teaching language chunks

I love the little and unexpected detours that one sometimes takes from the planned lesson that we have in our notebook or/and in mind. I also love the feeling of being totally prepared and very much looking forward to steering off the path and embrace a golden opportunity to:

a. bring on a useful expression

b. do pronunciation work with it

c. create conversation around it and, in doing so, making it memorable

d. share learning stratetegies with the students

A recent lesson revolved around the topic of “work”. At one point a student was talking about his indecision some time ago regarding whether to take on one job (which entitled relocating to another city) or staying put.

And then the “aha” moment came. I intervened to suggest the chunk “make up your mind”. “So you couldn’t make up your mind then”, I said. “It was a difficult decision”. I wrote the chunk on the board and asked the class to drill it with me starting backwards:

  • mind
  • my mind
  • make up my mind
language chunks

First slowly, then a bit faster and finally very fast. Then we drilled “I couldn’t make up my mind” three times in that manner. Finally I asked the students to simply say “I couldn’t make up my mind” after my questions.

  • “Tea or coffee”? “I couldn’t make up my mind”
  • “Espresso or capuccino”? “I couldn’t make up my mind”
  • “Small or medium”? “I couldn’t make up my mind”
  • “One or two sugars”? “I couldn’t make up my mind”

In order to help to stick to memory and to get students interact around it and have some speaking practice, I thought of a conversation question to go with the chunk, as shown in the photo above. I let the students discuss in small groups for five or six minutes and then I asked around (which generated some more useful vocabulary).

While the students were working in small groups, I took twenty seconds and opened Youglish in the computer browser. If you are not familiar with Youglish, read the blog post I wrote about it (“Do you Youglish?”) where I introduce you to the site and the kinds of things that can be done with it in the language classroom. After the speaking practice I played three or four snippets from Youglish with the chunk “couldn’t make up my mind”. Click here to have a look. Then I invited the students to do the same thing at home and try to drill the chunk.

Obviously we can’t afford to do this with every single language item we encounter but it’s always a good idea to, from time to time, take some words for a walk. Now, in your head: can you see this course of action unfold for these chunks?

  • “just get rid of it”
  • “what about it?”
  • “at the end of the day”
  • “enough already”

How would you drill them backwards? Could you think of conversation questions to go with them? Can you find examples of them on Youglish?

One comment

  1. “Obviously we can’t afford to do this with every single language item we encounter but it’s always a good idea to, from time to time, take some words for a walk”. Totally agree!
    Great post, thanks for sharing.

    Like

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