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Vocabulary Flood Part 1

July 23, 2011

In this post, I will describe some of the processes I have used to work toward preparing materials for a vocabulary flood for my low intermediate ESL class in the fall. I got the idea for a vocabulary flood from a talk by Keith Fosle of the University of Central Florida. Now, I am working on trying to implement it for the fall semester, late August through early December.

As I understand the concept of a vocabulary flood, it consists of providing opportunities for learning a great deal of vocabulary at the beginning of a class. In order to do this, I am going to use an adapted graphic novel, Jane Eyre, at the beginning of the course, and word part activities throughout the semester along with other vocabulary activities appropriate to the readings and textbook. The Jane Eyre graphic novel published by Heinle contains highlighted vocabulary in the reading with a glossary at the end of the book. The vocabulary will serve as on strand of vocabulary instruction.

The second strand will involve working with suffixes and prefixes. To work on suffixes, I have compiled lists of suffixes for nouns, verbs, and adjectives in Google Docs spreadsheets. Next, I wanted to make lists of words that use suffixes that are among the most frequent words. Vocabulary textbooks that I have acquired as samples or desk copies tend to focus on the Academic Word List, but I want to work from the first 3000 words for this class. Therefore, I decided to build my own lists.

Last week, I found the site Kevin’s Word Lists. From this site, I downloaded the Official 12Dicts list and used the lemma 2+2 list. I put this list into Laurence Anthony’s program, AntWordProfiler. This program, available for Mac, PC, and Linux users, profiles vocabulary in a similar way to Paul Nation’s Range program. Using this program enabled me to limit the words I had to search for the forms using the suffixes I decided to use. Thus far, I have built lists for -ment, -ibility, -less, and -ness. I have built the lists by using the file from the AntWordProfiler and searching it in Pages, the Mac wordprocessing application.

So far, I have used the lists to construct tables for completion that focus on the patterns of suffix use such as adjective-noun. I see possibilities for using the base list, i.e., the adjectives used as the base form to form nouns with -ness, by far the most common suffix for the 3000 most common words, as a list to learn before having students do the completion exercise. However, I still haven’t decided. I have described the process as it works now, leaving out all the wrong turns and labor intensive wrong paths I took before I got to these steps.

One of the more interesting insights for me from this work is that many of these suffixes are used more commonly with the first 2000 most frequent words than with the next thousand. Thus, it seems that these are good forms to focus on. In Learning Vocabulary in Another Language, Paul Nation presents a list of affixes to use at stage 1 and stage 2 with stage 1 to be used with low intermediate learners.

stage 1: -able, -er, -ish, -less, -ly, -ness, -th, -y, non-, un-
stage 2 -al, -ation, -ess, -ful, -ism, -ist, -ity, -ize, -ment, -ous, in- (p. 268)

At this stage, the bulk of time has been devoted to developing the lists of words with the different suffixes. I hope to have useable word lists soon for many of the suffixes in the stage 1 and stage 2 affix lists. I have not yet decided how to make them available should anyone want to use them.

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