These are two of the lexical threads that I use when dealing with the vast amounts of words that come up within my own classroom teaching.

Shaun Dowling

The main beauty of lexical threads is that they become familiar to the learners, they are easy to plan and aid memory. After doing these activities, once the students don't need any further explanation of what to do when they are repeated. This leaves the teacher important time to listen to the students without worrying about how to manage the activity.

Thread 1 The verb dome

This is a favourite activity of my learners that originally started out as a warmer. One of my students gave it its name and it just stuck. This is not linked to any themes or part of the course but it enables students to see how much they know in a fun way.


You only need the board and a pen and most importantly your students.


  • First split the students up into two groups. Have one student give you a letter from the alphabet (make sure they don't say Z or X though).
  • Then have each group call out a verb, in its infinitive form that begins with the letter chosen. Each group calls out a new word and you record it on the board. The group who can't think of anymore loses.

With this activity you will find you can write a lot of language on the board. It is highly motivating when learners see how much they know. For this activity language emerges from the knowledge of the students and teaching is kept to a minimum. I find that if someone shouts out a word the others don't know, instead of having to teach the word, the students usually tell each other what the word means as the games goes on. It helps them recall words they may have only seen once or twice and aids memory.

Follow up

After a few classes you can choose another letter and do this again or ask for them to do this for collocations of phrasal verbs. This time the students call out the verb and must complete it with another word that collocates naturally with the other. For phrasal verbs have the learners call out the phrasal verb with following noun or phrase that helps them show they understand its meaning.

Thread 2 Pre-teaching slips

This activity is useful when I come across a new unit of language in the course book or start a new theme or topic we are about to discuss.


First preview the new language that you think will be useful or which your learners may need to complete the task. As the heading says, this activity consists of slips of paper with L2 collocations or idioms on one side and their translation or definition on the other. You'll need to prepare these before class.


  • With the learners seated show one phrase to the first student, have them pronounce the phrase correctly. When they have done this give them the phrase. Next do the same with the next student with a new phrase and do this with the rest of the group until all of the phrases have been given out. Have the students stand up and 'teach' their information to the others. They must make sure each person pronounces their information correctly before showing it to the next one.
  • When all of the learners have seen all of the phrases collect the slips and have learners sit down.
  • Now mix up the slips and approach each student individually and show the first slip of paper and have them explain the definition or say the translation. If they get it right, show the slip to everyone and put it away for the next phase.
  • Go to the next learner and do the same. If one should get it wrong move round to the next student until you receive the correct answer. Again put the slip away.
  • When all this exercise has been successfully completed do it all over again, this time with the translation or definition side being shown so the learners have to say the word.
  • Pronunciation is an important requirement at this stage. When all of the slips have been said correctly put them away.
  • Now have the students write them all down in their notebooks (for teens I give them a prize if they can note down correctly all of the vocabulary covered in the exercise).

Even if you do about 30 phrases, it is amazing how many students can remember even in the next class and by writing them down they have something to look back to should they forget.

Since this is a pre-teaching task students will see these again and again through the next few weeks of your teaching. This will give them a chance to notice their use in context and more importantly have opportunities to use them.

This activity is an adaptation of an activity I once saw at a Braz-Tesol workshop. It helps students to see, hear and feel the words and allows intonation and connected speech to be emphasised. In the original you had the English word on one side of the paper and the translation on the other. This way it either uses translation or with higher levels write a short definition instead of the learners L1. I recommend that each side should be written in different colours so you don't get mixed up as to which side is which, and also this should stimulate visual learners.

Language level
Language Level: 
Pre-intermediate: A2

Add new comment

Log in or register to post comments