Jul 19, 2012

Highlighting lexical chunks with Diigo

Image by photosteve101 on Flickr

Diigo is a social bookmarking tool which allows you to save and access all your bookmarks online. But it's not only a great app for keeping your links in one place; its highlighting function can be used in class for drawing students attention to and keeping track of lexical chunks in online articles, texts and web pages.

You will need to be in a connected classroom (computer, projector, access to the Internet). After your students have read the article for meaning - and possibly discussed it - ask them to underline lexical chunks, collocations and other useful bits of language. Then display the text on the board and highlight the chunks with the whole class on the board using the Highlight function on Diigo:

For example, I recently used a BBC article about Cricket making an Olympic bid - click here
At this point I should say that I have no qualms about using what might be considered an outdated article, particularly if it has relevance to today or can be used to discuss how the situation described has changed or developed.

After highlighting all the useful lexical chunks in the text you click on Share, choose email and enter your students emails. If you tick Include notes, your students will not only get the link to the annotated version of the article but also all the lexical chunks you have highlighted in the body of your email.

To see the annotated article click here.

Now students can go over the language at home or be assigned between-class work. A group of politicians (upper-intermediate) I used this article with found that most of the highlighted chunks can also be used metaphorically to talk about politics. Here is a list of all the chunks we focused on:

still in the running 
inaugural season 
take on (smb) 
preliminary discussions 
making a case 
further down the line 
expressed initial interest 
on track to 
will take place at 

Diigo has always been my tool of choice for saving bookmarks. But ever since I started using the Highlight function, it has earned its place in my collection of Essential lexical tools. And, in case you're wondering, Cricket is still not recognised as an Olympic sport.

For ideas on how to work with lexical chunks extracted from texts, read my article "Revisiting texts" on the TeachingEnglish website - click HERE


  1. Hi Leo,

    Thanks for sharing this excellent tip! I had never heard of Diigo before, and am looking forward to trying this out for myself - emailing learners the highlighted language seems a great way of ensuring everyone has an accurate copy of what has been covered in class.

    Thanks again!

    1. Hi Genevieve
      I am happy that I introduced this great tool to you and I am sure you'll find lots of uses for it.
      Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  2. Leo,
    Wow, impressive idea! is there a quick way to add the students' emails? Or can it be done in advance? I teach a class of over 30 students...

    1. Hi Naomi,
      Hmmm. It's not really an emailing client but if you have a list, you can simply copy/paste can't you?

  3. Hi Leo.

    I was drawn in to this by your use of an old article on cricket, which actually turns out to be topical. Absolutely agree that using an old article like this opens up plenty of options, as you suggest, for exploring the tenses used, conditionals and how that article might be written today.

    As for Diigo, I've never really looked at what it does until now. It was mentioned by a couple of respondents to my ICT in ELT survey. I could see myself using something like this if/when I finally get an iPad. Also, the image, 'Evolution of diigo' on the home page made me smile :-)

    1. Hi
      I'm thinking of going through my old articles and using them next year with this perennial group I've been teaching for years :)
      You don't need an iPad to use Diigo. If you're new to it, go to Tools, select Diigolet and then drag the Diigolet button onto your bookmarks bar in Chrome (bookmarks bar should be enabled / made visible in Chrome). Perhaps I should add a link to a Diigo tutorial to my post?

      Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  4. Interesting tip, Leo. Might give it a whirl next year. Thanks for introducing Diigo to my life!

    1. Thank you for visiting my blog, Laura! Hope you're having a restful summer.

  5. Great to know this tool. I just created a free account. My guess is Leo, that we can highlight whatever items we choose, by our pedagogical goals? (e.g.- nouns, verbs, vocabulary items etc.)

    1. Well, you can also use it for what it's originally intended for: bookmarking. It's sort of like saving favourites, which I would always lose every time I got a new computer (less so now), and which you can't access if you're on a public computer. So I use it for that.
      And the highlighting feature as described in the article. Different colours can be parts of speech or red for new items, yellow for old items in a new context etc.


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