The uses of concordancers in teaching
and learning range from 'low contact' to 'high contact'. 'Low
contact' refers to concordances being used as a reference tool
by a teacher, much as an individual may use a dictionary. At
the other end of the spectrum is 'high contact' use in which
concordances are used as one of the main language resources in
a class. 'Low contact' to 'high contact' use can also refer to
the extent to which students are involved in the production of
concordances. At one end of the continuum students do not even
see the concordances. Their textbooks may be informed by the
data revealed in corpora and concordances. Alternatively, their
teacher may refer to them when making teaching materials. At
the other end of this continuum students use concordances as
part of their learning routine, and may even be involved in their
All uses of concordances centre on the
concept that the key word is either present, or is deleted. In
terms of instruction, when the node word is present the concordances
serve as examples. A teacher favouring an inductive approach
to learning could present the concordances as examples of a language
structure already taught. Those favouring a deductive approach
could present the concordances as data for the students to analyse.
For example, setting the students the task of finding collocations
or creating their own 'rules', rather than having them rely on
the prescriptive rules of a grammar book. With most tools, concordances
can be sorted so that combinations of interest appear together.
When the key word has been deleted,
the student has to use her lexical and grammatical knowledge
to work out the missing word. As teaching material this is useful
for learners to assess whether or not they have fully grasped
a certain item of vocabulary or structure. Concordances with
deleted nodes can also be used as test material.
Some teaching ideas
Examples of the use of concordances
in teaching have already been alluded to above. Here some concrete
examples of concordances being used as teaching material will
be described. These teaching ideas can be adapted in various
ways to suit the needs of the teacher and students. Actual examples
of these ideas can be find on the author's web site.
Concordances are an efficient way of providing students with
a large amount of example sentences. These examples can be sorted
so that similar usages appear together. Certainly, a dictionary
contains examples, but often examples are too few.
Example sentences with gaps
As above students can be given the concordances but with the
key words deleted so that they have to use their grammatical
and lexical knowledge to fill the gaps. This can be done as homework,
or as a test. Once filled, the concordances then become example
Put in order
Many common words have a number of usages and meanings. Students
can be given some concordances of a single word, and told to
group them according to usage.
Find the rule
Rather than tell students a particular rule, students can be
given a set of concordances and asked to discover for themselves
what rules can be deduced from the evidence. This could be something
simple such as discovering that the verb form changes the third
person. In addition, this task can be done with more complex
patterns such as collocations.
As a computer quiz
With the advent of cheap and free authoring software it is now
possible to create ones own internet quizzes (see 'hot Potato').
With such software it is possible to create quizzes in which
students have to fill gaps. Just as these gaps can be part of
a larger passage of text, they can also be part of concordance
lines. Furthermore, with these kinds of online 'tests' it is
possible to give students instant feedback.
As a web concordance
With the software called 'Concordance', it is possible to create
'web concordances'. Once a concordance of a certain text has
been created within 'Concordance', it is possible to export the
results as HTML files. This means that the text, the word list,
and the concordance lines can be viewed using any web browser,
which means it is possible to view concordances of an entire
text without having to learn how to operate concordancing software.