Activity 33: Combining Versions

▶ Duration:  15–20 min
▶ Aim:  Oral fluency practice
▶ Summary:  Each pair of students is given two incorrect versions of a text and, looking at only one version each, must discuss the differences and reconstruct the original text.

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The procedure for this activity comes directly from Discussions that Work (Cambridge University Press 1981). The author Penny Ur gives the following introduction:

"This activity begins rather like Picture differences [see Activity 23: Find the Differences], in that two students sit opposite one another and try to detect discepancies between their different versions, without actually seeing any but their own. But here, texts are used instead of pictures; and the identification of differences is only the preliminary. The main task before students is to compare the different variations and decide which is right, on the basis of common sense and consistency. Naturally, no one of the given texts will be completely right or wrong, so that each discrepancy will have to be assessed separately. When all the mistakes have been corrected, the students should be left with a coherent and logical passage."

The concept can probably be understood best by looking at an example, such as this one based on the film Love Story: love_story_versions.doc (html preview).

Penny Ur writes:

"To prepare pairs of texts like this is quite tricky and has to be done carefully, so that the solution is neither too obvious nor too difficult. It is best to take a paragraph or two of some passage of prose that is of the appropriate level of difficulty for the class, and go through it marking variations—one or two to a line—above the words of the original. Then each version is copied out separately, distributing right and wrong variations fairly equally between them, and duplicated to the required number. All the wrong variations should be mistakes of content (as in the example given above), able to be corrected with certainty only by reference to the other version (and hence, by interaction with the partner); mistakes of grammar, punctuation and spelling are pointless for the purpose of this activity, as they can be corrected individually."

If you create your own worksheets for this activity, you are encouraged to share them with other readers by leaving a comment at the bottom of this page.

Leave some space between each line so that students can easily write their corrections on the sheet. Make enough copies so that each pair can receive one copy of each version. Also make one copy of the original text for each pair, so that students can check their answers.

(A full explanation is only necessary the first time you do the activity, but if you do the same activity with a different text in a later class then you should still give a brief explanation and ask the instruction check questions).

The language used in the text should not be above the students' level, but if there are one or two difficult words then you can pre-teach these before the activity.

Explain the activity by using an example on the board, for example the first sentence of the Love Story text from each of the two versions is:

1. This romantic story is about two college students, Jenny and Oliver, who meet when Oliver visits the library to buy a book.

2. This romantic story is about two college teachers, Jenny and Oliver, who meet when Oliver visits the bank to borrow a book.

Hold up the two hand-out sheets and explain that students will work in pairs and each student will receive one sheet. The two versions are similar, but both have some mistakes.

Ask students to look at the sentences on the board and tell you the differences. Underline these differences:

1. This romantic story is about two college students, Jenny and Oliver, who meet when Oliver visits the library to buy a book.

2. This romantic story is about two college teachers, Jenny and Oliver, who meet when Oliver visits the bank to borrow a book.

Now ask which word is correct, "library" or "bank", and ask why ("library" is correct because you can neither buy nor borrow a book from a bank). Say that you should cross out the incorrect word on the sheet and write the correct one, and demonstrate on the board for "library" (cross out "bank") and "borrow" (cross out "buy"). Point out that the remaining difference, "teachers" and "students", cannot be decided for certain until the rest of the text has been examined.

Explain that each student can only look at one sheet. They cannot show the sheet to their partner, instead they must use English to discuss the differences. Check:

Distribute the sheets and begin the activity. When a pair finishes, provide them with the correct version so that they can check their answer.

This activity concept comes from Discussions that Work (Cambridge University Press 1981) by Penny Ur. However, the example worksheet does not.

Love Story

This text is a summary of the plot of the book/film Love Story: love_story_versions.doc (html preview).
Rating: 3.5 stars

This activity works with students who enjoy solving a problem, but in my experience some students do not find it very stimulating. Furthermore, students easily fall into using their first language for most of the discussion.

Additionally, it is not easy for the teacher to prepare texts which will encourage discussion in the first place. If, after reading the text to each other to identify the differences, the students can choose the correct alternatives with little or no discussion then the activity does not achieve its aim (it will become a type of dictation activity rather than a discussion activity).

In order to remedy the problem of children falling into using their native language, the whole lesson can be set up as a competition with groups of 2 competing against each other. If a someone hears another group talk in their mothertongue they get one point minus. Class ends with a group ranking.
Mr. McFaz [] [homepage]
30.01.2006 , 01:03