Cloze exercises with a Twist

Here is a little more developed approach to cloze exercises.  I particularly like the aspect of having the students develop their own short contributions.  Many of you probably use this technique with poetry, but here is a nice adaptation to prose.  And possibly short dramatic scenes lend themselves to the same practice.

A proposal for work with close reading from Nataliya Tsvetkova, teacher of the Russian A Literature course

In order to ensure that students have well understood and remembered the details of the texts studied, I use the technique of “slow reading” and “deep diving into the text” for associative memory. I use this on the most significant fragments. Students in a kind of ‘gaming’ style develop a serious skill. They become aware of the semantic core of the text and remember it, sometimes by heart.

1st step

Something very productive for us turned out to be role-reading aloud (with the correct intonation!) of the key episodes of Chekhov stories, as well as staging of the narrative itself and even individual phrases. Expressive reading helps to assign meaning and intonation accents and under the influence of emotional experience, a stronger impulse to remember the desired fragments.

2nd step

The next step is to perform a specific task that updates knowledge and mobilizes creative memory. I call it «fragments with semantic spaces». Students reading a familiar text must insert the missing words, phrases, or sometimes a small, but meaningful phrase. The task is aimed, first and foremost, at the active emphasizing and storing of images, metaphors, epithets, hyperbole, litotes, comparisons, neologisms, artistic details, symbols, and the like. (Mini-sample below)

This technique aims for a prolonged effect: knowing that they can be offered such a task at any time, the students initially read and learn texts extremely carefully, thoughtfully, with an internal motivation to remembering.

The strength of this task lies also in the fact that after repeated performance on material of different stories of the same author, students unwittingly begin to see and remember specific authorial artistic techniques, forms of literary conventions and the basic means of artistic expression.

3rd step

The third, final, phase of this assignment is homework. Make your own example of «fragments with semantic spaces», This allows students as much as possible to pay attention to close study of the works and to see the text from the “inside.”

Sample

In a fabulous winter evening with (epithet )….………….…….. hoarfrost in the orchards, Kasatkin sped (whom? protagonist)…………………………… on a high narrow sled down Tverskaya to the Loskutnaya hotel and stopped off (where? semantic and historical symbol) ………….…………………… for fruits and wine.  Over (where? scene, main local topos)………….…………………………….. was still light , it was green to the west of the sky which, clean and clear, subtly betrayed the tops of (what?contextual symbol)…………………………………………………., but down in the blue-gray frosty haze , it was getting dark and still, with gently shining lights of  just lit lanterns.…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

(author, title of the story , location)………………………………………………………………………………………….
(Ivan BUNIN. “Henry” (translated from Russian)

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