Reading activity: "Who Is This About?"

Objective/ product

Students identify a classmate based on a written description they see on screen.

Followup: the accuracy of the identification is checked.

Materials needed

No special materials are required; the visual presenter may be used for display of drawings.

Procedures for traditional classroom

Taking advantage of classroom time during which students are working on something else (a speaking activity, for instance), the instructor chooses one student in the classroom and composes a short written description of that student on the spot. The instructor writes the description on the blackboard so it is visible to everyone and encourages students to work in pairs to read and identify. At the elementary level, this activity is often used during units having to do with clothing and/or physical characteristics. (Due sensitivity must be exercised!)

In a followup stage, the teacher may ask individual students to state who is described. The class may read the description aloud together with close attention to linguistic features, and the instructor may elicit possible structural or lexical variations.

The writing can serve as a jumping-off point for a student writing activity. One possibility for a game: the teacher may invite students to think how they could change the description on the board as little as possible to describe a different student in the class -- and after asking everyone to write down a possible change, may invite a student to come to the board and make a change. Changes may be made several times so that different students are described in turn. Following this, students can be asked to produce a full description on their own.

Adaptations for ITV

Two features of this activity require adaptation: display of the writing and display of the "candidates" for identification.

Display of the writing: the ITV classroom makes this activity more convenient for the instructor, who can write the description on a sheet of paper to be displayed on the visual presenter. (The text should be brief enough and the writing big enough to make it readable on screen.) The writing should be displayed on program for a length of time sufficient to allow everyone to read through it, and then the candidates for identification should be placed on program (see below). It may be necessary to alternate between the text and the candidates a few times, at student request.The instructor may prepare several sheets with descriptions, and in the follow-up portion of the activity may pass the sheets to students in the originating classroom for them to make changes on or rewrite. Ideally, a visual presenter

Display of the candidates: in the traditional classroom, everyone is easily visible to everyone else. In the ITV classroom, in order to show an amount of detail sufficient to distinguish one person from the next, only four or five people can be displayed on screen at any one time. Moreover, since students are usually seated behind tables, most of their clothing may be hidden from the camera. For these reasons, when it comes time to identify the person described in the writing, the instructor should call on four or five students to come into the middle of the room and stand in a row so that a good camera shot can be obtained. The student described in the writing should be in this initial group; calling up a second group takes up too much class time.

If the activity is followed up by student writing, a panel of three candidates may have to stay on program to provide "raw material," in which case, it may prove inconvenient for them to write. If studio equipment permits, a still image of the three candidates may be captured and placed on program to provide writing material, and the three may be seated.


1999 Stephen Fleming, NFLRC, University of Hawai‘i.All rights reserved.