If you’re looking for some of the best tips and ideas for teaching collocations, then you’re certainly in the right place. We have the best ESL collocation activities and games, plus worksheets, lesson plans and other resources. Keep on reading for all the details that you need to know to make a killer lesson plan!
What is a Collocation?
A collocation is a group of words that occur together more frequently than just by random chance. For example, a cup of tea, do homework, make the bed.
ESL Collocations Games and Activities
Let’s get into the best collocations ESL activities and games to consider trying out with your students.
#1: Flyswat Game
If you want to create some fun and excitement in classes with kids or adults, then try out this flyswatter game. Think of a number of target collocations and then write down half of the phrases or words on the board.
For example, if your collocations are as follows: make the bed, cup of tea, play soccer, then write down the following on the board in a random fashion:
- the bed
- cup of
One student from each team comes up to the board and takes a flyswatter. Then, say the missing part of the collocation. For example, “tea.” The first student to slap, “cup of” gets a chance to say the correct phrase, “cup of tea.” If correct, they get one point for their team.
Erase that word and write a new one in its place. Try out this fun game today! Oh, and be sure to allow for other possibilities. Sometimes my students surprise me and come up with something that I didn’t even think of.
#2: Concentration Collocation Game
A fun way for students to practice new collocations is this memory game. It’s essentially a matching game that is played in small groups and kids love it equally as adults! Try it out today:
#3: Password Game
Try out this fun TEFL game where students have to describe a secret word and the other students have to guess what it is. Of course, make sure the secret words are the target vocabulary for that day and then you have a really nice review activity. Find out more here:
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 147 Pages - 02/24/2021 (Publication Date)
#4: Plan a Collocations ESL Speaking Lesson
It’s easier than you might think! Find out how here:
#5: Daily Routine ESL Activities
Talking about routines involves a ton of collocations. Here are just a few off the top of my head!
- Make the bed
- Get up
- Go to sleep
- Brush my teeth
- Make dinner
- Eat lunch
That’s why this topic is a nice choice for a lesson on collocations. Here are some of the best ideas:
#6: Is that Sentence Correct?
This is a quick review activity for the last couple of minutes of class. Write down a few sentences on the board containing the target vocabulary. Some have mistakes while others don’t. Students have to say which ones are incorrect and make the required changes.
It’s the ideal “filler” activity. Try it out today:
#7: Dictogloss Listening Activity
Try out this challenging listening activity with your more advanced level students. Find, or write a passage with lots of the target vocabulary.
Then, put students into pairs and read it out at a faster than usual pace for the level of students. Students can take notes and then compare with a partner to try to recreate what they just heard. Read it out again and students repeat the process. Finally, each pair can compare what they have with the original. Find out more:
#8: Dialogue Substitution
#9: ESL Surveys and Questionairres
Just ask my students and they’ll tell you that I love to use surveys in my classes, especially at the end of class as a kind of round-up activity. In this case, the survey questions can be related to the target vocabulary for the lesson.
With a bit of practice, it’s super easy to make your own TEFL surveys in just a few minutes. Find out why I like this engaging, 4-skills activity so much!
#10: ESL Holiday Lessons
Holidays, out of all the other topics to consider for this kind of lesson, have a wealth of collocations. Here are just a few out of the thousands:
- Easter egg hunt
- Christmas tree
- wrapping presents
- turkey dinner
- decorating eggs
- giving thanks
Here are some ideas for games and activities for a holiday-themed lesson:
#11: Dictation Practice
Dictation is kind of an old-school TEFL activity but it still has some value! I like to bring it into the mix every once in a while and I find that the more introverted students really seem to enjoy it. Plus, it’s some serious listening practice.
In this case, use a bunch of the target collocations in the sentences that you’re reading out. Once students are finished dictating the sentences and checking their answers, have them work together in a small group to decide which words could be considered collocations, that is occurring together more frequently than normal.
#12: Error Correction Relay Race
I love this activity because it takes what’s old (error correction) and makes it new again. It turns it from a solo activity into a game that requires a ton of teamwork.
It’s easy to focus this game on whatever you want, including collocations. I generally make some errors such as:
- glass of tea (cup or mug)
- do soccer (play)
- drinking pizza (eating pizza)
The errors, of course, depend on the target vocabulary and the level of the students. Find out more about it:
#13: Collocations Vocabulary Auction
#14: Mixed up Sentences
This is a quick activity that makes a nice review exercise or homework option. Make up some sentences with the target words or phrases. Then, mix them up in terms of word order within the sentence. Students have to unscramble them. If done in class, I usually get students to work in pairs.
Want to find out more? Have a look:
#15: Ball Toss ESL Collocation Game
Try out this activity that’s ideal for kids or adults. It’s better suited to smaller classes to make it more student-centred, although you could have multiple balls and break the class up into smaller groups as well.
On the ball, write down words that lend themselves well to collocations. For example: tea, soccer, TV. Then, students toss the ball gently to each other and check where their right thumb is when they catch the call. If it’s on TV, they have to say a collocation using that word. For example: watch TV.
Find out more:
#16: Collocations to Describe Appearance
There are a ton of collocations that are used to describe appearance. Just a few examples:
- tall, dark, and handsome.
- short, brown hair
- blue eyes
Here are some of my recommendations for teaching this unit:
#17: Fill in the Blank Worksheet
A nice way to test students on collocations is with a fill in the blank exercise. For example:
- a bar of ____ (soap)
- _____ and lightning (thunder)
- zip up your _____ (pants/jacket)
- burger and _____ (fries/beer)
Collocations ESL Worksheets
If you want to give students some more practice opportunities, here are some of the best worksheets to consider using. They’re ideal for in-class or for a homework assignment.
Collocation ESL Lesson Plans
If you’re a teacher, then you already know how much time it can save to use a ready-made lesson. After all, why do all the hard work when another teacher has already done it? Here are some of our top picks:
Collocations Dialogues and Practice
- Amazon Kindle Edition
- Bolen, Jackie (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 70 Pages - 01/01/2021 (Publication Date)
A nice way to give students more practice with these words that occur commonly together is with this practice book that you can find on Amazon: English Collocations in Dialogue.
You’ll find dozens of dialogues that contain hundreds of collocations. There’s a vocabulary focus and then an opportunity for English learners to put it all into practice.
You can find the book in both digital and print formats. Check it out for yourself here:
Have your Say about Teaching Collocations
Do you have a go-to game or activity that you’d like to recommend? Please leave a comment below and let us know what you think about it. We’d love to hear from you.
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Last update on 2022-07-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API