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First Sentences
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Purpose: To deal with ambiguity as students anticipate the contents of an article.

Info: Students receive the first sentence to each paragraph of an article. This activity works best with intermediate and advanced students, although lower-intermediate classes can benefit too. The article selected by the teacher should be limited to two or three hundred words, else the class won't have the opportunity to apply the information in meaningful activities.


Step One: The teacher writes the title of the article on the board. He may alternatively dictate the title. However, all future information should be placed on the board if initially written there. If the title is initially dictated, then all future information should be similarly given orally.

Students work in pairs or small groups to discuss the possible contents of the article. The teacher should allot several minutes for the conversation.

Step Two: The teacher now writes or dictates the first sentence of the first paragraph of the article to the class. Students work in the same pairs or groups as before. Although the first sentence may provide limited information, students nevertheless need to discuss the possible contents. A certain tolerance to ambiguity and guesswork proves very important.

Students should try to remember the information for subsequent steps. This will help them speculate on the contents of the other paragraphs. If necessary, one student may jot down a few notes for later reference.

The teacher should allot roughly three minutes for this step, so students can effectively discuss and add detail to their opinions. Reasons should also be given for their opinions.

Step Three: The class repeats Step Two with the second paragraph, the third paragraph, and so on. Once the students have received and talked about the first sentences for each paragraph, they should have some idea of the contents of the article.

Step Four: The teacher distributes the article to the class. Students receive about five minutes to read the information and compare it to their previous discussions. Stronger classes may receive less time.

Step Five: Students return to their same pairs/groups to confirm, correct, and compare their earlier discussions with the actual article. They should also discuss why their initial conversations were the same as and/or differed with the contents.