Experiences of an English Language Teacher

Tag: EAP Teaching

Using WordSift to Analyse Academic Articles and Essay Questions

I happened across a website called WordSift the other day, which offers teachers and learners the assistance to visualise vocabulary (and connected language) in a memorable and pleasing manner, and thought that this would be a useful tool for assisting students with their academic vocabulary development as well as offering teachers an additional resource. In this post, I shall share a few initial ideas that I have had about incorporating WordSift into possible future EAP and preparatory courses.

Analysing Academic Articles

The first thought that I had was for students to analyse the language within selected academic articles (related to potential student readings) that they have discovered from their initial research. In this example, I decided on an academic article, Assessing academic writing on a pre-sessional EAP course: Designing assessment which supports learning’ written by Seviour (2015).

I selected all text from the article, and then pasted this into WordSift, which provides an immediate review of all language in the form of a WordCloud. This WordCloud provides an instant visualisation of the most commonly used language within a given text. Each word can then be clicked upon to in the WordCloud and below connected lexis is given. For example, I clicked on the word ‘assessment’, which was used 47 times in the article, and a visualised thesaurus was offered.

As well as a visualised thesaurus, or what the website calls ‘WordNet Visualization’, related language is available to view with an ‘in context’ view. Such language includes ‘appraisal’, ‘judgement’, or ‘classification’. However, what I am more interested in are the chunks of language that allow teachers (and students) to analyse such lexis. Patterns are recognised promptly, with so much potential being offered. From a brief minute of analysing the word ‘assessment’, I discovered the following language chunks:

  • assessment activities
  • formative assessment
  • summative assessment
  • a particular assessment task
  • feedback on assessment
  • various assessment criteria

So how could this help learners? Well my thought is that EAP students could import particular reading related to a provided essay title which would allow them to discover the most common academic language by marking vocabulary from the Academic Word List, with such language being highlighted in blue.

Students could then analyse the most common academic language within context and build up their awareness of lexical chunks. This in turn would aid the academic writing process with students now using the most common lexical chunks that would be most natural within an academic essay.

Using Essay Titles

The final thought about WordSift is that students could use this to analyse essay titles to help them develop synonyms and other lexical connections to key words. Such language could then be used to search for suitable and related academic articles. I chose an essay title from a previous EAP course to see how this would fit with this process, this being related to national education and the aid of international agencies.

I copied and pasted the essay title/question into WordSift. This very brief analysis (of only 21 words), provided some insight into even the most common Academic Language, with 4 words being picked up from the Academic Word List. Such language highlighted from the visualised thesaurus provided potential synonyms which could then be used within an academic article search by students. It was an interesting exercise and I would very much like to incorporate WordSift into future EAP courses, and to see how student uptake is regarding this tool.

It would be interesting to see what other EAP practitioners think about WordSift and whether it has any potential in an EAP context. Share your thoughts and practical ideas of using this tool in the classroom in the comments – it would be good to hear what others would have to say.

Reflections as a Young Learner Co-ordinator

It has been over a year since I left my previous position as Young Learner Co-ordinator with a local private language school in my hometown, but was fortunate enough to secure employment with a University soon after leaving. However, I was reading a blog post by Sandy Millin in which she reflects on her 5 years as a Director of Studies, so I thought I would share my reflections for the six years I were a Young Learner Co-ordinator.

What Did I Learn?

Teachers can be unpredictable

When I was promoted to the position of Young Learner Co-ordinator, from English teacher, the majority of staff were very supportive – the Director of Studies, Principal, Directors. However, there were two staff who were not so happy and one person made their opinion heard almost immediately. As the Director of Studies (DoS) held a meeting to share the good news, this person quipped, “We knew this was going to happen!” and the DoS responded, “No, actually we didn’t!”. What other teachers did not realise the Directors offered the position to me to help out during the summer months – more a temporary position – and I responded saying, “Well, if you are offering a position for a few months, I will not accept this and go back to Korea.” A compromise was met and I was offered a full-time permanent position, so agreed to this.

So what did I learn from this?

There will always be people around who would respond more emotionally, and from various situations which occurred, I learned how to manage more demanding staff.

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Week 3 of an Online Pre-Sessional Course

In my last blog post, I share my experiences of my second week on an eight-week pre-sessional course. However, in today’s blog post, I will be sharing week three of the online course and what things I covered during the week.

The pressure has now hit home with many of the students. They realise that they actually need to do some work and submit an annotated bibliography and sentence outline, in order to prepare for their essays. The previous Friday, I shared Essay Titles with my students and told them to consider a relevant essay title which connects to their subject of academic study. The majority of my students are going to be studying a business-related post-graduate degree from September, so the majority of the students chose similar essays. There was some emailing and responding to student queries in relation to their essays, with much of the catch-up sessions via Zoom explaining the expectation with an annotated bibliography and sentence outline.

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