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Fun and free practice of writing sentences with collocations

By Andrew Drummond

For those students who seem unwilling to write, competitive, collaborative work can help to motive them to put pen to paper. This activity works well as a practice of situating collocations in sentences and produces some graphalogical intrigue along the way.  

Imagine you have presented and done controlled practice with the following collocations, which remain written on the board:

  • get married
  • get a job
  • get drunk
  • get annoyed
  • get away<
  • get frustrated
  • get fired
  • get angry
  • get engaged

To engage the learners in less-controlled practice with this target language, split the class into groups of 3 and give out several strips of paper to each group. To demo, ask a learner to choose a collocation from this list and write a sentence containing it on a strip of paper. Here is an example:

Explain that you will give two points for a sentence that situates the new language appropriately and accurately and one point for sentence with an error such as a spelling mistake (or you can change the scoring system to suit your purposes). Set a time limit based on how many collocations are to be practised. Tell them to hand you the sentence as soon as it is written. They can run to your desk if the local health and safety regulations permit. You will mark it straight away and return it to the learners. This normally works for 3 or 4 groups otherwise the amount of paper coming your way is too great. The groups will work at the same time to produce sentences for each of the collocations. By the end of the activity, all of the sentences will have been marked. Learners count the points on their strips and give you the total. If you have time, you could ask the learners to arrange the sentences to see if any kind of narrative emerges, silly or otherwise. The time limit and the scoring system motivate learners to produce language economically with regard to time and accurately with regard to the points they wish to accrue. I have seen groups, normally reluctant to write, produce copious amounts of language during this activity. Perhaps it appeals to those, like me, that respond to instant gratification.