Activity: relational & material Processes

Here is an activity I often do with Elementary or Pre-Intermediate students that gets them noticing and thinking about the difference between relational Processes which construe ‘states’, and material Processes construing change through time.

On a piece of paper, you need three columns: the middle column is blank while on either side there are opposing relational clauses (either written or visual), for example:

[The cup is empty]    [    blank    ]    [The cup is full]

The task for the students is to explain how the change in state occurred, which requires a material clause, such as, She is pouring the tea. This also gets students noticing that there is no ONE right answer but may be construed in many different ways: She is filling the cup, The cup is being filled, The tea is being poured, etc. Some other relational clauses I’ve used are: The water is cold/ The water is hot; He is in the hall/ He is in the living room; I have the pen/ She has the pen; The door is closed/ The door is open; She is on the platform/ She is on the train, etc.

For more advanced students, the activity may also be expanded to include choices involving transitive (She is filling the bottle) or intransitive (The bottle is filling up) clauses. The sequence may also be linked into one sentence with conjunction:

The cup was empty and then she filled it until it was full;


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