Not all words are created equal
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Not all words are created equal. Some are everywhere: “ talk ”, “ listen ”, “ hear ”. Others get a bit less travel: “ discuss ”, “ structure ”, “ narrative ” The overwhelming majority remain forever locked in dusty tomes or esoteric journals: “ diglossia ”, “ polysemy ”, “ linear regression ”.

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Not all words are created equal

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Not all words are created equal

Not all words are created equal

Some are everywhere: “talk”, “listen”, “hear”.

Others get a bit less travel: “discuss”, “structure”, “narrative”

The overwhelming majority remain forever locked in dusty tomes or esoteric journals: “diglossia”, “polysemy”, “linear regression”


Vocabulary frequency

Vocabulary Frequency

  • Life of Pi

  • On page 47:

    • “The” is used 16 times

    • “Go” is used twice - “went” and “go-around”

    • “Psychologist” isn’t there at all. I doubt it is in the book even once.


How important is frequency

How important is frequency?


The implication of frequency data

The implication of frequency data?

  • Learn words for their “payback”. Some words pay back more for the effort of learning them.

  • Books, teaching and vocabulary focus should be frequency based as much as possible.


The number 95

The number 95

  • 95% is not a pass.

  • It is, though, a number we should all remember, it is very useful…


95 looks like this

95% looks like this:

  • As a result, people are working harder just to get the work done. The ______ shortage means people are also ______ earlier than they were in the past, and so ____ have to put in longer hours to learn their new roles."But Ms Alexander said Kiwi __________ could learn from the Irish about the importance of taking time off to be with family."Working extra hours and taking work home sometimes goes with the territory of being a _________," she said."But we all need to ensure that _____ in times of strong economic growth we maintain a healthy balance between work and the rest of our lives.


Did you guess them

Did you guess them?

  • As a result, people are working harder just to get the work done. The skills shortage means people are also promoted earlier than they were in the past, and so may have to put in longer hours to learn their new roles."But Ms Alexander said Kiwi managers could learn from the Irish about the importance of taking time off to be with family."Working extra hours and taking work home sometimes goes with the territory of being a manager she said."But we all need to ensure that even in times of strong economic growth we maintain a healthy balance between work and the rest of our lives.


Not all words are created equal

95% =

  • Minimally acceptable comprehension

    (Nation, 2002; Laufer 1985)

  • The probable baseline for guessing from context. (Nation, 2002)

  • Too much ask of my top class.


Implied classroom goals

Implied classroom goals

  • Learn high frequency vocabulary before low frequency vocabulary

  • Know the vocabulary levels of our students

  • Know the vocabulary levels of texts we present to our students and target those texts appropriately: no 95% texts for extensive reading. Probably no 95% texts at all. Definitely no 90% texts.


Problem 1 raising vocabulary levels

Problem 1: raising vocabulary levels

  • Studies do suggest vocabulary can be developed incidentally simply by reading.

  • Nagy et al.(1987) claim reading outside of class accounts for the majority of L1 vocabulary.

  • Saragi, Nation, and Meister (1978) led the way for “L2” with a study on A Clockwork Orange. It seemedincidental learning does occur.

  • There has not been sufficient research in this area - but it does appear the claims above have some merit.


So get them reading

So get them reading?

  • 95% rears its ugly head again.

  • The texts must be at the right level: not too hard and not too easy - so that they don’t give up and so there are actually words to learn.


Which presents problem 2

Which presents problem 2

  • We need texts at the right level.

  • We need our students to choose the texts that are right for them.


So how about ar

So how about “AR”?

  • It has placement tests.

  • You can monitor reading.

  • Students apparently make a lot of progress.

    You “just” need:

  • A bank of computers.

  • Lots of money for the programme, tests, and any new books.


Apart from the cash and computers what is wrong with it

Apart from the cash and computers, what is wrong with it?

  • It doesn’t give details on student levels. (what does “2.7-3.3” mean?)

  • It doesn’t help with text selection / adaptation for class.

  • There is no labeling of texts outside the programme.


What about lexiles then

What about lexiles then?

  • You still need to buy commercial reading tests.

  • They are for L1 readers: so would lower lexile ratings mean inappropriate content for our students?


Enter cambridge readers

Enter Cambridge Readers…

  • They are frequency based

  • There is a placement test (and it is FREE!)

  • BUT…

  • You still need computer access for the tests.

  • You don’t have a bigger picture of student vocabulary levels and they cannot help with textbook selection etc.

  • The tests relate to Cambridge readers levels only. (Cambridge 6 = 3800 level, OUP 6 = 2500 level)

  • There is an element of guessing in the test.


What about the vlt

What about the VLT?

  • The what?

    • Imagine it is like a magic word bag. If you know most of the first words out of the bag, you probably know the rest.

    • It measures receptive vocabulary levels (2000,3000, 5000, 10000, and academic).There is also a productive test.


The vlt looks like this

The VLT looks like this:

  • The 5000 word level

  • 1 balloon

  • 2 federation____ bucket

  • 3 novelty____ unusual interesting thing

  • 4 pail____ rubber bag that is filled with air

  • 5 veteran

  • 6 ward


My students results looked like this in march

My students’ results looked like this in March:


Individual results currently look like this as of yesterday

Individual results currently look like this (as of yesterday)


Benefits of the vlt

Benefits of the VLT

  • Well, it is free.

  • You have a very specific data which extends well beyond simple reading placement tests.

    • Individual interventions

    • Points of interest: rapid growth or even falling vocabulary levels.

  • It can be used as a pre/post test measure to evaluate programmes


Post tests

Post Tests


Vlt and reading programmes

VLT and Reading Programmes

  • There is a strong correlation with the Cambridge Placement test: VLT can be used to recommend texts.

  • When given the right level to read, many students do.

  • Students seem to like the idea of “going up” levels.

  • It can be used to raise vocabulary awareness - and so develop independent learning.


Did my students read

Did my students read?


Assessing texts

Assessing texts

  • Used in combination with a very simple programme, the VLT can be used to assess the suitability of texts to be used in the classroom:

    • Teacher produced texts

    • Commercial texts


Assumptions

Assumptions

  • 95% is an important number…

  • Word levels of texts are an important part of deciding text suitability

  • Intensive reading activities need to be based on frequency data.

  • Conclusions about suitability need however to be linked to purpose:

    • 99% for easy reading

    • 98% for “adequate comprehension” (Hu and Nation: 1992)

    • 95% for ???????


The new harry potter

The new “Harry Potter?

Conclusion: @ only 96.7% NOT suitable for average students but fine for better students for extensive reading: 98% plus.


Proposed writing text purchase

Proposed Writing Text Purchase?

Conclusion: @ only 94.42% NOT suitable for classroom set - too many unknown items for a model, better to focus on high frequency words


What s needed

What’s needed?

  • VLT (free)

  • Test the classes (one hour max or 2x 20 minutes)

  • Some number crunching on a spreadsheet if wanted (averages etc)

  • Range / Frequency (download free)

  • A scanner

  • Graded readers and teenage texts

  • A element of nerdishness


Where do i get it

Where do I get it?

  • Range? The free software?

    http://www.vuw.ac.nz/lals/staff/paul-nation/nation.aspx

  • The VLT?

    Nation, ISP, 2001 Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, CUP

    Schmidt, N. (2000) Vocabulary in Language Teaching, CUP


To sum up

To sum up

  • Frequency data creates an imperative for teachers, materials designers and curriculum designers to focus on high frequency vocabulary.

  • The VLT is a useful tool for text analysis, programme design, pre / post testing, and programme evaluation.

  • It is very user friendly and has more applications than commercial materials.

  • Used in conjunction with “Range”, VLT data can help with text procurement, simplification and materials design.


Oh yes just in case you were wondering

Oh, yes. Just in case you were wondering…

Conclusion: @ only 95.6% the June O Level comprehension would have bamboozled my 4B.


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