May 26, 2015

Lexical activities united

This is a quick post that consolidates some activities for teaching collocations and chunks that I’ve posted on this blog and elsewhere, specifically the ones organized in series which I refer to as Cycles. 

I’ve demonstrated most of these at various conferences, most prominently at the IATEFL conference in Glasgow in 2012, but video recordings of the sessions have been taken down while the IATEFL Online website is being revamped. So I pulled all the activities together into one table for the convenience of the teachers and student teachers I work with as well as visitors to this blog.

I hope it makes it easy to navigate and find the activity that you’re after:

Click HERE if you want to print the document 


  1. Hello Leo,
    Thank you for these wonderful ideas. These are very much 'how long is a piece of string?' questions, but is there anything general you can say about what proportion of your classroom time you spend on lexical review, and how this varies according to the nature of the class?

    I started thinking through a set of 'collocation cards' for a Business English student involving high-frequency nouns like risk and goals but also possibly lower-frequency but relevant ones like overdraft and commission. Do you stick to pretty high-frequency nouns like the ones in your article for this kind of activity? I just wonder if it's possible to do too much work on collocations and with too many 'base words' (it could go on indefinitely!), and whether the risk of that is higher or lower with students who are learning very much as a means to an end rather than for pleasure, and don't put in much time outside the classroom -- on the one hand, I'd hope that working with a selection of collocations in class would improve these students' ability to notice and learn other patterns that we don't deal with explicitly in lessons; on the other hand, I wonder at what point they'd interpret it as getting too bogged down in detail and prioritising the wrong things, and at what point they'd be right!

    I realise those are big and vague questions -- any ideas that spring to mind would be very gratefully received! :)


    1. Dear Rosie,

      Thank you for your comment. My rule is to start every lesson with a quick vocab review. Naturally, "quick" can often take up a big chunk of a lesson, if students have question or need additional clarification. But I would have no qualms about spending the whole lesson on lexical review, possibly expanding on some items (i.e. providing additional collocates), playing all kinds of games and getting students to personalise new lexis.

      As regards your set of BusEng collocation cards I think it's a great idea to have a mix of high- and lower-frequency ones. Of course, lower-frequency items will have fewer collocates:
      OVERDRAFT: have an ... / pay off my / ... limit / ... facility COMMISSION: charge ... / get a ... / work on ...

      You're right in thinking that working with a selection of collocations should - hopefully - develop students' ability to "chunk" ("to chunk" in Michael Lewis's sense = notice words that go together) outside the classroom, only this might take a while. Therefore I'd suggest providing a few collocations / useful patterns for every word that is presented in class, like with "commission" and "overdraft" above. Even one (example/chunk/collocation) is better than none, e.g. instead of writing "commission" on the board, record the whole chunk as it occurred in a text /listening activity / discussion:

      to charge a commission
      He works on commission

      Does it answer your questions?


    2. Dear Leo,

      Thanks very much for your reply -- yes, that answers my questions! I tried the first few cards this morning and they went down very well, and seemed to spark only interest and positive reactions, rather than (as I'd feared!) huffing and puffing about difficulty. I'll keep going. :)

      All the best,


  2. Hi Leo

    I love your site and after completing my DELTA earlier this summer am very much trying to incorporate the Lexical Approach in every lesson that I teach. Your site has give me some great practical ideas to help with this, so thanks! I have a cheeky request. I'd quite like to print out the embedded document on this page so I can stick it to my office wall as a constant reminder of new activities but I don't seem to be able to do this. Is there any chance you could email me the original word document? ( Once again, realise this is a tad cheeky but would be very grateful!

    Thanks very much

    1. Hi Laura,

      There's nothing cheeky about it at all. I've made it available for everyone to use it but didn't realise that it couldn't be printed.
      I've just added a link to the original document - thanks to your comment.


    2. Hey Leo
      Thanks for your email and link to the document. It now has pride of place in my office ready for the new term :)
      Keep up the great work!
      Laura :)

  3. Hi Leo,

    That’s a very nice varied set of activities you’ve presented for recycling collocations in class. It is certainly necessary to provide a lot of exposure, but I’d be a bit concerned that I was spending too much class time on one particular set of vocab (depth at the expense of breadth). I’d also want to push toward more productive (as opposed to recognition) work in later cycles.

    Since students would learn them at different rates, I’d prefer to leave a lot of the review work up to the students, perhaps with the ‘promise’ of the items possible appearance on a final test. One valuable resource you’ve introduced previously is Quizlet, which can be put to good use for self-study with several modes, and some monitoring options for the teacher.

    To complement the modes offered by Quizlet, I’ve produced an app and HTML5 games website which allow you to import Quizlet sets for several different kinds of practice (recognition and production) which are especially useful for language learning.

    These HTML5 games are experiments in further ‘gamifying’ flashcard practice with matching/bingo type games, with 2-player options and a bit more depth in mechanics/strategy than you usually see. As HTML5 games, they can be played on any device, which suits any practically student smartphone and makes them suitable for in or out of class.

    The website with HTML5 games is here:

    I designed the PhraseBot app (which has less game modes than HTML5 games, but can track progress) to be especially useful for multi-word units - by splitting up the words onto different tiles many combinations are possible, and it makes for a convenient input method. The PhraseBot app page can be found here:

    I have some good sets on Quizlet for common phrasal verbs here which may be of interest which include definitions and cloze sentences.

    Anyway, I hope they will be of use to you and your readers. I’ve used them with my classes, and many students score much more than the required weekly points (which they prove by emailing me a screenshot) and enjoy it as a means of self-study.



    1. Hi Oliver,

      I'm ashamed to admit that only now I realised that your platform can be used with any Quizlet sets and not just the ones you included on your home page. How daft of me! Somehow it wasn't immediately obvious and when I tried the app, it kept redirecting me to iTunes - and I'm an Android person here.

      I've been playing with the app a bit and I see its advantage. I don't have to break down the chunks anymore by 'blanking out' only one of the words and putting it onto the Term side. With your app, the whole chunk / collocation can be blanked out. It requires a slightly different approach when designing Quizlet sets but it's definitely worth exploiting. I'll be recommending it to my teacher trainees and using it with my students too!

      Thank you once again.

      I include the above links as hyperlinks here for the convenience of the reader:

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. That is a great article, An idle teacher is like Aladin lamp who keep to contribute for all kinds of pupile. Specifically, there are most essential to him or her about ideas,learning, lesting, speaking and melodious relizing any kinds of educational organization area.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...