Topic: KS3

Relevant for UK National Curriculum Key Stage 3.


Noticing and exploring linguistic patterns in literary texts

Foregrounding is a widely-used term in text analysis, literary linguistics and stylistics, referring to patterns of language that stand out in a text. The term itself is derived from art and film criticism, and is best understood by a visual analogy.

Here is a picture of San Francisco:

In this image, the houses are foregrounded against the background of the city. They are foregrounded because they:

Forensic linguistics: a starter

an activity using language clues to solve crime

Forensic linguistics is a growing area of language study that combines the analysis of language with solving crimes. All of us use language in subtly (and sometimes not very subtly) different ways – so when we write or speak, we leave clues that sharp-eyed language detectives can pick up.

In this resource, we take a quick look at the kinds of clues forensic linguists look for when they try to work out the identity of a writer.

Forensic linguistics: some answers

suggested answers for the starter activity

So, what clues did you find? The police were convinced that the two sets of messages were actually from different people, and that Melinda hadn’t sent the messages on February 16th, but they needed evidence.

Some of the clues in the data are easier to spot than others, but here are some differences:

Form and function

A useful distinction in grammar is that of form and function. Grammatical form is concerned with the description of linguistic units in terms of what they are, and grammatical function is concerned with the description of what these linguistic units do. Note that we use capital letters at the beginning of function labels.

Form and function: Activity 1

Analysing the way that form and function are related

In the exercise you'll be asked to identify the function and the form of the highlighted words.

Identify the Function

Identify the function of the highlighted words in the following sentences.

Formal and informal

This lesson resource is designed to draw attention to how we use different registers in a variety of written contexts. When we use language, we make a number of different lexical and grammatical choices, depending on the context, or 'situation of usage'.

Formal and Informal Language

Lesson Plan


  • Distinguish between formal and informal writing contexts
  • Identify which grammatical features create register
  • Apply these features in writing

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that we don't speak and write the same way in all situations. Depending on who we're talking to and what the situation is, we change. This is called register.

Formal and Informal Language


Formal describes a more serious register. We use this for talking to people we don't know or who are in positions of authority. It is also used for talking to people older than us. It shows that we want to respect or impress the audience.

Informal describes a more relaxed register. We use this for talking to people we know well like friends and family. It is also used to talk to people the same age as us or younger. It shows that we feel comfortable with the audience.

Formal and informal: Activity

working with register variation

The concept of register is about the idea of appropriate language, which is shaped by context. Thinking about context is a fundamental part of language analysis, and is a useful 'way in' to exploring language choices and meanings. 

Being able to vary your register is an important skill.

In this activity we will start by looking at two real letters. One of them is a personal letter and the other a business letter. You can download them, or read through them here:

Identify the semantic role


You will be given some sentences where two or three noun phrases are marked off with square brackets. For each sentence:

  • Identify the semantic roles of the noun phrases (agent, patient or recipient).
  • Write a different sentence to describe the same situation, where the same roles are expressed in different ways.


  • [The people we were staying with] cooked [us] [a traditional Normandy dinner]. [S1A-009 #125, adapted]


Information structuring

In this activity, students will be asked to find different ways to express a similar meaning. You may be surprised at just how many different ways you can find! The activity is based on an idea from Max Morenberg’s book Doing Grammar (3rd edition, Oxford University Press, 2002).

Information structuring: Activity

  • Sally was late. It annoyed the boss.

  • Sally was late and it annoyed the boss.
  • It annoyed the boss that Sally was late.
  • Sally’s lateness annoyed the boss.

Language and context

Sometimes great humour is born from taking language out of context. This lesson explores that fact with some examples, and asks students to think of some of their own.

Morphology - an introduction

In this lesson, students explore word morphology. Morphology is an area of language study concerned with how words are formed. While syntax is about the larger structures formed when words are put together, morphology is about the structure within words.

Nonfinite clauses in literature

In this activity, students look at how nonfinite clauses might be used in their own writing and that of others to vary the structure of a text. On one level, this is about creating something that people like to read: something that is interesting, varied and engaging and designed to hook the reader or suit the style you are hoping to adopt. On another level, it’s about students showing teachers and examiners that they know about different forms and can use them in their writing.

Noun endings

Exploring suffixes and how they affect word class

In this activity we will look at suffixes which change verbs and adjectives into nouns. This process is a part of derivational morphology

Noun identification

In this activity, students work through the criteria for identifying nouns.

Noun identification: Activity 1

Which words do you think are nouns?

Noun identification: Activity 2

I'll see you on Thursday.

Is Thursday a noun?

  • Does it represent a person, place, thing or idea?
  • Can it be singular or plural? Can you say one ___ and two ___s?
  • Can it be possessive? Can you add 's or ' at the end?
  • Can it follow the or a?
  • Can it be replaced with a pronoun like it, he, she, or they?

Noun phrase generator

Students can generate noun phrases using a quick and easy smartboard tool.


  • Create some new noun phrases.
  • Examine what can and can't happen in noun phrases.
  • Evaluate example noun phrases, looking at why they do or don't work.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that today, we will be generating noun phrases. 

Noun phrase generator: Activity

Use the interactive whiteboard to generate weird and wonderful noun phrases. 

Nouns and only nouns

Students are asked to communicate using a bank of nouns - and nothing else.


  • Communicate with a partner using only nouns.
  • Discuss what can and can't be easily expressed using only nouns.
  • Determine which other types of words are useful for expressing complex ideas.

Lesson Plan

The teacher explains that this activity will involve you trying to express progressively more complicated concepts and actions to a partner using only these words, your own body language and imagination.

Orientating a scene: prepositions in travel guides


  • To understand how prepositions construct meaning in a non-fiction text.
  • For students to apply this to their own writing.

What and how do prepositions mean?

Begin by showing your class a list of prepositions (or - even better - ask them to generate the list themselves). Display the list on the board, and ask: what do prepositions do and how do they do it? The discussion should arrive at the following conclusions:


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