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Vocabulary acquisition via word lists versus extensive reading

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  • David
    Any suggestions on research done in this area? Any great debates anyone knows of? Any and all feedback would be appreciated. By word lists I mean lists of
    Message 1 of 49 , Jun 21, 2010
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      Any suggestions on research done in this area? Any great debates anyone knows of? Any and all feedback would be appreciated.

      By word lists I mean lists of words with definitions in English given by the teacher at the beginning of a term or semester. Students would be expected to find L1 meanings themselves, if necessary.


      David Moran
    • Jez Uden
      Thanks Rob, I really liked what you had to say... however... I believe I ve dug myself into a hole. I assume that as a learner is choosing to read in a foreign
      Message 49 of 49 , Jul 4, 2010
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        Thanks Rob, I really liked what you had to say...
        I believe I've dug myself into a hole. I assume that as a learner is choosing to read in a foreign language they are already aware of the linguistic benefits of ER in a 2nd language, otherwise why bother. So while I believe that learners have to enjoy reading for pleasure they are doing this with a knowledge that it will benefit their language ability. It has to be fun and stimulating for the learner though without teachers interfering with this process. I agree we should balance the implicit and explicit learning and help learners become better readers but as Day and Bamford suggest 'the overall goal of reading instruction sees teachers aiming to produce NOT SKILLED readers, but skilled READERS' (1998, p165) and the 'purposes of reading are usually related to pleasure' (ibid, p8). So for the learner reading for fun may very well be the whole point, with reading being its own reward. But I agree that as teachers we should help to encourage the reading process to develop, as you have suggested. Jez
        To: ExtensiveReading@yahoogroups.com
        From: waring_robert@...
        Date: Sun, 4 Jul 2010 17:30:07 +0900
        Subject: Re: [ExtensiveReading] word learning


        Sorry for the belated reply. I thought I sent this a week ago, then found it in my drafts folder. I just neglected to click 'send'.
        In response to Jez's post on June 27th...

        I suggest intentional learning kickstart the word learning process (i.e for beginners but I don't necessarily advocate this for kids- even though they need words as well). Maybe this will help you understand my position. http://www.robwaring.org/vocab/principles/early.htm
        Jez says 'the whole point or ER' is to have fun. I don't agree that it's the 'whole point' - a 'major point' - yes of course, as fun leads to motivation. But we aren't there to make learning fun as a primary aim, our aim is to teach the language or more accurately, help students learn it. In an ideal world of course it should be enjoyable - just as grammar learning and language learning in general should be fun and so should learning to tie one's shoes, or learning to drive, but it's not the main aim. But i feel we should certainly aim on making the learning as fun as possible. If we adopt 'fun' as our primary aim, then we run the risk of ER being seen as unimportant, transitory and thus something to cut when budgets get slashed.
        Maybe I haven't been so clear, so let me try to clarify my thinking on the issue of level. Reading at i-1 helps build fluency because they already 'know' the language. Reading at i+1 means something is unknown prior to reading and thus something can be learnt. At i+1 the learning should not interrupt the reading too much as it's within the range where students can read without facing too many speed bumps - let's call it 2% 'unknown' language. For me i+2 might be around 4% unknown - which means more speed bumps and a move away from fluency practice to a form of study reading. So where does intentional practice fit? There is a place for intentional learning because it can 'pre-teach' vocab before reading thus allowing the learner to read something that would have been i+2 or even i+3 and make it more manageable.
        In response to Dave's post ....
        Dave's latest chart suggests I believe ER should start once one has learnt 2000 words. I don't. I think ER can start once one has mastered a couple of hundred words at a basic form-meaning level (sight vocabulary) and have a passive understanding of some basic grammar - word order etc. There are graded readers that have only 75 headwords (Foundations reading Library from Cengage - full disclosure - I'm a co-author) and students could start with these (or similar) as their first step into fluency reading. They probably will probably start their reading with a few speedbumps as they learn to see decontextulaized words being used in sentence format (as it's a different kind of processing), but it should be manageable after a few books have been read. My experience suggests having really easy reading materials does in fact make this an easy way in. I do NOT suggest delaying reading until a learner knows several hundred or even thousands of words.
        On Jun 27, 2010, at 3:56 PM, Jez Uden wrote:

        I apologise as I've come into the discussion a little late and there are a few things I've read which have left me completely baffled.
        Teaching word pairs/vocabulary. When do you suggest this should be done? And how does one determine which words to teach?
        My groups choose Graded Readers that are suited to/just below their level following the i-1 theory. Therefore there is no need to focus on vocabulary prior to reading. This would also take the enjoyment (which is the whole point of ER no?) out of reading. My learners love the book club because it doesn't feel like a lesson. Pre teaching vocabulary would surely see the demise of such a group. My students read in their own time, what they want, when they want. We then meet in a cafe once a week which is where the books are discussed and when the 'negotiation of meaning' takes place (so this clearly follows a TBL route). Vocabulary arises naturally here - learners learn new expressions/chunks or individual lexis from the interlanguage - OR they may ask me for a specific word they need which is again 'negotiated' OR I can see an opportunity to introduce something immediately useful to the group. I then focus on any lexis that has come up during the discussion, at the end of the session.
        There is very little lexical focus taken from the readers as most of this has been understood, as it should have been. I believe Nation says that a learner should understand 96% of the text and Grabe suggests higher.
        If anyone can put me on the right track and can help me improve on what I'm already doing in my reader groups that would be very much appreciated.
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