Noticing/Analysis Activities

What’s a noticing/analysis task?

A noticing task (also referred to as an analysis activity) is an activity that is used to draw the attention of the students (hence the term ‘noticing’) to language used inside a text. Notice (no pun intended) that I italicized the word ‘language’ because a noticing activity is NOT used to draw attention to the content of the text i.e. comprehension questions such as reading or listening for gist and detail are NOT examples of noticing activities.

Activity:

So, for example, if you have a short text such as the one below, which of the following two activities below the text would be considered a noticing activity and why?

I like to eat pizza. I eat it every day. I typically order them from delivery stores like Pizza Hut and Little Ceaser’s but never Dominos. I love deep dishes but also at times enjoy eating thin crust ones, too. I usually will get a lot of toppings on them including pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, and even sometimes chicken or another type of meat. I am gluten free, so I can only order pizzas from certain pizza places that have gluten free dough.

From the short text (above),

A: Why can the author only order pizzas from certain delivery stores?

B: Underline all of the simple present tense verbs in the text.

So, which one (A or B) would be considered a noticing activity?

Answer: B

Why? Because B focuses on language rather than on the comprehension of the content of the text.

Noticing activities will be done after a gist task, an activity for students to read or listen for the main idea of the text. You can read more about gist tasks here. Once they have an overall understanding of the main idea of the content of the text, then you can focus in on the language being used in it.

What are examples of language that you can notice?

Examples of language could include anything relating to the different language systems of grammar, vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, and functional language (words or phrases used to perform a function i.e. to order pizza you could say, “I’d like one pizza, please.”).

Activity:

One common noticing activity is to underline the target language (the language you want to focus on in the lesson) in the text. For example, you could have the students underline all of the simple present tense verbs in the text (i.e. I like to eat pizza). What are some other target language points for a noticing activity we could have the students underline in the text?

Think of as many as you can and then check a suggested answer key below.

I like to eat pizza. I eat it every day. I typically order them from delivery stores like Pizza Hut and Little Ceaser’s but never Dominos. I love deep dishes but also at times enjoy eating thin crust ones, too. I usually will get a lot of toppings on them including pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, and even sometimes chicken or another type of meat. I am gluten free, so I can only order pizzas from certain pizza places that have gluten free dough.

Suggested Answers (don’t peak unless you’ve tried it yourself first):

  • Simple present verbs (like, eat, order, love, etc.)
  • Adverbs used along with simple present verbs (i.e. typically, sometimes, usually, never, at times, etc.)
  • Verbs + infinitive (i.e. I like to eat) vs. Verbs + gerund (i.e. enjoy eating)
  • Vocabulary relating to food (i.e. dough, crust, toppings, pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, pizza)
  • Commas (… thin crust ones,)

Etc.

Examples of Noticing Activities:

Underlining/Circling/Boxing

As mentioned before, having students identify particular target language in a text is a ‘go-to’ type of noticing activity. You can also have them underline some target language points and circle or box or whatever other target language points in the same text.

Examples of things you can underline/circle/box:

  • Uses of a particular grammar structure (i.e. verb tenses etc.)
  • Lexical items (i.e. adjectives describing ______, or nouns relating to ________, or phrases asking for advice, synonyms of _____, antonyms of ____, examples of _____ etc.)
  • Punctuation marks

Etc.

Find the mistakes

You can have a few mistakes in the text that have to do with the target language you want to focus on. So, for example, you could write instead of “I like to eat pizza” “I likes to eat pizza” or “I’m liking to eat pizza.” Students will look through the text to find the mistakes.

Find the Out of Order Sentences in the Text:

For this activity, you could give them a text with some out of order sentences. They look through it and try to identify which ones are out of order i.e. Instead of “.., so I can only order pizzas…” you could write, “So only can I order pizzas..”. They would need to read through the text and identify the out of order sentence(s).

Find what word(s)/sentence(s) have to do with the picture(s)

For example, students could look for ALL the words related to this image in the text:

(Pizza, toppings, bell peppers, pepperoni, olives, crust etc.)

Or, they can look for a sentence related to images:

(I eat it every day)

Check the text for the answer

Here you give the students some kind of activity where they check the text for the answer.

For example:

Choose the correct answer from options:

I (typically order/order typically) them…

I (get usually/usually get) a lot of toppings…

(Focusing on adverb placement)

Fill-in-the-Gap:

I ______ order them…, I ______ get a lot of toppings, …and even ______ chicken… etc.

(Focusing on different adverbs used with the simple present tense)

Re-ordering sentences

Typically/them/order/I

I/get/a lot of/usually/toppings

(Focusing on syntax of simple present sentences)

Noticing Tasks and Listening Texts:

Typically, noticing activities are done with reading texts. However, they can also be done with listening texts, too.

Listening Gist Task:

First of all, one way of doing a noticing activity in conjunction with a listening text (i.e. an audio clip or video clip etc.), could be to have the students listen for overall meaning with a gist task and then give them an audioscript where they then can focus on the language used in written form.

Listening for the Answer:

Or, you can do most of the above-mentioned activities in conjunction with a listening text where they would listen for rather than read for the answer.

Pronunciation Noticing Activities:

You could have students listen for features of pronunciation in a text, for example:

  • Pronunciation of certain sounds i.e. particular consonant or vowel sounds.
  • Listening to distinguish dialects
  • Sentence stress (which words are stressed and not stressed)
  • Intonation (what emotions are being conveyed? Does intonation go up? Down? Etc.)

Etc.

For more about features of pronunciation, see the blog post here.

Noticing/Analysis Activities & Guided-Discovery

Here are some noticing activities that are used in tandem with a guided-discovery activity (an activity that has students figure out some aspect of the meaning, form, or pronunciation of the target language).

Sorting into Categories

After having students either look at the target language already underlined/highlighted for them or having them find it themselves, get the students to sort the target language into different columns.

For example:

Directions: Look at the text and put the correct words in their category below – Verbs used to describe routine and states, Adverbs of Frequency, Time Expressions.

I like to eat pizza. I eat it every day. I typically order them from delivery stores like Pizza Hut and Little Ceaser’s but never Dominos. I love deep dishes but also at times enjoy eating thin crust ones, too. I usually will get a lot of toppings on them including pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, and even sometimes chicken or another type of meat. I am gluten free, so I can only order pizzas from certain pizza places that have gluten free dough.

Verbs Used to Describe Routines & States Adverbs of Frequency Expressions of Frequency
Like Typically Every day
Eat Usually Etc.
Order Etc.
Etc.

You can also do sorting activities with listening activities and pronunciation i.e. have the students listen for certain sounds and right the word that contains the sound under the correct category.

Matching Activities

After having students either look at the target language already underlined/highlighted for them or having them find it themselves, get the students to do a matching activity to figure out what the language means in context.

For example:

Directions: Look at the underlined words below and match them to their corresponding pictures.

I like to eat pizza. I eat it every day. I typically order them from delivery stores like Pizza Hut and Little Ceaser’s but never Dominos. I love deep dishes but also at times enjoy eating thin crust ones, too. I usually will get a lot of toppings on them including pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, and even sometimes chicken or another type of meat. I am gluten free, so I can only order pizzas from certain pizza places that have gluten free dough.

1.     Deep dish a.    
2.     Thin crust b.    
3.     Toppings c.    
4.     Gluten free d.      
5.     Dough e.    

Different Matching types of activities:

  • Visuals
  • Examples
  • Definitions
  • Rules (i.e. with grammar)
  • Synonyms
  • Antonyms
  • Extremes (i.e. ‘cold’ would match with ‘freezing’ & ‘hot’ with ‘scolding’)

Etc.

Multiple Choice

After having students either look at the target language already underlined/highlighted for them or having them find it themselves, give the students multiple-choice options to figure out something concerning the use of the target language.

For example:

Directions: Look at the underlined words below and choose the correct multiple-choice option below.

I like to eat pizza. I eat it every day. I typically order them from delivery stores like Pizza Hut and Little Ceaser’s but never Dominos. I love deep dishes but also at times enjoy eating thin crust ones, too. I usually get a lot of toppings on them including pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, and even sometimes chicken or another type of meat. I am gluten free, so I can only order pizzas from certain pizza places that have gluten free dough.

The underlined verbs are describing:

  1. A habitual action
  2. A state of being
  3. An action happening in the moment

The bolded verbs are describing:

  1. A habitual action
  2. A state of being
  3. An action happening in the moment

Graphic Organizer/Scale/Chart

Have students organize the target language on some sort of scale, graphic organizer, or chart.

For example:

Directions: Put the underlined word/phrase on the scale in terms of the frequency they describe.

I like to eat pizza. I eat it every day. I typically order them from delivery stores like Pizza Hut and Little Ceaser’s but never Dominos. I love deep dishes but also at times enjoy eating thin crust ones, too. I usually get a lot of toppings on them including pepperoni, bell peppers, olives, and even sometimes chicken or another type of meat. I am gluten free, so I can only order pizzas from certain pizza places that have gluten free dough.

Not Frequent Very frequent
<——————————————————————————————————————–>
Never At times/sometimes Usually/Typically Every day

Principles of Designing Noticing Activities:

  • Should focus on a few examples of the language in the text
  • If the text is long, it’d be best to highlight the TL to begin with (so they don’t get frustrated looking for the target language)
  • Generally, use shorter texts for noticing activities or at least just a few examples from the text for the students to analyze (you don’t want it to be overwhelming)
  • Generally, noticing activities should be quick i.e. 2-5 minutes of a 40-60 minute long lesson.
  • They shouldn’t be too challenging
  • Try to scaffold them (structure them so they are more easily completed) i.e. have the questions be simple – like multiple-choice/yes or no type questions & try to include graphic organizers/charts/scales etc. with them.
  • Many times, it is nice to have them be pair activities from the beginning to make them more interactive and less ‘dry’.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *