Using texts to develop lexical awareness

In this guest post, Patrick Gallagher outlines how he uses the WORD / CHUNK OF THE DAY sections of this website with his students. We hope it’ll give you some ideas for how you could explore and exploit these texts yourself. Over to Patrick.

In order to improve their English, students need exposure to lexically-rich input. More importantly, their attention needs to be drawn to different kinds of collocations ( e.g. face difficulties), patterns (e.g. have difficulty doing sth)  and fixed expressions (e.g. as far as I’m aware). Consequently, activities that promote noticing are essential for priming students to recognise, record and remember this lexis.

The Chunk of the Day section on this website is ideal for fostering greater lexical awareness as much of the key lexis is highlighted in bold. As well as that, the posts tend to topical and varied, so students always find a text that will pique their interest. Here’s what I get my students to do with these posts.

  1. i direct the class to Chunk of the Day on their phones.
  2. We then choose a sample post and explore why certain items of lexis are in bold.
  3. I tell students to choose a post they like and to summarise it, writing down chunks, not single words. Obviously, this task can be given as a homework. If they’re working in pairs, it’s good to make sure they choose different texts.
  4. They should first read for gist, then re-read in order to notice the chunks of language in bold.
  5. They then write down chunks that are relevant to the topic or ones that are new or useful.
  6. I get students to use an online dictionary to check unknown words. Some teachers prefer not to do this, but I find encouraging dictionary use can promote learner autonomy as well as help illustrate how words are patterned.
  7. Once finished, students get into pairs and summarise their article for their partner, teaching them any new chunks they have learnt.
  8. Their partner writes down the chunks as they are being taught them. Students then exchange roles.
  9. (Optional step): Students teach the lexis they were taught to a different partner and then swap roles again. 
  10. During whole-class feedback, we discuss how useful the exercise was and how important it is to start ‘noticing’ lexis that could otherwise go unnoticed.

I’d love to hear more ideas on what you do with the free resources that are provided here.

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