When Teaching Discourse Markers

Reflections on Discourse Markers 157 (pp. 139-145) by Michael Swan in Practical English Usage (2005)

This reflection presents one practical suggestion when scaffolding for students when learning about discourse markers. My group and I prepared a pre-, during- and post activities on the basis of the Discourse Markers part of Swan’s book Practical English Usage. The pre-activity consisted of orienting themselves in the grid from corresponding grid on page 153-154 in Derewianka’s book A New Grammar Companion, to make them realise that different authors (and teachers for that matter) might organise the discourse markers in different categories – still the same types of discourse markers together – but with different headlines and a variation of amount of categories. Swan divides the discourse markers into 21 different categories, whilst Derewianka only presents 6 overall categories. The during-activity asked the individual student to write one example of a discourse marker to each of the 21 categories, whilst reading the chapter in Swan’s book. As a post-activity, we divided the students into 4 groups, presenting them with a new grid of 8 discourse marker categories – a middle group – comparing the two different books – see grid beneath.

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Each group would then have to focus on two categories, e.g., Adding examples and Sequencing examples. They were given 10 minutes to find the corresponding discourse markers within their own internship reports within the given categories. Then discussing with the rest of the group what the usage of those types of discourse markers did for the context of their reports/the language, and finally – in a padlet – they added their examples along with the highlights from their discussion. Then all groups were split up and new groups was formed to have at least one representative from the previous groups in each. Now they had a few minutes to present their findings to the rest of their new groups.

The goal of using a padlet was to enable the students to save their ‘corporative notes’ for further use, whilst working in groups enforced learning through peer-to-peer teaching. Finally, the purpose of having them find the discourse markers in their own text, was to created relatedness and practical relevance for each individual student – this succeeded to a certain degree – one student added the fact that their internship reports were in English, which made the task pointless to him. Which really just empathises the importance of honest evaluation, because we cannot change what we don’t acknowledge.


Derewianka, B. (2015): A New Grammar Companion – For Teachers. Reprint. PETAA

Swan, M. (2005): Practical English Usage. OXFORD