Friday, April 15, 2016

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Reading: Illustrate the Process of Recycling

For my low-intermediate reading class, we were covering a unit in our textbook on the environment, consumption, and trash. As a supplemental activity, I decided to have them look at a short text outlining the steps in recycling various types of materials. My main objectives here were 1) help them learn to deal with new vocabulary, especially on the technical and specialized side; and 2) simply understand and re-tell the information. Here, we weren't concerned with main ideas, inference, and critical thinking; rather, I wanted them to simply practice the important and widely used skill of reading for to find information.

To meet our first objective, I had the students first circle any unknown words (focusing on nouns) in the text. For the second objective, I gave them large sheets of paper and told them to illustrate to the process. I used the first section of the text, on recycling glass, and modeled the steps. Of course, my art skills are not amazing, but they were all pretty nice to me!

The entire text is found at:

A Look at the Recycling Process

Did you ever wonder what happens to the objects that you toss into recycling bins? Here’s a look at how glass, plastic, aluminum and paper are recycled.


Unlike glass, which is made entirely of natural substances—minerals--plastic is composed of man-made and raw materials, including petroleum and crude oil. Here’s how plastic is recycled.
  • People bring their used plastics to a recycling center.
  • The plastic is brought to a recycling plant where it is washed and inspected.
  • The recyclable plastic is washed and chopped into tiny flakes.
  • The flakes are separated in a flotation tank.
  • The flakes are dried and then melted into a liquid.
  • The liquid is fed through a screen for even more cleaning. It comes out in long strands.
  • The strands are cooled and cut into pellets.
  • The pellets then make their way to manufacturers who use them to make new products.

Step #1: Circle vocabulary. Use Google Images on their cell phones to find a picture of each word. (I encouraged them to use this as their main method for this activity, rather than use a translator or even a dictionary. I walked around and guided them to be sure they chose the correct image for the word (e.g. with screen).

Sample words they looked up: flakes, flotation tank, screen, strand, pellets

Step #2: Draw the process. See the example above.

Overall, I thought this was a fairly effective activity because it gave my students, who were at a lower proficiency level, a chance to be exposed to more technical reading and science and technology topics. And doing the illustrations, I believe, made the activity more engaging and stimulating than, say answering multiple-choice questions on the same type of reading.