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Linkers And Connectors For Essays On Education

Would you like to help your learners speak more coherently? Svetlana Kandybovich, the latest winner of the British Council’s Teaching English blog award for a post on speaking skills, suggests some useful classroom activities.

Learning to speak a language might seem fairly straightforward in principle: first you learn the words, then you form sentences using the correct grammar, finally you string the sentences together. Voilà! – you’re fluent.

However, the formula 'grammar + vocabulary' is not enough to become a competent speaker of English (or any other language). This often becomes evident when we ask learners to speak in some depth on a subject, either alone (such as in a presentation) or in a discussion.

Even when learners can make themselves understood, and use correct grammar and vocabulary, you often get the nagging feeling that something is missing from their conversation.

The importance of coherence

We get the sense that a text (spoken or written) is generally coherent when it makes sense through the organisation of its content. An important feature of cohesion is the use of linking and 'signposting' expressions, for example: 'because', 'whereas', 'also', 'therefore', 'first', 'second', 'however', 'in conclusion', and many more. They help us organise our ideas logically.

Just as with any skill, the ability to organise what you say into a whole can be taught. However, simply introducing a list of linking expressions (or 'linkers') to learners will not produce the desired effect. It is speaking (and writing) skill which requires lots of practice.

Here are some ideas to help learners use linking expressions and get their speech 'in shape'.

Introducing linking and signposting expressions

Highlights

No matter how useful linkers are, learners are unlikely to remember them if they have not had a chance to put them into a relevant context. Tekhnologic has designed an interesting way to introduce the target language to language learners. He uses PowerPoint to highlight specific words (or phrases) while dimming the rest of the text. This can help bring learners' attention to the use and function of particular words and phrases rather than get overwhelmed by the text as a whole.

Introducing the context

Making a roadmap

It's useful to get learners to group signpost expressions according to function, but an alternative is to get them to draw a roadmap and put signposts on it. In this way, they will visualise the whole concept of signposting and its purpose for successful communication. Afterwards, get students – individually or alone – to create a short story or presentation using their roadmaps.

Chicken, chicken

A fun way to practise using linkers is based on the infamous parody of unintelligible scientific presentations Chicken Chicken Chicken: Chicken Chicken, delivered more than a decade ago by a Google engineer. Ask your students to make the Chicken Chicken speech more coherent using connectors and linkers.

For example: 'To begin with, chicken chicken chicken. First, chicken chicken, second, chicken, third, chicken chicken chicken. Finally, chicken chicken.'

‘Mind the gap’

One of the exercises to introduce means of cohesion is a traditional gap-fill exercise. Have your learners fill in the gaps with appropriate connectors and linkers. However, to make the exercise effective, try to find a text that will interest your students and form the basis of a discussion. You could also get students to write a similar text about themselves.

'Order, please'

A very useful exercise is to use a text with lots of linking and signposting expressions (a presentation is ideal) and change the order in which they appear. Underline the phrases, and get learners to work in pairs of groups to arrange them in a logical order. Download this handout and try using it with your learners.

Go from mistakes

Before asking learners to produce their own speech or presentation, study some examples of incoherent speeches or conversations and get them to make them more coherent. You can find a lot of interesting materials online depending on the age, interests, and language level of your students. For example, your teenage learners will surely love the challenge of changing the answer of Miss Teen USA at the beauty contest.

Structures in the back pocket

Get students to study examples of good conversations and speeches. Encouraging them to notice useful structures and linkers, and to use these structures when constructing their own speeches, is an extremely beneficial exercise for students. Ready-made structures ‘in the back pocket’ will help a lot with coherence and will also make a learner’s speech more fluent. Olya Sergeeva has described the approach to working with such structures in her blog post. Nowadays there are a lot of talk shows and podcasts that come with transcripts, and it is quite easy to find and analyse them.

Four square method

A good way to improve students’ speaking is to help learners organise what they say into a coherent speech using the 'four square method'. This is a graphic that helps organise concepts, vocabulary and grammar in a way that is easier and much simpler for learners to grasp. Although it is mainly used for teaching basic writing skills (usually to primary-level school kids), it could be successfully applied to teaching speaking with an emphasis on coherence. I have described how to use it in my post on better speaking.

The camera never lies

One of the most efficient approaches to teaching speaking skills is to make a video of your students’ conversations and get them to evaluate their performance. Getting them to identify conversational problems and roadblocks, as well as effective practices for avoiding and resolving them, can be very beneficial for learners.

English teachers, sign up for Professional Practices for English Language Teaching, our free online continuing professional development (CPD) course, starting 31 August 2015.

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It is a good idea to occasionally use linking words and phrases at the start of a new paragraph. They can help to link what you have said in the previous paragraph to what you are about to say in your new paragraph.

These link words and phrases are often referred to as signposts. This is because they help to indicate to the reader when one point ends and other begins, as well as the relationship between each point.

Used with care, they can help to guide examiners and tutors through your essay. As well as bolster the impression of a coherent, flowing and logical piece of work.

Useful linking words and phrases that can be used at the start of new paragraphs:

A contrary explanation is that, …

Although, …

As a consequence, …

As a result, …

As we have seen, …

At the same time, …

Accordingly, …

An equally significant aspect of…

Another, significant factor in…

Before considering X it is important to note Y

By the same token, …

But we should also consider, …

Despite these criticisms, …it’s popularity remains high.

Certainly, there is no shortage of disagreement within…

Consequently, …

Correspondingly, …

Conversely, …

Chaytor, … in particular, has focused on the

Despite this, …

Despite these criticisms, … the popularity of X remains largely undiminished.

Each of these theoretical positions make an important contribution to our understanding of, …

Evidence for in support of this position, can be found in…,

Evidently,

For this reason, …

For these reasons, …

Furthermore, …

Given, the current high profile debate with regard to, …it is quite surprising that …

Given, the advantages of … outlined in the previous paragraph, …it is quite predictable that …

However, …

Having considered X, it is also reasonable to look at …

Hence, …

In addition to, …

In contrast, …

In this way, …

In this manner, …

In the final analysis, …

In short, …

Indeed, …

It can be seen from the above analysis that, …

It could also be said that, …

It is however, important to note the limitations of…

It is important to note however, that …

It is important however not to assume the applicability of, …in all cases.

It is important however not to overemphasis the strengths of …

In the face of such criticism, proponents of, …have responded in a number of ways.

Moreover, …

Notwithstanding such criticism, ….it’s popularity remains largely undiminished.

Notwithstanding these limitations, ….it worth remains in a number of situations.

Noting the compelling nature of this new evidence, …has suggested that.

Nevertheless, …remains a growing problem.

Nonetheless, the number of, …has continued to expand at an exponential rate.

Despite these criticisms, …it’s popularity remains high.

On the other hand, critics of, …point to its blindness, with respect to.

Of central concern therefore to, …sociologists is explaining how societal processes and institutions…

Proponents of…, have also suggested that…

Subsequently, …

Similarly, …

The sentiment expressed in the quotation, embodies the view that, …

This interpretation of, … has not been without it’s detractors however.

This approach is similar to the, …. position

This critique, unfortunately, implies a singular cause of, …

This point is also sustained by the work of, …

Thirdly, …

This counter argument is supported by evidence from, …

The use of the term, …

Therefore, …

There appears then to be an acceleration in the growth of

There is also, however, a further point to be considered.

These technological developments have greatly increased the growth in, …

Thus, …

To be able to understand, …

Undoubtedly, …

While such failures must not be discounted, … there were in comparison small, when compared

Whilst the discussion in the preceding paragraph, …

Whether crime rates were actually lower at this time continues to be a matter of debate. Evidence from…

There are an almost limitless number of linking phrases and words one can use. What is important is that they complement the style of your writing.

Use these examples to arouse your creativity.

Remember that you don’t have to use them all the time. Using words like, ‘therefore’ ‘subsequently’ ‘moreover’ etc. for every new paragraph would probably become repetitive and detract from the key component of most academic work – critical analysis.

Finally, remember to succinctly, identify the key paragraphs and/or sections of your essay during your introductory paragraph. Then restate them along side an unambiguous position in your concluding paragraph. Again this will help to communicate a clear and understandable progression and structure, to those who read or mark your essay.

Best wishes.
S J Tonge.