Best practices for developing english learners’ academic vocabulary skills

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  • 1. BEST PRACTICES FOR DEVELOPING ENGLISH LEARNERS ACADEMIC VOCABULARY SKILLS Professor Melanie Gonzalez, Salem State University What does the research say? 1. ELs need vocabulary years and years worth of words in a just matter of months! ~2,000+ words to hold a conversation ~5,000+ words to read basic texts ~10,000+ words (98% known words) to read academic texts (Laufer & Ravenhorst-Karlovski, 2010; Schmitt, 2000) 2. Knowing a word is much more than recalling a definition there are nine dimensions of depth of word knowledge (see Appendix A: Nation, 2001, p. 27). 3. Number of encounters with a particular word is crucial how many times does an EL retrieve the word and apply it to a linguistic event (Folse, 2006). What are the best ways to develop ELs academic vocabulary? 1. Select the right words to teach. Item Example(s) single words Settlement; pioneer set phrases In other words; back and forth; time and time again variable phrases It has come to ___ attention that + subject + verb phrasal verbs Come up with; put away idioms Case of the Mondays; 2. Teach multiple dimensions of each word mid-frequency and low frequency words often contain multiple shades of meaning and use. Dimension Example(s) polysemy table denotation/connotation slim vs. skinny frequency blue vs. lapis usage synonyms for dying collocation commit* 3. Avoid the traps of vocabulary myths. Myth 1: ELs will learn vocabulary implicitly. Teach words explicitly: use tiered word lists (AWL), quizzes, drills, keep word walls, vocabulary notebooks, etc. Myth 2: Present vocabulary in semantic sets. Thematic presentation of words in context facilitates retention. Myth 3: Dont know a word? Use context clues. Using CCs is a reading strategy, not a vocabulary-learning tool. Resources: VocabProfiler COCA Quizlet

2. APPENDIX A: Nations Aspects Involved in Knowing a Word (Nation, 2001, p.27) Form Spoken Receptive Productive What does the word sound like? How is the word pronounced? Written Receptive Productive What does the word look like? How is the word spelled? Word parts Receptive Productive What parts can we recognize in this word? What word parts are needed to express meaning? Meaning Form and meaning Receptive Productive What meaning does this form signal? What word form can be used to express this meaning? Concept and referents Receptive Productive What is included in this concept? What items does the concept refer to? Associations Receptive Productive What other words does this make us think of? What other words are possible to use instead of this one? Use Grammatical functions Receptive Productive In what patterns does this word occur? In what patterns is this word required to use? Collocations Receptive Productive What other words or types of words occur with this one? What words or types of words must we use with this one? Constraints on use (register, frequency, etc.) Receptive Productive Where, when, and how often would we expect to encounter this word? Where, when, and how often can we use this word? APPENDIX B: Selected Readings Folse, K.S. (2004). Vocabulary myths: Applying second language research to classroom teaching. Ann Arbor, MI: Michigan University Press. Nation, I.S.P. (2001). Learning vocabulary in another language. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. 3. APPENDIX C: Academic Passage 1: Sample English course text (From The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald). I believe that on the first night I went to Gatsbys house, I was one of the few guests who had actually been invited. People were not invited they went there. They got into automobiles which bore them out to Long Island, and somehow they ended up at Gatsbys door. Once there they were introduced by somebody who knew Gatsby, and after that they conducted themselves according to the rules of behavior associated with amusement parks. Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission. Vocabulary to teach: __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ __________________________ Academic Passage 2: Sample Science course text (From life sciences textbook). A biome is a large geographical area of distinctive plant and animal groups, which are adapted to that particular environment. The climate and geography of a region determines what type of biome can exist in that region. Major biomes include deserts, forests, grasslands, tundra, and several types of aquatic environments. Each biome consists of many ecosystems whose communities have adapted to the small differences in climate and the environment inside the biome. All living things are closely related to their environment. Any change in one part of an environment, like an increase or decrease of a species of animal or plant, causes a ripple effect of change in through other parts of the environment. ________ Tier 1 _________ Tier 2 ________ Tier 3