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Using the Academic Word List

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1 Using the Academic Word List

2 Challenges of Teaching Vocabulary
Students come knowing many commonly used words Know the simplest forms Know the most frequently used meanings of multi-meaning words Students need content area vocabulary Students also need all-purpose academic words Category labels Words for thinking Abstract, hard to picture terms Snow, C.A. (2007). Learning all-purpose vocabulary words. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved January 30, 2009 from

3 Challenge: Students need all-purpose academic words, e.g.
Words for thinking: hypothesize, evidence, criterion Words for classifying: vehicle, utensil, process Words for communication: emphasize, affirm, negotiate Words for expressing relationships: dominate, correspond, locate Snow, C.A. (2007). Learning all-purpose vocabulary words. Harvard Graduate School of Education. Retrieved January 30, 2009 from

4 What is the Academic Word List?
List of 570 words with their “families” Does not include first 2000 most commonly used English words Result of Averil Coxhead’s MA work at the School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand Find a copy at: Find lists with “families”: Find list with hyperlinked definitions: Find list with hyperlinked definitions to multiple (25-30) online dictionary definitions: For detail on the development and evaluation of the AWL, see Coxhead, Averil (2000) A New Academic Word List. TESOL Quarterly, 34(2):

5 Where did the words come from?
Academic corpus covering 28 subjects Corpus had 3.5 million words from journal articles, book chapters, course workbooks, laboratory manuals, and course notes Words divided into 4 main subject headings: Arts, Commerce, Law and Science These were further divided into seven sections each Words additionally had to appear in at least half of the 28 subject areas and be represented in all 4 main areas 94% of AWL words appeared in 20 or more subject areas of corpus

6 What words were excluded?
First 2000 most commonly used English words Latin forms et al, etc, ie, and ibid Proper nouns Words which occurred in fewer than 4 faculty sections of the Academic Corpus or which occurred in fewer than 15 of the 28 subject areas

7 What are the first 2000? In part, this is heavily influenced by The General Service List (GSL) created by Michael West in 1953 Words were selected based on frequency and semantic value To see: Use of corpora continues to inform vocabulary study

8 Use any text to teach AWL
Enter text Choose word list All words from this list will appear in boldface Enter text Choose words list All words from this list will appear as a gap and words appear as list on bottom of page

9 How can this be applied to classroom instruction?
Use articles, book passages, benchmark passages Enter text into highlighter and choose AWL 1 Read text together, using context clues to understand meaning Enter text into gap maker Without using highlighted text, can students enter correct word from choices? For texts with AWL words already highlighted:

10 Research-based Principles of Vocabulary Instruction
Introduce and discuss words Ensure affective engagement Engage students in using the words Ensure recurrent exposures Celebrate successes Encourage experimentation

11 How do we choose specific words to teach directly?
Use information gleaned from AWL highlighter Choose at random from AWL list Introduce about 5 per week to focus on Direct instruction on Monday Continue to focus on throughout week Use frequently! Whenever possible draw attention to the word in a text Encourage students to use the words in context Create a Word Wall to remind everyone

12 How can a Word Wall contribute to vocabulary instruction?
Must be visible to all students Must grow organically as well as methodologically Must be consistently referred to by teacher For ideas on dealing with space issues: To see a video of a teacher implementing this strategy:

13 How do I build a Word Wall?
Choose a format that works for you Half sheets of scrap paper Chart paper White or chalk board Add words daily. Refer to the words whenever possible. Add words that are directly taught or which come up in discussion of text.

14 How can the students use the Word Wall?
Students will look to the wall when teacher draws attention to a word Students will remember where the word is, and use the wall as a reminder for recall and for spelling Students can take the burden off the teacher by being responsible for adding that day’s words

15 Can students study on their own?
Note cards Computer note cards Vocabulary notebooks Foldables© A way of presenting information that is fun and creative For ideas see:

16 Knowledge Rating Scale
Word Know It Well Have Seen or Heard It Have No Clue

17 Knowledge Rating Scale
Word Know It Well Have Seen or Heard It Have No Clue What It Means

18 How can students learn and remember the meaning of the words?
Look up the meanings of the words in the dictionary Link the words to previous knowledge Make a spider diagram for each word For example, a spider diagram for concept could look like this:                                                           

19 What about dictionaries?
Dictionaries are of course useful, but direct instruction on how to use is imperative Have students work in small groups to find meanings Try having “dictionary races” to decrease amount of time spent looking up words

20 Which Dictionary? Lower Levels The Oxford Student’s Dictionary
The Longman Active Study Dictionary The Macmillan Essential Dictionary The Oxford Wordpower Dictionary More advanced levels The Longman Contemporary English Dictionary The Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary The Macmillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners The Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary Many dictionaries have study skills pages, CD-ROM and on-line resources for students.

21 Dictionaries on the Web
Macmillan Oxford University Press Longman Cambridge University Press

22 Using a Vocabulary Profiler Allows us to see what level the words in a text are Can help inform vocabulary instruction

23 How to use Use Internet Explorer as a browser
Go to In the second column, click on Vocabprofile Click on VP English v. 2.9 Highlight everything in textbox Paste your copied text into box (Control + V) Below textbox on right side, click “submit_window” Scroll down to see the color coded text

24 Resources Waring, R. & Nation, P. (n.d.) Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists. Retrieved January 30, 2009 from Vicotoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. (September 3, 2007). The Academic Word List. Retrieved January 30, 2009 from McCullah, W. ( ). Word surfing: Recommended vocabulary tests and exercises. Retrieved January 30, 2009 from UEFAP. (n.d.) Vocabulary in EAP: Selecting vocabulary to learn. Retrieved January 30, 2009 from English Corner (n.d.) English grammar exercises. Retrieved January 30, 2009 from For product information:

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