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The AWL and Lower Levels Fit for Purpose or Fit for Change? Neil Harris English Language Training Services
Workshop Overview Part One – 20 mins Where are we all at? The Academic Word List (AWL) The Challenge: The AWL and Lower Level Learners Key Concepts in Vocabulary Learning A Possible Solution Part Two – 20 mins Discussion Exchange of Thoughts and Ideas Conclusions?
Where are we all at? I teach students whose level is lower than IELTS 6.0 I teach the AWL explicitly at lower levels (IELTS 5.0 and lower) I dont teach the AWL at all at lower levels. I use Skills in English in my teaching (levels?) I use Language Leader in my teaching (levels?) I use my own materials to teach the AWL I am generally happy with the way I teach the AWL I am generally happy with the way my students learn the AWL I want to be able to deal better with the AWL at lower levels
The Academic Word List Averil Coxhead 1998 Based on a corpus of 3,513,300 tokens(running words ) / 70,377 types 28 subject areas, 4 subcorpora (Arts, Commerce, Law & Science) Excludes Wests GSL (1953) 570 word families Each word family: min 15/28 subject areas, 10 occurrences in each subcorpus Divided into 10 sublists (Sublists 1-9, 60 items: Sublist 10, 30 items) Based around word families, not lemmas
The Challenge: The AWL and Lower Level Learners 1.Entry level of our students 2.Availability of materials at lower levels 3.Students Profile: L1 / Typical Learning Styles 4.The AWL itself?
The Challenge: The AWL and Lower Level Learners Entry Levels Do lower level EAP students in the UK have sufficient mastery of the GSL to move onto the AWL?
Answering the Nation et al VLT lbusiness 2clock part of a house 3horse animal with four legs 4pencil something used for writing 5shoe 6wall l business 2clock 6 part of a house 3horse 3 animal with four legs 4pencil 4 something used for writing 5shoe 6wall
VLT Results, Swansea University EUS2 Jan students: 48 Chinese 19 Arabs 1 Vietnamese 2 Italians 9 Adv, 28 UI, 23 Int, 13 Pre-Int 2K3KAWL5KTotal Adv UI Int Pre- Int CEFR A2 – B12500 CEFR B2 – C13750 Milton, J. (2009), Measuring Second Language Vocabulary Acquisition (Bristol: Multilingual Matters, p.187
The Challenge: The AWL and Lower Level Learners Materials Most published materials are for learners who are Upper Intermediate and above Concern: How much does textual processing load interfere with AWL study?
The AWL and Published Materials I Campbell, C. (2009), EAS Vocabulary Study Book (Reading: Garnet Education) (Back cover: Upper Intermediate to Proficiency, IELTS , CEF B2-C2 GSL plus AWL Sublists 1-5) Huntley, H. (2006), Essential Academic Vocabulary: Mastering the Complete Academic Word List (Boston: Heinle) (Website: CEF Higher Intermediate-Advanced) Schmitt, D. & Schmitt, N. (2005), Focus on Vocabulary: Mastering the Academic Word List (White Plains NY: Pearson Education, Inc) (Website: Higher Intermediate - Advanced)
The Challenge: The AWL and Lower Level Learners Students profile Not just a question of low entry levels: L1 issues (Chinese and Arabic) Typical learning styles (rote learning of the AWL item by item as a list)
The AWL itself? Based on word families (not lemmas) Identifies the most frequent family member but no other clues (polysemy, part of speech, frequency, changes in meaning) Design appeals to rote learners The Challenge: The AWL and Lower Level Learners
Rethinking the AWL and materials design for lower levels Development of in-house materials 2009: Weekly spelling tests 2010: Towards a more student-centered approach: students worked in groups to research and present their choice of words students devised their own revision test items More engaging but quality of work uneven!
Rethinking the AWL and materials design for lower levels What if......materials took best practice into account and took into account the challenges previously identified... recycled texts which the students had already processed for meaning (typically for reading skills) for explicit AWL instruction... did not overload the students but tried to encourage deep learning, but what about…lexical activation and personalisation at lower levels?
Key Concepts in Vocabulary Learning Words must be encountered numerous times in order to be learned. Different contexts provide different kinds of information about a word. Students learn best when their attention is focused on the materials to be learned. Learning a word entails more than knowing its meaning, spelling, and pronunciation.
Learners typically do not know all the family members of a word family, even if they know some of these word forms. An understanding of collocations is equally important for the natural use of words. Collocations should be presented in authentic contexts. Schmitt, D. & Schmitt, N. (2005), Focus on Vocabulary: Mastering the Academic Word List (White Plains NY: Pearson Education, Inc) Key Concepts in Vocabulary Learning
Confusing words should not be taught together (risk of learners rote learning from the list) Good learning techniques inform classroom activities(eg flashcards created in class) Learning takes into account the likely uptake of vocabulary by word class (nounsverbs adjectives adverbs) Use of lemmatisation to overcome the assumption that AWL list users (Milton 2009:12) have the kind of knowledge of word formation to make them comparable with native speakers (eg learner populated lemmatised lists) Extending the key concepts
A Possible Solution – latest SU in-house materials Use reading passages already encountered for skills work (course books) Revisit these texts for explicit AWL instruction Audit texts using Tom Cobbs compleat lexical tutor Devise activities which focus on most frequent AWL item in the family plus nouns and verbs
In-house AWL Materials – some benefits Decreases processing load for students Saves time sourcing suitable texts for exploitation CB sourced texts often already trialled / suitably graded for level
In-house AWL materials – some disadvantages Copyright Data entry potentially very time-consuming Risk of students becoming bored Is the source material academic enough. Does it matter at this level? Reduced control over AWL items (cannot choose which items to include)
Can lemmatisation help? Word families are the standard Base word and all inflections and derivations Lemmas may be better? Base word and regular inflections and most frequent derivations which do not change the part of speech