I can't remember where I came across this activity but I found it so useful that I hope it's something you can use with your class! It takes a little bit of preparation on your part but when it comes time to do the activity, it's all student-centered.
Choose a text appropriate to the students' level. Cut it up into paragraphs and number each paragraph on the back of the cards. Then prepare comprehension and vocabulary questions for each paragraph and create numbered cards with these as well. I usually do 3 or 4 questions per paragraph. In groups of 4 or 5, each team receives a set of cards - an instruction card, the text cards, and the question cards. I like to put them on different colored paper, say pink for the text and blue for the questions. The students take turns reading each paragraph in their group and then answering the questions about that paragraph. It's a great way to let the students help each other with difficult vocabulary and sentence structure, and since in my classes I refuse to speak the students' native language, it takes a bit of pressure off (the more advanced students can translate the text as needed in their group). It also helps the students understand a text bit-by-bit, and is less overwhelming than if they receive a handout with the whole text on it. Groups work at their own pace, so faster students are not bored at times when the teacher is trying to explain things to the weaker students. I assign one student to be the "secretary" who writes down the answers to the questions. In this activity, there's no real need for the teacher - your job is just to float and answer various questions as needed. It's entirely student-centered. Enjoy!
Kasukabe, Japan (by way of the U.S., the Czech Rep., and Germany)
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