Professional Development

How teaching a language in chunks helps learners

Sarah Longfield

Leo Selivan’s Lexical Grammar is the newest title in our award-winning Cambridge Handbooks for Language Teachers series.

We interviewed Leo at IATEFL 2018, where he talked about his background as a teacher and ELT blogger; how he came to write the book, and what teaching chunks of language really involves.

In his interview, Leo talks about the concept behind the book: “There’s a much closer link between vocabulary and grammar than many teachers like to think or many textbooks present”, as vocabulary and grammar are often presented separately.

Lexical Grammar bridges the gap between these two. As research evidence suggests, language acquirers “learn by learning whole chunks of language” rather than by learning generative grammar rules and then slotting in words.

Explaining the concept of chunks of language, Leo says it’s “things like ‘It doesn’t matter’, ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I haven’t seen you for ages’, which can be initially presented to learners, practised and memorised as ready-made wholes.” Then these chunks can serve as a blueprint for creating new sentences.

Leo also talks about how the teaching of chunks can be integrated into teachers’ existing classroom activities. “The book is divided into chapters such as ‘Chunks and listening’ or ‘Chunks in writing’. […] Teachers can bring in this lexical dimension by incorporating focus on lexical chunks, while they are doing other work such as listening practice, or working on reading skills. “

Watch the full interview with Leo:

Sample activities for teaching chunks

Discover two sample classroom activities from Lexical Grammar:


Advice from Leo’s Twitter Q&A

Leo recently did a Q&A session on the Cambridge ELT Twitter about lexical grammar. If you’d like to see the questions and responses, check the Twitter hashtag #AskLeoSelivan.

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