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Creating cohesion

Luke Pearce explains how the text uses both lexical and grammatical cohesion to progress in a logical fashion and to make sense to the reader.
We’re still in our nonfiction week and we’re looking at our second activity where we’re going to focus on cohesion and how that’s achieved in articles. So we’ve already looked at the context and the wider context for this and the reader response, and it’s a little similar to what we looked at last time with headlines, so we’re going to look at language a bit more quickly this time, but we’re still going to be bringing in that wider context. So as we saw before in the previous step, when we talked about cohesion,
we have these two different types of cohesion: lexical cohesion and grammatical cohesion, and we’re going to link lexical cohesion to that wider context. So a question we could pose to our learners, maybe before they’ve seen their text,
the extract, is: This article is about life in a small village during lockdown. What typical words can we expect? And you could elicit a list of words from your learners, and then they can look at the text and see if you had any in common, how accurate they were. So this is the text that you’ve already been looking at, and at first we’re going to focus on as I said, lexical cohesion. I won’t read the whole text. You’ve already had a look at this and feel free to pause, but by lexical cohesion just to refresh your memory we mean the words that we would typically expect to be in this kind of text. So this is a newspaper.
Article about lockdown and about, it’s a rural place. So what are some typical words, typical concepts, typical ideas we might expect in a text like this? So I’ve highlighted those words and you can see I’m sure you would have mentioned many of these same words and these words, something you could do with these are different activity would be to take all these words out of the text. Show these to your learners first and then ask them to predict what the text is about. So they don’t talk to us about the relationship of what’s happening in the text, but these are the kind of ingredients of the text. What the text is about.
So if you look at these words: village Cumbria, hub, reopen, volunteers, we get lots of nouns and a few verbs. Adjectives, words like that, So these are telling us what the things are, what those things are like, describing the things and saying what those things are doing.
So these words, yeah, tell us the topic of this article, and this is a point where, these are the kinds of words where you would want to make that link to wider context and make sure your learners understand, for instance, a proper noun like Cumbria. Are they aware of where Cumbria is? What Cumbria is like? You could choose them some photos, things like that and any other vocabulary. For instance, I don’t know maybe greengrocers. Some learners might not be familiar with that. So as I said, thinking again about grammar and language, these tend to be words like Nouns and verbs and adjectives. So next we’re going to move on and now talk about cohesion.
So you already saw this in the previous steps. Grammar helps to organize the texts into logical order, and the text makes sense to the reader. And this isn’t only important in English language or English literature, but any subject where you’re writing essays or reports any kind of text like that, we want to be able to achieve cohesion as a useful skill to have in everyday life in the working world. That cohesion can take several different forms. This is not an exhaustive list, but the kind of order of a paragraph might be to take us forwards or backwards through time.
It might take us from new, unfamiliar ideas to familiar ideas, or the other way around, or it might take us from problems to solutions. So we’re going to take another look at this text and see which type of cohesion is being achieved. So we’ve already talked about our lexical cohesion, which is more towards the context, the wider context, the comprehension. Now we’re going to look at those kind of underlying relationships
so we could put to our learners: How does the author use grammar to organize a text into a logical structure, and what relationships are at play? What kind of structure is this being organized into? So again, you should already have the text. If you like, feel free to pause, copy and paste this into a different document and get out your highlighters and so we know we’re not looking at those nouns and verbs and adjectives so much, we’re looking at how is this text organized through grammar? So I’ll just talk to you through a few things that I found when looking at the cohesion of this text.
So first of all, it seems like a small thing, but the determiner or you might call it the definite article, ‘the’. Starting with that means we’re referring to a specific topic. This is not, Imagine ‘a village’, or there is ‘a village’. We’re talking about a specific place, and that’s backed up with the proper nouns of Kirkwold, Cumbria. Maybe a bit more importantly for us in terms of cohesion, we notice things like verbs in the past tense, adverbs of time, prepositions of time. So we can see, OK, something’s going on here with time. This is being organized into a
story: was once, so we have the past simple with the adverb ‘now’, another adverb and ‘during’ a preposition. So it seems like for this article time is the big focus. Let’s take a look at the rest of the article and now we can see, we still
have more of those time phrases: last year, was destined, in just six weeks, so yeah, we can see how this is organised through through time and we’re going from the past to the present. We’re kind of jumping around a little bit. Some other things I noticed in this paragraph. We have conjunctions, so again these are organizing
time: after its owner, the local philanthropist. The shop was put up for sale so there ‘after’ is a conjunction at the start of the sentence, we could reorder that sentence if we liked and put ‘after’ in the middle. The shop was purged for sale and was destined for closure after its owner blah blah blah and then we have another conjunction ‘until residents stepped in’ so that that sentence there is playing around a lot with time and the order of things. And then towards the end of the paragraph and we might think, why is coming towards the end of the paragraph? We have these modal verbs. We have a modal verb ‘could’ and then the main verb ‘reopen’.
Hope the doors could reopen in just a few weeks. So, it’s modal verbs, showing possibility. So we’re going from talking about the past, then we’re kind of skipping around a little bit between the past and the present. And then we’re thinking about the future and a kind of uncertain possibility. So as we said, it’s clear that the kind of cohesion in this paragraph is to organize the text into this kind of sequential, order of time from past to present, but actually we do jump around a little bit to contrast between we were in this bad situation in the past. Now we’re in a positive situation in the present.
And also there’s this future, possible, which may or may not happen of an even more positive thing, and that’s achieved through, we can see here the kind of organized altogether, these different verbs, adverbs, preposition phrases, modal verbs, things like that. But if you notice, if we put all these words in front of our learner, at the start of a lesson and said, what’s this text about?
You’d have no clue: was once, was destined, last year, now, during, in just six weeks, could, reopen, doesn’t tell us much about the topic of the text. What these kinds of words tell us about is that logical, sequential order of the text. And obviously, as I said before, these kinds of phrases, prepositions, conjunctions about time, we could use these to write an essay or write a report. We even could use them in a narrative story. We use these phrases again and again, organizing things in a logical way. So you might, these kinds of phrases you could put into the category of discourse markers almost, and connectives, that kind of thing.
So these are the fundamental, more grammatical parts of language that organise the relationships. And then we plug in the topic. You know, the nouns, the adjectives, the verbs, which are specific to the topic we’re looking at. So that’s how cohesion was achieved in that paragraph. To talk about time. And just like last time underneath this video, please leave a comment for discussion. What did you think about this activity? Would you use this activity with your learners and your setting? Maybe you might do something differently and then our next step, we’re going to look at how we could move this from a reading analyzing language task and turn it into a writing task.

As we have seen cohesion is created via both lexical and grammatical cohesion.

In the article, lexical cohesion is created through the use of words we would typically expect in an article on the subject of life in a rural village during lockdown:

village, butcher’s, greengrocer’s, hub, pandemic, local, residents, community…

Grammatical cohesion is created by ordering sentences in a logical way. In this extract, the text is ordered in time. The grammatical language is used to shift between the past, present and future. This is achieved by employing verbs, conjunctions, adverbs and preposition phrases.

Past: was once, was destined, last year

Present: now, during, in just six weeks

Future: could reopen

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Teaching English Grammar in Context

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