Working with Phrases Part II

Environmental collocations promoA few days ago I talked about how to make students learn words that ”belong together”. But thinking about it a little further, I realized that it shouldn’t really end there. It’s not enough just to learn isolated collocations – they need to be used as well. Also, there needs to be a warming-up kind of phase there. Of course, this could be done traditionally in the classroom, but I find that once students are working on computers, it’s usually better to allow them time to go on with new tasks at their own pace, instead of disrupting their attention span and calling them back to non-computer tasks or for new instructions. So why not give them a whole set of tasks that are pretty self-explanatory, and let them follow a logical sequence of events, which, if followed as instructed, should make them confident users of those phrases learnt.

I ended up with a didactor compendium like this with 6 “levels” using 5 different task/game type generators:


Level 1 – A simple pairing-off activity – Task type: MEMORY

This is a simple warm-up exercise based on the Memory game, but not too easy to solve. I used two sets of “cards” here for each part of the collocations – green for the first and picture cards for the last. I could have made it much easier for me, and harder for the students if I had just typed in the words, or even just made the green cards for the first parts and typed in the words for the second. But this time I made this effort, because this way I could use the images as flashcards later. Making a PowerPoint presentation with these cards for later use for revision purposes would be a small matter, and the visual aspect might work to enhance their memory for the collocations as well.

Environmental phrases I

Level 2 – Adding the time parameter – Task type: TIMEOUT

See this post for description


Level 3 – Sentences – Task type: FORM (short answers)

At this level the students have to think of different environmental contexts for the collocations to work. By not giving them the collocations as such but using the same memory-activating image from the previous task, I wanted them to use what they have learnt from the two previous activities and then add the context and the spelling, grammar and syntax into their thinking.

Environmental phrases III

Level 4 – Essay writing – Task type: FORM (long answers)

Again, the difficulty level here is higher than before. Now the students need to create coherent texts on a chosen topic, not isolated sentences, but still be using as many of the collocations as possible.

Environmental phrases IV

Level 5 – Check-up I – Task type: QUICKTYPE

This is a quiz-type game where the students have to work cognitively on many different levels simultaneously. There’s the time parameter again, together with mnemonic or associative skills as well as spelling. The student mode doesn’t really come out well in a screen shot, which is why I made a screencast video of a student playing the game (no audio

Level 6 – Check-up II – Task type: SCRAMBLER

Only here did I make use of the students’ L1, Swedish in this case, but as Swedish resembles English lexically a lot at times, I also used definitions in English for clues. And instead of collocations, I chose to work with isolated words, choosing the ones that I deemed might present the biggest problems.

Environmental phrases VI

All of these activities can easily be modified – items added, deleted or changed. The games can be re-played as many times as the student wants according to his own ambition level. Levels 3 and 4 have to be checked by me the teacher,  but the other levels are all set for immediate student feedback, a feature that all students love and that I feel is a strong aspect of giving the student empowerment over his own learning.