Creating my ideal online vocabulary practice activities


I’ve started working on designing my idea online vocabulary practice system. I’ve written about this before here.

How do you learn vocabulary?

How do you learn vocabulary?

Stage 1: Building a database of target vocabulary and related content

  1. Locate online versions of high frequency word lists for 1K, 2K, and AWL.
  2. Check for creative commons licence or some kind of open source data for the content.
  3. Check for sources of samples for
    1. Plain English definitions for word + definition matching (e.g. wikipedia, Wikitionary, Simple English Wiktionary, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (LDOCE) online).
    2. Example sentences that can be use for close-type sentence completion.
  4. Compile a list or spreadsheet of words, definitions, and example sentences for each word list, and versions of the words with only the first 3 or 4 letters (for the word completion activity). An online spreadsheet might work for this quite nicely as multiple people could work on it together.

Stage 2: Design diagnostic assessment tools based around word frequency levels

  1. Check if the existing ones available are open source or freely available to use and develop.
  2. Use existing diagnostic tools or develop parallel tools if required.
  3. Ensure that the diagnostics are robust enough to allow subtle variations to increase re-test usability or have a series of parallel tests. Learners will return to these diagnostics a number of times during their vocabulary development in the programme so the software needs to minimise the practice effect here.
  4. Determine thresholds for each list or level, e.g. require 95% accuracy before a user can advance to the next level.

Stage 3: Design algorithm for a vocabulary practice session

  1. Learner does session pre-test with 10 words (this variable could also be set by an admin with a range from 5 – 20 if desirable).
    1. The software reads out each spelling word twice. They can click to request a third time.
    2. The learner types in their response. Response are not case sensitive.
    3. Software tags all words answered correctly or incorrectly.
    4. All words answered incorrectly become the data set for the following sequence of practice activities.
  2. Identify syllables
    1. Learner identifies syllables for the problem words with dots over relevant sections of a word. Larger dots automatically represent the main stressed syllables in the word. Smaller dots represent the other syllables.
    2. Alternatively, the learner splits a problem word apart into separate chunks on the screen to indicate the syllables and a single dot or similar marking appears to identify the main stressed syllable.
    3. Learner receives instant feedback from the software as to which items they correctly answered. This is also compiled for an end of session on screen report.
    4. If there is enough space on the screen, the previously completed answers should stay on the page.
  3. Practice spelling the word correctly
    1. Problem words flash up onto the screen for a short period of time. And the computer speaks the word twice. Audio for these words can be toggled off but the default is set to on.
    2. Once the word has flashed off, the learner can type the word into a box that appears next to where the word was shown. This is a memory test.
    3. The learner response and original are compare visually and marked immediately. If it’s incorrect they have to repeat until correct but an option appears for them to move onto the next word if they want. If they do so, the current word simple shifts to the end of the sequence when it reappears until it’s written correctly.
    4. If there is enough space on the screen, the previously completed answers should stay on the page.
  4. Complete the word
    1. The learner sees the first three or four letters of one of the problem words and they have to type in the rest of the spelling to complete the word.
    2. Feedback is immediate and learners can request a hint by hovering their mouse over the first three letters (or something similar) if they get stuck and need to see the whole word momentarily.
    3. If there is enough space on the screen, the previously completed answers should stay on the page.
  5. Match the word to the definition
    1. The learner has to manipulate words on the screen and match the vocabulary items with appropriate definitions.
    2. Again, feedback is immediate and it might be interesting to include an option to maximise comprehension where learners have to match all vocabulary items from their pretest list with the definitions regardless of whether they spelled them correctly or not.
  6. Complete the sentences
    1. Learners are given sentences (not definitions) with each word used in context, but the word has been gapped out and they need to type in the correctly spelled word. Learners could toggle a hint button which could show the whole list of words currently under scrutiny while the button is held down, and then disappear again. The purpose would be to try and get the learner to hold the word in their memory and then type correctly into the appropriate space in the sentence.
    2. An easier variation on this could be to include a list of all words and they simply move the correct words into the appropriate spaces. This is more word recognition rather than word generation however.
  7. Write the words in sentences
    1. The software generates an onscreen activity and/or PDF containing a numbered list of the problem words and spaces to write their own sentences contextualising the words for themselves. This would need to marked by their tutor or remain an unmarked activity. If this activity stayed online the output could be emailed to themselves (or other nominated email address) or be set to notify their tutor electronically inside the system.
  8. Learner does session post test
    1. This is essentially a repeat of the pretest and contains all the original test items, e.g. the whole list.
    2. If the learner answers (for example) 10 post-tests with 100% accuracy they are prompted to re-sit the diagnostic and possibly go up to the next level
  9. Learner sees onscreen report and breakdown of all activities and scores

Stage 4: Enable user-defined premium-level content

  1. Once learners have demonstrated that they know most or all of the words from the 1K, 2K, and AWL tutors need to be able to upload their own trades or vocational vocabulary lists with accompanying  definitions and contextual sentences.
  2. This user-defined content could be subscriber-based premium content.
  3. It could also have some ability for tutors generating their own content to share links or samples with others via common social media links such as Facebook or Twitter. This would then allow geographically dispersed tutors in the same trades or vocational training fields to work together over time to compile and share targeted vocabulary learning materials.

One thought on “Creating my ideal online vocabulary practice activities

  1. Pingback: Don’t be Spooked by the MOOC – Handout 1: Cool New Stuff in Pathways Awarua | thisisgraeme

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