Wednesday, 16 November 2011

word sift

Another cool website that I will introduce today is an absolutely amazing tool. WORDSIFT is very much recommended to language learners especially those who are interested in sentence formation and semantic relation between words. In this application, I will also explain why this tool can bring a lot of benefits for learners as well as the teacher. To begin this exploration, all you need to do is type in in the url bar. Don't bother yourself about the registration thingy as this is a totally free website.

Looking from the educator's point of view, the teacher can make full use of this tool while dealing with language activity which takes reading skills as the main language point. This tool can actually find the most frequent words being used in a particular text hence allow the learner to predict what the text is all about. For example, the teacher can find and copy a short story and an extract of it directly from the internet. Once the teacher finds the suitable text, they can just simply paste it in the box provided and press the sift button. It may take a few seconds before the text is transformed to a new visualisation.

After clicking on the sift button, word clouds just like in the picture below will appear. As you can see, the word 'freedom' has the biggest font among the others therefore, we can conclude that 'freedom' is the most frequent word used in the text. The important tip in recognizing the most frequent word is definitely by looking the size of the font. The smaller the size of the word means the lesser the word is being used in the text and it goes vice versa. Besides that, the teacher can also sort the words appeared according to how common or rare the words are used in the English language. Notice that this tool only works with English language, not Spanish nor the most romantic language in the world, French :p This tool also allows the teacher to rearrange the words according to the ascending or descending alphabetical order.

Another cool thing about this tool is that it also helps learners to understand the text more using graphics and visualization. In the picture below, the left hand side section is for the images while the other side is for the visual thesaurus. The former section usually depicts related pictures of the most frequent word used in the text. This may help the learner to get the real picture of how the word may be represented in the real world. The latter section, on the other hand deals with the semantic relation of the word. A few lines are drawn to show the exact relation to the main word but I personally think that this thesaurus might not be that helpful in developing the learner's awareness. I shall elaborate more about this tool in 'the positive and the negative section' at the end of this entry.

Apart from that, this wordsift also provides a lot of relevant examples of how the words are being used in the real life. From this,the learner can actually understand the concept of how they should correctly use the word. Although these example might act as a passive stimulus, still, the learner can identify the word class of the word and imply it in everyday language context.

The positives :
1. This tool is very helpful in helping the teacher to sift the text in order to find the most and the less frequent words used.
2. Once the learners are able to identify those words, the activity will definitely give them a better idea or a gist of what the text is all about. This may lead them to autonomously think and predict what the text may be all about.
3. The learners will also get to know which words appear the most and the least in the English language. This might be a little bit helpful in providing them to be fluent speakers of English in the future.
4. Wordsift application also shows how the words are naturally used in the real life therefore the learner can apply and construct sentences using those words.
5. The visualization in the word clouds, the images and the visual thesaurus section are very interesting for learners as they'd be glad to work in such fun and interactive activity.
6. This tool is definitely free-of-charged so worry not about the cost!

The negatives:
1. As always, the teacher and the learner must have a reliable access to the internet otherwise the activity may not be successfully carried out.
2. The text must be carefully chosen as they must meet the standard of the learners capability in the language.
3. This tool only deals with text which is written in English language, not Spanish and not even French so for learners of any other foreign language, I would say that this website is not merely designed for any other second language users.
4.The images in the left hand side section may not always represent the word, literally thus may lead to confusion of understanding among the learners.


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