Lexical chunks: tips for teaching students at all levels

Practical tips for teaching lexical chunks

Practical tips for teaching lexical chunks

13.01.2023

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  • Vocabulary
  • Tips & Strategies
  • Methodology

How many words in English are used in chunks?

The answer is up to 70% of everything we say. That is why teaching students individual words doesn’t seem to be effective.

Learners encounter language chunks at all levels — from A1 to C2. ‘Have breakfast’, ‘go to work’ are examples from lower-level course books. ‘Peer pressure’, ‘my hands are tied’ could be found in higher level ones. I would like to share some activities that my colleagues and I use to practise those common groups of words.

L1 in teaching English: to use or not to use?

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Let’s start with lower-level classes. After completing the unit where some language chunks were presented, learners need practice. The following activity provides controlled practice of the target language.  Students work in pairs. Student A says the beginning of the phrase and student B has to finish it with the words which student A has got printed in bold. Then it is student B’s turn to begin, and student A finishes the expression.

Student A

  • Live in a house
  • Get up early in the morning
  • Start work
  • Have breakfast

Students B

  • Go to work
  • Study at university
  • Get home
  • Speak a foreign language

For any level classes a reading passage can be used for learning the target groups of words in context. Students are asked to identify and underline lexical chunks in the text. Let’s look at the example:

The condition of our bodies is something we all know is important. Keeping fit is something that most of us try to do, and going on a diet is easy enough when we become overweight. It is also important to have regular check-ups, especially if you do a lot of exercise. However, we all occasionally suffer from an illness and visit our doctor. He will probably take your temperature and will prescribe pills to cure the problem. But what if you went to a doctor and he then began to stick still needles into your skin? I think most of us would consider this a very painful way to get cured. 

However, acupuncture is used to treat many illnesses, and often cures back pain and headaches. People who broke an arm or a leg can get great relief from pain with this method, …

Students underline the chunks of the language. You can see them in bold in the example. 

After that, you could ask the learners to match the parts of the chunks for practice.

1. keep
fit
2. go on
a diet
3. suffer from
an illness
4. have
regular check ups
5. take
a temperature
6. cure
an illness; a pain
7. treat
an illness
8. break
an arm
9.  prescribe
pills
10. become
overweight 
11. do
a lot of exercise

Some other possible activities are:

Fill in the gaps with the first part of the collocations. 
Use them in the correct form.

The condition of our bodies is something we all know is important. 1.___________fit is something that most of us try to do, and 2.  __________ a diet is easy enough when we 3. ________overweight. It is also important to  4. ______ regular check-ups, especially if you 5. ________ a lot of exercise. However, we all occasionally  6.  ________ an illness, and visit our doctor. He will probably 7._______your temperature and will 8.___________ pills to 9.________ the illness. But what if you went to a doctor and he then began to stick steel needles into your skin? I think most of us would consider this a very painful way to get cured. 

    However, acupuncture is used to 10.________many illnesses, and often 11._________  back pain and headaches. People who 12._______ an arm or a leg can get great relief from pain with this method, …

The odd one out. Cross out one word which doesn’t collocate with the verb in each group.

  • Take: pills, exercise, time, an operation  
  • Have: an operation, a temperature, pills, coffee 
  • Keep: fit, an eye on smb, track of smth, a back pain
  • Make: a favour, an effort, a decision, progress
     

Using charts. Tick the appropriate boxes.

 
success
recognition
results
respect
achieve
 
earn
 
 
 
 
win
 
 
 
 
reach
 
 
 
 

There are a lot of activities that could be used to practise chunks of the language, such as:

  • gap filling activities (erase one part of the chunk from the text) for students to fill in.
  • matching activities halves of the chunks
  • matching chunks with pictures
  • choosing the odd one out
  • using charts
  • using English Corpora, etc.


Use this effective way of teaching vocabulary.

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Article authors & editors
  • Helen Taranenko

    Helen Taranenko

    Author

    CELTA, CELT-P/S Course trainer, International speaking examiner

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