Backward Buildup

Some sentences are just too long for English-as-a-second-language students to repeat correctly the first time. They may have no problem at the beginning but have trouble near the end. The backward buildup technique for repeating long sentences provides more practice where the problems are — at the end.

In the following sentence, We’re going to the supermarket to buy meat and vegetables for dinner, students often repeat the first two phrases correctly but stumble on the third. And they usually can’t remember the fourth.To use the backward buildup technique, first divide the sentence into phrases: We’re going / to the supermarket / to buy meat and vegetables / for dinner.  Start on the last phrase, proceeding backward from there. Use a natural stress and intonation pattern for each phrase.

Tutor: for dinner

Student: for dinner

Tutor: to buy meat and vegetables for dinner

Student: to buy meat and vegetables for dinner

Tutor: to the supermarket to buy meat and vegetables for dinner

Student: to the supermarket to buy meat and vegetables for dinner

Tutor: We’re going to the supermarket to buy meat and vegetables for dinner.

Student: We’re going to the supermarket to buy meat and vegetables for dinner.

This technique can be used with lower-level students who have trouble with shorter sentences, but it is particularly helpful as students begin to work with longer sentences.

Adapted from I Speak English, by Ruth J. Colvin, p. 80. Available from New Readers Press

Courtesy of Proliteracy America

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