As in my previous post, I am happy to email any resources referenced should anyone wish to have them!

Lexis and Semantics

Activity 1:

Taboo – a quick game of taboo is an interesting way to get students to start to think about lexical choices and meaning.  Once students have created taboo cards and played the game, unpick the mechanics of the game in terms of how they created it, and how easy / hard they found it to play.  This can open up an interesting debate and led nicely in my classroom into a discussion about lexis and its importance.

The activities in Section 4 of the EMC Introduction to Language Framework by @mmgiovanelli and @DanSeanClayton are an excellent way to start students thinking about lexis / semantics and I would really recommend these.

Activity 2:

Following the activities above and exploration with students, give students a purely factual description (Resource 1).  Ask students to add at least 10 words to the text – they cannot change or alter any of the existing text. Students should then share their descriptions with the class.  Other students should listen carefully, and as soon as the description has been read, share with their partner what image comes to their mind straight away.  Time should then be spent exploring why this image came to mind.  Which words created this?  Was it a combination or pattern of words?  Did everyone respond the same way and have the same or a similar image?  If not, why not?  What does this tell us about why writers use certain lexical choices?  What types of words were chosen and how did this link to the genre?  The really interesting discussion in my classroom came from the students actively thinking about the choice of their word choices.  They had undertaken this activity intuitively by simply adding words.  When they then thought about why they had chosen the words that they had, and the impact of these, it was a light bulb moment for some of them in terms of thinking about lexical cohesion, and how certain choices were preferred because of the type of factual text they were adding to.

For this next part of the sequence, despite being biased, I would definitely recommend @mmgiovanelli’s Teaching Grammar, Structure and Meaning, published by Routledge.  The book introduces teachers to some ideas from cognitive linguistics as a way of explaining and teaching important grammatical concepts. My A level class were the original guinea pigs for these activities and every class I have done them with since have found them really useful.  I have had permission to share the content below but this really is no substitute for buying / reading the book as the resources and explanation are far more detailed!

Activity 3: Figure / Ground

Students begin by considering some classic optical illusions to understand the concept of figure and ground, and I then used physical examples in my classroom to further consolidate the idea.  For example I asked them to identify something on a particular classroom wall which ‘stood out’ to them.  We discussed why this was, the effect of this, and why this may be the case.  There was some interesting debate about whether students had chosen similar objects and why this might be.

The activity on page 91 takes an extract from The Woman in Black and asks students to embody ‘Eel Marsh House’, ‘narrator’, ‘door’ and ‘sound’ and is an excellent way to get students to consider the importance of patterns in texts.  I divided students into groups:

1 student representing each of the aspects from the text (represented by the word on a piece of paper).

1 student reading the extract.

2 students commenting on what they saw as the passage was read and enacted.

In essence, as the student reads the passage, the students ‘step forward’ and physically position themselves in relation to each other as either ‘figure’ or ‘ground’ .  The resulting discussion following this activity led to some really interesting observations about the particular effect created and why this may have been chosen given the genre of the extract.  It also led to some really insightful comment by my students on the extract itself.  One student was able to talk about the patterns within the extract and how the pattern and use of foregrounding led to a really interesting effect on the reader.  He described a readerly immersion as he began by feeling as a reader that he was observing the narrator, but by the end of the extract as if he were immersed in the storyworld itself and he, not the narrator, was experiencing the sound.

Activity 4: Metaphor

Again the work in Teaching Grammar, Structure and Meaning on metaphor is really useful in explaining the concept (which students will be familiar with from their GCSE studies but potentially in a relatively simplistic way).  The explanation on pages 69-70 is particularly helpful.

Resource 2 – students match the sentences with the accompanying metaphor.  Discussion about how these metaphors work.  Where might they be used and why?

Resource 3 – students are given a range of texts (variety of genres) and explore how metaphor has been used by the text producer.

Activity 5: Morphology / Phrases

Explain linguistic rank scale.  Pages 31-32 CUP book.

Resource 4. Explain phrases, and model types of phrases.  Use Section 5 of EMC Introduction to Language Frameworks for practical examples.

Resource 5. Analysis of texts – particular focus on genre and the types of phrases used and why.

Next Up: Modality – one of my favourite concepts to teach!