Connotations

This is going to be the first in a mini series of lessons on connotations. Why bother looking at connotations? Well, there are a few reasons, firstly, for students being able to say precisely what they mean without misunderstanding is key. Secondly, can you really know a word without understanding the implications its use has to those who read it and hear it. Finally, for some students, especially those in CAE or CPE classes a lack of knowledge of connotation can prevent high scores in the Use of English paper.

This whole idea was triggered by my colleague William Tweddle, talking about teaching vocabulary and highlighting the difference in connotation between Opium and Heroin. They are both effectively the same thing and yet with one we conjure images of poets languidly lying in beautiful rooms on divans, music wafting in with the opium haze. The other conjures images of junkies, needles, misery and grime. No surprise which has a perfume named after it.

 

Aims: To raise awareness of how important connotation is when learning vocabulary

Level: Upper Intermediate / Advanced

Procedure:

Discussion

The aim here is to raise awareness of how heroin / opium are perceived

Dictionary example from OUP: “A reddish-brown heavy-scented addictive drug prepared from the juice of the opium poppy, used illicitly as a narcotic and occasionally in medicine as an analgesic.”

They will probably find the word ‘drug’ / heroin and the fact it is addictive.

The aim is to have a discussion on the name but leading to the point that Heroin and Opium have very different connotations.

Activity 1

Remind students here that we are really looking for the best answer. All of them could be used.

answers:

  1. affordable – now possible to buy
  2. good value – the price is fair
  3. cheap  – perhaps low quality

Emphasis that cheap can have a neutral use too.

As an extension, you could ask the students to write a sentence for inexpensive and put the best on the board.

Activity 2

Obviously there is no correct answer here, but it is worth checking with students the meanings

  • thin – neutral though sometimes used in a negative sense
  • skinny – negative – too thin
  • slender – positive – also contains an idea of elegance
  • slim – positive – in good shape

Activity 3

  1. a gossip
  2. a chatty person
  3. a chatterbox

The best synonym for talkative is chatty, but perhaps chatty focuses more on informal chats.

Activity 4

A chance to use those words in a longer text.

1.

“So, last week I went to a party with a friend, she’s lovely but she is a bit of a chatterbox, so I know I can never tell her too much. Anyway, when we got to the party we went to the kitchen to find some food. I wasn’t expecting anything amazing, but I really did hope that there would be something other than affordable crisps. If I had known, I would have brought some nibbles myself. There again, I am supposed to be on a bit of a diet. I don’t want to get too slender, but I would like to be a bit slimmer. The party was ok I suppose, I didn’t stay long, especially after I got stuck talking to this one guy. He was a chatterbox and friendly, but so boring. I didn’t spend any money though, so it was a good value evening I suppose. That’s something!”

2.

  • a chatterbox – a gossip
  • affordable – cheap
  • slender – thin / skinny
  • slimmer – fine
  • a chatterbox – chatty / talkative
  • good value – cheap / inexpensive (if the article is changed)

 

Reflection activity – get students to think about how they could record connotations and their differences in their note books.

Extra activity pronunciation

Eradicating the robots.

Ask students to record themselves saying the improved dialogue and save it.

Drill any words you hear being mispronounced.

You can then look at where they should be pausing. Highlight the punctuation and also get them to think about where the stress should be in each clause – what is the important information?

After they have practised a few times get them to think about tone – how does the speaker feel – ask them to practice this again taking this into account.

Ask the students to rerecord and listen back to both versions and reflect on how the second is an improvement.

Materials:

 

Coming soon, another connotations lesson featuring the following words:

Relaxed / laid back / calm / easy going

Juvenile / youthful / childish / childlike

Famous / notorious / renowned / well-known

 

 

 

 

 

Binomials, dictagloss and expanding range

So, a good friend of mine, Kat, has started her DELTA, so I dug out some of my books and started flicking through them and had the idea that Binomials might be quite a useful thing to help my students make their informal writing seem a little more natural and give it that extra sparkle it needs.

This lesson grew from that and starts with a dictagloss, something I am quite a fan of, before moving onto a language focus.  The text here isn’t authentic but is a series of little monologues which enabled me to emphasise the target language.

From there the lesson moves on to look at collocation building with the binomials and the construction of chunks which can be used in students own writing or speaking.  There is a little bit of a focus on punctuation too, as this is something often neglected.

Aim: raise awareness of binomials and collocations

Level: Advanced, maybe a strong Upp Int if you scaffold.

Procedure:

Dictogloss

  1. Read the 1st extract twice and ask the students to take notes and write down as much as they can, I have been known to read it three times. (recording included, but it might be more fun to read it)
  2. Ask the students how the person is feeling.
  3. Ask the students in pairs to check what they have written and see if they can make it work grammatically.
  4. Compare it to extract 1 – you could either put this on the board or photocopy half of the teachers copy and hand them out in groups.

Binomials

Give the students the sheet with the extract on and the question, page 2.

  1. Ask the students to look at the 5 questions written on the worksheet.
  2. Do group feedback, you want them to underline:

Answers below:

  • sick and tired / life and soul / ups and downs
  • they make it more informal and more natural
  • informal
  • to make their own writing and speaking more natural and more interesting
  • I’ll be honest / I mean / like everyone /

 

3. Now look at extract 2.  Ask the students if they can predict the missing words, read the text once for them to check.

4. Ask the students to try to fill in the table, the box below has the answers but tell them to try to do it without initially if you want to raise the level of challenge.

Now check together as a group and accept any others which would work, e.g. life and death as well as life and soul.

Collocations

My students struggled with this, so you could allow them to use dictionaries, looking at the examples or encourage them to look online or use something like the British National Corpus

http://phrasesinenglish.org/searchBNC.html

e.g. spick and span – usually works with the verb ‘be’

Why do this?  As well as making them more autonomous, i just think it is a far more engaging task than you telling them what the answers are, you might also get some interesting different answers this way.

Plus it will help them later on.

Punctuation

This is a really important element that students have difficulty with and since there are often a lack of rules, teachers avoid. Therefore it is something to focus their attention on, getting them to ‘notice’ the punctuation as it occurs

Follow the instructions on the sheet.  I would be tempted to get the to add them to the board if you can copy and paste into an IWB before the big test so that you can observe any errors that you can then highlight and teach.

Follow on activities

The obvious ways to go, would be to get students to record little monologues or dialogues, where they have to use 3 of the binomials.

Alternatively, and this is what I did, ask your students to write a blog about something, e.g. living in their home town, whatever topic you have been doing recently will be fine.  I was teaching a Cambridge exam class and so we focused on article writing.

Materials: