Here is James with this week’s teaching tip video: teaching collocations for listening and speaking.


James: Hi! So, today I wanted to talk a little bit about teaching vocabulary and specifically about teaching collocations—with vocabulary and with listening. Now collocations are, of course, words that occur together and lots and lots and lots and lots of words in English have words that commonly or always or often will occur together. So, it’s really helpful to teach these words together. For example, listen to. How many times have you had a student, “Oh I listen music”? But if they’d been taught that most of the time we say “I listen to music”, and if they’d learned it together then they kind of…they store it as a chunk and they retrieve it as a chunk. So, it means that you retrieve, or students retrieve information more quickly which can help with fluency and of course with accuracy.

But it can also be helpful with listening because when we listen we’re constantly making predictions about what we’re going to listen to next and then assessing or checking whether our prediction was correct. These happen in like split seconds. So, if you’ve taught a collocation and the students then expect to hear a word after it, so that process is much easier and much quicker. So it can help with listening comprehension skills as well. For example, if I say to you, “Oh, he was in excruciating…” what word comes after it? Most people, most native speakers, are going to say pain because we often use ‘excruciating pain’ as a collocation. Or, “You told me already. So, I’m fully…” More than likely you are going to say aware because we use fully and aware as a common collocation. So, it can be a really helpful very controlled listening practice activity of giving students the beginning of a sentence—after they’ve learned the collocation, of course—and asking them, “What do think will go next?” because that’s what they are going to be automatically doing with listening. So it’s a really helpful kind of controlled listening practice activity as well.

And students can also…students can learn collocations often by looking in learners’ dictionaries as well as obviously you should be teaching them in your classrooms.


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