No matter what level your students are while working with the new vocabulary they need to be aware of the importance of patterns such as collocation. There are a lot of different activities to practice collocations in class, e.g. sorting activities, when students group words according to collocate; dominos, when students match collocations end to end; pelmanism with sets of cards where students match up pairs and so on. In this article, I’d like to share my favourite activities which require almost zero preparation.
Activity 1 – Guess top collocations
This is a great activity to raise students awareness of some of the most common collocates of a certain keyword and also some that they might be unfamiliar with. To do this activity students will need to have access to collocations dictionaries or corpora. How to use corpora read in this article.
Put students in pairs or groups. Give each group one or more level appropriate keywords which have a number of collocates. Ask students to guess top collocations to these words (e.g. 5 adjectives, 5 verbs and prepositions they are used with). Then students should refer to dictionaries or corpora to check their guesses.
Alternatively, students can look their word up in the collocations dictionary and corpora and choose five collocates. Then they create lists with collocations, add some extra ones (students need to make them up, create the ones which don’t exist) and pass the list to another group. The second group should tick the ‘real’ collocations and cross out the ‘fake’ ones on the list.
For lower levels, you can specify that the students choose only those collocates whose meaning they are familiar with.
Activity 2 – Post-it game
Prepare a set of post-it cards, ask students to write one half of the collocation on one paper and the other on another. Stick one post-it to the back of one student and one to another. Students should walk around the classroom and ask other students to explain what word they have on his/her back, then they should find a ‘post-it partner’ to complete the collocation. Then they write a sentence on the board with the collocation and get a new post-it.
Activity 3 – Collocations race
Ask students to write the list of collocations, for example, with verbs ‘make’ and ‘do’. Students work individually for two minutes. Then ask one students to say the collocation, if other students also have this collocation they should cross it out, the first speaker also crosses it out not to repeat it. Then the next student takes a turn and says his/her collocation. The winner is a student who has written down more collocations that others haven’t written.
Activity 4 – Quizlet collocation flashcards
Of course, teachers can find ready flashcards on Quizlet (there is a great number of them, just google the topic you need or even the name of the coursebook and the unit) or teachers can spend precious free time creating online flashcards themselves. However, it will help students to remember collocations much better if they create these flashcards themselves. Students will enhance the deep processing of the language. Teach your students how to create these flashcards, then they can send these flashcards to each other and do ‘tests’. Watch the video from Leo Selivan below on how to create the flashcards.
Activity 5 – Noticing collocations
We have already written about the importance of developing noticing skills in this article. While analysing texts, students heighten their awareness of collocations as well. Ask your students to find five useful/new/unusual collocations in the text or you could give students a list of words or phrases and ask them to find what collocates with them in the text. Then make up gap-fills based on the text, deleting parts of collocations you want students to remember and ask to complete the gaps.
Find more collocations games in the video below:
What activities do you use most often to practice collocations with your students?