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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!
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!"
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.
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?
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?
Remember the refrigerator magnet poetry of your college days? Now imagine the creative possibilities for your ESL students. PicLits is a creative writing website that allows writers to choose from a selection of photos and either add their own words or drag-and-drop from pre-selected keywords.
As an assignment, have your students create their own PicLits. Begin the activity in-class by sharing the inspirational visual poetry of ee cummings. Beginners can practice adverbs or adjectives using the drag-and-drop function which allows students to choose pre-selected words categorized by noun, adjectives, adverbs, and verbs. High-beginners or intermediate students can use the freestyle function to craft creative sentences or poetry with their own words. The photo element adds meaning and visual spark to students' creations. Students can post their PicLits to the class blog or class Facebook page for peer feedback and assessment.
This activity is designed to help students see that synonyms are not always interchangeable but have subtle differences in usage, connotation, register, collocation, etc. Students will use online dictionaries to compare synonyms.
1. Divide students into pairs or small groups.
2. Each group will work on the same sets of words. Students should discuss these words with each other, then use online dictionaries to support their ideas. Some online dictionaries which are suitable for learners include Macmillan Dictionary and Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary.
Example sets of words:
3. Students feed back as a class.
A. This could also be given as homework if online access is not available in the classroom.
B. Students may require pre-teaching to supply vocabulary for explaining subtle differences between synonyms.
Adapted from Ur, P. (2012) Vocabulary Activities. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. pp. 162-163.