Clines in Language Teaching

What is a cline?
The British Council Teaching English website defines a cline as ‘a scale of language items that goes from one extreme to another, for example, from positive to negative, or from weak to strong’.

Why are clines useful in language teaching?
Clines can be very effective in conveying and clarifying language, giving a very visual representation of meaning. They highlight shades of meaning, they are efficient and can cut down on teacher talking time. They also provide students with a good record of language to take home.

What language points lend themselves well to use of clines?
Clines are very versatile and can be used for vocabulary or grammar.
Some examples I have used follow:

Vocabulary

Temperature

20140317-194840.jpg

Expressing likes and dislikes

20140317-193640.jpg

Feelings
E.g. Degrees of hunger

20140423-184123.jpg
This could work equally well with other feelings such as anger, happiness, tiredness, or even drunkenness!

Grammar

Modals of deduction

20140429-161405.jpg

Adverbs of frequency

20140423-183852.jpg

It can be a nice idea to write the sentences or expressions onto cards and get the students to come up to the board and stick them where they think they go on the cline. If you are technologically minded and have access to an IWB, you could also get them to drag the expressions to the appropriate position. This exercise promotes peer collaboration and usually some interesting discussion.

Any other ideas for using clines in class?


I recently spoke about this topic at the IH Online Teachers Conference.  You can see the talk here:

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78 Responses to Clines in Language Teaching

  1. kruti Naik says:

    This is amazing. Thank you for such a detailed illustrations.

    Like

  2. Casse-bonbec says:

    I love it, and I really can see the use in my classes. Thanks a lot !

    Like

  3. maha alshaar says:

    Very usefull thank you

    Like

  4. danial says:

    what’s skuffed? and what about really WAS the mailman?

    Like

    • jonnyingham says:

      It’s stuffed, not skuffed! (when you are really full and have eaten too much). ‘It was the postman’ is on the cline, at the top, next to 100% certainty.

      Like

  5. Janne says:

    Thanks! I liked.

    Like

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  7. Ankit Gautam says:

    OMG thts my goodness to like ur page
    this post is amazing

    Like

  8. Pingback: Clines in language teaching | TeachingEnglish |...

  9. Ratgaj says:

    Really nice board work and expressions. Googlefight or BNC ‘I always go to the dentist’ and ‘I never go to the dentist’ to see which expression is more popular.

    Like

  10. Mitu says:

    This is amazing. Thank you for such good ideas.

    Like

  11. hamdy says:

    thanks very much

    Like

  12. intisar alrawi says:

    thanks I love it

    Like

  13. Aris says:

    This is super! Very useful. Thanks Jon

    Like

  14. Enas akra says:

    It’s realy amazing, and great effort. Thank you

    Like

  15. mo says:

    And where is the verb “to dislike”??? You mention “to hate”, “not to like”… but the easy alternative, where is it?

    Like

    • Mirian says:

      You can add it. I think so. Thanks for your idea, though I think it is a wonderful work.

      Like

    • jonnyingham says:

      Thanks for the comment Mo. I agree, you could add many more verbs such as ‘dislike’, ‘detest’, ‘loathe’, ‘am crazy about’ etc. This would of course depend on level, board space, and how complex you want it to become. I’m not so sure about ‘dislike’ though; it feels like rather unnatural usage in this context, in my mind anyway.

      Like

  16. Paula Navarro says:

    this is simply amazing! thank you VERY much 😀

    Like

  17. billhollaway says:

    Where I live in the US, our local paint stores have paint color samples printed on rectangular strips of heavy paper. Visualizing the clines by writing the words in order, each word on a separate color sample, already printed in light to dark order on the sample sheet, works perfectly. And the stores don’t mind you taking a batch of these color samples for free!

    Like

  18. Ven Kuonika says:

    Where is the ‘would have been’ situated on the cline of certainty?

    Like

    • jonnyingham says:

      Hi Ven,
      I haven’t added ‘would have been’ to the cline as it doesn’t express a degree of certainty.
      Whilst ‘would have been’ has the same form as these past modals of deduction, the meaning is very different; it expresses a hypothetical sitaution in the past, not certainty.

      Like

  19. That’s great! Thank you for sharing. =D
    I’d suggest changing the certainty cline, however. When I say “It wasn’t the postman”, I’m not 0% certain. Just the opposite, I’m 100%. When it comes to the difference between “It was”, “It must have been” and “It might have been, ok, it’s the certainty that varies, exactly like you put it. But when I say “It was” or “It wasn’t”, I’m just as certain.

    Like

    • jonnyingham says:

      Thanks for your comment Natália. I agree.
      ‘It wasn’t the postman’ isn’t 0% certainty but 100% certainty as you say.
      I’ve never known how to visualise this on the cline however, and usually just explain this to the students. Any ideas anyone?

      Like

      • =) You can keep the cline exactly like it is and only show affirmative sentences. Then you can add the negative versions on another parallel cline or on the same cline to the left/right.

        So

        It was the postman – 100% – It wasn’t the postman
        It must have been the postman – 90% – It can’t have been the postman.
        It may have been the postman – 60% – It may not have been the postman.
        It might have been the postman – 50% – It might not have been the postman.

        [Of course the percentages are just a rough guide. I can’t draw a cline here. 😉 ]

        That has the added advantage of making it crystal clear that the negative of “must” is not “mustn’t” in such cases.

        Like

      • jonnyingham says:

        That could work, a double cline… maybe that’s a future blog post! Thanks Natália!

        Like

      • jonnyingham says:

        I was thinking about this and it might work by simply changing the label on the cline. The cline could go from ‘impossible’ at the bottom, to ‘certain’ at the top. What do you think?

        Like

      • jonnyingham says:

        Cline updated!

        Like

    • dr suryakant dhoke says:

      Nice to read and incorporate

      Like

  20. lena says:

    Simple, and brilliant!

    Like

  21. leela says:

    very useful….thank u very much.

    Like

  22. Ali says:

    It was really useful
    It was quite useful
    It was pretty useful
    It was useful
    It was cool

    Like

  23. Suhani says:

    Could you explain me the difference between, really don’t like and don’t really like.Thank you!!

    Like

  24. Perfect work:)) Thank You:))

    Like

  25. Anna says:

    Thanks, it’s great!

    Like

  26. Miss Aponte says:

    Reblogged this on A 2 and commented:
    Amazing Post!

    Like

  27. Jenny says:

    I like it, I like it a lot, I love it!

    Like

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  30. vtduoc says:

    Thanks for your post, it helped me a lot. Because I’m just a student who always follows to what method suitable to me. And I wonder if you could give me some hint of how to gather the words in group (describe the same meaning with difference of certainty or shades).

    Like

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  32. Wani says:

    It is very helpful especially to teach english as second language here in Malaysia. Tqvm.

    Like

  33. annfore says:

    Hi Jonny,
    Just to let you know that we’ve shortlisted this blog post for this month’s TeachingEnglish blog award and I’ll be making a post about it on today’s TeachingEnglish Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/TeachingEnglish.BritishCouncil, if you’d like to check there for likes and comments.

    Best,
    Ann

    Like

  34. Carissa Peck says:

    Great! I like using clines for degrees as you say, though I tend to tell my students it is specific and more general. If something is small I could be talking about the size of my car, the size of city, or the size of a cat. If I say something is microscopic…I have a much more specific idea of what I am talking about! http://eslcarissa.blogspot.com/2014/03/get-students-using-different-words.html

    Like

  35. Luay says:

    Shouldn’t ‘I like’ be there between ‘I don’t mind’ and ‘I quite like’?

    Like

  36. JD Gold says:

    I’m going to add this to the English Teacher’s workshop program used here in S. Korea. (properly attributed, of course). You truly have created a lovely visual to help my Korean teachers of English expand both their ability to use English conversationally and convey meaning to their students. Many thanks!

    Like

  37. Heemal says:

    thank you ! the egs were very valuable, practical and constructive!! wow!! so easy for anyone to use. my students enjoyed using them…. very practical!

    Like

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  39. Bal Krishan says:

    Thank you,very useful

    Like

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  42. Sabrina says:

    Thanks for posting these! Sharing on my Facebook page facebook.com/speakenglishlive !

    Like

  43. Gus says:

    Very nice, I will definately use this in class. One question, though… “I’m a bit peckish”. Is there a replacement for this? I try not to teach expressions that are exclusively brittish to my intermediate students.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Like

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