Noticing collocations using text on an IWB

Tip: Do you have some text on an IWB? Even better – is it the same text that the students have already studied in a coursebook or handout? There are many good ways to exploit this situation, and noticing collocations is just one.


In a recent class I had worked through a short reading text with some students. The students had the text in front of them on a handout I made, and we had checked unknown words and then discussed the topic in the normal way.

I also had the text in pdf form on my USB stick, and it was showing on the interactive white board.┬áIt occurred to me that this was an ideal way to do extra language work on collocations. The problem with collocations in text is that they are often separated by many words, and you have to ‘look left and look right’ to find them. But standing up at the board right next to the large-sized text made it easy for me to draw the students’ attention to the lexis.

Here is a part of the text I was using, about ‘product life cycles’:

During the growth phase promotion will focus on expanding the market, and more versions of the product will appear. Price will be kept competitive to gain market share.

I pointed to ‘expanding the market’ and ‘gain market share’ and asked for a few more verbs to go with ‘the market’ and ‘market share’. The students provided some and I reformulated as necessary and wrote them on the board. Relatively normal so far, although the simple fact of the students doing it heads-up looking at the IWB rather than heads-down looking at a book is already different.

Then I spotted that ‘competitive price’ is also a nice collocation here, but non-obvious as the order of words is different (‘price’ comes first) and the collocates are separated from each other by three words. At the board it was very easy to indicate this – I simply pointed to the words without having to explain location in the text etc. I dealt with the collocation in the same way as before, eliciting a few more adjective collocates with ‘price’ and writing them up.