Yep, hot on the heels of yesterday’s post on collocation trees, another activity to see how many collocations your learners can identify and to help them see a little bit better why a collocation is… well… a collocation.

Collocation Pyramids!

Acknowledgement – this is based on an idea shared with me by Daniel, which was originally Word pyramids and is based on word association (e.g. pillow – sleep – baby – crying – tears – sorrow) rather than collocation, and which builds down and then back up again (so you start with one word, the next level has two, then four, then eight and then sixteen.  Then the next one has eight, four, two and finally one).

This might not work with collocations, as when you start consolidating again, it could get tricky as you might end up trying to find a single word that collocates with “stamp” and “mobile”…

So here’s my version of collocation pyramids:

The whole thing eventually takes the form of a family tree style diagram.

Give all the learners some scrap A4 paper.

(1) Each learner writes one word at the top of the paper and draws two subordinate lines underneath it.

(2) Learners pass their paper to the person on their left.  With their new bit of paper, learners write two collocates for the first word at the end of the subordinate lines.  And then draw another two lines branching underneath their two new words.  The collocations can come either before or after the target word.

(3)  Learners pass their paper to the person on their left.  Learners now have to think of four collocates, two for each of the words on the previous level.

(4) See stage (3), only now it’s eight collocates!

(5)  And so on….

You could keep this going for as long as you like…  or you could put the learners out of their misery after they have to think of sixteen collocations!

A further activity to provide a certain amount of closure, but mainly to provide an opportunity for peer teaching, would be to return the collocation pyramid papers to their original owners and then to put the learners into small groups (say groups of three or so?).  In their groups, learners transfer the items from their paper into a sort of collocation star poster (need A3 paper + coloured pens/pencils etc).  They can then consolidate any collocations with the same words into the new poster  (so, say two different students both had a collocation with “stop”, these could be put together in the new poster).  These could then be displayed in the classroom or in the school.

Collocation tennis!

This could be used either as a warmer to the previous activity, or as a filler at the end of the previous activity.

Essentially, you pair the students off and seat them on opposite sides of the classroom, facing each other.  The game then functions much like a game of tennis – if a learner can’t provide a collocation quickly, they “miss”, if they give an incorrect collocation, their shot is “out”.  learners take turns to “serve” (i.e. say the first word).

So a game might go something like:




(love – 15)

As before, the collocations can come before or after the target word.  To reduce the amount of time that you spend running back and forth adjudicating on disputes, you can either furnish each pair with a collocation dictionary, or you can run the activity in groups of three, with two people playing and one person acting as judge!

I have a faint feeling I’ve seen something like this before somewhere – but can’t currently remember what it was or where I saw it.  Any feedback on that score welcome!

And as always, any feedback, comments, criticisms and queries are also welcome!