during Delta!

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  2. Hi Anthony!

    In glad you’ve put a name to this idea! I’ve been trying loads of reconstruction tasks lately. Here are a couple of ideas that seem to work well. One,as one might expect, comes from Teaching Unplugged:

    “Disappearing Text: Tell the class you will be putting a text up on the board for them to see, and that they need to copy it down as accurately as possible. But they will only be able to see it for one minute! Display the text for one minute, then take it down. Let it run • The class have another minute to check their work. • They turn their copies over. You tell them you will be putting the text up again, this time for thirty seconds only, and that this will be their last chance to check their copy for accuracy. After thirty seconds, take it down. • From memory, they make any changes they want to make to their own work, before comparing versions with a partner. Round it off Ask one pair to dictate to you what they think is an accurate copy. Write it up on the board, then display the original text and discuss any differences with the class, or any language issues that arise. Follow-up As another memory challenge, people try in pairs or small groups to remember the text in as much detail as possible –without referring to their notes.”

    Another one from none other than Michael Swan:

    “It is not actually very difficult to link intensive input and output constructively. It is simply necessary to abandon the idea of a text as something to be ‘gone through’, and to keep in mind a clear understanding of how texts can be used effectively for language teaching. There are all sorts of possible approaches – here is one way of using a text with a lower-level class.

    · Take a story or other text of perhaps 200 words, not too difficult, which contains some useful language.

    · Read it to the class, with explanations where necessary.

    · Ask what they can remember.

    · Read it again and see how much more they can recall.

    · Hand out the text / get them to open their books.

    · Go through the text explaining and answering questions where necessary, but concentrating particularly on a relatively small number of useful language points (perhaps 8-12) which the students don’t yet have an active command of.

    · Tell them to note and learn these points.

    · Ask them to choose for themselves a few other words, expressions or structures that they think it would be useful to learn.

    · Get them to close their books or put away the text, and ask recall questions (NOT ‘comprehension questions’), designed specifically to get them to say or write the words and expressions picked out for learning.

    · Finally, set a written homework in which they are expected to use most of the new material, but in their own way. (For instance, ask them to tell the story they have studied in the form of a letter written by one of the characters in it; or to write about a similar incident from their own experience.)” Link: http://www.mikeswan.co.uk/elt-applied-linguistics/using-texts-successfully.htm

    Saludos!

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  3. Hi Anthony, this sounds like a great idea! At the school I teach at we have dictogloss on the plan quite often and I was initially nervous but I’ve done a few of them now with great success (for the students, not necessarily for my teaching I mean!) so am intrigued by this variation – thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Definitely an alternative worth trying, Anthony. I imagine this would be a more creative type of writing, i.e. students would only be restricted by the given lexical set and each of them would eventually come up with a different story? Then they could compare the outcomes with one another. As I see it, this would provide an opportunity for peer correction and students would learn from each other. Also, I suppose this would make students employ different cognitive strategies than during a dictogloss or readogloss, so it looks like a nice tweak to me.

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  5. Thanks for sharing this, Anthony. I do something similar, but I usually choose the language items myself and put them on the board in the order of appearance in the text. Students then reconstruct the text in pairs. This is usually a speaking activity. After reading your post, I think it may be a good idea to let the students choose the items and then ask them to copy them. Every student needs to practice different language areas after all, so why not give them autonomy in this. I agree that no matter how cool and useful an activity is, students sometimes see no point in doing it. Or they often just get bored of it. Coming up with a tweak now and then is a great strategy for keeping them engaged and motivated.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Hana! Thank you for taking the time to comment! I actually recently tried what you mentioned, but it was kind of by accent, but it turned out really well! I was thinking of trying it with a lexical set we recently covered in class and see what kinds of texts they produce – I wouldn´t have an original text to compare theirs to, but it might be interesting to see what they produce. What you think?

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