Resources for teaching the Academic Word List

la_vocabularyLanguage Arts teachers know that the Academic Word List (AWL) is a list of words which appear with high frequency in English-language academic texts – and state assessments! The list was compiled by Averil Coxhead at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand and contains 570 word families divided into 10 sublists.  Many of these words are frequently encountered in newspapers and magazines and can be heard on television, radio, and movies or in everyday conversation. There are many resources on the web to help us teach our students this essential vocabulary:

This website from Nottingham University will allow you to take any electronic text (cut and paste from Word or a web page for example) , and automatically highlight AWL words. You can then create an activity using this highlighted text –  teaching the content and standard originally planned, but embed the direct teaching of vocabulary.  Instructions are here.  The site has other AWL resources too! has vocabulary exercises for the Academic Word List (numerous exercises that could be done as a class activity, along with a link to a dictionary definition for each and an audio of the pronunciation) . Each Exercise could be done in just 3-5 minutes, and there are dozens of exercises.

This site, RMIT University, uses the Coxhead list as well, with pre and post assessments, printable word/definition lists, and a variety of activity types.

This site ( may be useful for student practice. It has 56 exercise – each has a long reading passage on a topic with the vocab words highlighted (offers good contextual application of the words).  The exercise then shows the passage with the vocab words left out and the student places the correct word in the sentence.