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Academic Word List and EasyDefine

February 5, 2011

We revised our advanced reading class curriculum last summer by including work with the Academic Word List. In the past, we had the list in our workbook and expected the students to study it. However, this year we put in place 10 quizzes, one for each sublist. The thinking is that by having the students focus on the words at least long enough to learn them for the quizzes, they would begin the process of actually learning them because the words would occur in their reading. This final assumption has not be verified by an extensive analysis of the textbook we use or the accompanying materials. Indeed, it is solely based on the hope that the Academic Word List fits our reading curriculum.

The sublists include many words and the quizzes come weekly. The words are not all new words for the students, so they face learning some new words each week in addition to the reading skills we focus on. I thought maybe I could help them some with finding words and definitions to speed along the process a little.

When I attended the Southeast Regional TESOL in the fall, James May, a professor a Valencia College in Orlando, Florida, presented some web applications he uses in his advanced reading classes. One of them, EasyDefine, seemed particularly useful, but at the time I didn’t have an immediate use for it. However, now with the students faced with having to look up and study possibly many words each week, I had found a use for it.

In class at the beginning of the semester, I showed students how to use the site. The essential part of the site looks like this:

From easy define

To use the site, a person puts in a list of words and clicks on the Generate button. The words are defined in the window. For example, I put in a few words from the first sublist of the Academic Word List and generated the following list of words and definitions.

From easy define

The next step was to make the sublists available for the students so they wouldn’t have to type the words in themselves. To make the word lists available, I created a wiki at Wikispaces for the Academic Word List and resources for studying the word lists, which I prosaically called AWLresources. I showed students how to cut and paste the words lists from the wiki into EasyDefine to generate words and definitions to study for the quizzes. Since EasyDefine offers the capability of downloading the list, students can produce a document for studying. In writing this blog, I went back to the site as see that there are additional features or extras which allow for creation of flash cards among other things.

From easy define

I can wait to tell the students about the extras in case they haven’t discovered them yet.

I now see students walking around with lists of words from EasyDefine preparing for the upcoming quizzes. By using EasyDefine, they have less drudge work to do and can get to studying more quickly. When I ask about it in class, the students have been very positive about using the site.

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