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Lessard-Clouston, M., & Chang, T. (2014). Corpora and English language teaching: Pedagogy and practical applications for data-driven learning. TESL Reporter, 47(1&2), 1-20.
I’m pleased to share that TESL Reporter recently published an article that I co-authored with Dr. Michael Lessard-Clouston titled “Corpora and English Language Teaching: Pedagogy and Practical Applications for Data-Driven Learning.” In short, our article aims to help ESL teachers see potential uses for corpus linguistics in English language teaching by providing both an overview of key concepts and hands-on introductory worksheets that help English language learners use online corpora to study collocations.
I hope you will find the ideas and worksheets helpful. If you have any comments or questions, I would love to hear from you!
Happy new year! As classes start this week, here is a quick icebreaker idea you can use on the first day or as a warmup throughout the semester. If you’re like me, calling roll at the beginning of class reminds me of grade school and feels somewhat old fashioned. But it can actually familiarize your students to one another’s names, a first step toward building a sense of classroom community. Now here’s where the fun part comes in. Instead of students answering “here” or “present,” have your students respond with one or two words that answer your get-to-know-you question of the day, such as:
Ideas for other warmup questions? Please comment below!
Vocabulary Bingo has been one of my favorite vocabulary review activities because it is popular with the students and takes just a few minutes to prepare. Pedagogically, this activity increases exposure to each word and requires students to engage in thinking about each word and meaning.
Using a list of the students' target vocabulary words for the week, jot down word definitions as a reference for yourself. You may skip this step if you are good at coming up with definitions on the spot.
1. Hand out scratch paper and ask students to write down any five words from this week's target vocabulary words.
2. Explain the procedure to the students.
3. Read the definition of one word. Keep track of which words you have called.
4. If a student has written a word that matches the definition, he or she may cross it out.
5. The first student who has crossed out all five words shouts "Bingo!"
Why not put your students’ smartphones to work in your classroom? Free speech-to-text apps such as Dragon Dictation (iOS), Dragon Mobile Assistant (Android) or ListNote (Android) can aid your students’ ability to write summaries and paraphrases and help them practice pronunciation and enunciation. Additionally, students with iPhones can use Siri's dictation capabilities for the same purpose.
In this activity, students use Goodreads.com to select appropriate graded readers and to post their own book reviews. This can be an ongoing activity throughout the semester.
1. Administer a placement test if your students’ level for graded readers is unknown. Placement tests for a few major publishers are available on my online teaching resources page.
2. Introduce students to Goodreads.com. This is a website where people can rate books (using a 5-star rating system) and post book reviews. Students will use the site to select appropriate graded readers for themselves by reading other readers' reviews.
1. Ask your students to create their own accounts (free).
2. To begin searching for appropriate books, each student must know his or her reading level. As an example, if a student is a Penguin Level 5 reader, the student can type the following (including the quotation marks) to begin searching for books: “Penguin Readers” 5
3. Students can browse books and reviews and use the “want to read” button to add books to their own virtual “to-read” bookshelves within their accounts. This feature is only available when logged in. Additionally, you might encourage your students to become “friends” with their classmates on the site.
4. Assuming that the school’s library has a good selection of Penguin Readers readily available, give students two weeks to read the book. (The books are usually less than 100 pages long.)
5. Students can decide how many stars they will rate the book and then write a brief 150-300 word review to justify their rating. This requires students to think critically and write what they like or did not like about the book. Other criteria may include a very brief summary, or a description of a favorite character or scene.
6. Have your students submit their reviews to you for feedback. After you have approved the students' reviews, encourage (or require) them to post their completed reviews on the site.
7. Optionally, you could require your students to read at least two reviews from classmates and leave a comment on each.
Students may have privacy concerns. Pseudonyms can be used when they create their accounts.
Students may need additional support in writing their reviews. Providing model reviews may be useful.
This is a weekly activity in which students each search for one useful sentence they feel they can learn from, post it in on the class Facebook page, and practice creating new sentences based on these “good sentences.”
1. Create a class Facebook group. (Here's how.) The privacy setting called “Closed Group” protects any content posted inside the group to be seen only by the members of the group. (Information on Facebook’s group privacy options is here.) A suitable group name may be something like Grammar 2A’s Good Sentences – Spring 2014.
2. Include activity instructions on the group description page. You may wish to include instructions on what days the initial post and responses are due. (For instance, an initial post might be due every Tuesday and responses might be due every Thursday.) Following is an example of student instructions you might post for the class:
This activity may need to be modeled a few times at the beginning of the semester until students "get the hang of it." Some students may not be accustomed to participating in this type of self-directed activity.
This can be used as an ongoing activity throughout the semester. It incorporates a simple technique that motivated students can practice on their own to improve their speaking by recording their words and then creating their own transcripts. Evernote is used in order to help students more easily organize their audio recordings, as opposed to students having a large collection of untitled recordings on their phones. It is also used as the recording tool itself.
A. Prepare appropriate questions for student use which will elicit a short 20-60 second response. These could be questions related to student life on topics where students can readily express their opinions.
Example questions: What is the best way to improve your speaking? What are some things you like best about the place where you live?
B. Students should be asked to download the free Evernote app onto their mobile devices before class.
Introducing Evernote to the class
There are two basic methods for recording audio in Evernote:
I. Create a note first, then add audio.
II. Record immediately, then title the note (Android only)
An example of a recording I created in the Evernote app on my Android mobile phone is here.
Ask your students to each create a folder for their class recording within the Evernote app. This is where they will keep all of their notes and recordings. For organization, the best practice would be to create a new note for each recording and title it with the date and a descriptive title.
Students are now ready to begin their tasks.
1. Put the students in pairs and distribute the questions.
2. Each student will record their audio onto their own phone. Partner A can be responsible for operating Partner B’s phone while he/she talks, and vice versa. Students should record a response that is no longer than a minute.
3. For homework, students first should transcribe their audio exactly, then go back and make any corrections in a different color. The transcript should show both the original recording and the corrections. If students have Evernote installed on their computers, it may be efficient for the student to transcribe the audio directly in the note which contains the recording. This note can be printed out for submission.
4. Additionally, students should write a brief, one paragraph reflection on what they learned from the task. This raises the students’ awareness of their speaking habits, and may also help students reflect on any personal progress.
Meet Evernote, your new best friend
This activity uses Iconosquare.com (formerly Statigram), a website which can be used to search Instagram. Students will search hashtags for emotion adjectives and discuss the results.
1. Assign a common adjective to each discussion pair.
Examples: happy, sad, excited, amazing
2. Students use Iconosquare to search Instagram. As an example, type the word "happy" and then click the tag icon. The live results should look similar to the following:
3. Using these results, have students work in pairs to discuss whether the results are what they expected to find. Is there any common thread between the photos?
4. Students present their conclusions to the class. This step is important as it gives students motivation to do the task well.
Note of caution
There is no way to block any explicit content that could come up in the search results.
In this activity, students caption digital photos of their family traditions in order to practice descriptive writing and to improve presentation skills.
1. Ask students to find a photo which can be used to show one their family or cultural traditions.
In class in pairs, have students share with one partner about their photos. This will serve as brainstorming for captions.
2. Ask students to spend some time in class writing short captions.
3. As homework, students should import their photos into PowerPoint and create captions using the drawing tools. Alternately, Mac users can use Preview’s drawing tools.
4. Students will present their work to the whole class by projecting their captioned photos and giving a brief oral presentation.
Below is an example:
Some students may lack the technological knowledge to complete this assignment. This may require extensive instructor support. Additionally, food and holiday related vocabulary is needed.
This activity has students searching Google News on their mobile browsers to generate ad hoc concordance lines for the purpose of discovering collocations.
1. After reading an article or reading from the textbook, ask the class as a whole to decide on key vocabulary words.
2. Put students into small groups. Assign 2-3 key words to each group. Some example words might be: population, income, labor. (Note: income and labor are Academic Word List [AWL] words)
3. Each student group uses Google on their devices to search for each word, looking at Google’s “news” results. Ask students not to use newspaper headlines for their concordance lines, as these often omit auxiliary verbs and are not grammatically correct.
The photo below shows the results of a search for the word “income.”
This search generates an ad hoc set of concordance lines made up of the following phrases:
4. Students report their findings to the class. For "income," Ss should be able to deduce from their quick Google news search that some common collocations for "income" are:
Some students may struggle to find patterns which are not immediately obvious and may require additional training and support.
Which words do my students need to know?
Which lists do these words belong to?