Reading & discussion

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Time to complete: approximately 90 mins

In this topic, you’ll read through a key reading text to help you understand working with small specialised corpora and then discuss it in our forums.

A key text we think can help teachers really feel more knowledgeable and confident about building their own corpus is Building small specialised corpora by Almut Koester (2010).  In this topic we’d like you to choose your own reading task, read and take notes, then discuss your ideas in the forum.

Now, read the article and take notes that address the task you choose. These notes will help you write your response in the forum.

You can either read this article in your browser or download it by clicking on View link:

Koester, A. (2010) ‘Building small specialised corpora’, in O’Keeffe, A. and McCarthy, M. (eds) The Routledge Handbook of Corpus Linguistics. London: Routledge, pp. 66-79.

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To download it, you can click the arrow button in the top right.

For this discussion forum, we will do the classic 3-2-1 comprehension task. If you feel you’ve got a handle on the article, we’d like you to think about how Frankenberg-Garcia’s suggestions apply to your context. Please look below at the forum topic and respond to the question there. 

Remember to return to the forum frequently to see if anyone else has responded to your points. Feel free to interact with each other too.

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    • #47620

      Based on your reading of this article , add your ideas on the following points below:

      • Three things you learnt from the article
      • Two things you found interesting and want to apply to your own teaching context
      • One thing you are still not sure about

      By the way, if you would like to respond to a particular post, look at the top right of the post and use the button ‘Reply’. This way, your response will be posted below the post of your colleague.

      It is also a good idea to add the username that appears below their photo, that is the one that starts with @. This way, your colleague will be notified that someone has responded to them. Have fun!

    • #50531


      I learn that you can benefit from using corpora to create materials customised to your students’ needs that can benefit the whole class and extend learning beyond the limits of ready made materials. That it is useful for both teachers and students to check and confirm adequacy of language use. That it is a great tool for inductive learning, especially to dive into polysemy and divergence-convergence between languages.

      Learning vocabulary and use it in all grammar categories possible. (Peak n. V. Adj.)

      Help students with prompts of specific language in use to prepare and enhance writing tasks in a focused way.

      I don’t know about the hot potatoes tool. :bye:



      • #50586

        Thank you for sharing your reflections @powla we’re glad to see you picked very important points from this text. As for the hot potatoes tool, it is a tool to create interactive materials. I haven’t used it myself, but we use a lot of these tools here in the ELTC and as part of this course. You might have noticed that we had an interactive task when you were introduced to BAWE in Unit 0, where you drag and drop words in a gapped text. We created our interactive tasks for this course by using h5p (link), but we also use various other tools in our other programs and courses such as Quizlet, Socrative, Kahoot, Wordwall, to name a few.

    • #50577


      I learnt the use of corpus tools to teach language mostly happens at the university level where lecturers enjoy  autonomy in the way they teach their courses. However, in my context where I give EAP support to students I have little autonomy. It is interesting to note that I can use corpora to encourage self correction among learners especially when they are revising their final draft.

      Additionally, the discussion on use of corpus tools in the classroom ought to begin with the usefulness of corpora for the teacher and not what the teacher can do with it. I have been using corpus tools to teach collocation, though in a limited way, I now know that I can take it beyond this, for example by asking students to identify specific academic words and phrases that they can use for their writing tasks.

      The use of corpora tools need not be expensive-there are free resources and online tutorials that I can use to improve my knowledge and skills of using corpora and corpora tools in my EAP lessons.

      To conclude, I must say textbook production and selling is a very political affair in my context.  Many teachers over rely on textbooks and take them as the ultimate teaching resource. How can teachers be encourage to use corpora tools as a complement to the textbooks?

      I am still reflecting on this pertinent question :scratch:

    • #50587

      Thank you so much @prisila You made some great points especially when it comes to your own context in terms of the opportunities and limitations. It’s very interesting to hear your view on autonomy. I would probably have to say that, depending on the university, department, programme, course, etc, EAP/ESP teachers can be restricted too in their use of corpora mainly due to syllabus specifications, time constraints, as well as their own understanding of the relevant tools. I am interested, however, the question you raised. Is there anything you would do in your context to raise your colleagues’ awareness of corpora in the classroom?

    • #50726

          Based on your reading of this article, add your ideas on the following points below:

          1. Three things you learnt from the article

          For me the most important learning point is that corpora are efficient tools for both teaching and learning, because they can reveal language patterns by searching a key word of interest, which traditional textbooks are not able to do.

          A second point is that concordance lines can be used as exercise materials for explaining the use of a specific word or grammatical structure, which is convenient for teachers and easily arouses the interest of students to learn language independently.

          The article also conveyed that in class, it is not necessary to spend much time on introducing what corpus is. It is simpler but more useful to directly demonstrate how corpora can be used to answer the specific language questions that learners ask.

          2. Two things you found interesting and want to apply to your own teaching context

          One interesting point is that the direct use of corpora has many benefits for learners, which provides a way of allowing learners to find answers on their own. This avoids the situation that learners worry about complex corpora technology before they use corpora.

          I was also inspired by the concept that “corpora can help learners at three different stages of language production: before, during and after.”I hope I can incorporate these strategies into my classes. I would be interested to see more examples for each of the different stages of language production and how they can be applied in real classroom setting.

          3. One thing you are still not sure about

          I am still not confident about how to ensure my interpretations of language patterns are correct when I examine concordances.

          To give an example, the collocations of words “historic and historical” are as follows:

          Historic tends to be used with concrete places or sites, such as historic buildings, historic houses and historic interest, while historical is commonly used with abstract concepts, such as historical context, historical development, and historical evidence.

          How should I crosscheck my interpretation? Did I interpret them correctly?


          • #50733

            Wonderful points @tina thank you sharing them with us! And thank you for sharing your FLAX search with us. Your observation is a valid one, but if you are interested in feeling more confident about it, you can examine more data to see if other collocates fit your hypothesis. In other words, are the abstract nouns that collocate with historic, or are there concrete nouns that collocate with historical? Another way of expanding on this would be to think of the collocates as different semantic fields. If you had to put these collocates into topic-related groups, what would these groups be? For example, we can see that historic collocates with moment, day, event, times, past. What do these collocates have in common in terms of meaning? I hope these suggestions help.

        • #50902

          Three things you learnt from the article

          1.       Using corpus does not always mean using a particular software

          2.       Corpora can be used for various purposes, not only for vocabulary recognition but also for larger grammar points

          3.       Corpora assist students for self-assessment


          Two things you found interesting and want to apply to your own teaching context

          1.       Using corpora to correct their own text after writing

          2.       Training students on how to use concordances

          One thing you are still not sure about

          How to customize exercise using corpora

          • #51018

            Thank you for your post @siti-asmiyah The examination of concordances is one of the basic corpus methods that is very easy to apply in the classroom and train the students to use. From this unit onwards, you will find several tasks in the guides which will give you an idea of what type of exercises you can design for your students in order to help them search for and notice patterns.

        • #52441
          Iain Newman

              3 things I’ve learnt

              1. Corpora can be used without extensive downloading of software or tech. “Hands-off” approaches work just as well.
              2. Its use can transcend receptive and productive classroom activities.
              3. Students do not need extensive explanation of what a corpora is to use it.


              2 things I found interesting

              1. I liked the use of L1 in the classroom and the comparison between Portuguese and English. If I had a monolingual class I would be interested in using bilingual corpora.

              2. I found the autonomy aspect interesting in the after production phase to help with error correction. This would be good to set for self study.


              1 thing still not sure about

              1. I guess I’m finding the sheer number of different corpora intimidating. I know it’s not a one-size fits all aspect but I would like to feel comfortable knowing which corpora to use when a students asks a specific question.

            • #52488

              Thanks for sharing @inewman It’s a great idea to use corpora for self-study and help our students become more autonomous learners. I also understand the confusion teachers might get when trying to use different tools and corpora; that’s why we focus on one interface and one corpus to help you understand the basic concepts and corpus methods. Do you teach general EAP classes (pre-sessional), ESP (in-sessional) or EFL/ESL?

            • #52875

              Thank you @inewman in that case you can use corpora such as BAWE and BASE with your general EAP classes (both accessed via SketchEngine), but also MICUSP and MICASE which are the American versions, written and spoken academic English respectively. Yet, Sketch Engine is a much more powerful and sophisticated corpus tools compared the functionalities of MICUSP and MICASE. As for your in-sessional students, you will find Unit 7 very useful as we take you through the process of creating a discipline-specific corpus using AntCorGen and AntConc. I use both of them with my in-sessional students from the School of Health and Related Research and they seem to appreciate the ability to search articles from their own discipline.

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