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Teaching Effective Strategies Using the Academic Word List (AWL): Leading Second Language Learners to Academic Success. Maggie Heeney/ Pat Skinner Renison University College October 30, 2010 TESL Ontario Conference.

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Teaching Effective Strategies Using the Academic Word List (AWL): Leading Second Language Learners to Academic Success

Maggie Heeney/ Pat Skinner

Renison University College

October 30, 2010

TESL Ontario Conference

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“No matter how well the student learns grammar, no matter how successfully the sounds of L2 are mastered, without words to express a wider range of meanings, communication in an L2 just cannot happen in any meaningful way” (McCarthy,1990).

Lack of vocabulary challenges most ESL undergraduates and affects both reading and writing ability (Gould, Nation & Read, 1990)

what is a word
What is a word?
  • Lexeme or a meaningful unit of language found as a headword in a dictionary
  • Lemmas are words with inflections… no change in part of speech…..adapts
  • Derivations or word families… the other parts of speech…..adaptation
what does it mean to know a word
What does it mean to “know” a word?
  • Deep vocabulary knowledge (Laufer, 1997)
      • orthography, pronunciation and spelling
      • the root word, its inflections and derivations
      • word meanings from core to peripheral including connotations and pragmatics
      • the word’s lexical relationship to other words in the form of synonyms, antonyms or hyponyms (Red – Scarlet), collocations and idioms
functional reading lexicon
Functional Reading Lexicon
  • Minimum number of recognized words for reading comprehension requires a “threshold vocabulary” of 3000 word families (4800 lexical items) Laufer, 1989)
  • L1 strategies transfer; 80% comprehension
  • 5000 base words are needed for minimal 95% comprehension of non-specific text (Nation ,1990; Laufer, 1997)
  • 10,000 words needed to understand 95% of non-specialist text (Hazenberg & Hulstijn, 1996)
  • 14,000 – 17,000 receptive word families in NS undergraduate lexicon (Zechmeister et al., 1993)
what words do learners need to know
What words do learners need to know?
  • General Service List - GSL (West, 1953)
      • 2000 most common words used in the English language (Basic reading)
  • University Word List (UWL) (Xue & Nation, 1984
      • Excludes the GSL and has 808 words in 11 levels
  • Academic Word List – (AWL)(Coxhead, 1998)
      • Excludes the GSL and has 570 lexemes or headwords (3000 words) in 10 levels that most commonly occur in academic readings
awl examples
AWL Examples
  • assess
    • assessable, assessed, assesses, assessing, assessment, assessments, reassess, reassessed, reassessing, reassessment, un-assessed
  • assign
    • assigned, assigning, assignment, assignments, assigns, reassign, reassigned, reassigning, reassigns, unassigned
  • assist
    • assistance, assistant, assistants, assisted, assisting, assists, unassisted
vocabulary acquisition intentional or incidental
Vocabulary Acquisition: Intentional or Incidental?

Hulstijn, (2001) asks,

  • Should students learn words by rote memorization or does this hinder language learning?
  • Should students pick up new words by seeing new vocabulary in context and by picking up words by reading and listening extensively?
vocabulary learning and direct instruction
Vocabulary Learning and Direct Instruction
  • Hulstijn calls for rich, deep information processing or elaboration in vocabulary learning, the deliberate rehearsal and practice of the information, and the retention or automatization of information, which includes the use of the knowledge.
how do we teach this
How do we teach this?
  • The i-minus one theory (Hulstijn, 2001)
  • Aim for mastery and not mass
  • Words need to be “noticed” and practiced through a series of strategies
  • Direct vocabulary instruction is essential
vocabulary strategies
Vocabulary Strategies
  • Form or determination strategies
  • Rehearsal of memory-related strategies
  • Consolidation strategies
  • Social strategies
  • Metacognitive strategies (Schmitt, 2000)
the study
The Study
  • In an EAP university reading to write 10-week credit course of 25 students.

Research questions

  • How do students perceive direct vocabulary instruction of the AWL word list as faciliting academic reading and writing?
  • How does contextual richness contribute to vocabulary acquisition?

Methods and Data Collection

  • Classroom observations of teaching
  • Student and teacher interviews
  • Student questionnaires
the class
The Class
  • Vocabulary instruction imperative as a preparation for writing
  • Reading on branding: - “Create a buzz for yourself on Facebook”
  • AWL: Establish, construct, create
  • Brands targetconsumers with three benefits based on guaranteeing quality products, distinguishing product uniqueness and satisfying customers.
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“People who do well with the vocabulary, do better with their essays. It is very important to practice the vocabulary.”

Student generated sentences:

Mainstream medicine and complementary medicine offer patients great remedies because of their integrative nature.

To maintain a healthy lifestyle, people have to persist in having an exercise regimen of at least twice a week.

building the vocabulary
Building the Vocabulary

Verb Noun Adjective

Immunize immunization adverse

Vaccinate vaccination negative

Inoculate Inoculation

Word parts: -ize, ate; tion, im, in

Parts of speech

Collocations: Adverse reaction; adverse effect

be immunized against a disease

the good thing about the vocabulary you have learned is that you can carry it forward
“The good thing about the vocabulary you have learned is that you can carry it forward.”
  • Argument essays

concede …… I can see your point!

  • Even though Genetically Modified products enhance taste, augment yields and increase resistance to disease, they create a threat to human health, government health and human ethics.
what the students had to say
What the students had to say
  • New vocabulary helped me develop content of essays.
  • I use academic words now such as obtain instead of get.
  • Vocabulary strategies for paraphrasing helped make my writing more interesting.
  • I now choose academic words (in writing)
student comments
Student comments
  • Vocabulary strategies are the most important as they really pay off in writing.
  • I can’t be proficient in English without using these techniques. Every step counts.
  • Vocabulary building strategies helped me the most, and then by reading more, I can build more vocabularies that are related to the topic.
implications
Implications
  • Vocabulary acquisition through reading must be supported by direct instruction that is contextualized
  • Explicit or enhanced instruction is necessary to get ESL students to the 10,000 word family level
  • Explicit or enhanced learning will make contextual learning more effective when students are writing across disciplines
  • Activity types and practice can deepen the process (rich, elaborate processing and rehearsal, Input -1) (Hulstijn, 2001).
future research
Future research
  • Due to the limitations on this research based on student perception, teacher beliefs, and observation further research needs to be done.
  • Investigate the frequency of AWL vocabulary in student essays post-direct instruction.
references
References

Coxhead, A. (2000). A new academic word list. TESOL Quarterly, 34(2), 213-238.

Gould, R., Nation, P. & Read, J. (1990). How large can a receptive vocabulary be? Applied Linguistics,11, 341-363.

Hulstijn, J. (2001). Intentional and incidental second-language vocabulary learning: A reappraisal of elaboration, rehearsal and automaticity. In P. Robinson (Ed.). Cognition and Second Language Instruction. (pp.258-286). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Laufer, B. (1997). The lexical plight in second language reading: Words you don’t know, words you think you know and words you can’t guess. Canadian Modern Language Review, 50 (4), 20-33.

Nation, I. S.P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press.

Schmitt, N. (2000) Vocabulary in language teaching. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Williams, J. (2005). Learning English for academic purposes.St. Laurent, Québec: Longman.

thank you
Thank you

mheeney@uwaterloo.ca

maggie.heeney@utoronto.ca

pskinner@uwaterloo.ca