by Ashley JoEtta Velázquez

Crow was created to support research and evidence-based teaching in the writing classroom. We recognize that not everyone is familiar with corpus-based methods for teaching and research. On this page, you can find examples of how you can implement corpus-based methods in your classroom using the Crow corpus.

Michelle McMullin and other Crow researchers teaching

The Crow corpus is a learner corpus. A learner corpus, like all corpora, aims for balance and representativeness of the domains it is wanting to mirror. The difference here, from non-learner corpora, is that rather than being published (and often polished) texts either from journal articles, newspapers, and other publicly available data, learner corpora represent student writing; learner corpora can be composed of either L1 or L2 students in any given language. The texts in our learner corpus come from a diverse student body of L1 and L2 students using English to perform various writing tasks in their college composition and writing courses.

Using corpora data to support and develop pedagogical materials is often referred to as Data-driven Learning, or DDL (Boulton, & Cobb, 2017; Boulton & Tyne, 2013; Gilquin & Granger, 2010). The research on DDL has highlighted several advantages of using corpus-based methods, specifically from a learner corpus, for teaching. Some of these advantages include: 

  • Heightening students’ awareness to language patterns
  • Exposing students to authentic texts
  • Allowing students to explore and discover linguistic features on their own and/or with varying levels of guidance
  • Providing examples of texts to which students can relate 
  • Contextualizing writing choices in a given genre or register
  • Increasing students’ lexical variety
  • Promoting learner autonomy

All materials at the moment represent Foundations Writing courses (composition and writing classes specific to the early undergraduate writing experience) from three primary universities: University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, and Purdue University. We are currently working on collecting student texts from other partnering institutions to add to our corpus.

You’ll find materials here that focus on increasing students’ lexical diversity, helping students make connections between form and function, developing students’ lexicogrammar, developing students’ cohesion and coherence, and developing students’ understanding of genre conventions. 

Each set of example materials provides suggestions for using them in your classroom, with commentary on how we’ve used them in our own classrooms. Some of these materials are a one time assignment, whereas others might be considered a more fleshed out lesson plan that can be used for an entire class or stretched out over several classes and writing drafts. 

We invite you to explore the activities here, adapt them for your classrooms, and also reach out to us for support or learning opportunities. 


Boulton, A., & Cobb, T. (2017). Corpus use in language learning: A meta‐analysis. Language Learning67(2), 348-393.

Boulton, A., & Tyne, H. (2013). Corpus linguistics and data-driven learning: A critical overview.

Gilquin, G., & Granger, S. (2010). How can data-driven learning be used in language teaching. The Routledge handbook of corpus linguistics359, 370.