Matching Pairs

Matching activities are as old as the hills. Sometimes it seems that some coursebook writers just can’t resist asking students to link a word to its definition, or to reunite two halves of a sentence, such as this example from a recently published coursebook.


As an activity, it doesn’t exactly thrill me. It’s very functional and helps the student to connect ideas, but it’s also very rigid and doesn’t give the student an opportunity to work on creating their own, more personally relevant sentences.

The problem isn’t so much with the actual task, but with the idea undergirding it. Personally I’d rather see these activities used as warmers, acting as a fun quiz to engage learners in the subject. Here’s an example I found in a back issue of Wired magazine recently that could make a great intro to a lesson on town and cities.

All together more engaging, don’t you think?
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3 thoughts on “Matching Pairs

  1. Hi James
    I don't see anything wrong with matching two halves of a sentence in the example above. Students not only need to connect ideas but also attend to linguistic features, lexicogrammatical patterns, what follows what etc. I do admit though that I would cut up the above sentences differently, i.e. divide the parts of a collocation (setting up + a meeting) or separate a verb and its dependent preposition (was thinking + to). A follow up to this would be asking students to imagine who could say these sentences (boss to the employees, an employee to a colleague etc). To make it more engaging you can remove the second parts and ask them to come up with their own.

    The activity you suggest is certainly fun and undoubtedly engaging, and would make a great warmer but I just don't see how matching micro-nations with trivia facts about them could serve any linguistic purpose. Again, I am not saying that EVERY activity should have a teaching point and I am sure this warmer can promote a lively discussion and generate a lot of language but I don't see it as a replacement for the other matching activity from a textbook above.
    LEO

  2. Hi Leo. Thanks for the comment, I really enjoyed reading your analysis of the activities I suggested. Basically what you've done is flesh out my idea with a well argued reasons, so thanks for that!

    I agree that the original exercise has a linguistic purpose, exactly as you describe it, but that's all it has to me. I can't help but think there must be a more interesting way of practicing the target language, for example, your revised versions are undoubtedly more engaging.

    As for the second activity, well, again(!) you are right, it doesn't have a clear linguistic purpose, but does every thing have to? I'm not suggesting that it should replace the objectives of the original activity, in fact, they would occur in very different classes (one business and the other general English).

    In this case, I wasn't attempting to suggest one should be replaced by the other, but instead looking at the activity and asking “how can this be better employed?” You could argue that this putting the cart before the horse, but I thought it would be an interesting exercise nonetheless.

  3. Hi James
    I tend to agree with Leo. However, I have also found the activity you have suggested as a warmer a good catalyst for discussion. Something I tend to do with my learners whenever I engage them in matching activities, especially when they have to match halves of sentences where language patterns e.g. collocations are the focus, is to get them to test each other and thus promote a bit of memory retainment. For example, one student would say the stem sentence and another would try to recall the other part of the sentence. I would then get learners to notice grammatical patterns such as the use of certain prepositions, -ing forms and etc. In a sense, matching activities are as old as the hills but they certainly have earned their place in the ELT classroom.
    Cheers
    Arizio Sweeting
    http://proncentral.wordpress.com

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