Finally, let's return to the comments that we explored in the background module. They have been changed slightly to reflect the content of this tutorial. Read the new versions and reflect on your reaction now. Do you feel you may like to try out some of these ideas?
1. I have a collection really useful newspaper articles that I've cut out and stuck on to paper and which I photocopy for reading classes. I usually take them into class and get students to read them and pick out interesting vocabulary. I've had them for years, but I'm always adding to them. And I keep meaning to do something 'more organized' with them, but I've never quite gotten around to it.
Now I feel that it's the time to get some more up-to-date articles together. This time I'm going to download them from the Internet so that I can use a concordance program to explore the kinds of phrases that are common to newspaper articles.
2. I have a folder full of old student essays that I take into my writing class to get my students to comment on. I find they are useful because students can identify the parts they think are well-written and those that need improvement. The pages are getting a bit tatty, but they are still useful. I think I ought to type them out, and maybe do some kind of proper 'lesson' with them.
I've decided to make an effort and type out these essays into Word. That way, I can convert them into text files and make a small corpus. I'm also going to get my students to email me electronic copies of their work so that I can add to my corpus each semester.
3. I have recorded songs onto cassette and used the lyrics (with some words taken out) to practice vocabulary and grammar. My students like using songs as having music in the class makes a change, and I like teaching that doesn't feel so much like teaching! Now I've used them lots of times I realize that the exercises that I designed in the first place don't really seem to practice the most useful words, but I really don't want to rewrite them as I typed out most of them before I got a computer and I don't want to do it all again.
I'm going to see if I can find the lyrics on the Internet so that I can make them into a corpus. Many of my learners really like using computers, so I feel sure that I can get them to use simple software to search through them.
4. I have a video of 'Friends' episodes that I like to show in class. The dubbing isn't bad and the students engage with the characters. I do feel, though, that the way I 'pick out' interesting bits of language to use for my lessons is a bit random and I feel a little bit worried that my head of department may consider this a 'last day of term' lesson. However, I feel that there is some useful stuff in these videos and that if the students enjoy what they're doing, that is half the battle.
Now I think that I'd like to explore naturally occurring rather than scripted spoken language. I'm going to look into whether my school will buy a spoken corpus on CD-rom.
5. I have a folder on my computer which contains some good web pages that I've downloaded over the past year because they're interesting, although I'm not sure quite what to do with them. I've tried using the 'find on this page' tool to search for vocabulary that I think might occur quite a lot, but it's a bit time-consuming. I feel that when I'm in the computer lab the students could use them, but I'm not sure how.
I feel that I can exploit these materials much more easily, and much more systematically, now that I know about the kinds of software that are available.
6. My students have 'electronic pen friends' in other countries, who they email regularly as part of their classes. I've kept copies of all the emails on my computer, but and I don't want to print them out. I'm sure, though, that there must be some way to use them.
I'm getting very interested in the idea of compiling a learner corpus. I think that the technological aspect isn't that difficult, but that I need to consider things like how to deal with errors, and issues related to privacy. Despite these concerns, I'm very excited by the idea of learner corpora compiled over a course of study.