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Make or Do?

I’ve just added a set of MCQ exercises : Make or Do? What an awful day!

I’m not really satisfied with them. I originally wrote the text (it’s a short story) before there was easy access to corpora so my choice of expressions was based:

  1. partly on my own intuitions as to the most frequent expressions
  2. mainly on choosing physical examples about which students can easily make hypotheses as to the meaning

According to the British National Corpus, expressions including “make sense” have over 2500 occurrences while variations on “make a bed” only 199. However, it seems to me more pedagogically effective to start with “make a bed” the meaning of which it is easy to make clear to near beginners through pictures, mimes, etc.  When a number of the physical examples (make coffee, make a cake, make a circle, etc.) have been sufficiently practised for “make” to instantly evoke “made something” in the student’s mind, then the transfer to the statistically more common metaphorical uses can be made.

I must say, I’ve never tried to start off with “make sense” or any of other very frequent non physical uses. I wouldn’t know where to start. I could spend time giving a clumsy definition and many examples of one of them until I had the impression students understood that particular expression, but it wouldn’t help them to understand autonomously the next expression they encounter.

What do you other teachers do?

It hurts my pride a little to put on line a set of exercises I know to be inadequate but it means, I hope, that I’ll get suggestions for improving them. 😉