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Blog post covers 2024 2

Blind Retell

October 10, 2011

Betsy Paskvan shared this fantastic activity with our Anchorage PLC last Friday night. (For any of you that haven't heard of Betsy, she the an amazing Japanese teacher in our district that co-taught a Contrastive Grammar session at NTPRS with Susie Gross this past summer.) I love this activity because it is simple and effective! It has an output component, but at its heart--it is all about the input.


  1. Project a familiar story or text at the front of your room (hooray for paperless activities!). If you don't have projection capabilities, you could distribute paper copies of the text to students--one copy per two students.
  2. Have students partner up and stand face-to-face. Ask Partner A to stand with his or her back to the board, and ask Partner B to face the board.
  3. Partner A re-tells the story from memory (since his/her back is to the board), and Partner B helps A whenever s/he gets stuck or confused. Partner B is, essentially, a "coach", whose job it is to help Partner A accurately re-tell the story. Partner B is reading the text (receiving comprehensible input!) and critically analyzing what Partner A is saying as s/he compares it to the original story. Partner A could hold a mural or storyboard while s/he is re-telling the story to help him or her keep track of the story, but that is certainly not necessary.
  4. After they finish the story, the partners switch roles and repeat the activity in the same manner, with Partner B re-telling the story from the beginning. Obviously, it will be much easier for him or her because she or he has just finished reading the script while coaching Partner A!

I love this sneaky activity, because it seems to students that the focus is on the partner that is re-telling the story. However, we CI teachers know that the student that is truly benefiting is the student that is reading the script and coaching, because he or she is receiving comprehensible input!

This is a great activity to use as a speaking assessment, because you are free to roam around the room and listen to the students speaking. To see how I assess speaking in lower levels, especially, please visit this post. Since they are re-telling a whole story, there is a lot of time for you to make it around to each of the students before they switch partners--just be strategic and start with the students that you know will finish quickly!

A blind retell is a reading activity that is cleverly disguised as a speaking activity. Learn how to use Blind Retells to help your students along the path to proficiency in a new language!

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