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Teaching with the Leximodel

2005/12/12作者/Quentin Brand & Joe Lavallee

Introduction

  The communicative approach has become very widely practiced in Taiwan language classrooms. Teachers and students are now used to the idea that the greater portion of classroom time should be spent on communicative task-based activities, such as information gap, communicative games, and topic-based or free conversation. This is certainly a marked improvement on the previous grammar-translation method. However, in recent years, there has been increasing mention of a lexical approach, with publishers such as Thomson Learning (Innovations, Conversation Gambits, Conversation Lessons) Macmillan, (the In Company series, the Inside Out series, Email English etc.), producing coursebooks and materials using it. Like many teachers in Taiwan, you may think: “I've heard of the lexical approach, but I don't know what it is, I don't know how to use it, and I don't know why I should use it.” The rest of this article will focus on answering these concerns.

What is the lexical approach?

  The lexical approach was invented by Michael Lewis and Jimmy Hill in the early 1990s, and is now quite common in some well known coursebooks, including those mentioned above. It is based on two key principles:

  1. the grammar/vocabulary view of language is invalid

  2. collocation is central to language and language learning

  The lexical approach is a classroom practice that reflects the current understanding of language as consisting of a vast collection of multi-word items. For most teachers and ESL professionals, our previous understanding of language was that it consisted of grammar patterns with vocabulary slotted in. Vocabulary has traditionally been taught as single word items, with collocates and idioms introduced for a bit of color in the “boring” grammar-based classroom. The current view of language accepted by most theorists, however, is that collocation is central and that the border between grammar and vocabulary is much more blurred than we thought. Instead of the grammar/vocabulary divide, teachers and learners should think of language as consisting of a very large collection of multi-word items (MWI) called the lexicon[01]
Lexicon literally means “dictionary”. It is the name given by theorists to the hypothetical memory bank of language items which form the basis for language production and comprehension.
. The focus in this teaching approach is on helping learners master this lexicon.

  In many cases, the best ways to master the lexicon, and therefore to produce language, are already quite familiar to teachers in Taiwan. We all know that, as Stephen Krashen has told us, large amounts of comprehensible input (with graded readers, etc.) are essential. We all know that there are times when a “focus on form” is appropriate, through noticing and language awareness activities. And we all know that communicative activities have an important place in the language classroom. What the lexical approach does is to combine all of these good teaching ideas with a better awareness of the real nature of language and language learning.

Why should I use the lexical approach with my students?

  In our experience, problems that students encounter include the following:

“I know the word, but not how to use it.”
“I understand all the words in the sentence but I still don't understand the sentence.”
“I don't know how to study on my own.”
“I do well on my tests but I have a hard time talking with foreigners.”
“I've been studying for many years, but I seem to be stuck at the same level.”

  Because the lexical approach emphasizes collocation, getting the students to move from focusing on the meaning of single words to learning how to use multi-word items is the single most helpful thing they can do to overcome the above problems. Encouraging greater awareness of how language operates (rather than learning more and more grammar rules) is another.

  In the lexical approach, the traditional present-practice-produce lesson structure is replaced by an observe–hypothesize–experiment paradigm. This goes hand-in-hand with abandoning the grammar/vocabulary model in favor of a lexicon-based understanding of language. Students are encouraged to observe patterns of language--usually as multi-word items, hypothesize about their form, meaning, and use and then experiment using them to meet their own communicative needs. In practical terms, this means activities such as identifying and extracting language items in authentic written and spoken texts or sorting previously-selected language items into categories, noticing how the language items are used in a familiar context, and then using the language items in more unfamiliar contexts.

  Let's take an example using the teaching of “so” and “such”. A traditional grammar translation or even a communicative “focus on form” approach would focus on a description of the grammar rule. (for example: ‘so’ is usually used to modify an adjective or an adverb, while ‘such’ is usually used to modify a noun phrase). A lexical approach, by contrast, would teach the most frequent words which occur with ‘so’ and the most frequent words which occur with ‘such’ as single lexical items, which we call Multi Word Items, or MWIs. You'll see some examples in task 1 below. (These MWIs can be easily found with a bit of Corpus Linguistics (CL) research.). To help you understand this concept better, you might want to try the following task. This task is designed for teachers and readers of this article, but you might like to try it with your students if they are intermediate level or above.

Task 1: Sort the following items into groups. You decide how many
      groups,and what the groups are.


 such things
 so much n.p.
 so far
 such a large
 in such a manner that v.p.
 so funny that v.p.
 such a lot of n.p.
 so many n.p.
 such a big n.p.
 so that v.p.
 such a case
 so cold that v.p.
 so busy
 in such a way that v.p.
 so easy
 such a success
 so enjoyable
 so excited
 so good
 such a long time
 so important
 so kind
 such a good idea
 so long
 such a large amount
 so quickly

  Two points are worth stressing here.
 
1.The personal choice of categories allows the learner to build personally
 meaningful connections in their memory, helping them to expand their
 lexicon. Students may not even be able to articulate the reasons for their
 categorizations, or be able to describe their categories, but that is not the
 point. “If our target is the creation of effective learning conditions, [then]
 the students write their own grammar rules.” (Lewis, The Lexical Approach.
 p.149) The teacher's role is to provide correct MWIs for the students to
 categorize, to show the students some categories which might be useful
 to the students after they have done the sorting task (in this case two
 groups: MWIs with so and MWIs with such), and then to set up meaningful
 tasks in which the students can become familiar with and use the
 language.

2.Rather than teaching this area of the language as a grammar rule to be
 applied, teaching it instead as fixed lexical items, or MWIs, to be
 memorized and recalled, takes advantage of one of the strengths of
 learners in Taiwan. Learners in Taiwan excel at memorizing items. So it
 makes more sense to give them language as lexical items to use instead of
 teaching them language as rules to be applied. With a lexical approach,
 the learning style used in Taiwan thus becomes a major advantage.
 Students who can remember large numbers of useful language items are
 able to communicate quickly and effectively.

What problems might teachers encounter with the lexical approach?

  In talking to teachers about the lexical approach, the authors have noticed some of the following frequently occurring responses.

“The lexical approach sounds like a good idea, but how can I use it to build a syllabus?”

“What level is it for?”

“The lexicon is too big! How can I make sense of it in a way that helps my students?”
   
“At least teaching language as grammar and vocabulary gives me a systematic way to present English to my students.”

“It just seems too vague to be practical.”

  A central theme in all of the objections is that there does not seem to be any easy way of categorizing the MWIs which make up the lexicon. At first, the lexicon simply seems like a huge unwieldy collection of multi-word items. The rest of this article will present a way of categorizing the lexicon which is specifically designed for classroom use, for students of a lower intermediate level or above, for teachers and students: the Leximodel. We'll present the Leximodel first and then show how you can use it with your coursebook to bring the lexicon to the center of your teaching.

The Leximodel

  The first thing a student needs to know about an MWI is how fixed or fluid it is. The more fixed an MWI, the easier it is to learn by heart, while more fluid MWIs on the other hand, may require that the students learn more options. For example, “listen” is usually always followed by “to”, so we can call this a very fixed MWI, while “apple” can be followed by “cart”, “pie”, “tree”, “tart”. This MWI is more fluid. We can therefore say that MWIs can be placed along a spectrum of predictability, according to how fixed or fluid they are, or in other words, according to how easy it is to predict the next word.
 


  The spectrum of predictability is the basis of the Leximodel. MWIs can be roughly categorized into three very broad groups and placed on the spectrum.


1.The first group we call chunks. Chunks combine a meaning
 word (e.g.: listen) and a function word (e.g.: to) in any 
 combination. They are fixed from left to right (along the horizontal
 axis) (listen comes before to) but are more fluid in some of the
 vertical slots (listen can sometimes be listened or listening). To
 give another example of what we mean by this: in the chunk
 provide sb with sth, the words must come in this order, (if you
 switch sb and sth then you need to change the preposition,
 creating in effect a new chunk: provide sth to sb) but sb and
 sth can be any noun or noun phrase. Focusing on chunks
 will have the effect of improving grammar, as many verb
 tenses, passive and conditional constructions, dependent
 prepositions, two object verbs etc. can be memorized as
 chunks. Chunks are placed in the center of the spectrum of
 predictability, as they combine fixed and fluid elements.

2.The second group of MWIs we call set-phrases. These are 
 longer and more fixed than chunks and typically are formed by
 combinations of chunks. Set-phrases usually have a beginning
 or an end or both. How are you? I'm fine, thanks, and you?
 Would you mind Ving? Could you tell me…? In this essay I will
 try to V…, please do not hesitate to contact me. are all examples of
 set-phrases, some from conversation, and some from writing.
 You can see from these examples that set-phrases are the
 transactional elements of language, whether the everyday phrases
 we use in conversation, or the organization phrases we use in
 academic or business writing. Focusing on set-phrases will have the
 effect of improving the functional, transactional language that we all
 need to conduct our lives in the foreign language. Because they are
 more fixed than chunks, we put set-phrases to the left on the spectrum
 of predictability.

3.At the other end of the spectrum, the fluid end on the right,
 we have our third group of MWIs, which we call word partnerships.
 Word partnerships are two or more meaning words (such as
 apple and pie) which appear momentarily together in a text. The
 range of subsequent words available to the head word is determined
 by the topic of the text. For example, the word crisis is more likely to
 form partnerships with words like hostage, political, national, serious
 etc. in a newspaper story about a current event, while if it appears in a
 business report it might appear with a different group of words, such
 as growing, fiscal, financial or cash. Further, if the same word
 appears in a psychological report, it might appear with words like
 mid-life, identity, family or personal. Focusing on word partnerships is
 a very efficient way of increasing vocabulary, as they are the MWIs
 most closely associated with the meaning of the text, or the topic of
 the conversation. The completed Leximodel thus looks like this:


 


 

  You might want to try the following task now to consolidate your understanding of the Leximodel. The answers are at the end of the article.
 
Task 2: Sort these MWIs into the table below.
 
 …so that's ready to go.
 a once-in-a-lifetime
 opportunity

 A rose by any other name
 would smell 
 as   sweet.
 air pollution
 be based on
 be busy V/ing
 be busy with s/th
 be capable of
 be committed to V/ing
 traffic jams
 dangerous crosswalks
 Could I have some more
 sugar, please?
 deal with
 decide to
 encounter difficulties
 find an easy solution
 for example
 for many years
 have a break
 have a situation
 I think we should wait.
 If you have any
 questions, 
 please call me.
 in and out
 In conclusion, I feel the time
 is 
 right for…
 in the meantime
 in the middle (of the)
 potluck dinner
 party time
 It would be better to wait and
 see.
 Would you mind…?
 It's raining cats and dogs
 Let's turn now to profits.
 of course
 On the other hand, …
 answering machine
 take a risk
 take action
 take on
 take precautions
 There's every possibility of a
 typhoon.
 Time and tide wait for no man.
 up and down
 What are you talking about?
 What do you think of my
 new….?

set-phrases chunks word partnerships
 

 

 

 

   

How can teachers use the Leximodel in the class?

  The Leximodel is a classroom tool for teachers and learners to help them categorize the lexicon while always keeping them focused directly on language itself and not on descriptions of what the language is. The advantage of the Leximodel for teachers and students is that there are only three very broad categories, the categories are quite easy to understand and relate quite simply to what the students already know or can grasp intuitively about language (the meaning/function distinction is a good example), and the names of the categories are appropriate and easy to remember. Above all, the Leximodel will get your students to move away from being too concerned with the meaning of single words and getting them to focus on the way MWIs are used.

  The Leximodel works best for students who are of a lower intermediate level or above, who are already equipped with some awareness of the basic vocabulary and grammar of English. However, even with elementary students or beginners, when presenting new vocabulary and grammar for the first time, teachers should always bear in mind the principle of the Leximodel, which is that words never appear alone. For example, when you are teaching sense verbs for the first time, remember to teach them as listen to, look at and so on, rather than just teaching listen and look. If you can train your students from the beginning to look at language as a collection of MWIs, and get them to focus on the individual MWIs, you will be giving them a solid foundation for lifelong language learning.

  A useful principle to remember about the Leximodel and which levels to use it with is this: lower level students need more set-phrases because they need immediately useful language to help them survive in the foreign language community. Advanced students, on the other hand, need more word partnerships because they need to be able to express themselves on wide range of quite specialist topics. Lower levels find it much easier to remember long strings of quite easy words which are immediately useful: (Could you help me?), while higher levels have more language ability to cope with the fluidity of low frequency word partnerships (rapid/racing/slow/faint pulse). When teaching low levels, teach high frequency chunks, and when teaching high levels, teach low frequency chunks. This means that as students begin their journey of language learning, they start on the left hand side of the Leximodel (the fixed side) and progress gradually along the spectrum of predictability, increasing their level, until they reach very low frequency obscure or specialist word partnerships on the fluid side on the right.

  We're now going to show you some tasks based on the principles of the lexical approach discussed above, which apply the Leximodel to some popular coursebooks.

Example 1: Working with word partnerships

From Reading Strategies Book1 (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

 
Teaching notes:

1. Divide your class into three or four groups and have each group working
 on a different text. You can then reform the groups to make a natural
 information gap activity.

2. Have some dictionaries to hand so students can check the meaning of their
 word partnerships. Alternatively, you can explain the meaning yourself.
 Encourage them to look for more word partnerships in the example
 sentences in the dictionaries.

3. Spend some time after task 5 on the pronunciation of the word
 partnerships.

4. Note how this sequence of tasks uses the principles of the lexical
 approach, in that the focus is on MWIs, the students choose their own
 language items to learn, and emphasis is on memorizing and using the
 new language rather than studying descriptions of it.

Example 2: Working with chunks

From Touchstone Book1 (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
 

 

Teaching notes:
 
1.After the first task, mark the students' sentences, but don't
 correct them, or explain why they are wrong. Just let the
 student know which ones are correct, and which ones are
 not. In your marking focus on errors made with chunks.

2.Note that some chunks include a word before the headword,
 such as be famous for, while some chunks begin with the
 headword, like walk down to. Let the students discover this
 for themselves. You can help them here by writing these two
 examples on the board and asking students what the
 difference between them is. Students can then sort the
 chunks again into the two groups: chunks beginning with the
 headword, and chunks not beginning with the headword.

3.When correcting their final sentences, again, just focus your
 correction on the correct use of the chunks.

4.When explaining the MWIs, focus on the meaning of the total
 package, rather than on the meaning of individual words in
 the package.

5.Notice the lexical approach principles here: explanations
 are focused on meaning and use, and the emphasis is
 on creating awareness and production of actual language,
 rather than memorizing rules about the language.

Example 3: Working with set-phrases

From Touchstone Book1 (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
 


Teaching notes:
 

1.Because set-phrases are totally fixed, students need to
 learn them accurately. Spend time drilling the pronunciation
 with connected speech and good intonation.

2.Students sometimes ask for the meaning of individual words
 in set-phrases. You can explain them, but it's very important to
 tell students that often the meaning of the total package is more
 important than the meaning of the individual words in the
 package. Remember: the basic principle is that words are never
 used alone. Students should focus on the overall meaning of the
 set-phrase as it fits into one of the categories above.

3.Give students A and B in each pair a conflicting set of objectives:
 A has to get to the end of their description of their weekend, i.e.
 Sunday night, while B has to prevent this by interrupting and
 asking questions.

4.As they do the speaking task, monitor their use of the set-phrases,
 by walking around the class and listening to what they say. If you
 have a big class, get the students to change partners and do the
 speaking task again to give you more time to monitor.

5.Again, the principles of the lexical approach apply here, in the
 emphasis of explaining meaning rather than form, in the focus on
 MWIs which have a pragmatic value, and in the focus on
 immediate use.

Conclusion

  In our experience, teachers who have introduced the Leximodel into their classroom have found that it is quite easy to teach and that it is extremely useful in guiding the preparation of teaching materials. Even more importantly, students have been overwhelmingly responsive. Students find that it is an easily understandable tool which allows them to bring order to the huge number of MWIs which they are exposed to in learning a new language. The Leximodel seems to help them make sense of the lexicon, and increase their learner autonomy. We hope that this article will give you some confidence in using a lexical approach in your classrooms.

Further Reading

Here are our suggestions for further reading on the lexical approach:

● Batstone, Rob (1996). “Key Concepts in ELT: Noticing.” ELT Journal 50(3)
 273.

● Brand, Q. (2004) Biz English for Busy People –Email Writing, Taipei: Beta
 Multimedia Publishing .

● Bolitho, R, Carter, R, Hughes, R, Ivanic, R, Masuhara, H, and Tomlinson, B
 (2003). “Ten Questions about Language Awareness.” ELT Journal 57/3.

● Lewis, Michael (1993), The Lexical Approach, Hove: Language Teaching
 Publications.

● Lewis, Michael (1997). Implementing the Lexical Approach: Putting Theory
 Into Practice. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

● Lewis, Michael (2000). “Language in the lexical approach”. In Teaching
 Collocation: Further Developments In The Lexical Approach, Michael Lewis
 (ed.), 126-154. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

● Schmitt, Norbert (2000). “Key Concepts in ELT: Lexical Chunks” ELT Journal
 54(4): 400-401.

● Thornbury, Scott (1997). “Reformulation and reconstruction: tasks that
 promote “noticing” ELT Journal 51(4): 326-334.

Appendix
 

◎Answers to tasks

Task 1:
 
 
  such things
  such a large
  in such a manner that v.p.
  such a big n.p.
  such a lot of n.p.
  such a case
  in such a way that v.p.
  such a success
  such a long time
  such a good idea
  such a large amount
 
 
  so busy
  so many n.p.
  so that v.p.
  so cold that v.p.
  so much n.p.
  so far
  so funny that v.p.
  so easy
 
 
  so enjoyable
  so excited
  so good
  so important
  so kind
  so long
 

Task 2:


Example 2 task 2:

be famous for s/th
walking tour
go to
find out
walk down to
order s/th from s/o
help s/o V
trip to

Example 3 task 1:

 


Introduction

  The communicative approach has become very widely practiced in Taiwan language classrooms. Teachers and students are now used to the idea that the greater portion of classroom time should be spent on communicative task-based activities, such as information gap, communicative games, and topic-based or free conversation. This is certainly a marked improvement on the previous grammar-translation method. However, in recent years, there has been increasing mention of a lexical approach, with publishers such as Thomson Learning (Innovations, Conversation Gambits, Conversation Lessons) Macmillan, (the In Company series, the Inside Out series, Email English etc.), producing coursebooks and materials using it. Like many teachers in Taiwan, you may think: “I've heard of the lexical approach, but I don't know what it is, I don't know how to use it, and I don't know why I should use it.” The rest of this article will focus on answering these concerns.

What is the lexical approach?

  The lexical approach was invented by Michael Lewis and Jimmy Hill in the early 1990s, and is now quite common in some well known coursebooks, including those mentioned above. It is based on two key principles:

  1. the grammar/vocabulary view of language is invalid

  2. collocation is central to language and language learning

  The lexical approach is a classroom practice that reflects the current understanding of language as consisting of a vast collection of multi-word items. For most teachers and ESL professionals, our previous understanding of language was that it consisted of grammar patterns with vocabulary slotted in. Vocabulary has traditionally been taught as single word items, with collocates and idioms introduced for a bit of color in the “boring” grammar-based classroom. The current view of language accepted by most theorists, however, is that collocation is central and that the border between grammar and vocabulary is much more blurred than we thought. Instead of the grammar/vocabulary divide, teachers and learners should think of language as consisting of a very large collection of multi-word items (MWI) called the lexicon[01]
Lexicon literally means “dictionary”. It is the name given by theorists to the hypothetical memory bank of language items which form the basis for language production and comprehension.
. The focus in this teaching approach is on helping learners master this lexicon.

  In many cases, the best ways to master the lexicon, and therefore to produce language, are already quite familiar to teachers in Taiwan. We all know that, as Stephen Krashen has told us, large amounts of comprehensible input (with graded readers, etc.) are essential. We all know that there are times when a “focus on form” is appropriate, through noticing and language awareness activities. And we all know that communicative activities have an important place in the language classroom. What the lexical approach does is to combine all of these good teaching ideas with a better awareness of the real nature of language and language learning.

Why should I use the lexical approach with my students?

  In our experience, problems that students encounter include the following:

“I know the word, but not how to use it.”
“I understand all the words in the sentence but I still don't understand the sentence.”
“I don't know how to study on my own.”
“I do well on my tests but I have a hard time talking with foreigners.”
“I've been studying for many years, but I seem to be stuck at the same level.”

  Because the lexical approach emphasizes collocation, getting the students to move from focusing on the meaning of single words to learning how to use multi-word items is the single most helpful thing they can do to overcome the above problems. Encouraging greater awareness of how language operates (rather than learning more and more grammar rules) is another.

  In the lexical approach, the traditional present-practice-produce lesson structure is replaced by an observe–hypothesize–experiment paradigm. This goes hand-in-hand with abandoning the grammar/vocabulary model in favor of a lexicon-based understanding of language. Students are encouraged to observe patterns of language--usually as multi-word items, hypothesize about their form, meaning, and use and then experiment using them to meet their own communicative needs. In practical terms, this means activities such as identifying and extracting language items in authentic written and spoken texts or sorting previously-selected language items into categories, noticing how the language items are used in a familiar context, and then using the language items in more unfamiliar contexts.

  Let's take an example using the teaching of “so” and “such”. A traditional grammar translation or even a communicative “focus on form” approach would focus on a description of the grammar rule. (for example: ‘so’ is usually used to modify an adjective or an adverb, while ‘such’ is usually used to modify a noun phrase). A lexical approach, by contrast, would teach the most frequent words which occur with ‘so’ and the most frequent words which occur with ‘such’ as single lexical items, which we call Multi Word Items, or MWIs. You'll see some examples in task 1 below. (These MWIs can be easily found with a bit of Corpus Linguistics (CL) research.). To help you understand this concept better, you might want to try the following task. This task is designed for teachers and readers of this article, but you might like to try it with your students if they are intermediate level or above.

Task 1: Sort the following items into groups. You decide how many
      groups,and what the groups are.


 such things
 so much n.p.
 so far
 such a large
 in such a manner that v.p.
 so funny that v.p.
 such a lot of n.p.
 so many n.p.
 such a big n.p.
 so that v.p.
 such a case
 so cold that v.p.
 so busy
 in such a way that v.p.
 so easy
 such a success
 so enjoyable
 so excited
 so good
 such a long time
 so important
 so kind
 such a good idea
 so long
 such a large amount
 so quickly

  Two points are worth stressing here.
 
1.The personal choice of categories allows the learner to build personally
 meaningful connections in their memory, helping them to expand their
 lexicon. Students may not even be able to articulate the reasons for their
 categorizations, or be able to describe their categories, but that is not the
 point. “If our target is the creation of effective learning conditions, [then]
 the students write their own grammar rules.” (Lewis, The Lexical Approach.
 p.149) The teacher's role is to provide correct MWIs for the students to
 categorize, to show the students some categories which might be useful
 to the students after they have done the sorting task (in this case two
 groups: MWIs with so and MWIs with such), and then to set up meaningful
 tasks in which the students can become familiar with and use the
 language.

2.Rather than teaching this area of the language as a grammar rule to be
 applied, teaching it instead as fixed lexical items, or MWIs, to be
 memorized and recalled, takes advantage of one of the strengths of
 learners in Taiwan. Learners in Taiwan excel at memorizing items. So it
 makes more sense to give them language as lexical items to use instead of
 teaching them language as rules to be applied. With a lexical approach,
 the learning style used in Taiwan thus becomes a major advantage.
 Students who can remember large numbers of useful language items are
 able to communicate quickly and effectively.

What problems might teachers encounter with the lexical approach?

  In talking to teachers about the lexical approach, the authors have noticed some of the following frequently occurring responses.

“The lexical approach sounds like a good idea, but how can I use it to build a syllabus?”

“What level is it for?”

“The lexicon is too big! How can I make sense of it in a way that helps my students?”
   
“At least teaching language as grammar and vocabulary gives me a systematic way to present English to my students.”

“It just seems too vague to be practical.”

  A central theme in all of the objections is that there does not seem to be any easy way of categorizing the MWIs which make up the lexicon. At first, the lexicon simply seems like a huge unwieldy collection of multi-word items. The rest of this article will present a way of categorizing the lexicon which is specifically designed for classroom use, for students of a lower intermediate level or above, for teachers and students: the Leximodel. We'll present the Leximodel first and then show how you can use it with your coursebook to bring the lexicon to the center of your teaching.

The Leximodel

  The first thing a student needs to know about an MWI is how fixed or fluid it is. The more fixed an MWI, the easier it is to learn by heart, while more fluid MWIs on the other hand, may require that the students learn more options. For example, “listen” is usually always followed by “to”, so we can call this a very fixed MWI, while “apple” can be followed by “cart”, “pie”, “tree”, “tart”. This MWI is more fluid. We can therefore say that MWIs can be placed along a spectrum of predictability, according to how fixed or fluid they are, or in other words, according to how easy it is to predict the next word.
 


  The spectrum of predictability is the basis of the Leximodel. MWIs can be roughly categorized into three very broad groups and placed on the spectrum.


1.The first group we call chunks. Chunks combine a meaning
 word (e.g.: listen) and a function word (e.g.: to) in any 
 combination. They are fixed from left to right (along the horizontal
 axis) (listen comes before to) but are more fluid in some of the
 vertical slots (listen can sometimes be listened or listening). To
 give another example of what we mean by this: in the chunk
 provide sb with sth, the words must come in this order, (if you
 switch sb and sth then you need to change the preposition,
 creating in effect a new chunk: provide sth to sb) but sb and
 sth can be any noun or noun phrase. Focusing on chunks
 will have the effect of improving grammar, as many verb
 tenses, passive and conditional constructions, dependent
 prepositions, two object verbs etc. can be memorized as
 chunks. Chunks are placed in the center of the spectrum of
 predictability, as they combine fixed and fluid elements.

2.The second group of MWIs we call set-phrases. These are 
 longer and more fixed than chunks and typically are formed by
 combinations of chunks. Set-phrases usually have a beginning
 or an end or both. How are you? I'm fine, thanks, and you?
 Would you mind Ving? Could you tell me…? In this essay I will
 try to V…, please do not hesitate to contact me. are all examples of
 set-phrases, some from conversation, and some from writing.
 You can see from these examples that set-phrases are the
 transactional elements of language, whether the everyday phrases
 we use in conversation, or the organization phrases we use in
 academic or business writing. Focusing on set-phrases will have the
 effect of improving the functional, transactional language that we all
 need to conduct our lives in the foreign language. Because they are
 more fixed than chunks, we put set-phrases to the left on the spectrum
 of predictability.

3.At the other end of the spectrum, the fluid end on the right,
 we have our third group of MWIs, which we call word partnerships.
 Word partnerships are two or more meaning words (such as
 apple and pie) which appear momentarily together in a text. The
 range of subsequent words available to the head word is determined
 by the topic of the text. For example, the word crisis is more likely to
 form partnerships with words like hostage, political, national, serious
 etc. in a newspaper story about a current event, while if it appears in a
 business report it might appear with a different group of words, such
 as growing, fiscal, financial or cash. Further, if the same word
 appears in a psychological report, it might appear with words like
 mid-life, identity, family or personal. Focusing on word partnerships is
 a very efficient way of increasing vocabulary, as they are the MWIs
 most closely associated with the meaning of the text, or the topic of
 the conversation. The completed Leximodel thus looks like this:


 


 

  You might want to try the following task now to consolidate your understanding of the Leximodel. The answers are at the end of the article.
 
Task 2: Sort these MWIs into the table below.
 
 …so that's ready to go.
 a once-in-a-lifetime
 opportunity

 A rose by any other name
 would smell 
 as   sweet.
 air pollution
 be based on
 be busy V/ing
 be busy with s/th
 be capable of
 be committed to V/ing
 traffic jams
 dangerous crosswalks
 Could I have some more
 sugar, please?
 deal with
 decide to
 encounter difficulties
 find an easy solution
 for example
 for many years
 have a break
 have a situation
 I think we should wait.
 If you have any
 questions, 
 please call me.
 in and out
 In conclusion, I feel the time
 is 
 right for…
 in the meantime
 in the middle (of the)
 potluck dinner
 party time
 It would be better to wait and
 see.
 Would you mind…?
 It's raining cats and dogs
 Let's turn now to profits.
 of course
 On the other hand, …
 answering machine
 take a risk
 take action
 take on
 take precautions
 There's every possibility of a
 typhoon.
 Time and tide wait for no man.
 up and down
 What are you talking about?
 What do you think of my
 new….?

set-phrases chunks word partnerships
 

 

 

 

   

How can teachers use the Leximodel in the class?

  The Leximodel is a classroom tool for teachers and learners to help them categorize the lexicon while always keeping them focused directly on language itself and not on descriptions of what the language is. The advantage of the Leximodel for teachers and students is that there are only three very broad categories, the categories are quite easy to understand and relate quite simply to what the students already know or can grasp intuitively about language (the meaning/function distinction is a good example), and the names of the categories are appropriate and easy to remember. Above all, the Leximodel will get your students to move away from being too concerned with the meaning of single words and getting them to focus on the way MWIs are used.

  The Leximodel works best for students who are of a lower intermediate level or above, who are already equipped with some awareness of the basic vocabulary and grammar of English. However, even with elementary students or beginners, when presenting new vocabulary and grammar for the first time, teachers should always bear in mind the principle of the Leximodel, which is that words never appear alone. For example, when you are teaching sense verbs for the first time, remember to teach them as listen to, look at and so on, rather than just teaching listen and look. If you can train your students from the beginning to look at language as a collection of MWIs, and get them to focus on the individual MWIs, you will be giving them a solid foundation for lifelong language learning.

  A useful principle to remember about the Leximodel and which levels to use it with is this: lower level students need more set-phrases because they need immediately useful language to help them survive in the foreign language community. Advanced students, on the other hand, need more word partnerships because they need to be able to express themselves on wide range of quite specialist topics. Lower levels find it much easier to remember long strings of quite easy words which are immediately useful: (Could you help me?), while higher levels have more language ability to cope with the fluidity of low frequency word partnerships (rapid/racing/slow/faint pulse). When teaching low levels, teach high frequency chunks, and when teaching high levels, teach low frequency chunks. This means that as students begin their journey of language learning, they start on the left hand side of the Leximodel (the fixed side) and progress gradually along the spectrum of predictability, increasing their level, until they reach very low frequency obscure or specialist word partnerships on the fluid side on the right.

  We're now going to show you some tasks based on the principles of the lexical approach discussed above, which apply the Leximodel to some popular coursebooks.

Example 1: Working with word partnerships

From Reading Strategies Book1 (Cambridge University Press, 2003)

 
Teaching notes:

1. Divide your class into three or four groups and have each group working
 on a different text. You can then reform the groups to make a natural
 information gap activity.

2. Have some dictionaries to hand so students can check the meaning of their
 word partnerships. Alternatively, you can explain the meaning yourself.
 Encourage them to look for more word partnerships in the example
 sentences in the dictionaries.

3. Spend some time after task 5 on the pronunciation of the word
 partnerships.

4. Note how this sequence of tasks uses the principles of the lexical
 approach, in that the focus is on MWIs, the students choose their own
 language items to learn, and emphasis is on memorizing and using the
 new language rather than studying descriptions of it.

Example 2: Working with chunks

From Touchstone Book1 (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
 

 

Teaching notes:
 
1.After the first task, mark the students' sentences, but don't
 correct them, or explain why they are wrong. Just let the
 student know which ones are correct, and which ones are
 not. In your marking focus on errors made with chunks.

2.Note that some chunks include a word before the headword,
 such as be famous for, while some chunks begin with the
 headword, like walk down to. Let the students discover this
 for themselves. You can help them here by writing these two
 examples on the board and asking students what the
 difference between them is. Students can then sort the
 chunks again into the two groups: chunks beginning with the
 headword, and chunks not beginning with the headword.

3.When correcting their final sentences, again, just focus your
 correction on the correct use of the chunks.

4.When explaining the MWIs, focus on the meaning of the total
 package, rather than on the meaning of individual words in
 the package.

5.Notice the lexical approach principles here: explanations
 are focused on meaning and use, and the emphasis is
 on creating awareness and production of actual language,
 rather than memorizing rules about the language.

Example 3: Working with set-phrases

From Touchstone Book1 (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
 


Teaching notes:
 

1.Because set-phrases are totally fixed, students need to
 learn them accurately. Spend time drilling the pronunciation
 with connected speech and good intonation.

2.Students sometimes ask for the meaning of individual words
 in set-phrases. You can explain them, but it's very important to
 tell students that often the meaning of the total package is more
 important than the meaning of the individual words in the
 package. Remember: the basic principle is that words are never
 used alone. Students should focus on the overall meaning of the
 set-phrase as it fits into one of the categories above.

3.Give students A and B in each pair a conflicting set of objectives:
 A has to get to the end of their description of their weekend, i.e.
 Sunday night, while B has to prevent this by interrupting and
 asking questions.

4.As they do the speaking task, monitor their use of the set-phrases,
 by walking around the class and listening to what they say. If you
 have a big class, get the students to change partners and do the
 speaking task again to give you more time to monitor.

5.Again, the principles of the lexical approach apply here, in the
 emphasis of explaining meaning rather than form, in the focus on
 MWIs which have a pragmatic value, and in the focus on
 immediate use.

Conclusion

  In our experience, teachers who have introduced the Leximodel into their classroom have found that it is quite easy to teach and that it is extremely useful in guiding the preparation of teaching materials. Even more importantly, students have been overwhelmingly responsive. Students find that it is an easily understandable tool which allows them to bring order to the huge number of MWIs which they are exposed to in learning a new language. The Leximodel seems to help them make sense of the lexicon, and increase their learner autonomy. We hope that this article will give you some confidence in using a lexical approach in your classrooms.

Further Reading

Here are our suggestions for further reading on the lexical approach:

● Batstone, Rob (1996). “Key Concepts in ELT: Noticing.” ELT Journal 50(3)
 273.

● Brand, Q. (2004) Biz English for Busy People –Email Writing, Taipei: Beta
 Multimedia Publishing .

● Bolitho, R, Carter, R, Hughes, R, Ivanic, R, Masuhara, H, and Tomlinson, B
 (2003). “Ten Questions about Language Awareness.” ELT Journal 57/3.

● Lewis, Michael (1993), The Lexical Approach, Hove: Language Teaching
 Publications.

● Lewis, Michael (1997). Implementing the Lexical Approach: Putting Theory
 Into Practice. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

● Lewis, Michael (2000). “Language in the lexical approach”. In Teaching
 Collocation: Further Developments In The Lexical Approach, Michael Lewis
 (ed.), 126-154. Hove: Language Teaching Publications.

● Schmitt, Norbert (2000). “Key Concepts in ELT: Lexical Chunks” ELT Journal
 54(4): 400-401.

● Thornbury, Scott (1997). “Reformulation and reconstruction: tasks that
 promote “noticing” ELT Journal 51(4): 326-334.

Appendix
 

◎Answers to tasks

Task 1:
 
 
  such things
  such a large
  in such a manner that v.p.
  such a big n.p.
  such a lot of n.p.
  such a case
  in such a way that v.p.
  such a success
  such a long time
  such a good idea
  such a large amount
 
 
  so busy
  so many n.p.
  so that v.p.
  so cold that v.p.
  so much n.p.
  so far
  so funny that v.p.
  so easy
 
 
  so enjoyable
  so excited
  so good
  so important
  so kind
  so long
 

Task 2:


Example 2 task 2:

be famous for s/th
walking tour
go to
find out
walk down to
order s/th from s/o
help s/o V
trip to

Example 3 task 1:

 

注 釋

  • [01] Lexicon literally means “dictionary”. It is the name given by theorists to the hypothetical memory bank of language items which form the basis for language production and comprehension.

作者簡介

Quentin Brand & Joe Lavallee
  • Quentin Brand is a teacher, author and consultantof some 15 yearsexperience, with 6 years experience teaching business English in Taiwan.His current interests include the teaching of writing using a lexical approach and corpus linguistics. His e-mail: quentin.brand@msa.hinet.net

  • Joseph Lavallee has been teaching English in China and Taiwan for more than 7 years and is currently afaculty member at Ming Chuan University here in Taipei. His interests include reading in the EFL classroom, corpus linguistics and the lexical approach. His e-mail: lavallee@mcu.edu.tw