Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Helpful Sites for Advanced Learners

A couple of recent discoveries that I will be recommending to my higher level learners (and using myself): Did you know this existed?  I didn't!  If you send learners off to a laptop to research a topic, as I sometimes do, they often go to Wikipedia proper and discover that it's too dense to comprehend. At that point, they might shift to a first language to get the information and then work on translating it in order to share with the class.  That's OK with me, but an alternative would be to send them to this link first.  They may be able to find the desired information right away.  They may also encounter related chunks of language that would be useful to examine as we review their answers.

Another thought: it looks as if this site is relatively new.  Perhaps learners will discover that the information they need does not have an entry yet.  Mightn't it be an interesting project for them to write an entry and submit it themselves?

One block from our classroom, a long time ago.*
I looked up "Philadelphia" and ran the text for the city's history through the algorithms at  Its score is 8.0.  The equivalent text at the regular Wikipedia site scored 13.0.  I've been checking readability of learner texts for a while and I know that my group can usually handle a score of 10 or 11 with some help.  So, the "simple" text would probably not drive them to L1.

Of course, these are not "authentic" texts.  They've been written with a learner in mind, just as textbooks and learner's dictionaries are.  So, I guess their usefulness as a source of natural chunks of language may be limited. I'm focusing on vocabulary with my learners, but of course we can't possibly cover all of the thousands of words they need to know to be fluent. My learners from South America, France, etc., have a big advantage because their languages share many cognates with literate English.  Learners from other parts of the world can strengthen their ability to make educated guesses about Latin-derived words, too, with the help of this site.  And, of course, I can brush up on my familiarity with these word parts as well. The site offers an app and I can see giving some assignments to look for Latin-based words "out there" and take them apart using the app (or site) for guidance. Seems as if learners should always try this first before (or instead of) looking a word up.  Strength in this area would really boost their vocabulary knowledge!

*Credit to Wikipedia for today's image of President's House.

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