Teaching the 19th century novel: Whole-text exploration and language features

Viola WiegandMMUb

This session introduces free resources to support the teaching the 19th century novel with the help of digital methods. We will demonstrate how the free CLiC web app (http://clic.bham.ac.uk/) can be used in the classroom to exploit digital methods to support the reading and analysis of narrative fiction. Amidst calls for integrating the language and literature aspects of English as a diverse subject (see e.g. Clark et al., 2014), we developed CLiC as part of a research project into linguistic devices for the creation of fictional characters. CLiC currently makes it possible to access over 150 novels and short stories along with a set of tools to search for words and phrases and identify recurrent language features. The texts are predominantly from the 19th century and include many of the classics as well as books explicitly set for GCSE and A-Level specifications (e.g. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, A Christmas Carol, Jane Eyre, Frankenstein and many more). In this session, we will show how CLiC can be used to explore language patterns within a book for whole-text exploration, make comparisons between different texts, and find similarities across a wide range of texts. We provide examples of activities for key stages 3 to 5 (see Mahlberg et al., 2017). You can set these activities in class, for homework or use the web app for lesson planning. We will also illustrate how students can use CLiC as a tool for revision and exam preparation (see Howard, 2018; Kemp, 2018) and to complete independent work, for example for their non-exam assessment (see Mahlberg et al., 2019, a collaboration with colleagues from the University of Birmingham’s Department of Teacher Education). The use of digital methods with CLiC in the English classroom has the potential to also stimulate interest among those students who tend to resist reading 19th century literature. It is important that a tool like CLiC will not replace your work as teacher, but can support your teaching approach. Feedback from practitioners we have worked with particularly highlights the use of CLiC for “stretch and challenge purposes”, revision and lesson planning. The tool seems most helpful when teachers can incorporate it into their own ways of working. On the CLiC blog (https://blog.bham.ac.uk/clic-dickens/), practitioners publish ideas for activities and accounts of their CLiC classroom experiences. During the session you will have the opportunity to try out some examples on your laptop, tablet or phone – if you want to.


Clark, B., Giovanelli, M., & Macrae, A. (2014). English: Diverse but unified: Putting texts at the heart of the discipline. Teaching English, 6, 17–20.
Howard, K. (2018). What’s in a word: Exam-ready with CLiC. In: CLiC Fiction. University of Birmingham. Retrieved from https://blog.bham.ac.uk/clic-dickens/2018/03/27/whats-in-a-word-exam-ready-with-clic/
Kemp, B. (2018). Revising Frankenstein with CLiC. CLiC Fiction. University of Birmingham. Retrieved from https://blog.bham.ac.uk/clic-dickens/2018/04/05/revising-frankenstein-with-clic-dickens/
Mahlberg, M., Stockwell, P., & Wiegand, V. (2017). CLiC – Corpus Linguistics in Context: An Activity Book Version 1. Retrieved from https://birmingham.ac.uk/clic-activity-book
Mahlberg, M., Wiegand, V., Hobday, S., & Child, F. (2019). Digital methods for the English classroom. Impact: Journal of the Chartered College of Teaching, 7. Retrieved from https://impact.chartered.college/article/digital-methods-for-the-english-classroom/

Sun 4:00 pm - 5:15 pm