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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!
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.
If you’re a new Evernote user, you may be wondering about the best way to get started and what types of notebooks to create for organizing your notes. As you use Evernote, you will develop the methods that work best for you but for now I thought I’d share my own notebooks as an example.
When I first began using Evernote for teaching, I started with three notebooks:
As I continued collecting more ideas, I found it more useful to create notebooks for skills, resulting in notebooks such as Teaching Reading and Teaching Vocabulary. Instead of collecting notes into my original TESOL Ideas and TESOL Online Resources notebooks, I began adding ideas to the respective skill notebooks. I joined the two reading notebooks in order to form a Teaching Reading “stack." Now when I begin planning for a new class, I browse through the notebook containing notes I have collected for that skill. Here’s what my teaching notebooks look like now:
Recently, I discovered the “Copy to Notebook” function in the Notes menu which allows you to create duplicate notes. That way, when I create a note relating to writing and vocabulary, I can duplicate the note into both my Teaching Writing and Teaching Vocabulary notebooks so that I will find it when I browse either notebook. In the future, I will probably move notes out of my original TESOL Ideas and TESOL Online Resources notebooks and place them according to skill.
Of course, this is not the only way to organize your notes. There are some who prefer just using one large notebook and using the search function or organizing by tags. Happy Evernoting!
Meet Evernote, your new best friend
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.
If you ever find yourself planning a lesson, looking up and realizing it’s already midnight, Toggl might be the tool for you. Toggl is a free time-tracking tool which you can use on the web, as a desktop widget, or on your phone. Keep track of the time you spent prepping or grading for each class, so you know where the time went! Use Toggl’s report features to see bar or pie charts of how your time was spent in the week. Just like a budget, Toggl might help you see where you are spending your time and help you improve your time management overall.
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
You’ve already used LexTutor’s VocabProfiler to identify which lists the words in an article belong to and to see the percentages of high-frequency, academic, and “off-list” words. But when an article contains many names, VocabProfiler’s statistics may show a deceptively high percentage of off-list words, making the article seem more difficult than it actually is.
The Text Readability Consensus Calculator from Readability Formulas is an excellent, easy-to-use tool for discovering a text’s reading level. Simply copy-and-paste a short sample from any text, check the “Yes” box and click the blue “Check Text Readability” button. The website shows the results of tests from seven popular reading indexes, followed by a readability consensus score. Below is the readability consensus score of a short article from Reader’s Digest:
You know the situation: an English language learner is speaking to a native speaker of English. The language learner asks the meaning of a particular word and the native speaker replies with a synonym that is even more obscure and difficult to understand. Are we teachers any better at this? (Hopefully, yes!) Most of us rely on our experience and intution to use high-frequency words that we believe will be more easily understood. But how sharp is your word frequency intuition? Can you adjust your words according to the level of your students? And would you be able to distinguish whether a word falls in the 3K to 5K mid-frequency band or in the 11K to 15K low-frequency band? The LexTutor Frequency Trainer shows you exactly that. Think of it as a training game to refine your frequency intuition.
To generate a new quiz, go to the bottom left corner of the LexTutor Frequency Trainer and select whether you would like to be tested on frequency statistics drawn from the British National Corpus (BNC_uk) or the Corpus of Contemporary American English (COCA). Click the “Build” button and begin! Use the radial buttons to guess which frequency band the listed words belong to and then click “Check.” Re-categorize the incorrect guesses and check again. If you can get 100% in three tries, LexTutor says your intuition is excellent. If not, keep practicing!
LexTutor’s VocabProfiler is a powerful tool that allows you to identify which words in a text belong to the first 1000 most frequent words of English (K1), the second 1000 (K2), and the Academic Word List (AWL). Additionally, it identifies “off-list” words, a catch-all category encompassing less frequent words, technical words, and proper nouns.
To use the VocabProfiler, simply type or paste the text you wish to identify, then click the yellow submit button.
For comparison, here are results from two types of articles in the New York Times. On the left is the vocabulary profile of a feature article on bookstores in Seattle; on the right, an international news story on pro-Russian demonstrations in Ukraine. Here, each word list is color coded with K1 words appearing in blue, K2 in green, AWL in yellow, and off-list in red. As you can see below, the news article on the right contains comparatively less K1 and K2 words, and more academic and off-list words.
As you scroll down in the results, you will also see your text reproduced and color coded.
Additionally, all of the words are categorized into their respective word lists.
For teaching preparation, VocabProfiler can help you identify potential vocabulary words or whether a text may be too difficult for your students. In the classroom, a live demonstration can be used to illustrate to your students the importance of learning academic words. All in all, a very powerful tool!
If you’ve been given the freedom to design the vocabulary portion of your curriculum, you may be wondering just where to start! Certainly, a well-designed textbook should contain words which are relevant to the learning needs of your class. Additionally, published word lists such as the General Service List or the Academic Word List can help you ensure your students’ time is well-spent on words which will be useful to their situations.
Please note that the AWL does not follow immediately on from the GSL. It encompasses specialized vocabulary for academic purposes. Students who are mastering the GSL will likely wish to learn words which are useful for their workplaces or future pursuits.
In order to know your students’ vocabulary level, The Vocabulary Levels Test may be useful as a placement test. Several versions are available on the internet.
Which lists do these words belong to?
How good is your word frequency intuition?