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Strategic Vocabulary! Leading Learners to Academic Success with the AWL


Strategic Vocabulary! Leading Learners to Academic Success with the AWL Maggie Heeney Renison University College October 13, 2012 – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Strategic Vocabulary! Leading Learners to Academic Success with the AWL

Strategic Vocabulary! Leading Learners to
Academic Success with the AWL
  • Maggie Heeney
  • Renison University College
  • October 13, 2012
  • TESL Canada Conference, Kamloops, B.C.

Some Guiding Questions
  • How much vocabulary do second language learners
    need to read and write with proficiency?
  • What words do students need to know?
  • How do second language learners acquire
  • What strategies facilitate vocabulary acquisition?

  • 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?
  • 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, adapting, adapted
  • Derivations or word families the other parts of
    speech..adaptation, adaptabilty

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 words lexical relationship to other words in
    the form of synonyms, antonyms or hyponyms (Red
  • collocations and idioms are especially important

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
  • 4000 base words are needed for minimal 90-95
    comprehension of non-specific text (Nation ,1990
    Laufer, 1997)
  • 10,000 words needed to understand 95 of
    non-specialist text at university level
    (Hazenberg Hulstijn, 1996)
  • 14,000 17,000 receptive word families in NS
    undergraduate lexicon and graduates could have
    lexicon of 20,000 word families (Zechmeister et
    al., 1993)

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

  • The AWL is divided into sublists
  • http//
  • Some ideas of how to use the AWL Make sure it
    is in context
  • http//

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

How do students learn?
  • The mental lexicon cant be seen.
  • Learning is incremental as all parts of a word
    cant be learned simultaneously (Schmitt, 2000).
  • Receptive knowledge happens before productive
    (Nation, 2001).

Vocabulary Acquisition Intentional or
  • 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
  • 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

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
  • Form or determination strategies
  • Rehearsal of memory-related strategies
  • Consolidation strategies
  • Social strategies
  • Metacognitive strategies (Schmitt, 2000)

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
  • Vocabulary instruction imperative as a
    preparation for writing
  • Reading on branding - Create a buzz for
    yourself on Facebook
  • AWL Establish, construct, create
  • Brands target consumers with three benefits based
    on guaranteeing quality products, distinguishing
    product uniqueness and satisfying customers.

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
  • 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

The good thing about the vocabulary you have
learned is that you can carry it forward.
  • 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
  • New vocabulary helped me develop content of
  • 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
  • Vocabulary strategies are the most important as
    they really pay off in writing.
  • I cant 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.

  • Vocabulary acquisition through reading must be
    supported by direct instruction that is
  • 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
  • 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.

  • 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 dont know, words you
    think you know and words you cant 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
  • Williams, J. (2005). Learning English for
    academic purposes. St. Laurent, Québec Longman.

Thank you