Friday 9 December 2011
by Ken Paterson
When we were deciding on the contents for ‘A Handbook of Spoken Grammar’ (follow the links ‘Titles’ and ‘Language Practice’ on the DELTA website for details) we were fairly sure we wanted to include some spoken English ‘lexical bundles’. These are strings of words that corpus research has shown are particularly frequent in conversation. See the Longman Grammar of Spoken and Written English for a series of examples.
We thought we would take a look at bundles with the verb ‘know’, which often top the frequency lists. The three word bundle ‘I don’t know’ is very common, but can be used in almost too many contexts. Five word bundles with ‘know’ (e.g. ‘I don’t know what to’) seemed too restrictive. So we settled for a four word bundle pattern that we thought might be productive for learners:
‘I don’t know what/when/where/which/who/why/how…’
When I first started teaching I would almost certainly have thought that the break in this pattern should come after the word ‘know’, and probably taught it as ‘know + a wh- clause’. Now I think it is equally as useful to let learners work with the chunks ‘I don’t know what…’ or ‘I don’t know how…’, particularly in spoken English activities.
In the book, we offer an explanation of these chunks with ‘know’, some natural dialogues and some practice. But you might like to try a simple activity in class yourselves:
Write all seven four-word chunks (‘I don’t know what …’, ‘I don’t know when … etc.) in a random order on the whiteboard. Then get your students into pairs or threes. Ask them to talk about a holiday they might take in the near future (or any other subject you like!). The only condition is that they try to include some of these chunks in their conversation. Monitor the groups, and if you hear some good examples, ask the students to rehearse and repeat these to the class.
Let me know how it works. Next time, we’ll look at the ‘vague’ use of ‘thing’.
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The Company Words Keep
Part of the multi-award-winning Delta Teacher Development Series. The Company Words Keep is a practical and thought-provoking guide for language teachers, showing how the latest insights into “language chunks” can lead to learners acquiring natural and fluent English.
The Business English Teacher
From the multi-award-winning DELTA TEACHER DEVELOPMENT SERIES. The Business English Teacher is a book not only for teachers who are thinking of making a career move into the field of business English teaching but also for those who would like to increase their skills and develop their potential.
Teaching Unplugged was awarded the British Council 2010 ELTons UK Award for Innovation. Teaching Unplugged is the first book to deal comprehensively with the approach in English Language Teaching known as Dogme ELT.
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DIGITAL PLAY - 2012 ELTONS WINNER IN INNOVATION IN TEACHER RESOURCES! Digital Play is a pioneering book on the use of computer games in language teaching. Authors Kyle and Graham are experts in teaching with technology and training teachers in innovative classroom practice.
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