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Action Steps

Below are presented some Action Steps (in addition to those presented in the Guided Practice section) that you can use to improve your students' ability to identify relationships between reference words in a text and their antecedents.

1. Your best action step is to develop your ability to scan a text and recognize reference words and their antecedents. In this way, you have the option of knowing in advance where students might have trouble. You will also be able to intervene more successfully if necessary. To this end, create your own list of reference words as you come across them. This will help you to become sensitive to them. Some frequently encountered reference words are included below, as well.

Common pronoun reference words:

A. The "personal pronouns" I, me, you, he, him, she, her, we, us, they, them, mine, yours, his, hers, ours, theirs

B. The "demonstrative pronouns" this, that, these, those

C. The "relative pronouns" that, which, whose

D. The "reciprocal pronouns" each other, one another

E. The "reflexive pronouns" myself, yourself, yourselves, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, themselves


General noun reference words that could refer to large portions of text (for extensive lists of reference words like these, see Francis, 1968):

assumption, belief, concept, effect, event, hypotheses, idea, interpretation, matter, notion, opinion, problem, process, result, rule, situation, specialization, theory, this task, viewpoint

Words that would refer not directly to an antecedent but to a variant or some kind of restatement of the antecedent:

such a, likewise, similarly, just the opposite, so do I, the same kind, a similar one

Commonly used exophoric words:

this country, this nation, this year, next year, our government, our president, today

2. Vary the times when you introduce reference words for a reading assignment. Sometimes work on them before discussing the reading, sometimes during the reading, and sometimes afterwards. There is no optimal time, for some students will need to understand the story before they can tackle the reference words; others will want to use the reference words as an aid to understanding the story. By introducing reference words at different times during a lesson, you have a better chance of appealing to the various learning styles of your students.

3. Create homework assignments like the following where students have the opportunity to find antecedents to reference word on their own and then bring them to class for discussion. This same kind of assignment also makes an excellent classroom group project.


For many years, East German people devised creative ways to sneak out of East Germany. Some people dug tunnels; others tried crashing through checkpoints with cars, trucks, or buses; still others flew out in small airplanes or balloons. One woman tied herself to the bottom of a car and passed through a checkpoint unnoticed. And one family sewed fake Russian uniforms for themselves; then, they pretended to be Russian soldiers and simply drove through a checkpoint. Some reckless people tried scrambling over a barbed-wire fence or a wall. These people were often shot.

Directions: Indicate what the following words refer to.

A. creative ways ______________

B. others ______________

C. still others ______________

D. themselves ______________

E. These people ______________

4. Copy a reading text on an overhead transparency to project on a white board. Then ask students to find all the reference words that refer to a single antecedent. Then connect the reference words with a line on the transparency to make a visual presentation of how a single thread of cohesion can permeate a text. In the example below, the single antecedent is the first word in the paragraph, East Germans, and thirteen reference words throughout the text refer to it in some way.

East Germans became increasingly frustrated. In 1989, those who took vacations in Hungary and Czechoslovakia discovered that these countries would allow them to go into West Germany. Then, the East German government tried to prevent East Germans from going into those countries. They became even more frustrated and angry. People in many East German cities began to mount massive demonstrations. They insisted on an end to their communist government. Most of all, they demanded freedom to travel. The demonstrations became intense.

Before long, both the East German government and the Soviet Union realized that they could no longer contain a whole country full of angry frustrated people. On 9 November 1989, the borders in the city of Berlin were opened. Hundreds of thousands of excited East Germans poured through the checkpoints causing massive traffic jams. West Germans rushed into the streets to welcome them with hugs and champagne. Television cameras rushed to the scene to broadcast their joy to the world. Soon, every checkpoint in East Germany was opened, and people flooded into West Germany. The East German people were finally free. One year later, On 3 October 1990, the German Democratic Republic ceased to exist, and it was officially reunited with the Federal Republic of Germany into a single country called Germany

5. Ask students (singly or in teams) to assemble their own lists of reference words from a reading assignment, from a newspaper article, or from another source. Let them share the reference words with each other during a class meeting.