The main purpose of this website is to help students expand their academic vocabulary using the Academic Word List (AWL). However, teachers can also use this online tool to help identify academic vocabulary words in instructional text. The AWL, created by Dr. Averil Coxhead, consists of the 570 most common academic vocabulary words found from a corpus of over 400 written academic texts covering 28 different subject areas. The AWL has been used widely by teachers and their students, especially students who are learning English as a second language, prepare for college courses. This online program will identify core academic vocabulary in a text.
The AWL Highlighter is an effective, basic tool that helps teachers identify academic vocabulary words in texts; however, it does not define those words. A user pastes an electronic text into the program, and the text will be returned as a new web page with words from the AWL appearing in bold type. The utility of this tool stems from the wide-use of Coxhead's Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000): numerous organizations and academic programs have promoted the words found on the AWL as necessary for college-bound students to know, especially students whose native language is not English (e.g., see a version of the AWL published by the Center for Applied Linguistics). This tool can be helpful to teachers during instructional planning because it identifies vocabulary words that may need additional instruction. In particular, knowing which academic vocabulary words to teach for a specific text can help teachers of English language learners; research has shown that ELLs differ in knowledge of academic vocabulary compared to non-ELLs' knowledge of these words. The website has other tools that a teacher may also find helpful, such as the AWL Gapmaker, which allows a user to create tests on the AWL. The website's design, organization, and navigation are somewhat simplistic, but user should be able to navigate the website easily.