Do As I Say
Do As I Say is a photocopyable collection of three kinds of sequential
activities: operations, procedures, and rituals. For simplicity, we
will refer to them as sequences. The collection includes sequences
that can be used with beginning, intermediate, and advanced students.
They can be used with young and old learners. The sequences are typically
done as pairwork.
What Are Operations, Procedures, and Rituals?
They all have one thing in common: a series of steps that follow a
logical and/or naturally occurring sequence. They differ from each
other in this way: An operation involves manipulating a piece of equipment,
such as operating a tape recorder. A procedure is an activity that
follows a predictable series of steps such as preparing a cup of instant
coffee or a more complex activity such as making origami. A ritual
is a highly predictable conversational dialogue.
Language accompanies each step in the sequence. Typically, the language
is a short sentence, usually a command to do something or a cue to
say something. The accurate use of language leads the learner through
the process of successfully completing the sequence of steps. For
example, Student A gives directions to Student B, and unless those
directions are correct and correctly followed, Student B will not
or should not successfully complete the sequence. Language accompanies
action and/or thought. The meaning of the language is made clear by
the action, and the action reinforces the language. The experience
of completing a sequence establishes a basis for tactile and visual
memory as well as linguistic memory. Furthermore, learners will experience
many of these sequences in their normal daily life outside the classroom,
and as they are involved in the sequence, they will also be involved
with the language that accompanies the sequence. The result is an
effective activity for language acquisition. They are learning by
The operations and procedures are usually a set of instructions delivered
in the form of commands. A ritual sequence is usually a set of verbal
exchanges, such as a series of questions that elicit responses. The
most useful format is called the "8 by 8," a series of eight utterances,
each utterance not exceeding eight words. Learners are better able
to remember and work with utterances of eight or fewer words. If the
sequence has more than eight steps, the learner may have more difficulty
remembering the steps. In some of the more complex sequences, the
lines do exceed the eight-word, eight-line limit. These sequences
should be used with more advanced learners.
The sequences are also an enjoyable way for learners to use the language
actively in a purposeful way. They are fun. At the same time, the
interaction between the learners is meaningful. A machine is used,
or a task is accomplished. Thus, the sequences provide two important
prerequisites to successful language acquisition- enjoyable and meaningful
Because the sequences involve action, they are especially useful for
the acquisition of the verb phrase - the heart of the language. The
verbs used in the sequences are characteristically high-frequency
action verbs, often irregular, for example, put, hold, open, close,
give, and take. Sequences also feature phrasal verbs such as turn
on, pick up, fill in and write down. With a few simple cues, a variety
of tenses can be practiced. For example, at the end of each step,
the question "What did you do?" will require the learner to use past
Sequences also add variety to the usual classroom activities, and
variety keeps the students on their toes. At the same time, the teacher
can withdraw from direct participation in the sequence, allowing the
learners to perform and practice by themselves, reducing teacher-talk
and increasing learner-talk.
When to Use Sequences
Sequences are generally used as a supplement to a regular curriculum.
For example, after working with irregular past tense forms, the teacher
can select a sequence such as "Lighting a Candle" that uses several
irregular verbs and requires the learners to ask "What did you do?"
after each step. They can also be used on a regular basis to begin
a class, to close it, or to break the tempo of the regular class work.
Sequences can be used at any level of English proficiency, although
they are more effective at beginning and intermediate levels. There
are six categories of sequences in this collection, and within each
category, the sequences become progressively more challenging.
Reviewing and recycling material has always been an important part
of any effective language learning program, and doing sequences is
no exception. Therefore, "once is never enough" is a good rule to
follow with these sequences. Frequently, a brief announcement such
as "Let's mail a letter" is all that is needed to set a sequence in
motion, and with each review, a different tense can be used, for example,
"Before you do it, say what you are going to do."
Pro Lingua Associates ESL/EFL
74 Cotton Mill Hill, Suite A315, Brattleboro, Vermont 05301
Fax: 802 257 5117 Phone: 802 257 7779
Pro Lingua HOTLINE for information and orders: call Elise @
800 366 4775
© 2005-2014 Pro Lingua Associates
to the Pro Lingua Home Page