Off on a Tangent Pre-Texts Activity


This language activity asks students to bring a literary, scientific, historical or artistic page that they can relate to the common text and which has new vocabulary.  They present these texts and use it to build vocabulary and analyze the text.  

Students can bring in something from a book, a newspaper, a magazine, the internet, or a journal.  The found text should contain at least one vocabulary word that the rest of the class most likely does not know. The student teaches this new word to the class during their presentation.  Student presentations of their texts should be brief – they should read their text and teach the new vocabulary word to the class. Then other students will guess the connection to the text and play with the new vocabulary word. 

This activity broadens the students’ range of reading in the new language. They will most likely read through multiple texts before choosing one, since they will want to be proud of their choice. It also gives students a chance to take on the facilitator role and teach the class themselves.  When students displaying their choices of text to classmates and also teach them new words and fields, they become truly motivated about learning. 

This activity comes from Pre-Texts, an initiative headed by Professor Doris Sommer.  Pre-texts' lessons apply to a wide range of language and literature learning goals.  Workshops, training, and materials are available.  For more information, check out