One of the things that often bothers learners is the idea that there is more than one meaning associated with a particular word…

A while back I was sent this link: which has great videos showing multiple meanings of quite simple words (Thanks Ronda!) – perfect for using with CAE or CPE classes that have to deal with this issue from an exam perspective (CAE Use of English Part 4  /  CPE Use of English Part 3).

Unfortunately, when I used it with my class, I used an uncensored You Tube Version of the video – which was fine until we got up to the word “blow”.  The moral of the story being – always watch the video BEFORE you show it to the class….  The version given above is suitable for classroom use…

I’ve just come across another handy website for this task:  The premise is simple – you go there and you click “Go” and you see a word at the top of the screen – you have sixty seconds to write about it.  Then when time is up, you finish your sentence and after a registration process, you get to see what you and everyone else have produced.  From a teaching context, it has some severe limitations – firstly there is the whole registration thing.  Unless you pre-register a bunch of identities, the learners have to do it themselves and for what is essentially a five minute task – it seems a little hasslesome.  The other problem is that you can’t access existing entries (or at least not that I found so far) – so limited learning potential there.  Finally – the quality of the other contributions is variable to say the least.

But the basic idea is a good one and easily adaptable to a more useful classroom situation.  The idea behind is not that people write definitions – in fact definitions are positively abhorred!  The idea is more that you write whatever the word “inspires”.  Which from a language teaching point of view equates quite neatly to “write about what the word makes you think about” – or multiple uses.

So my thought is that if you took the six “target” words from a CAE / CPE Use of english Multiple meaning task and gave your learners six bits of scrap paper, gave them a minute to write about what each word inspired in them, before collecting the entries onto different parts of the classroom wall for comparison & feedback purposes, you’d be able to help your learners access multiple levels of meaning of different words and show them how some of these words can be used.

I’ve worked this idea up into a 75 minute lesson plan (though timings can obviously be adapted and certain sections dropped) which is available to download as a pdf file here:  teflgeek – One Word Multiple Meanings

As always, any feedback, comments, criticisms and queries are welcome!