Comprehension questions or true / false exercises are the two most common ways of getting students to work with a text and to demonstrate that they have understood the main message. Often coursebooks themselves can overuse these two task types. Here are a few alternatives, though bear in mind that some texts lend themselves more naturally to certain task types:
• Multi-choice: give a choice of three possible answers. These can be a little more time-consuming to write, but can be fun!
• Sentence starters: give the start of the sentence, slightly paraphrased from the text, which students then complete. Be prepared to accept a slightly wider range of answers, in some cases.
• Ordering events: give a list of several events from the text, muddled up. This works with narratives, but can also work with other texts which have a sense of chronology, eg a biography.
• Completing a grid or diagram: students fill in a grid, map or label an illustration by reading / listening to the text.
• Matching: students match key words, pictures or paragraph headings to sections of the text.
• Matching to a summary: write up three separate one-paragraph summaries. Students then have to identify the best summary
• Interviewing: for example, if the text is a story, the comprehension task could be an incomplete interview with the main character, where just the interviewer’s questions are given, eg What did you do when you saw the door was wide open? Students then find the answers by reading the text. This can also work with other genres, eg a factual account of an object or a place, where the questions can be directed at the inventor or a guide, respectively.