The Primary English Classroom Corpus (PECC) is a small, specialized corpus, designed with both linguistic and pedagogical intentions in mind. The recorded lessons provide a substantial resource for the study of language use and interactional features in a specific classroom context. The classrooms are characterized by learners who are yet at the beginning to learn English as a foreign language, and by teachers who have to adapt their language use carefully to the level of their learners when teaching the foreign language in a playful and communicative way. In short, the PECC focuses on the early stages of children’s foreign language learning as part of compulsory school education in Germany.
The PECC is a corpus of lesson transcripts from German primary EFL classrooms, which seeks to fill a gap in the research field of classroom discourse and teacher education at primary school level. This unique collection of classroom transcripts serves two prime functions: first, it can be used to study classroom discourse in primary school English as a foreign language (EFL) lessons, addressing the rising interest in understanding different practices of teaching English to young learners worldwide (see Nikolov and Djigunović 2011). Second, it can be used as an educational tool to develop the professional skills of pre- and in-service teachers with regard to observing lessons, noticing significant features of EFL teaching and learning, and interpreting these accordingly (cf. O’Keeffe, McCarthy and Carter 2007). Dealing with original classroom data helps both prospective and experienced teachers to gain a different perspective on lessons and to develop or enlarge their repertoire of teaching practices, interactional strategies and adequate target language use (Walsh 2011: 47).
Interactional features and sequential structures of classroom teaching can be researched with a specific eye on how the target language English is used to communicate with students and to achieve an understanding of the activities and tasks during the lesson. In the context of primary EFL interactions, the following classroom features can be of interest for an analysis: first language use (code-switching/code-mixing), classroom management processes, student involvement and the multimodal structure of classroom actions (with regard to the TPR method, use of gestures, mimics and objects; see Cameron 2001: 107). These features are not unique to this classroom setting, but perhaps salient in the discourse of teaching English to young learners. Further classroom features could be, following Yang and Walsh (2014), question-answer sequences, task instructions, or feedback mechanisms. Studying occurrences and patterns of these features and discussing their effects on the interaction constitute research topics that the PECC transcripts can be used for.
By and large, the transcripts draw a picture of the current situation of primary school English language teaching in Germany. This picture might be small-scale and exemplary in comparison to other learner corpora (cf. Reder, Harris & Setzler 2003), but it is authentic and concrete in showing what actually happens in the early EFL classroom. The corpus does not focus on best practices or model interactions, but it reproduces the diversity of current teaching practices with all their strengths and weaknesses. Authenticity has its limits because any open (video) recording somehow influences participants’ behavior (cf. Labov 1972; Swann 1994; Cowan 2014). However, in keeping a low profile during the lesson and avoiding unneccesary distractions or a delay of the normal lesson routine as much as possible, the amount of intrusion on the participants was somewhat reduced. This was achieved, e.g., by setting up the recording devices during the five-minute break before each lesson when pupils were still playing outside, so classes could begin on time.
Cameron, Lynne (2001). Teaching Languages to Young Learners. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Cowan, Kate (2014). Multimodal transcription of video: examining interaction in Early Years classroom. Classroom Discourse 5 (1), 6-21. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/19463014.2013.859846
Labov, William (1972). Sociolinguistic Patterns. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Nikolov, Marianne & Mihaljević Djigunović, Jelena (2011). All Shades of Every Color: An Overview of Early Teaching and Learning of Foreign Languages. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics 31, 95-119. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0267190511000183
O’Keeffe, Anne; Michael McCarthy & Carter, Ronald (2007). From Corpus to Classroom: Language Use and Language Teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Reder, Stephen; Kathryn Harris & Setzler, Kristen (2003). The Multimedia Adult ESL Learner Corpus. TESOL Quarterly 37 (3), 546-557. doi: 10.2307/3588405
Swann, Joan (1994). Observing and Recording Talk in Educational Settings. In: David Graddol; Janet Maybin & Stierer, Barry (eds.), Researching Language and Literary in Social Contexts: A Reader. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, 26-48.
Walsh, Steve (2011). Exploring Classroom Discourse: Language in Action. New York: Routledge.
Yang, Shanru & Walsh, Steve (2014). Classroom discourse. In: Klaus-Peter Schneider & Barron, Anne (eds.), Pragmatics of Discourse. Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter, 463-489.