Published 24th May 2018

students reading and hugging books

No matter how often we incorporate reading into EFL classrooms it is difficult to know how much our students understand. Directed Activities Related to Texts (or DARTs) are one way we can ensure learners interact with texts effectively and meaningfully. By getting involved in DARTs, learners will improve their comprehension of reading texts.

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What are DARTs?

DARTs are activities related to reading texts which require interaction with those texts. They aim to improve a reader’s comprehension of the texts. Essentially, they require the reader to go beyond the surface of the text into the meaning of the text. There are two different types of DARTs: reconstruction activities and analysis activities.

Reconstruction activities

Reconstruction activities are activities which require students to reconstruct texts. Examples of reconstruction activities are:

  • Filling in missing words, phrases or sentences
  • Arranging parts of a text in a specific order
  • Completing a table or diagram from information in the text

Analysis activities

Analysis activities require students to analyse information in a text, usually by marking or labelling a text or diagram. Examples of analysis activities are:

  • Finding certain information in the text
  • Labelling parts of a text
  • Creating a table or diagram from information in the text
  • Writing and answering questions about the text
  • Summarizing the text

Why should we use DARTs?

Often with reading texts we ask our students to read a text and answer comprehension questions. This is an adequate way to deal with a text but it doesn’t delve very deeply into a text. Plus, it can get boring always dealing with texts in the same way. Using DARTs forces your students to really interact with a text and so better understand it.

Making use of DARTs also means students consider the structure of texts and not only the information included in the text. In this way incorporating DARTs into your lessons will actually make students better writers as well as readers. Finally, DARTs help students learn how to use ideas from texts without plagiarising – a necessary skill for exam classes and English for Academic Purposes.

How to use DARTs

Deciding how to use a DART can be tricky at first, but once you get the hang of it, it will come naturally. First, consider the text. Think of the usual comprehension questions you can ask. Then, think about how you make your students think twice about the content of the text. Perhaps there is room for a diagram or a table. Maybe the text lends itself to a word or sentence completion exercise. There might be an opportunity for a diagram.

There are loads of possibilities for DARTs. When you are planning a lesson around a reading text, consider how you can make dealing with the text both more interesting and more effective.