Thursday, September 11, 2014

Join me?

I've just signed up for a MOOC!  That's Massive Open Online Course, in case you didn't know.  It's free!  I've been waiting for it to come around since reading about Carol Goodey's experience earlier this year.

The course is Corpus Linguistics: Method, Analysis, Interpretation and the blurb says that it's a "practical introduction to the methodology of corpus linguistics for researchers in social sciences and humanities".  OK, I'm not a researcher in social sciences and humanities!  But I do use a corpus almost daily (specifically, the Corpus of Contemporary American English aka COCA).  I also use and recommend corpus-based dictionaries to my intermediate and higher learners.  However, I would like to expand my abilities in this area.  I'm hoping this course will give me the motivation to focus on the topic more seriously for a while.  In addition to whatever comes with the course itself, I've had an ebook in my queue for some time now and have not had the chance to give it the attention it deserves: From Corpus to Classroom: Language Use and Language Teaching by O'Keefe, McCarthy and Carter (the link is to a PDF with the table of contents and the preface of the book.)

If the idea of using a corpus in English class is new to you, you might want to check some other resources first.  Here are a couple of good ones!

First, Scott Thornbury gives a wonderful short overview of how to use COCA at his extremely informative (if now no longer active) blog.  By the way, the comments on this blog are almost always as rich as the posts, be sure to read them!

Second, Amy Tate and Emilia Seravo share very useful step-by-step instructions for using several popular corpus-based tools in a webinar called Corpus Confidence: quick and easy steps to turn corpus-based language data into language learning.  (Note that the nitty gritty "how to" stuff begins at about the 15 minute mark.)

If you're already psyched about corpora and, like me, want to know more ... maybe you'll join the MOOC too?  See you there!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Whiteboard Organization: an Idea

New thought:  if learners are going to copy what's on the board into their notebooks, then board organization should be sort of notebook-shaped, shouldn't it?  If a learner starts taking notes on the left page, then he or she has two pages that combine to about the same aspect ratio as my whiteboard.  So, what if I organized my board with that two-page format in mind?

This is an imaginary situation, but it's based on past real discussions.  I imagine a lot of conversation about the names of computer keys and probably some brainstorming.  We might talk about using "the" with the names of keys, since each one is unique on a keyboard.  I could see shifting to a discussion about the birth of compound nouns and how their spelling changes as they become solidified in the language (space bar, space-bar, or spacebar?). Lots of sloppy scribbling might happen in the working area of the board, but I imagine pausing to clean it all up ... maybe small groups could compare their notes and develop a summary for that space themselves, then share and compare as a class.   Maybe there would be a graphic organizer, a Venn diagram, or a table.  Language conclusions would go in the lower right corner.  Learner-selected words to study (chosen from the many discussed) would get copied to the right.  In this dream-lesson, learners decided to highlight compound nouns, since that's also the form we discussed.  They chose "space bar" because it's got a special name other than "key" and they chose "tab key" because it's an example of the way to name most of the other keys on the board, plus the word "tab" was new.

This is just current thinking ... I thought I'd share the two-page idea right away, for what it's worth.  Note that the "pages" are labeled 1a and 1b.  That's so we can take pictures of half the board and be able to put the pictures into the correct order later (after erasing, the next board would be labeled 2a and 2b).

I'd be interested in feedback!