Analyzing Word Associations

Student Assignment

1. Looking closely at the answers

  • Choose three words from the Word Associations list, and print the corresponding responses.
  • Look up the meanings of words or references you don’t understand, write in the margins of the  printed answers.
  • Look closely at what words are used on each side. Count them, circle and underline them on the printed answers. Organize your observation in different categories: Words that appear more frequently on each side; words that appear on one side but not on the other. Note if these words generate positive, negative or neutral associations.

2. Making hypotheses, asking questions

Write and bring to class a few sentences (in L2) to summarize your observations, make hypotheses as to why your exchange partners would give such answers, think about the  questions you could ask to verify your answers. This will help during the class conversation.

3. Writing on the forums

Post comments  (in L1) on the corresponding forums. Remember to share you observations, make hypotheses, ask questions, and answer your partners' questions.

Activities in the Classroom

Working on content

Your class can be organized in  many different ways. You can either ask students to associate with  partners who have worked with the same Words as them, or ask them to find partners who have worked with completely different Words.

In both cases, they start with  sharing their findings within their group.

  • If they worked on the same words, did they make similar observations? Ask them to pool and summarize their findings on the board.
  • If they worked on different words, are there correlations or similarities across the responses? Do similar concepts emerge? Ask them to post the most important findings on the board.

Then ask groups to share their observations with the rest of the class.

There are other ways to engage the entire class about the content. For instance, a conversation  can also be organized around how a word might be construed as positive, negative or neutral. Choose one word from the list of prompts. Write 'positive', 'negative', and 'neutral' on the board. Have students identify the words they consider to be positive, negative or neutral and write them under the category they suggest. See if everyone agrees or not. See where the discussion leads: Can words be really be neutral?

At the end of  class, remind all students to return to the forums before the next class session.

Working on vocabulary

The work on content and vocabulary is closely related. 

While a group presents their observations about a Word, project the answers on a screen. Members of the presenting group then clarify words and expressions for their classmates upon request. If a reference is unclear, google the word or expression to see in what context it appears, and tell students to post a question for their partners on the forum.

Working on grammar

Work on grammar can take many forms. Here is one type of exercise on nouns and adjectives, with the Word Associations.

Print the responses to one word association prompt, distribute a copy to each student. Ask students to:

  • separate the nouns from the adjectives and make a list of each
  • connect the adjectives and the corresponding nouns
  • provide all the corresponding nouns and/or adjectives which do not appear
  • group the nouns by similar endings
  • provide other words that end with those endings
  • guess the gender and create general rules
  • review the exchange partners' responses and identify spelling or grammar mistakes