How one Head of English is using The Definite Article


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Lauren Cooke is Head of English at Rushcliffe School in Nottingham, and is teaching AQA’s new AS/A-level English Language and Literature specification. Here she shares her thoughts on how she and her colleagues have used The Definite Article.

We have found the The Definite Article blog to be a really valuable resource to complement the AQA AS/A Level Language and Literature course. For teachers new to teaching this course, the blog has provided inspiration and guidance to secure subject knowledge, develop expertise and teach focused lessons.

We’ve found that the research digests are useful in clearly summarising the key aspects of articles, with the introductions serving as an interesting starting point to ground the article and stimulate thinking. Each of the ‘Taking it further’ sections has provided some valuable suggestions on ways to apply the ideas in the article to particular elements of the specification, and made us think about our lesson planning and resources.

We’ve also started to use parts of the digests with students to enrich their knowledge and deliver a bridge between the demands of GCSE and A Level. We’ve found that these are useful in encouraging independent learning and challenging students. For instance, our students have accessed some of the recommended websites to consolidate and extend their learning.

Corpus Stylistics Workshop for A-level teachers


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On Monday 16th November 2015, over twenty teachers attended this AQA-organised event designed to support teachers in applying corpus methods in the classroom. Led by Professor Michaela Mahlberg (University of Birmingham) and Professor Peter Stockwell (University of Nottingham), teachers learnt about the free online tool CLiC and discussed and explored how this might be used in their classrooms to support learning and teaching. Although the primary focus was on nineteenth-century fiction, delegates were also shown how to use corpus tools to analyse a range of discourse types.

Teachers were incredibly enthusiastic about the day, stating that they liked the practical nature of the activities and the opportunity both to talk to other teachers and to get a higher education perspective on research that was truly cutting edge.

Some further comments below from teachers give a flavour of the positive feedback and show how successful the session was!

  • ‘This session has showed me new exciting ways of teaching language patterns to students’
  • ‘It provided a really new way to look at texts – Michaela and Peter introduced corpus terminology and concepts in a practical way’
  • ‘When teaching the NEA, I will definitely make use of it’
  • ‘Very relevant to actual classroom practice, I am a huge Dickens fan so that focus was a great bonus’

Overall, the day was a massive success; in reply to the question ‘What could we do to improve such sessions in the future’ one teacher simply answered ‘More of them’!

Find out more about the CLiC project.


Using corpus linguistic methods in the classroom: A one-day workshop for A-level teachers


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Corpus linguistics uses computer software to study large collections of data. In the classroom it can make exciting and enabling links between traditional language and literature teaching and ICT. This one-day workshop will offer practical hands-on activities and take-away exercises specifically for extension activities and independent study.

In the morning session we will give a broad introduction to corpus linguistics relevant to both language and literature topics. In the afternoon we will focus in particular on exercises for narrative fiction. In addition to acquiring skills that can directly be applied to support students in their preparation for non-exam assessment (NEA), participants will also take away pre-prepared exercises for the classroom to support innovative corpus-based work with a range of texts.

The workshop will focus on freely available and easy-to use tools and does not require any previous experience. It will be particularly useful for those teaching AQA’s AS and A-level English Language and Literature and Language specifications but will also be of interest to those teaching on other AQA specifications.

The workshop will be led by Professor Michaela Mahlberg (University of Birmingham) and Professor Peter Stockwell (University of Nottingham), who are both internationally-renowned for their work in applied linguistics and stylistics.  They are currently working on the AHRC-funded project:  “Characterisation in the representation of speech and body language from a corpus linguistic perspective”. As part of this project they are developing the free online tool CLiC to support the corpus linguistic study of 19th century fiction.

Day: Monday 16th November, 2015

Time: 10.30 – 4.00

Venue: University of Birmingham, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT

Registration:  Register to attend here.

Deadline for registration: 12 November 2015

Cost: free

Authors: Michaela Mahlberg and Peter Stockwell