Access the Word - Access the World
conference contributionposted on 23.05.2006, 17:27 by Gail Solomans
For success at university, students need to develop academic literacy, which means learning a set of behaviours appropriate to academe. One of the most important of these is mastery of academic language. Changes in the South African socio-political context have brought about much needed changes in education and with the demand for equity and redress, students are now entering university from a wide variety of educational and language backgrounds. This is not a unique phenomenon in universities around the world but, as we have eleven official languages in South Africa, English, the medium of instruction and assessment, is often not only the second but the third language for very many students. A very high percentage of academic words have their roots in words of Latin or Greek origin, languages to which few students have had exposure and they find themselves underprepared to cope with this highly specialized academic discourse. In order to enhance students’ academic vocabulary, which in turn provides a solid foundation for competence in reading and writing academic discourse, I present a course called Word Power. By its very nature this course requires rote learning of roots of words, constant practice and reinforcement. Using the computer programme, Question Mark Designer for Windows, I have developed material for use as tutorials and for revision exercises. This CAA method is used as a support for the lectures and is intended to take the boring element out of the drill sessions, which are at the core of any vocabulary building course. Students can use the revision exercises to work at their own pace and receive instant feedback and assessment of their progress. In addition it removes the necessity of having several tutors and alleviates the burden of marking. Although this computer material was only available to the students this semester, I have had positive results from its use and positive feedback from the students and I feel confident that it will continue to be an enormous benefit to my students in helping them to master academic language. Accessing the word is a step to accessing the academic world.
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