So what exactly is patterning and how can we explore patterns with our students?
In this post we look at a typical page from a coursebook, help you analyse the patterns in a text and show you how that translates into a lesson. Finally, we look at different teachers takes on the text and the tasks and activities they would do in class.
Choosing a lexical focus
We’re using material from Face to Face Upper Intermediate (Redston &Cunningham. CUP.) pg8o. The text talks about Men in the 21st Century. The language focus in the book is quantifiers i.e. a grammatical focus. But what if you decided to look at it lexically? What would you choose to focus on?
Look at the text and choose what items you would focus on. Think about:
- the topic of the text
- the lexical chain(s) i.e. collocations relating to the topic
- which lexical items do you feel would be most generative
Now take a look at this Jing to see what we decided to focus on and why.
Analysing the patterns
Here is an example of a pattern from the text:
holding the baby and the saucepan
Gerund + noun phrase
Obviously, you could break the sentence structure further, but think about how useful that would be for the students. To find the pattern you need to consider the topic you are working within and brainstorm around that, for example, this chunk is expressing a typical role that applies to women, a typical chore that is applied to men is DIY. We know that this collocates with the verb ‘do’ – ‘ do
the DIY’, if we then apply this to the chunk above, we would get:
Doing the DIY
Gerund + noun phrase
We have found our pattern! There is no need to break it down any further because students can generate further examples around the topic without needing to worry about the constituent parts.
Look at the pattern, think about the topic and brainstorm other collocations that could go with it.
Here’s what we came up with for this one:
Holding the babies or the saucepan
Feeding the kids
Mowing the lawn
Taking out the rubbish
Doing the DIY
Here is the language we picked out of the text. Have a go at analysing the patterns and brainstorming collocations that fit the pattern.
Now take a look at this Jing to see our brainstorm.
What happens in class
Below you can see the stages of the lesson and how the material is exploited. We have opted to take a language through a text shape and you can see the lesson from start to finish, but by all means skip to the language focus to see how the patterns are explored. Find the lesson materials here.
What we got out of teaching patterns
The key thing for me is that I can expose students to complex structures efficiently i.e. by not focusing on the structures (the constituent parts), I can get students using complex language in a short space of time.
Students find it easy to express what they want to say because once the pattern has been established they only have to slot in the information they want.
Playing with the variation and slots, gives students greater creative scope when expressing their ideas.
Students find this empowering and motivating as their input is valued.
By training students to look at language in this way, they can become better independent learners because they come to realise that words are not divorced from their co-text.
Students start noticing more patterns and bringing them into class to share.
I have noticed that as a result of patterning that students become more accurate in their speaking and writing.
Students are far more confident and express themselves more precisely because they do not need to focus on each constituent part.
I have noticed that students can easily recall/produce these patterns in real time, making them more fluent.
Students have the space/time to focus on meaning i.e. what they want to say and conversations become more natural and fluid.
To sum up
We have had a great time working with patterns and found that it’s really improved our students’ English. We would love to hear your take on this and any ideas or queries you have about patterning.
Melissa and Iffy