TESOL France 2013 – slides, handout, notes

Hmm going to be a dull week to face after attending the 32nd annual international TESOL France shindig. Loads of great talks (e.g. see reports on materials writing in ELT by Jonathan Sayers, @jo_sayers; experimental practice in ELT by Lexical Leo,@leoselivan; Tailoring ESP courses by Kirstin Lahaye, ‏ @kirstinlahaye ), amiable company and Celtic dancing.

Seems to be a tradition to post up slides of the talks so I will duly comply. A huge thanks to the folks who came to spend some time with me, and who asked some great questions. A huge thanks to the TESOL committee, volunteers and all attendees, everything seemed to run like clockwork.

Using concordance software to inform classroom practice:



NB1: for a video walkthrough of the getting your own texts part of the talk please have a look at this:

NB2: my reference to a diy corpus as a Frankencorpus, building your own body, comes from a Rob Troyer IALLT 2013 presentation. The Frankenstein icon was made by http://www.visualpharm.com/.

And as Scott Thornbury said in his plenary – the body (corpus) remembers! So why not make use of such memories in your classroom.

No time for corpora? No worries!

For the majority of the ELT world coursebooks and syllabi dominate, consequently teachers have little time for anything unrelated to what they teach from a book and from their set syllabus. This is arguably one of the reasons for the low take up of corpus based teaching.

Frankenberg-Garcia (2012) helpfully outlines several ways teachers can easily integrate corpus information into the classroom without having to outlay much time investment (she does though assume that the teacher knows about corpora, can access them easily and knows the principles of corpus queries, Frankenberg-Garcia, 2012, p.35).

She divides approaches based on production vs reception activities and whole-class vs individual activities.

I have written about reception (e.g. Just the word and TOEIC), whole-class (e.g. general English lexis and DIY corpus) and individual activities (e.g. GloWbE and will suit you; do also see a recent post by Chia Suan Chong/@chiasuan on encouraging learner autonomy via corpora), what caught my attention was the description of the use of corpora in production activities.

Note: I was initially alerted to the Frankenberg-Garcia paper by Wilson (2013), another recommended read for corpora based teaching.

Frankenberg-Garcia gives the example of using collocations of the word beach as a warm-up to speaking or writing about beach holidays.

Looking at Unit 1 Careers in the Cambridge Target Score book (Talcott & Tullis, 2007), Wordandphrase.info gives us the following for career: wordandphraseinfo-career-collocates (click on image for larger resolution)

From the collocates (circled in red above) we can compile say the following list:

  • professional career, successful career
  • career choice, career path
  • begin career, build career

and ask students to use the list to speak say about their current career path, if they know what professional career they want to follow, if so do they know how to build their career and so on. You could give fast finishers the list of synonyms:

  • business
  • profession
  • occupation
  • livelihood
  • calling
  • vocation

and ask them how they would use these when talking about careers.

More interestingly she describes using concordances for the bus that are given to students before they write about something happening on a bus. As the screenshot shows she also highlighted some potentially useful phrases with the bus: the bus concordances (Frankenberg-Garcia, 2012, p.40)

Adapting this for the TOEIC we can use the keyword contract negotiation(s) as appears in Unit 1 Exercise 1 page 9. An extension to this exercise would ask students to write a short news report of the contract negotiation using the picture from the exercise as a prompt: contract-negotiation

(Talcott & Tullis, 2007, p.9)

COCA tells us contract negotiation(s) is most frequent in the news register which can guide us in selecting what examples to use. Wordandphrase.info gives concordances to use to help students before the writing task (note some sentences are adapted and not exact example given by Wordandphrase.info):

  1. They were participating  as  mediators  in  contract negotiations and monitoring  growers’ compliance with labor contracts.
  2. This is specifically  for  contract negotiations and  recruitment.
  3. More than  two  weeks  of  contract negotiations between Air Canada and its pilots broke off this Friday.
  4. The  contract negotiations had   been   confidential.
  5. Trouble has arisen  over  his  fierce  contract negotiations with the management.
  6. They averted a strike and completed the union’s  contract negotiations with the three major North American car makers.
  7. The strike began last October after 10  months  of  stalled  contract negotiations.
  8. During  contract negotiations a few years later, resentment ran high .
  9. Randy  Mueller  handled  contract negotiations and   made   all   personnel  decisions.
  10. They attempted to force a new round of contract negotiations.

Students can be asked to highlight words related to contract negotiations e.g. mediators in example 1 above. They can then proceed to the writing exercise.

It is worth looking up Frankenberg-Garcia in full as she makes a great case for teachers to integrate corpora into the classroom. Thanks for reading.


Frankenberg-Garcia, A. (2012). Integrating corpora with everyday language teaching. In: Thomas, J. and Boulton, A. (Eds.) Input, Process and Product: developments in teaching and language corpora. Brno: Masaryk University Press. 33-50. Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/3368339/Integrating_corpora_with_everyday_language_teaching

Talcott, C. & Tullis, G. (2007). Target Score: A communicative course for TOEIC Test preparation. (2nd ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Wilson, J. (2013). Technology, pedagogy and promotion: How can we make the most of corpora and Data-Driven Learning (DDL) in language learning and teaching? Higher Education Academy research report (July 2013). Retrieved from https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/sites/default/files/Corpus_Technology_pedagogy_promotion2.pdf

How to explain a word using corpora

The very best teachers have a magical ability to help students with vocabulary, they can effectively go beyond one or two aspects of a word to maybe cover four or five. But even the superteachers, I doubt, can cover say twelve aspects (Shaw 2011). This is where corpora come in handy.

A corpus is a database of text of everyday language. This database is searchable which makes it useful to  language teachers and learners.

In one of my classes students had some difficulty with the word bandwidth. I had set this as one of ten words to find the meanings of the week before. During a vocabulary game bandwidth was used and it seemed to stump most. And even the ones who managed to come up with a reasonable definition were still frowning over their understanding of the word. Meanwhile all I could add to help them was to give them some collocates (actually only two ‘high’ and ‘low’).

I have been pondering using corpora in my classes so thought a blog post may clarify some possible uses.

Fortunately a new interface to the Corpus of Contemporary American English was released sometime in January 2012. This interface is called Word and Phrase.info.

Plugging bandwidth into the word search bar gives me the following screen:

bandwidth search result
wordandphrase.info search result

(wordandphrase.info result for bandwidth, click image to enlarge)

1. Shows the wordnet definition.

2. Shows collocates and surprisingly (or not as may be the case) my use of ‘low’ as a collocate is not listed.

3. Shows the frequency in the five registers.

4. Shows examples of the word as it appears in the texts in the corpus.

Immediately one can see in one screen a wealth of interesting information. For example bandwidth has no synonyms, it is most frequent in the academic context, high is the most common collocate followed by available.

If I had been able to show that in class it would have been great (or not if this was the first time they had heard of a corpus!).

I think this post has clarified a bit my thinking on corpora and maybe helped a reader or two of this blog.

For a great series on corpora check out Jamie Keddie at onestopenglish.com (apart from the introduction you do need to be a member to access the rest of the series).


A few related posts courtesy of Rachael Roberts/‏@teflerinha.

Rachael Roberts/ ‏@teflerinha post Some user-friendly concordance ideas

Mike Griffin/@michaelegriffin post Using online corpus tools to check intuitions

Leo Selivan/@leoselivan post Essential lexical tools

The Real Thing: using corpora to write language training materials by Bill Mascull