Repetition and memorisation: 'I went to market …'

Published on 25th November, 2010 in Teaching Tips by Frances Watkins

Repetition and memorisation may carry negative connotations of teacher-dominated classrooms but there is no doubt that they can play a healthy part in a language learner’s diet. Memory is, after all, a crucial part of language learning.

There is a classic repetition activity, essentially a disguised drill, which is versatile, exploitable and fun: I went to market is often used as a ‘round’ to practise food items. The first student says I went to market to buy some bananas, then the second continues I went to market to buy some bananas and a pineapple, etc. Thus the round continues, with each student adding an item to an ever-growing list (ensure that stronger students are towards the end). This activity can also be used to practise countability / uncountability and also container lexis (a carton of yogurt, a bag of flour, etc). Clearly it can be used for items other than food too, eg to revise clothes, stationery, etc.

A few variations:

•  Following a reading activity, exploit the round as follows:
   We’ve just read (about) X (insert topic or title) and we liked the word / phrase(s) … or simply In today’s lesson I learnt the word(s) …

•  Sometimes lexis lessons lend themselves to this activity, perhaps as a conclusion to the class. Imagine a lesson on adjectives for describing people:
   My best friend is generous … or I think it’s important for a friend to be … A perfect partner is… .

•  Often topics may also lend themselves to this memorisation game. For example, after reading a tourist guide about a famous city / place in class:
   When I went to London … I went on a boat trip
   If I went to London I’d visit the Queen …
   I’m going to London to see the crown jewels … etc.

As these examples suggest, the focus might be lexical, grammatical or both.