This week, I have been fortunate enough to finish off a language course I was delivering to my advanced-level Chinese students by introducing them to some corpus-based language activities. It went surprisingly well and they seemed to adapt quite quickly to the corpus-based approach. I set them some concordancing tasks to do in class and we went through the tasks using a hands off approach. Then, I set them a self-study activity using Word Sketch Difference to search and query for themselves. See below.
The pairing I chose was [personal and individual] and the activities I created were a combination of identifying parts of speech, introducing them to basic features of WSD, counting the frequency of word collocations, asking them which collocation is more or less frequent, matching definitions to [personal and individual], then filling out some gap fill sentences based on the information in the WSD list, and concluding with general statements about collocations with the words (gap fill). The worksheet finishes with a prompt for students to select the TOP 5 word collocations they wish to recall so they can recycle them when speaking or writing in English.
I don’t know yet how my students found this learning activity but the proof will be in the pudding when they submit their answers to me.
I can’t really comment about engagement levels with this particular activity yet, but I would say from my experience of teaching using concordance lines and FLAX, that on the whole, students did struggle with concordance lines and I realise that I need to reduce the number of lines to a more reasonable number. Perhaps a max. of 10 to start off with!
Another dawning realisation I had when introducing the worksheet, which investigated collocations with words such as [considering +], [+ scientific+] and [first of all +] was that my students’ knowledge of the terminology for the parts of speech in English was pretty hazy. So next time, I will run a mini-review over the key terms for parts of speech and ensure they have a rudimentary grasp of this before progressing onto the analysis of concordance lines. In fact, it wouldn’t hurt for me to brush up on these terms myself!
One last thing, I heard myself telling my Chinese students that parts of speech are like symbols – where I made an analogy of parts of speech to the symbols used in mathematical equations – they love maths as a subject, so I thought that might help them to look for patterns in the symbols rather than get bogged down in the meaning of the words in the concordance lines. I hope that didn’t confuse them! I will see……