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Reading tasks for logical-mathematical
language learners
by Rolf Palmberg
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TASK THREE – projective reading

As suggested by Grant, teachers should give learners ample opportunity to practise their projective reading skills, i.e. their ability to relate a text to their personal opinions, knowledge, imagination, and/or experience (Grant 1987). However, learners’ eagerness to “read beyond the lines” can sometimes go too far. The purpose of the third task is to show learners that there is a limit to the number of inferences to be drawn from their own experience when reading a text – things are not always what they appear to be.

The teacher hands out a text entitled ‘Have you been to Greece?’ (Palmberg 2009a, 2009b; see Appendix 3) and tells the learners to read through the text. They are asked to work individually and write down everything they know about Michael and also their first impression of him as a person. Having done that, they are invited to compare and discuss their facts and impressions in pairs.

Next, the teacher displays the following background information on an OH transparency:

“Michael has just returned from a week’s holiday in Hawaii. He never drinks alcohol, but in order to cope with the hot sun he had to drink lots of mineral water every day. He has visited Greece only once, when he was a little boy of three. The t-shirt he’s wearing is a gift from his sister who visited Greece some time ago.”

The learners are now asked to discuss any presumed facts that proved in fact to be false assumptions. How, in their opinion, could these misunderstandings have been avoided in the first place from a language and/or reader point-of-view?

TASK FOUR – reactive reading

The purpose of the fourth task is to keep learners alert while reading, i.e. to make them react. The task is based on a teaching idea suggested in Britten (1983) and this is how it works. The teacher takes a familiar text (one that has been introduced to the learners during an earlier lesson) and prepares a text version where all nouns have been deleted and replaced with one single (but irrelevant) word, e.g. ‘sausage’. The sentence ‘The man went into the forest and saw two birds’, taken from an imagined text, would thus read: ‘The sausage went into the sausage and saw two sausages.’

The learners’ task is to recreate the original text, either orally or in writing. If they like the activity (and most of them inevitably will), they can be challenged to prepare similar tasks at home (to be used later in class). The ‘sausage’ version of Britten’s idea was first presented in Palmberg and Palmqvist (1988) and further elaborated on in Palmberg (2009b).

TASK FIVE – combined deductive / projective reading

The fifth task is a blend of deductive and projective reading. The teacher displays five sentences on an OH transparency, one sentence at the time. After each displayed sentence, the learners are asked to write down a short answer to the question: ‘Who is Mary?’ Having done that, they are asked to share their thoughts in pairs.

1. Mary was on her way to school.
2. She was worried about the maths lesson.
3. Last week she couldn’t control the class.
4. It wasn’t fair of the maths teacher to leave class responsibility to her.
5. After all, it’s not part of a/n xxx’s duties to teach.

After the fifth (and final) sentence, learners have to guess Mary’s occupation. (She is a school secretary.)

‘Mary’s Puzzle’ originates from Sanford and Garrod’s book Understanding Written Language (1981); the suggested classroom method is from Blom, Linnankylä and Takala (1988). Since the five sentences in ‘Mary’s Puzzle’ are cleverly designed, most learners will no doubt revise their thinking several times during the task, which will, under favourable conditions, result to an intensive exchange of opinions (see also Palmberg 2009b).

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