Teaching Cohesion

Cohesion is one of those textual features which often eludes our attention in terms of teaching explicitly. Some of it we take for granted (use of tenses, use of pronouns), whereas its most sophisticated expressions we often tend to ignore. Often we end up with a limited series of linking adverbials (furthermore, in addition to, therefore, etc.) used clumsily by uncertain students.

Cohesion, as a matter of fact, may be achieved through the use of the following:
•    Verb tenses
•    Referring words (anaphoric, cataphoric and exophoric reference)
•    Text connectives (Conjunctions, Linking adverbials)
•    Word associations
•    Ellipsis
•    Rhetorical questions
•    Repetition, Synonymy & Lexical cohesion

As a result, it would be accurate to point out that cohesion consists of an extremely broad range of linguistic elements, entailing basic grammatical and syntactical phenomena on the one hand, as well as advanced stylistic features on the other.

Cohesion exists in all texts, in one form or another. Even a list of names in alphabetical order is cohesive, as long as we recognise the governing convention which defines their order.

Recognising cohesion, then, is the first step towards teaching it effectively. This can be done in a number of ways: Administering a text and asking your learners to identify the role of the cohesive devices in it; Comparing cohesive and non-cohesive versions of the same text, thus, identifying the effect cohesion has on the text; Finally, through gap-filling exercises whereby students need to come up with the appropriate function of the missing word or phrase and, subsequently, fill the gap with a cohesive device that correctly fulfils this function.

Cohesion exercises

Let’s take the gap-filling principle one step further. You need to construct a text – or modify an already existing one – so that it has strong cohesion. It should be at least four paragraphs long, so that when some sentences or an entire paragraph is omitted, the overall meaning of the text is still relatively clear to the learner. It can be narrative, discursive, explanatory, descriptive or biographical. Literary texts are not ideal for this type of endeavour, as they do not always follow a straightforward and linear narrative order.  Then, simply remove a number of sentences, add some distractors – making sure that they are relevant – and ask your students to match the independent sentences to the gaps in the text. Carefully select the missing sentences making sure that once removed, they do not obscure the meaning of the text. Students’ choice must depend on a variety of cohesive devices, depending on their needs and abilities, as well as on your objectives.

This exercise can also be practiced with paragraphs, in an identical manner. Simply remove a paragraph from a text and ask your students to identify its exact place in that text. Alternatively, you may break the text into paragraph and ask your learners to place them in the correct order. Such exercises make similar use of cohesion, but also raise issues of coherence. This happens, because paragraphing is not only a textual feature, but also a semantic one. Please consider the following example:

The paragraphs have not been printed in the correct order. Arrange the paragraphs in the correct order. Remember that the topic of one paragraph should follow logically from the topic of the last paragraph and should lead on to the topic of the next paragraph. In addition, try to identify those textual features that determine the order of the paragraphs.

Social networking giant Facebook said its new messaging service now has more than 500 million users worldwide.

“Messaging is an important part of how people stay connected and since Messenger launched in 2011 we’ve been passionate about giving people a faster and more expressive way to communicate,” said Facebook’s director of product management.

Facebook had faced a backlash after it announced it would be forcing users to download the app to send private messages to friends over the main Facebook service. Users started being pushed to download the app – launched in 2011 – in July.

In April, Facebook had told users that they would need to download a separate app to allow them to send videos, make free calls and chat with friends. But, the tech giant was widely criticised by users that did not like the concept of leaving the Facebook website to another service to send messages.

“We’ve also continued to improve speed and reliability. Updates to Messenger ship every two weeks so it continues to evolve and improve,” he added, indicating that Facebook plans to stick with the app despite the negative feedback.

That led to the iOS App Store review score for the recent version of the Messenger app to fall to one and half stars. “Messenger was the first of our standalone apps, and unlike our core Facebook apps, it focused on one use case – messaging,” Mr Martinazzi said.

Meanwhile, Facebook has been trying to get on the forefront of mobile messaging, and finalised a deal to buy popular messaging service WhatsApp last month for about $22bn (£13.8bn).

Last week Facebook’s chief executive Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that forcing people to install another app was “a short term painful thing”, but added that the benefit was that his firm could offer a “faster and more focused” experience.

The text in its original form can be found here: http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-29999776