This is a combination of interconnected tasks that engages students in a complex situation. It allows them to build new vocabulary, use their existing knowledge and language competencies, and practise newly learnt words in different contexts.
The first stage consists of five parts:
1) Individual students write as many linking words they can recall as possible.
2) Students work in groups and categorise all the words they have produced into groups according to their function or meaning.
3) The whole class shares and discusses original categories with examples of linking words produced by the groups.
4) Students are provided with a material of generally accepted categories of linking words with lists of their examples, such as:
5) Both student-generated and teacher-provided tables are compared and discussed. Usually, both overlap to a certain extent, so it is useful to emphasise the student-generated contribution.
The second stage also consists of five parts:
1) Students are presented with a topic relevant to their field(s) of study or interest.
(A slightly controversial topic usually helps to make some opinions more quickly.)
2) Each student forms an opinion on that issue and writes that opinion in one sentence on a sheet of paper.
3) Students send the papers with their opinions to the person sitting on their left or right (if we are in a computer lab or if we want students to move a little, it can be students who change places moving from paper to paper or from computer to computer). Each student reads their colleague´s statement and writes some reaction that starts with a linking word. Then, they send the texts in the same direction as before and perform the same task. This procedure is repeated several times. The only requirements are:
(a) each new sentence has to begin with a linking word;
(b) no linking word can be repeated in one text.
Note: The task is getting slower and slower with each change because students need more time to read the whole text written by their peers. Four to five changes are usually enough for the purpose of the task.
4) All texts return to the authors of the original statements for analysis. The original authors underline all linking words (all sentences with the exception of the first one should start with a linking word) in the texts and identify a flow of argumentation. In other words, they should be able to say which sentence supports their original statement, which refutes it and which develops the argumentation in a different way. (The categories from the stage number one coul help.)
5) Students write a synonym for each underlined linking word in their texts that is suitable in the given context.
In this way, students meet linking words in different situations:
1) retrieve from their memory what they already know individually;
2) categorise linking words – it may be useful especially with students with no formal linguistic terminology background, they usually give "original labels” to the categories;
3) the discussion and comparison with the “generally accepted” categories and examples are important because they make students think about the idea that those words not only exist but they have also some function;
4) students can be engaged in an active use of the newly learnt words in different contexts;
5) and they can also think about the use of synonyms in the given contexts.
At the end, it can be useful to stress the importance of linking words for a smooth flow of argumentation and ideas in academic texts. On the other hand, it is important to emphasise that not every sentence in a real text starts with a linking word - that linking words should not be overused.