21st June 2017 by

CLiC teacher workshop: “Corpus stylistics for the English classroom”

On 16 June 2017, the CLiC Dickens team organised a workshop for teachers: “Corpus stylistics for the English classroom”. This workshop was attended by both secondary and tertiary level English teachers. Dr Marcello Giovanelli (Aston University) opened the workshop with a talk on “Opportunities for Lang-Lit work in Secondary English”.

Professor Michaela Mahlberg and Professor Peter Stockwell from the CLiC Dickens project presenting at the teacher workshop.

The majority of the workshop involved hands-on work with corpus tools, in particular the CLiC web app. This web app was specifically designed to be easy to use so that it can also be applied in the secondary classroom.

Professor Michaela Mahlberg providing guidance on CLiC.

CLiC currently contains 15 Dickens novels and 29 novels by other 19th century authors. These texts can be explored with search functions that have been customised for the study of literature. For example, CLiC can restrict searches to subsets of literary texts such as speech and suspensions (see this article for more information). The KWICGrouper function is a recent addition to CLiC that allows the user to interactively search for textual patterns within concordance lines. For an introduction to this feature, watch our KWICGrouper video tutorial. We will also write a blog post soon that illustrates this feature with a more detailed Dickens example, so watch this space! Another tool that we briefly introduced is AntConc, which is freely available for download and runs offline offering users the chance to analyse their own texts.

We would like to thank all attendees for their interest in our work and look forward to the next event! See below for their views on the techniques we introduced.

Views on using corpus tools in the classroom

As Chair of Examiners AS/A-level English Language and Literature, Dr Marcello Giovanelli has plenty of experience with the AS/A-level specifications. He has also been campaigning for more integration of the subjects English Language and English Literature. The resources that Marcello introduced included the cross-institutional “Integrating English project” and its associated AQA-sponsored blog “The Definite Article” as well as the UCL-based “Englicious” project which provides linguistic teaching resources.

Dr Marcello Giovanelli says:

Dr Marcello Giovanelli and Viola Wiegand discussing CLiC“The current context of reform in primary and secondary education allows much greater potential for rethinking what English is and in particular for reconnecting English Language and Literature, which for too long have been compartmentalized. The CLiC app is a timely development for supporting this connection, as it is building on cutting-edge research in stylistics. The project is also timely for impact with an immense potential for impact in education. You can get insights from corpus stylistic work that you can’t get from doing the analysis with pen and paper. However, these insights don’t require you to be a super hero. The accessibility of CLiC is really empowering; you can easily get young people to make observations that they couldn’t make before. At the same time, this project champions the integration of literature and language – students learn about linguistics on the way and in context. Not only do you get a better literary interpretation, but you inform yourself about how language works on the way. This clearly encourages students to be text-driven and accountable to the text in their interpretations. As Michaela Mahlberg said: ‘don’t just listen to the study guides – you can find out for yourself and challenge these resources’. This is such a powerful tool for students to be more independent and less reliant on provided materials.”

We also asked some of the workshop participants for their views on what opportunities they see for using corpus tools in the classroom:

“CLiC provides the opportunity for language exploration across the whole text. This is relevant for both GCSE and A-Level teaching. It would be great to have a follow-up meeting to see how teachers have applied the tool in practice.” Lorraine Adriano

Lorraine Adriano participated in the CLiC teacher workshop.

“CLiC could be used for creative writing. For example, as the suspension seems to be a useful tool for characterisation, it would be interesting to let students look at suspensions to get inspiration for their own writing.” Claire Ralph

Claire Ralph would like to use CLiC in creative writing classes.

“CLiC and AntConc could be used for creative writing to let students do self-assessment. This way, they can compare their own writing to patterns in authentic fiction.” Phill Chater

Pill Chater suggests the use of corpus tools for students' self-assessment.

Workshop opportunities

If you would like us to run a free workshop at your school – in the classroom with your students and/or as a teacher training session – please leave a comment or contact Viola Wiegand via email. Please also get in touch if you’d like to be notified about future events and CLiC news.

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