How do you bring ‘overlearning’ to your learners?

I have just completed my project, which I hope will serve as both a scaffold and an overlearning tool. While the holiday hustle may have stretched out the timeline a bit, I have now pieced together, tested, and fine-tuned a demo version of the interactive Sentence Patterning Chart.


If you are not familiar with the concept of overlearning, I recommend watching a great webinar on overlearning with Jake Whiddon. He offers a comprehensive perspective on this essential, though often undervalued, component of learning, especially in the context of language learning. In essence, overlearning involves practising something repeatedly, even after you no longer show improvement, maintaining the same level of difficulty, and eventually leading to automaticity. 

Due to the limited time in the classroom, we cannot provide numerous overlearning opportunities, as our emphasis typically revolves around ‘Input+1’, pushing students to face new levels of challenge. However, it is by decreasing cognitive load through overlearning, we give students the freedom to get creative with language. When the basics become second nature, students can more freely experiment with language, and let their thoughts flow more naturally.

Overlearning Activities: Digital Sentence Patterning Chart

If you’ve taught lower-level students, you’ve likely noticed their struggle when it comes to crafting longer sentences – using attributes and describing actions, essentially providing more nuanced and detailed information. Now, if they don’t get the hang of this early on, it could become a real hurdle when we start dealing with compound and complex sentences. To address this, I thought students could benefit from extra practice in simple sentence patterns. Drawing inspiration from the Sentence Patterning Chart featured on the Valentina ESL blog, I created an interactive visual organiser. This tool serves as a scaffold for students, offering opportunities for additional practice.

The Digital Chart goes beyond the original structure by incorporating elements such as ‘subject’ (‘Who? What?’), ‘verb’ (‘Action or State’), ‘direct or indirect object’ (‘Whom? What?’), ‘adverbial’ (‘How?’) or complement, and ‘adjunct’ (‘Where? When? Why?’). The idea is to provide learners with a fun and dynamic way to take simple sentences and experiment with changing and improving them in various ways. The ‘Play’ button randomly sets various sentence patterns, providing an interactive way for students to experiment with sentence construction. Additionally, integrated AI functionality (*ChatGPT) introduces Robby the robot, offering students short phrases or sentences on their chosen topic as a starting point.

How to Play

Here’s how to make the most of the interactive Sentence Patterning Chart. It can be used both for in-class activities and out-of-class practice.

The in-class mode turns the Chart into a collaborative experience.

Step One: the demonstration. Get students to work in pairs or small teams. The words of the first two pre-set sentences appear one by one. Ask students to drag and drop them onto the corresponding parts of the Chart. Challenge your students to transform these scattered words into coherent and meaningful sentences. Laughter is encouraged as the sentences may start off quirky (‘I eat smart students quickly’). You can also ask the students to set random patterns for a more focused exploration.

Step Two: the transformation. Now, it’s time for students to tweak and tailor these sentences to make them true about themselves. 

Step Three: the fun begins. Ask your students to come up with a simple phrase or sentence and extend it into a sentence true about themselves. If they need inspiration, them may ask Robby the robot to generate a simple phrase on the topic that interests them. Students can add their own words by clicking on the appropriate parts of the Chart. 

As the extension of this activity, you can ask students to jot down their sentences for further practice. 

For out-of-class practice, students can take on the Chart solo, practicing sentence patterns at their own pace, transforming ‘overlearning’ into a personalised language-learning experience.

Give it a try, and I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Interactive Sentence Patterning Chart


Source URL:
Date: January 20, 2024 at 02:25AM
Feedly Board(s): Englisch