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Make Connections Between Grammar and Vocabulary

Submitted by Rodney and Graham UK/Hong Kong

A simple activity that helps strengthen knowledge of connections between grammar and vocabulary is gap-filling. Having learners either listen for the missing ‘bits’ in the transcript of a spoken text, or try to work out from the context what is missing in a written text can be a good way of drawing their attention to the use of particular forms in particular contexts, and can provide a starting point for exploration of their functions. Also, having them compare ways that they have filled in blanks with the original version of a text or conversation can help them notice where they are having difficulties producing appropriate forms and to explore why certain forms are appropriate and certain forms are not.

The following procedure can be used:

  1. Find, adapt or write a text containing occurrences of a particular feature you would like your students to work on.
  2. Prepare a version of the text with some or all of the occurrences of this feature blanked They may be single words or longer stretches of text like phrases or clauses.
  3. Have the students fill in as many gaps as they can, either based on some limited exposure to the original text (listening to it or reading through it once) or based on their own contextual or grammatical knowledge.
  4. Present the original text to the students (either in spoken or written form) and have them compare the ways they filled in the gaps with the occurrences of the feature in the original text and notice the kinds of forms that are used and where their answers are different from the original.
  5. Have students explore the reasons why certain forms are appropriate or inappropriate by trying to either justify what they wrote or explain why it should be changed.
  6. Have students practice producing the feature in an appropriate way in similar conversations or texts.

Further reading: Jones RH, Lock G (2011) Functional Grammar in the ESL Classroom: Noticing, Exploring and Practicing. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.