vocabulary and encouraging
by Sam Smith
He incidentally finds fiction also rich
in collocation but of the wrong kind for most students and
financial reports incredibly rich but again of the wrong sort.
Newspaper articles, if chosen well are not only a useful source
of collocations, but should be of interest to my students.
Recognising that the students read the news on a daily basis,
the content should be stimulating, relevant to the students'
lives and also not too difficult to understand as the content
crosses over cultural boundaries. Following from this, the
collocations students find in this type of text should be
useful for future recognition when reading similar stories
within the same semantic field.
Before continuing with newspaper articles, I must point out
that I do not want to dismiss in any way, other forms of written
and particularly spoken text. They all can be collocationally
rich, speech especially in semi-fixed expressions and multi-word
adverbials which are essential for improving speech as Lewis
points out in Teaching Collocations,2000,186. A balanced diet
of text is needed but in this particular case, I see newspaper
articles as a way my students can learn essentially on their
From class discussion we have established that the whole group
has access to the internet at home or at work and therefore
access to the news in English in written form at least. Two
particularly good websites I have found are The Guardian and
The Week. I have found the latter to be of excellent use as
it provides news summaries of all the weekly news and being
summaries the texts are especially collocationally rich, collocations
providing the most succinct way of providing information.
Lastly concerning newspaper articles, they are
authentic text, and being so we can provide learners with
the language as it naturally occurs, seeing beyond sentence
level at how it behaves according to the discourse functions
As McCarthy states in Discourse Analysis for Language Teachers,
we should be showing students more of how language is really
used and not how it is simplified and used artificially in
created materials for language learning.(McCarthy,1991,1)
David Nunan in an article in the ELT Journal goes on to say
that by not presenting students with naturally occurring authentic
text we are not helping them but are in fact making learning
more difficult by not showing them how language is used in
the real world.(Teaching Grammar in Context, ELT Journal Volume
52/2 April 1998,105) A further reason for using authentic
text, from my own teaching experience and talking with colleagues
is that particularly at this level, where students have been
continuing along the intermediate plateau for many years in
some cases, some challenge is simply needed. Students need
to know that they are dealing with something real, that native
speakers deal with every day. This point carries through to
my aim to make the students more independent. i.e. By showing
them that they can read authentic text, they should hopefully
feel motivated to continue doing so through the many multi
media sources available to them now.
So, if we are going to focus on collocations
occurring in authentic news articles, how shall we bring them
to the students' attention and what shall we do with them
when we do?
As Michael Lewis says on numerous occasions
we need to actively bring collocations to the students' attention.
While he agrees in Implementing The Lexical Approach with
Krashens claim that we acquire language by understanding messages,
he does not agree that formal instruction has no effect on
acquisition. He says:
(This) is not always so. Teaching helps,
particularly when it encourages the transition from input
to intake. Meaning and message are primary, but exercises
and activities which help the learner observe or notice the
L2 more accurately ensure quicker and more carefully-formulated
hypothesis about L2, and so aid acquisition which is based
on a constantly repeated Observe - Hypothesise - Experiment
A view which very closely resembles noticing
is consciousness raising (C.R.). This is an idea that was
first explicitly brought to my attention 2 years ago at a
teachers' workshop in Poland which helped me consolidate and
expand my already half-formed ideas with regards to noticing.
It is something which I have implemented in my teaching over
the last 2 years and have noticed positive results.
Jane and Dave Willis identify among C.R.'s
- The attempt to isolate a specific linguistic
feature for focused attention. From the wealth of language
data to which learners are exposed we identify particular
features and draw the learners' attention specifically to
- The provision of 'data which illustrates
the targeted feature'. It is our contention that this data
should as far as possible be drawn from texts both spoken
and written, which learners have already processed for meaning,
and that as far as possible those texts should have been
produced for a communicative purpose, not simply to illustrate
features of the language.
- The requirement that learners 'utilise intellectual
effort' to understand the targeted feature. There is a deliberate
attempt to involve the learner in hypothesising about the
data and to encourage hypothesis testing.
(Jane Willis and Dave Willis,1996,64)
For a list of suggested operations in C.R. from
the same authors, see Appendix.
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