Improving your academic vocabulary

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Isn’t the Olympics just great? I have nearly been late for class because I’ve been enjoying Olympic breakfasts and can’t drag myself away to drive to work. However, when I get to class I am helping students to improve their academic vocabulary, and one way you can do that is by doing some exercises on words taken from the Academic Word List. If you don’t know what the Academic Word List is then you’ve got some reading to do through some of my other posts on Academic Vocabulary! Today I am pointing you towards some exercises designed by Gerry Luton from the University of Victoria in Canada. This is one of those resources that I can hardly believe is available for free on the Internet. The AWL is divided into 10 sublists and Gerry has written exercises for each of those sublists. Read Gerry’s instructions and do these exercises here.

Improving your academic vocabulary

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Today I am going to show you a link to an impressive site created by Sandra Haywood at the University of Nottingham where you can really improve your understanding and use of academic vocabulary. The exciting thing about this site is that you make the exercises, using your texts. The problem with many exercises you find is that the exercise does not seem to be relevant to you because it is not your subject, or the topic does not interest you. With this website you can do two things: firstly you can paste your own text into it and it will automatically highlight all the academic vocabulary in your text. This means it draws your attention to these important words. Secondly, it will automatically remove these words from the text and show them below the text – and yes, you’ve guessed it – you put them back in. How does it know which words to select? Well, (if you didn’t know) there is a big list of academic words in English. You can see what these words are at this site. This list is called the Academic Word List. The list has 570 words in it – and you should know them well and be able to use them! The list is divided into 10 sublists. Sublist 1 has the most common words, sublist 2 the next most common ones and so on down to sublist 10. Take a look at these sublists at the site and choose which word lists you want to work with. Look here. OK, so now you are going to make your own exercise. You need a text to work with. You can use an article from a journal, or a newspaper article. Why not try something from The Economist? Copy your text, and paste it into the AWL Highlighter here. Choose which word lists you want to study ( if you are not sure choose 5 and see how you get on) and hit ‘submit’. Wow! The words from the academic word list are highlighted! Look at these words carefully – are you familiar with them? Do you know what they mean and how they are used? Use a dictionary and a concordancer to find out more about them if you need to. Now follow the link in the site for AWL Gapmaker, or click here to get there. Paste in your text, choose the sublist you want to work with and hit ‘submit’. You will see your text there with the academic words removed, and placed down below the text. You have created your own gap fill activity using your own text in your own subject. What a resource! Get going guys!