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UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
NGUY N TH KIM CHI
TECHNIQUES IN TEACHING VOCABULARY TO YOUNG LEARNERS AT ILA SCHOOL
SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF BACHELOR OF ARTS (TEFL)
SUPERVISOR: Ms. PHAM THI THANH THUY
Hanoi, May 2010
This study is the result of the searcher’ experience in English language learning and teaching as well as the great support and encouragement from the supervisor, classmates and families. First and foremost, I would like to express my sincere and deepest gratitude towards my supervisor, Ms. Pham Thi Thanh Thuy for her dedicatedly invaluable help and useful corrections. It was she who continually reminded me about managing time despite her busy schedule at school and at home. Her kindly constructive guidance and comments have made it possible for me to finish this study. I am very grateful to teachers at Ila, who have enthusiastically participated as informants for the study. Without their attending questionnaire survey and interviews, the methodology section of the study could not be accomplishedly completed. My special thanks also go to my dear friends in group 06.1.E1 as well as my old friends from high school for their supportive help and advice during the preparation and development of the study. Last but not least, I own a huge debt of gratitude to our family for their spiritual and material supports and endless encouragements, which are of great importance in giving me confidence and optimism to fulfill this study.
The acquisition of vocabulary has long been felt to be a crucial component of learning a foreign language. For young learners, the very first words that they acquire could lay the profound basis for a better later learning of the children. Techniques for teaching vocabulary to are, therefore, the matter of concern in many studies. This study is intended to investigate the specific application of techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila school – a language school in Hanoi. More specifically, the researchers strived to 1) investigate the reality current techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners 2) study difficulties that teachers at Ila encounter when teaching young learners vocabulary and their suggested solutions and finally 3) propose some recommendations for teaching vocabulary at this language school. The researchers have conducted a survey with the participation of ten teachers from Ila – one of the major language schools in Hanoi. Oral interviews, questionnaire and observation schemes were used as useful instruments for data collection. The questionnaire-based survey aims to scrutinize teachers’ common techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners, general difficulties that they meet in teaching. Oral interviews and observations serve to elaborate on the information gathered from questionnaires and discover teachers’ opinions on how to solve arisen problem in language classroom, especially during vocabulary section. The result of this study indicates that using flashcards in presenting, sorting tasks in practicing and sentence completion in revising vocabulary are three most preferably common techniques in teaching young learners
vocabulary. Teachers also confirmed that they have adapted specific techniques with specific class; a combination of various ones is yet to be in consideration. In another aspect, most of the teachers reported that they encountered certain difficulties such as the use of too much L1, uncooperative students, students’ small attention span. Nonetheless, most of the difficulties can be solved, as proposed by them in one way or another. The exploitation of combining different techniques remains rather limited; thus, this study provides some suggestions for teachers to realize the benefits of having available activities and games in young learners’ classroom.
List of tables, figures and abbreviations
List 1. Table 1 ....................................................................................... Page 16
2. Figure 1: Common techniques used in presenting new words ....................... 42 3. Figure 2: Common techniques used in practicing vocabulary items .............. 43 4. Figure 3: Common techniques used in revising vocabulary items ................ 44 5. Figure 4: Most difficult stage in teaching vocabulary to young learners ...... 47 6. Figure 5: Part of a word that is most difficult to teach .................................. 47
Abbreviations Ila: International Language Academy L1: first language CELTA: Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults CELTYL: Certificate in English Language Teaching to Young Learners T1: First teacher in the interview T2: Second teacher in the interview T3: Third teacher in the interview T4: Fourth teacher in the interview
TABLE OF CONTENT PAGE
Acknowledgements ..........................................................................................1 Abstract ............................................................................................................2 List of tables, figures and abbreviations ..........................................................3
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1.1. Research title ............................................................................................. 1.2. Rationale and Statement of the Research ..................................................8 1.3. Research questions ....................................................................................9 1.4. Aims of the Research .................................................................................9 1.5. Scope of the Research ................................................................................10 1.6. Organization of the Research ....................................................................11
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1. An Overview of Vocabulary.......................................................................12 2.1.1. Definition ......................................................................................12 2.1.2. Importance of vocabulary and vocabulary learning in EFL context ....................................................................................................13 2.1.3. How vocabulary is learned ...........................................................16 2.2 Young Learners 2.2.1. Definition ......................................................................................19 2.2.2. Characteristics of young learners .................................................19 2.2.3. Thumb rules in teaching young learners ......................................21 2.3. Vocabulary Teaching 2.3.1. Stages in teaching vocabulary ......................................................22 188.8.131.52. Presenting ................................................................... 22
184.108.40.206. Practicing ......................................................................24 220.127.116.11. Consolidating and Revising .........................................25 2.3.2. Techniques in teaching vocabulary .........................................25 18.104.22.168. Techniques in presenting vocabulary............................25 22.214.171.124. Techniques in practicing vocabulary ............................27 126.96.36.199. Techniques in consolidating and revising vocabulary .29 188.8.131.52. Games ...........................................................................32 2.3.3. Difficulties in teaching vocabulary .........................................32 2.4. Related Studies ........................................................................................33
CHAPTER 3: METHODOLOGY 3.1. Participants ..............................................................................................36 3.2 Data collection methods ...........................................................................36 3.2.1. Survey Questionnaire .................................................................36 3.2.2. Interviews ...................................................................................37 3.2.3. Observation ................................................................................38 3.3. Data collection procedure ........................................................................38 3.4. Data analysis methods and procedure .....................................................39
CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION 4.1. Findings ...................................................................................................42 4.1.1. Common techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila ........................................................................................................ a. In presenting ........................................................................42 b. In practicing .........................................................................43 c. In consolidating and revising ..............................................44
4.1.2. Difficulties in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila ......46 4.1.3. Recommendations made by teachers for teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila .........................................................................50 4.2. Pedagogical Implications .........................................................................52 4.3. Recommended games and activities ........................................................54 4.3.1. Suggested games .....................................................................54 4.3.2. Suggested activities .................................................................56
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION 5.1. Summary of findings ...............................................................................58 5.2. Limitations of the study ...........................................................................59 5.3. Recommendations for further studies ......................................................61
Chapter 1: Introduction
1. Research title
Techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners at ILA School
2. Rationale and Statement of the research
For any beginning English learners, especially for young learners (described by Thornbury, S. (2002), as children of pre-primary and primary school age, although it is sometimes used to include adolescents as well), vocabulary and grammar are two essential units that require them to master at early stage. It was once claimed that “experienced teachers of English as a Second Language know very well how important vocabulary is. They know their students must learn thousands of words that speakers and writers of English use.” (Allen, 1983). Also, linguist Wilkins, one of the leaders in language learning and teaching, as quoted in How to teach vocabulary (Thornbury, 2002) indicated that “without grammar, very little could be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed” (p.13) For many years, however, teaching vocabulary was considered an addon to teaching grammar or simply a by-product of language teaching and communicative functions (Meara, 1980). The reasons were: firstly, too many words in one sentence were believed to break its grammar structure and spoil children in learning systematic grammar; secondly, it was thought that vocabulary could be learnt through experience only and therefore, there was little need for the teachers to focus much on teaching their students vocabulary; and thirdly, they put the emphasis of teaching grammar on priority to vocabulary were already taken too much of any lesson in the classroom (Allen, 1983). The core concept of how important
teaching vocabulary in class is was not recognized until late 1970s and 1980s when people realized the necessity of vocabulary in reading comprehension (Allen: p.5) At Ila Vietnam – an international school for Vietnamese learners, the issue of teaching and learning vocabulary within context is strongly emphasized. To be more specific, students at this school are provided chances to stay in frequent contact with native teachers from Englishspeaking countries, to absorb new vocabulary in practical and efficient manner and to acquire new language in a most natural way. However, there remain cases when teachers find it hard to present and practice new language with young learners, one of the most difficult-to-handle targets at this school. Hence, the researcher was driven to investigate into current situation of using various techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila.
3. Research questions
This study is conducted in order that answers for the following questions will be sought: 1. What techniques are often used by teachers at Ila school in teaching vocabulary to young learners? 2. What are some difficulties and constraints as perceived by teachers in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila? 3. What are some suggestions recommended by teachers in managing vocabulary section with young learners at Ila?
4. Aims of the research
Given that learning a new language with native speakers can provoke learners’ motivation and boost their confidence in quickly obtaining language step by step, native teachers, in many circumstances have to face the obstacle of slow or misbehaved students, particularly in vocabulary section. This study therefore was conducted, aiming at reviewing common techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners. Thus, with a view to enhance the quality of doing so the researcher was driven to clarify the following objectives which are expected to be fulfilled: - Theoretically provide teachers at ILA school an overview of young learners’ characteristics and their manner in language classroom. Accordingly equip them with panoramic picture of teaching vocabulary to targeted students at this school. - Manifest effectively used techniques in accordance with suggested ones from the researchers. Principles in dealing with teaching vocabulary to young learners, to a certain extent will consequently be drawn to discussion for further assistance.
5. Scope of the research
Targeted students at Ila school range from school kids to adults, from beginners to advanced learners. Communicative approach is highly emphasized and weighs much of the focal point at this language school. However, within the scope of a research paper, the researcher merely concentrates on investigating the current situation of teaching vocabulary to young learners, the largest population at this school. Herein, teachers are the main participants of the study. Ten teachers, to be more exact, took part in a survey questionnaire and five of them in the next step underwent an interview each.
6. Organization of the research
This study in its small scale mainly consists of five chapters: Chapter 1: Introduction In this very first chapter, academic routines required for a graduation paper namely: Rationale and Research Statement, Aims of the Research, Research Questions and Scope of the study are included. In this main part of the paper, there are three main chapters and each chapter’s title constructively discuss its main content Chapter 2: Literature Review Chapter 3: Methodology Chapter 4: Data analysis and Findings Chapter 5: Conclusion and Implications The researcher will conclude the main findings of the study. Pedagogical implications as well as implications for further research will be included. Final are some recommendations for games and activities in teaching vocabulary.
Chapter 2: Literature Review
2.1. An Overview of Vocabulary 2.1.1. Definition
Up till now, there has not been only one but a wide variety of definitions of vocabulary. In order to find the best and most easy-tounderstand definition is such an unfeasible task. Each linguist or scholar, in his specialized field, with his own set of criteria has found out for his own a way to define vocabulary. However, in the most popular way, Cambridge Advanced Learner's Dictionary Online has applied a meaning for vocabulary as “all the words which exist in a particular language or subject.” This definition covers vocabulary’s meaning on the whole.
Nevertheless, it does not show vocabulary in a deep understanding. More precisely, Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English (1995) presents six meanings of the word “Vocabulary” as follow:
1. All the words that someone knows, learns or uses. 2. The words that are typically used when talking about a particular
3. All the words in a particular language. 4. The word failure/ compromises, etc. is not in somebody’s vocabulary
used to say that someone never thinks of accepting failures, etc.
5. A list of words with explanations of their meaning in a book for
learning foreign languages.
6. A list of the codes or terms used in a computer system.
As far as we are concerned, the definition of vocabulary should be the one that comprises all features of meaning 1, 2, 3, 5, 6 and our target of learning would be to create vocabulary knowledge (meaning 1 and 2).
A clear explanation of vocabulary is cited as follows: Vocabulary can be defined, roughly, as the words we teach in the foreign language. However, a new item of vocabulary may be more than a single word: for example, post office and mother-in law, which are made up of two or three words but express a single idea. There are also multi-word idioms such as call it a day, where the meaning of the phrase cannot be deduced from an analysis of the component words. A useful convention is to cover all such cases by talking ‘items’ rather than ‘words” (Ur, 1996, p. 60).
In this sense, the definition by Ur (1996) is favorably satisfying. It also suggests that vocabulary is bigger than just the meaning of words. It covers a huge aspect of language and is the medium to express ideas.
2.1.2. Importance of vocabulary and vocabulary learning in EFL context
In the context of learning English as a Foreign Language, the vital role of vocabulary is inevitable. This has been claimed by many linguists and experts in the field. Wilkins (cited in Thornbury, 2002) clearly stated that
“without grammar, very little can be conveyed; without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed” (page 13). Coincidentally, Dellar. H and Hocking. D, Innovations in the same summary from Thornbury (p.13) indicated that progress made from learning grammar most of the time would be much less than that from learning vocabulary. To be short and concise, when comparing the importance of grammar and vocabulary, both mentioned statement above show that most of learner’s improvement was created when learner himself/herself learned more words and expressions. It was also emphasized when it came to communicate that “you can say very little with grammar, but you can say almost anything with words” (Thornbury, p.13). In Teaching Practice (Gower, 2005) and co-writers came straight to point that “vocabulary is important to students – it is more important than grammar for communication purposes, particularly in the early stages when students are motivated to learn the basic words they need to get by in the language” (p.142). This reflects the truth that even when students have already “done” all the rules in grammar, the lexical system is still “open” for them to gain more vocabulary. Furthermore, this conclusion deducted the communicative purpose in learning vocabulary as an ultimate goal for learning a new language – learning vocabulary is better for communicating than grammar. This does not necessarily means lowering the importance of learning grammar. This merely shows that learning vocabulary play an equally vital role as grammar, which was once considered to be a superior field in learning a new language ( Meara, 1980) The importance or the emphasis on learning vocabulary is furthered stressed on several course books such as: Cutting Edge Intermediate or
New Headway English Course. On the back of each course book, readers can be briefly provided with information about focused points of the book, which includes: “Strong emphasis on vocabulary, with a particular focus on high frequency, useful words and phrases.” (Cutting Edge Intermediate). Or: “Well-defined vocabulary syllabus plus dictionary training and
pronunciation practice, including the use of phonetics.” (New Headway English Course).
It is true that students must learn grammar which can be considered as a fixed “systematic rule” (Thornbury, 2002). In most language course, the requirement of learning grammar and vocabulary is often made into syllabuses, which helps learners get various approaches to the language. As what Thornbury stated in How to teach vocabulary, grammar is a collection of rules while vocabulary is a collection of items and “one rule can generate a great many sentences”, which to some extents implicates that “vocabulary learning never stops, even long after grammar system is firmly in place, new words are being coined daily and old words is assuming new meanings” or in other words, the grammar learning could be mastered at some level whereas mastering learning vocabulary seems to take more time than that. The importance of learning vocabulary is also mentioned in many other researches. Gu in his research paper on Vocabulary learning in a Second language claimed that vocabulary acquisition is an essential achievement that one needs to fulfill his/her study in second language (Gu, 2003). He also emphasized the need for motivation students can get to self – studying
them in this extensive learning requirement. Self – strategies are needed, thus, they are motivated by how teachers can produce a motivating lessons to raise students’ interest.
2.1.3. How vocabulary is learned
It is necessary to mention that before knowing techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners, there is a thrust for teachers to get the basic understanding of how vocabulary is learned. Therefore, in the context of this study, the process of learning or acquiring lexical items would be referred to. First and foremost, it should be noted that how vocabulary is learned does not merely refer to knowing a word or a phrase but it also requires the acquisition of that knowledge. Globally agreed, in terms of goal, learners need a receptive vocabulary of around 3000 high-frequency words (or words families) in order to achieve independent user status (An A-Z of ELT, Thornbury, p.240). It should be notified that “learning any particular words as being a cumulative process where knowledge is built up over a series of varied meetings with the word.” (Nation: p.6) Different aspects of word knowledge are by far summarized by Cameron (2001: 77) in the table below.
Type of knowledge
What is involved
Receptive knowledge: To understand it when aural/decoding Memory it is spoken/written To recall it when
Conceptual knowledge To use it with the Not correct meaning protractor compasses Knowledge spoken phonological knowledge of
the To hear the word and To hear and produce form: to pronounce it the endings of verb
acceptably, on its own, forms, such the /n/ and in phrases and sound at the end of sentences undertaken it in a She sang very well not *she sang very good*.
accurate way; to know To know that is and be grammatical are parts of the same
connections with other verb. words Collocational knowledge To know which other A beautiful view not *a words can be used good-looking view* with it Orthographic knowledge To spell it correctly Protractor *protracter* not
Pragmatic knowledge, To use it in the right “Would you like a knowledge of style and situation register drink?” is more
appropriate in a formal or semi-formal
situation than “what can I get for you?” Connotational To know its positive To know that slim has
associations, to know when used about a its associations with person, whereas skinny related words Metalinguistic knowledge To know is negative. explicitly To know that
about the word, e.g. its protractor is a noun; to grammatical properties know that pro is a prefix.
Table 1: What is in knowing about a word
In How to teach Vocabulary (2002), Thornbury carefully proposed three major stages in which vocabulary acquisition of second language was performed. As complimentarily indicated by him, a wide range of the first words are absorbed through labeling (p.14). This stage is typically true for young learners, especially young children. The second stage involves categorizing, in which children learn or are taught how to include other words belonging to the same kind as the ones they know. Finally is the stage of network building or constructing a complex web of words. This is considered to be the ultimate step which lays the profound groundwork for the learning process that continues for the rest of one’s life. In addition to the three proposed stages above, Thornbury also put an emphasis on the lifelong process of learning. According to him, words in the second language are simply acquaintances which can be met, known and understood but can be easily forgotten. He claimed that it might take a tremendous amount of time to turn acquaintances into friends, the ones that learners could never forget (p.14).
2.2. Young learners 2.2.1. Definition
The term “young learners”, according to the author of the book An A-Z of ELT, Thornbury, “is used to describe children of pre-primary and primary school age, although it is sometimes used to include adolescents as well” (p.250). In the same way, “young learners” as defined by Sarah Phillips (1993) are “children of formal schooling (five or six years old) to eleven or twelve years of age.” (p.4). Teaching English to young learners, therefore, has a long history: in many multilingual countries, primary school children are taught English as preparation for secondary school, where it is the medium of instruction. In recent years, there has been a phenomenal increase in the teaching of English to young learners, in EFL context as well as in ESL, and in state school as well as in private ones (Thornbury: 251).
2.2.2. Characteristics of young learners
Zhao & Morgan (2007) noted in one of their journals that “children or young learners are those who are not consciously interested in language for their own sake and usual tend to direct their interest towards things that are easy for them to understand.” Hence, as they pointed out, young learners possessed “a natural desire” in learning concrete words (2007: 17) Young learners, specifically refer to children, were claimed by Brown (2001) are not effortless learners as popular tradition often believed. They can be far superior to adults in their eventual success (p.87). Their fluency
and naturalness, indicated by Brown can often be the envy of adults struggling with second language. The special characteristics of young learners and those that distinguish them from other learners, as mentioned by Thornbury (2006) can be grouped under three headings namely cognitive, affective and social. In his theory, Thornbury indicated that the most relevant cognitive factors could be seen in: “children’s relatively limited world knowledge; the fact that they are still developing concepts and language simultaneously and that their memory is still developing; their inability – particularly at a very young age – to conceive of language as an abstract system, which means they have a limited understanding of metalanguage, and do not recognize error correction as such; a difficulty in sustaining attention for extended periods of time; a preference for holistic as apposed to analytic learning, and a related preference for remembering “episodes” (things that happened) rather than facts; a greater tolerance for ambiguity – in the sense that children don’t have to know what every word means: they are predisposed to understand messages, even when they don’t recognize the code.” (p.250) Affective factors as further explained include “a lack of selfconsciousness about expressing themselves inaccurately or through minimal means, and the need for encouragement and support. Also, young learners are more likely to be motivated by intrinsic factors, such as the inherent interest of an engaging task or game, than by extrinsic factors, such as the need to pass a test. They are particularly predisposed to learning through play.” (p.251) Last but far from least, social differences include a lack of social skills, especially where peer collaboration is required, and consequently a greater
dependency on the teacher for direction and support. Their socialization into classroom life is helped when they can recognize and rely on regular routine. Preferably, as young learners are subject to rapid mood changes and often find it difficult to sit quietly, they can learn at best when they are involved in a large variety of activities (Koce, 2009).
2.2.3. Thumb rules in teaching young learners
The differences that were previously pointed out suggest a number of rules of thumb when teaching young learners, including: • Provide opportunities for learning through doing, rather than through formal study of the system, grammar for example. • Situate the content of lessons in the world of the learners (personalization) • Plan short, varied activity cycles. • Systematically recycle language in different contexts. • Incorporate activities which engage learners in using language for reasons and purposes which they can relate to, such as games, stories and songs. • Do activities, including physical activities, which involve all the senses (multiple intelligences) • Provide opportunities for divergent responses and for experimenting and being creative with language. • Provide plenty of comprehensible input eg: in the form of teacher talk that is supported by actions, pics (Total physical response)
• Scaffold the learners’ talk, to provide them with a conversational framework within which they can express themselves (scaffolding) • Establish regular routines in class, such as calling the roll, beginning or ending each lesson with a song (routine) • Train young learners in how to learn, by, for example, setting learning goals, explaining reasons for doing things and asking learners to reflect on their learning (learner training) • Don’t over rely on pairwork or groupwork, but include plenty of teacher-fronted activities as well. • When doing pairwork and groupwork, monitor to make sure that learners are on task, and intervene if necessary to ensure learners are cooperating with one another (monitoring) Thornbury (2005, p.250-251)
Many of these principles are, in fact, perfectly consistent with a communicative approach, especially the emphasis on learning through doing rather than through formal study. More importantly, those principles suggest flexibility in dealing with young learners, particularly in teaching them vocabulary which would be mentioned in later part of this study.
2.3. Vocabulary teaching 2.3.1. Stages in teaching Vocabulary
Basically as proposed by Gower (2005) and Thornbury (2002) there are three stages in teaching vocabulary namely presenting, practicing and revising. In this research, the researcher is going to list each stage with its typical features to have a better review for further techniques followed that.
The title of this very first stage has indicated clearly its function in introducing new lexical items to learners. As suggested by Thornbury, at the very least learners need to learn both the meaning and the form of a new word. Therefore, as he claimed, it’s worth pointing out that both these aspects of a word should be presented in “close conjunction in order to ensure a tight meaning-and-form fit” (p.75). If the co-writers of Teaching Practice (p.146) immediately referred to the effectiveness of using visual aids in presenting new words, Thornbury specifically emphasized the importance of cutting down “the gap between the presentation of a word’s form and its meaning” so that learners could possibly be at ease to make a “mental connection between the two”. He also stressed some major factors, subject to which the number of words should be presented. They could be as following: • The learners’ level (beginner, intermediate, or advanced) • Learners’ likely familiarity with the words (learners may have met the words before even though they are not part of their active vocabulary) • The difficulty of the items (whether, for example, they express abstract rather than concrete meaning, or whether they are difficult to pronounce) • Their “teachability”, which means whether they can be easily explained or demonstrated within the context of the classroom.
• Whether items are being learned for production (in speaking and writing) or for recognition only (as in listening and reading). Since more time will be needed for the former, the number of items is likely to be fewer than if the aim is only recognition.
After raising two most common questions in presenting new words in teaching vocabulary, Thornbury went further to notify a principle in introducing new vocabulary items, which was learners’ capacity. When the learners’ capacity to remember new words, the number of new words presented should be carefully considered and should not be overstretched.
Suggested by Gower and his co-writers, students often need a little time for the new lexical items (or new words for short) to “sink in” (p.148). They pointed out that learners may recognize new item but often delay putting it into active use. In this case, the use of planned activities for recycling and reactivate the new vocabulary is of necessity. This kind of practice, as implied by Thornbury (2002) underlines the popular belief that “practice makes perfect” (p.93). Additionally, he emphasized the action of moving words from short-term memory into permanent memory. He indicated that “new knowledge – i.e. new words – needs o be integrated into existing knowledge – i.e. learner’s existing network of word associations, or what is called the mental lexicon.” (p.93). This means in order to ensure the long-term retention and recall, words or lexical items need to be put to work, or into practice as it is often understood in many other contexts. He proposed that vocabulary need to be placed in “working
memory” and subjected to different operations which would be mentioned intricately in the later part of techniques in practicing vocabulary.
184.108.40.206. Consolidating and Revising
In accordance with presenting and putting words into practice, checking students’ comprehension and revising those words are a final important stage in teaching this specific field. This stage sound familiar and may be equated to the second one, however; as its name suggests, in this stage, students are advised to complete high-level tasks namely production tasks (Thornbury, p.100). The author of many famous books for English language teachers grouped decision-making tasks into the second stage when learners needed to decide and make their choice in facing up with already learnt items. (p.93). For the third and final stage as this, production tasks were of high attention of the author. A closer look and review to techniques of this stage will be presented afterwards.
2.3.2. Techniques in teaching vocabulary
As mentioned above, there are three main parts or namely stages in teaching vocabulary. In this part of the review, common techniques used in each stage will be manifested with clear and further explained briefly.
220.127.116.11. Techniques in presenting vocabulary
Proposed by Doff (1988, cited in ELT Methodology II, 2009) and Thornbury (2002) and Nation (1994) a variety of techniques can be used or combined in introducing vocabulary. If the latter listed a set of choices related to presenting the meaning through:
• Translation • Real things • Pictures • Actions/ Gestures • Definitions • Situations With a choice whether to present the word in its: • Spoken form, or • Written form (Thornbury, p.77) The former grouped those techniques into four categories. As cited by To (2009), those four groups are as below: • Showing the meaning of words visually. This was, as indicated by Doff was the most common way in the very first stage to present meaning of a new word. This group involves using pictures (mostly for concrete words); using realia (the real object to bring to classroom); or using mime (demonstrate meaning of the word by actions or facial expressions). • Showing the meaning of words in context. This technique is performed by using examples, situation or explanation. This is most commonly used for abstract words, which appear to be inexplicable by using visual aids.
Using synonyms and/or antonyms. This depends on the familiarity of the word that teacher is going to present in class.
• Translation. This is sometimes considered to be a traditional way but turns out to be an effective use within classroom context. Showing meaning of a new word by using translation can be quicker and easier for teacher so that time for other activities can be saved ultimately. Doff (1988) cited by To.H, et.al., 2009 Normally, as also suggested by Doff, a combination of the techniques mentioned in four groups above should be implemented when it comes to the effectiveness of presenting meaning of new words (p.97). This is because of the reason that each technique when combined will reinforce and support the others; thus, making the presentation of new words clearer and more efficient.
18.104.22.168. Techniques in practicing vocabulary
For practicing vocabulary stage, as mentioned in How to teach vocabulary by Thornbury (2002: 93), there can be a variety of tasks which can be used in order to help move words into long-term memory. Those tasks, clarified by him, require learners to make decisions about words and they can be divided into five types in order of least cognitively demanding to most demanding: • Identifying • Selecting
• Matching • Sorting • Ranking and sequencing Thornbury, S. (93-94) Identifying tasks involving tasks of finding words in texts. “Listen then tick the words you hear” can be one obvious example of this type. Identification is the first step in recognizing words and requires learners do easy task as counting, ticking or a bit difficult is to unscramble words as in anagram (p.95) Selecting tasks, as clearly stated by the linguist is “cognitively more complex than identification tasks”. For selecting tasks, learners will have to do recognizing words and making choices amongst them at the same time. Finding and odd one out is a common task that teachers may often use in class for checking comprehension. Apart from recognizing and making choice amongst words, learners are also requested to do matching tasks. In this kind of task, learners may need to pair a set of given words to a “visual representation, for example, or to a translation, a synonym/antonym, a definition or a collocate.” (p.97) By grouping words into different categories, learners are being asked to do sorting task. It should be noted that the categories can be given in advance or learners have o guess what the categories are.
The most cognitively complex and demanding tasks in this stage are ranking and sequencing activities. Different form sorting when learners merely putting words into categories, in ranking tasks, they may have to put words into unfixed order, often created by learners’ preferences themselves. One clear example can be “what to buy first for an empty flat?” (Thornbury, p.98)
22.214.171.124. Techniques in consolidating and revising vocabulary
There are no fixed techniques proposed by group writers of lecturers at English Department, HULIS-VNU (2009), specific tasks were listed instead. They are as follow: • Ordering • Rub out and • Guess the picture • Matching • Noughts and Crosses • What & where • Wordsquare • Jumbled words
remember • Networks • Bingo • Wordstorm • Slap the board
As for Thornbury, those listed activities above are some common games which assist teachers in implementing a productive vocabulary lesson with learners. The final stage, as further recommended by him, highly involves production tasks in which learners, after having made decisions will actually produce something as a product of their own. In this
way, learners will turn words from receptive to productive and put them into long-term memory (p.100). For production tasks, there are two major types that teachers may have used them very often namely: completion and creation (both are of sentence and texts). Sentence and text completion tasks are generally known as gap-fills. In gap-fills, the distinction between open and close gap-fills is necessarily noticeable. In close gap-fill, words are provided in advance whilst in open gap-fill, learners have to fill in basing on their amount of lexical items. Multiple choices, as suggested by Thornbury also fit in well with this completion task category. For completion tasks, there varies a number of instruction such as: complete the text by writing an appropriate word in each space; choose the best word from the list to complete each sentence. Use each word once; or choose words from the text you have just read to complete these sentences, etc. If text and sentence are often provided in completion tasks, they are often created by learners in creation tasks. The tasks sound difficult; however, this is a typical feature of those tasks. Besides, learners may not have to produce all on their own, they are sometimes provided with a set of words from which they would choose to use in their sentences or texts. For creation tasks, such typical instructions are used: choose six words from the list and write a sentence using each one; or write a short narrative (dialogue) which includes at least five words from the list, etc.
In many books concerning teaching vocabulary, games are one indispensable advice for many teachers not only in English teaching but also in the field of language teaching. Mentioning games, the researcher of the study has already manifested some of them in the part of techniques used for revising words. Those are proposed by To, et. al. (2009). In this part, instead of listing common word games, the researcher mainly goes into discussing the function and effectiveness of using games in teaching vocabulary as a major topic. Drawn upon the characteristics of young learner, one typical characteristic of them is moving around almost all of the times and cannot be sitting quietly for more than five minutes (see Characteristics of young learners). Yet they can be often keen on word games (Nguyen & Khuat, 2003) with a variety of options and movements. Especially in the context of teaching English to Vietnamese learners who are often labeled as inactive and afraid of risk-taking learning (p.2), games is said to be an extrinsic motivation for them to participate actively in the lesson. In the findings, the two researchers pointed out that using games in teaching vocabulary could equip learners many chances to learn, practice and revise in a so-called “pleasant atmosphere” (2003: 3). Their results clearly stated that “firstly, games bring in relaxation and fun for students, thus help them learn and retain new words more easily. Secondly, games usually involve friendly competition and they keep learners interested. These create the motivation for learners of English to get involved and participate actively in learning activities. Thirdly, vocabulary games bring real world context
into the classroom, and enhance learners’ use of English in a flexible, communicative way.” (Nguyen & Khuat: p.3). Advantages of using games were at the same time indicated by Wright, et.al (1984) by showing that games not only helped and encouraged learners to sustain their interest but also gave teacher a helping hand in creating contexts. This is particularly true when learners need useful and meaningful contexts to better their understanding of new words or in general, lexical items. He strongly insisted that games must be regarded as “central to a teacher’s repertoire”. (1984: 1) After 14 years of teaching English, Kocer concluded that “games can represent the most fertile area for activities that will work well with children” (2009: 24). Games, as regarded by her could supply children with “not only hands-on or direct experiences, but also experiences where they are interacting and learning both from adults and other children”.
2.3.3. Difficulties in teaching vocabulary
In this study, concerning the issue of constraints encountered by teachers, the research deliberately focuses on finding external factors, that is to say the internal factors related to teachers themselves are spared for a larger scale research. In this case, difficulties in teaching vocabulary are said to often arise from the nature of vocabulary itself. The very first difficulty recognized in teaching words is the matter of whether to teach form first then meaning or meaning first then form later (Thornbury, 2002). This matter once drew attention of another author, Harmer (1998) who raised two important facts that teachers might sometimes neglect: one form may have many meanings and vice versa (p.47). When this problem is
considered to be acute Extracted in ESL Journal (2009), Schmitt intensively reclaimed the importance of learning spelling and pronunciation besides knowing the meaning of a word. Conclusively, form and meaning are two sides of a big matter that should be mingled in the concept of teaching vocabulary. Another matter deterred by many researchers is mistakes that learners often make when learning vocabulary. These concern form-related errors and meaning-related ones (Thornbury, 2002: 29). The former appears to include “mis-selections” (errors caused when an existing word form is selected that is similar in sound or spelling to the correct one) , misformations (errors caused when misapplying word formation rules, resulting in producing a non-existing word) and spelling and
pronunciation (errors caused when learners make the wrong choice of letters and sounds or misplace word stress).” In the latter, collocation and sometimes connotation are most commonly known. External factors can be seen from the different levels of learners in one class; class size can grow to unexpectedly big; learners keep using their first language and more importantly students appear to be uncooperative. Those factors once happen in class can negatively hinder the efficiency of both presenting and practicing new words; additionally badly affect teacher’s plan and demotivate many activities performed by him/her (Harmer: p.127).
2.4. Related Studies
Regarding research matter of teaching vocabulary, recent researches and studies have investigated, to a certain extent, a specific resource or
repertoire - that is games. Nguyen & Khuat (2003) asserted using games in teaching vocabulary to Vietnamese students. Their researched subject was a group of 17-20 students at Distance Learning Center. By implementing and observing such games as: hangman, snakes and ladders, selling and buying things, and so on so forth. The co-researchers successfully created an active and expectedly fun learning environment for students involved. However, unanticipated problems arisen from those games were also revealed. Giving clear instruction to avoid embarrassment for students, uncooperative members and using of too much L1 during the games were some of the most obvious one that the two researchers failed to include at the very beginning. Likewise, Kocer (2009) suggested a variety of games in teaching vocabulary to children in the early stage of learning English. From the perspective “the most students use their language skills for enjoyment, the more language ability they are likely to acquire” (Julian Edge, cited by Kocer, p.23), she not only presented Wendy Scott’ proposal about young learners’ characteristics but also pointed out each game’s strength in accompany with the effectiveness it provided to students. More importantly, detailed and constructive notification for using each game was carefully acclaimed. By far, researchers have worked on one or certain technique in teaching vocabulary. Nation (2000) whose specialist interest are language teaching methodology and vocabulary, for example, claimed that the major problem with vocabulary teaching was that only a few words and a small part of what was required to know a word could be dealt with at any one time (p. 3). He put a considerable stress on the issue of complexity which he pointed out “the more complex the information is, the more likely the
learners are to misinterpret it.” Concerning the identical subject matter of techniques in teaching vocabulary, Akbari, O. (2008) held his interest in experimenting teaching “vocabulary items through contextualization and pictures.” By presenting pictures, model sentences, antonym and synonyms into classroom, the experiment was conducted among three groups. After a thorough procedure of testing and analyzing each group, conclusion was eventually coined to prove the effectiveness of using pictures in teaching. Notably that this experimental research was piloted on elementary groups, which in the researcher’s opinion, mainly concrete lexical items were presented and taught as a whole. As for teaching young learners, Coltrane (2003) elaborated certain aspects that worth taking into considerations when working with young learners. Intriguingly, the author of the research concluded that three factors are major concern of every teacher, which involves young learners’ characteristics, learning conditions to support them and finally is the nature and quality of instruction to young learners. Driving the thrust to conduct a research on current implementation of various techniques that native teachers use to teach English to Vietnamese students, the researcher took a closer step to investigate Ila school – one of prestigious schools in Hanoi where students, especially young learners receive a fun and active learning environment with close and frequent contact with native speakers in the role of their teachers.
Chapter 3: Methodology
In order for the validity and feasibility of the research, the researcher has decided to choose ten teachers currently teaching at ILA as the main subject of the study. The following reasons can best explain for the ultimate decision of the researcher. First of all, after having been trained for both CELTA (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults) and CELTYL (Certificate in English Language Teaching to Young Learners) during three to six months, teachers at this school have achieved recognized qualification in teaching English and particularly in teaching young learners. Notably, most of them have obtained intensive background knowledge from valuable experiences in teaching English to young learners in several countries before coming to Vietnam, which is the reason why they are, to be exact, quite wellaccustomed to the targeted students enlisted in this study. Additionally, teachers at Ila, without doubt, are in direct and frequent contact with learners. Therefore, they are at least well-aware of students’ needs, their strengths and weaknesses, and more importantly, how to motivate them to learn and acquire the new language. From a perspective point of view, with notified certification and considerable knowledge, teachers participating in this study will at most contribute greatly to its accomplishment and success.
3.2. Data collection methods
In order for the validity of the information gathered to be assured, use of triangle methods including questionnaire, interview and observation was carefully employed by the researcher with great consideration from the supervisor as well. The combination of three methods listed previously allows the researcher to answer all three research questions thoroughly. It was carefully calculated that each method was used in order to support the others.
3.2.1. Questionnaire survey
Considered as the main medium of the research, questionnaire survey questions allow collecting data from a wide group of participants for such a quantitative research and have a fair reliability (Mackey & Gass, 2005, p.92). “The questionnaire is a widely used as an useful instrument for collecting survey information, providing structured, often numerical data, being able to be administered without the presence of the researcher, and often being comparatively straightforward to analyze” (Wilson & McLean 1994, cited in essaycapital.com). For the accomplishment of the research, teachers at Ila completed a questionnaire in which they were encouraged to share experience and express thoughts in teaching vocabulary to young learner. To be more specific, there were some suggested techniques that are often used in teaching vocabulary, teachers ticked the techniques that they used. Additionally, issues of some common obstacles in coping with young learners were also raised so that teachers had general ideas for later
interviews. In using such a way, the researcher could gather most of the information needed for the study.
As far as the study concerns, the data gathered from questionnaire to some extent, is not authentic enough. It cannot show off and give the profound implications to the researcher. In this case questionnaire was followed by semi-structured interviews with some of participants in order that the researcher can probe for more information. As stated by Mackey & Gass (p.173), the most obvious strength of interviews are the interaction which provoke researcher to “elicit additional data in case initial answers are unclear, incomplete, off-topic, or not specific enough”. Besides, interviewing teachers can avoid unexpected difficulties such as: being unconfident or perceptual distortions (Mackey, p.174), and allow researcher to receive much more detailed information which is essential for the proposed purpose. In each interview, teachers individually clarified, if necessary, some unclear points as perceived by the study conductor about their techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners. In this phase, teachers mostly listed their techniques used and further discussion was spent on difficulties in dealing with young learners as well as their suggested recommendation.
As the study focuses on investigating currently used techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila school, observation in classroom is of another vital role. Apparently, observing classroom equips
the researcher with enriching data collected from the two previous instruments and provide opportunity to have a closer and deeper look a “participants’ behavior and actions within a particular context” (Mackey, p.176). In this study, observation scheme was carefully prepared checklist in combination with rating scale which was identical for each class being observed.
3.3. Data collection procedure
In this study, three main phases in which each phase involves one compatible method of study will be conducted under meticulous instruction and revision from the researcher and the supervisor. In the very first phase, questionnaire is prepared and designed with the invaluable help from the supervisor. Aiming to seek details for answering the first two research question, the questionnaire is of much help and convenience in promoting options for participants. Herein, ten teachers at Ila in the role of participants responses to given set of questions and provided further information to clarify their choices. Coming to the second phase is short interview with four teachers. Each interview was estimated to last the maximum of 15 minutes as most of the information has been collected through survey questionnaire. Randomly chosen from previous questionnaire phase, each interviewee might choose to take part in the interview or refuse to do so. In such case, a different participant was selected. As the interview questions are semi-structured, respondents in this phase could be at ease to express their opinion and share precious experience as long as they are willing to. Any additional information is all welcomed by the researcher.
The third and also the last phase involves observing four classes, each in two lessons. Notably that the four classes presented here are those of four interviewees in the second phase. The researcher, since has been long familiarized with teachers and students in those classes, will not intervene or disrupt the continuity or flow of the lesson as it goes. Therefore, the result gained from observations can be guaranteed and reassured.
3.4. Data analysis methods and procedure
General speaking, the data analysis in this study was implemented according to question-based analysis, that is thoroughly analyzed and then synthesized the findings after conducting all three phases listed in the previous part. As presented from the beginning, the survey questionnaire and interview were carried out on the basis of the aims to answer satisfactorily most of the three research questions. Questions in the questionnaire, for example, were deliberately classified to answer first two research questions. Hence, they were collected, analyzed and summarized at the very first stage. The interviews, on the other hand served to answer most of the content included in the third research question whose emphasis was put on recommendations in teaching vocabulary to young learners – some facts or notes. Data collected from observation was used to illustrate and clarify to what extent all three research questions have been touched in each lesson. To be more exact, they were merely added to the analysis of questionnaire and interview so that the researcher could have a broad view of the results.
In light of data presentation and analysis, statistics obtained from the questionnaire were placed in the form different charts which could reassure the clear cut format and facilitate the analytical task. Information from the interviews was classified and analyzed to seek the answers for its targeted research question. Information for observations was also synthesized to make clear for any technique used in classroom. It is noticeable that the compatibility and discrepancy among information in questionnaire, interview and observation were mentioned accordingly.
Chapter 4: Findings and Discussion
This section serves its best to answer the three research questions that were proposed by the researcher at the beginning of this paper. Follows are answer of each question respectively.
4.1.1. Common techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila
a. In presenting
70 60 50 40 30 20 10
pictures/flas hcards miming
synonyms/a ntonyms translation
0 never rarely sometimes usually very often
Figure 1: Common techniques used in presenting new words There is an extreme contrast in using real objects (or realias for short), translation and pictures or flashcards in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila. As can be seen from the chart, teachers appeared to use translation the least. This is totally understandable in this context when all
of them are native speakers, which means it is almost impossible for them to use Vietnamese. The same situation happened to the usage of synonyms and antonyms. This is due to the fact that young learners haven’t acquired large enough amount of vocabulary to use either synonyms or antonyms, otherwise they can cause reversed effect. On the contrary, using pictures and flashcards in presenting new vocabulary items to young learners outnumbered all the other techniques. 50% of the teachers involving in the research claimed to use this popular method followed by 30% using miming which unsurprisingly is another common one in introducing new words to children from six to twelve. To be in a nutshell, using flashcards and miming are two most well-known and commonly-used techniques in teaching lexical items to young learners at Ila. These others, due to several subjective factors haven’t been exploited to their most advantages.
b. In practicing
60 50 40 30 20 10 0 never rarely sometimes usually very often
identifying tasks selecting tasks matching
ranking and sequencing
Figure 2: Common techniques used in practicing vocabulary items
Teachers’ preferences in using different tasks for practicing vocabulary items varied quite a lot in this chart. It was clearly shown that, for example, five teachers (which equals 50%) don’t often use identifying tasks such as “listen and tick on the options you hear”, another five appear to use this kind of techniques frequently. Most outstanding are using matching and sorting tasks, which accounts for 60% in terms of teaching preference each. To be more specific, among ten teachers responded to this questionnairebased survey, six out of ten replied to use matching quite often and the same number was applied for sorting tasks. As for ranking and sequencing, one major factor that affects its popularity is the complexity required in the task which hinders young learners in practicing vocabulary items the most effectively. The least commonly used one falls on selecting tasks. Such task as “choosing the odd one out” turns out to be least preferred by all teachers at Ila. From the researcher’s perspective, the reason can be that there are not many available materials for this kind of method. The fewer ready-made tasks are, the smaller the frequency is. To conclude, in practicing vocabulary items to young learners, matching and sorting tasks are the two most preferable ways that teachers often use.
c. In consolidating and revising Obviously illustrated from the chart below, sentence or text completion is a more popular choice for almost all teachers at Ila in revising old vocabulary items. Only two out of the ten teachers often use creation tasks for young learners at this language school. For the rest, completion tasks appear to attract their attention much more largely.
60 50 40 30 20 10 0 never rarely sometimes usually very often
Figure 3: Common techniques used in revising vocabulary items
From the observation, the researcher noticed that even though there are some specifically recommended techniques using for each stage of teaching vocabulary, teachers often used them in an interactive way. This means they did not necessarily use each technique for each stage separately; many techniques were mingled for a certain purpose and use. Using flashcards, for example, could be seen commonly used in presenting new words; however, when it came to the stage of practicing or revising, T3 simply used flashcards for checking learner’s memory in order to make sure they know the word. Any tasks for practicing or revising came afterwards, which created a solid assurance for the effectiveness of the activity. In his two lessons, T3 always started by getting his students (17 of them, aged seven to nine) into a circle. For a lesson, he used a set of animal flashcards, the other one was another set of sports, and then asked all the
students the meaning of each card. After checking their comprehension, he used a ball, passed it around. Each time the person holding the ball had to ask the next person one question “What animal do/don’t you like?” or “what sports do/don’t you like?”. In such way, he accomplishedly facilitated and recycled words for the whole class. In the second class that the researcher observed, T4 also used animal flashcards as a warm up activity. However, instead of checking comprehension by using a ball with question to go around the class, he divided the class into two teams. In a manner of a game, one student from each team had to go up to the board, looked at the card that he/she was shown to, then mimed the animal’s action to the rest of the team. By combining the two most commonly-used techniques, T4 successfully involved all the students and checked their understanding of all the flashcards. As his class was at lower level than the first observed one, his students were not required to write as a process of producing stage.
4.1.2. Difficulties in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila
First of all, it is essential to present the expected result that presenting vocabulary is the most difficult stage to teach, as perceived by most of the teachers in the survey.
Presenting Practicing Revising
Figure 4: Most difficult stage in teaching vocabulary to young learners
Up to seven out of ten teachers participating in this study agree that presenting a new vocabulary item is the most difficult stage. More importantly, as in their opinions, teaching meaning is one of the very first difficulties
50 40 30 20 10 0
pronunciation spelling grammar (tense) meaning connotation
Figure 5: Part of a word that is most difficult to teach
Connotation, for young learners apparently is a completely new term and therefore, it is hard for any of the teachers to mention this in his lesson. However, regarding connotation as an element in meaning-relation, teaching words’ connotation in class contributes considerably to the difficulty that teachers have to deal with in vocabulary section. Exclusively, any issues in the group of meaning-related are considered to be a tough task when they are brought into classroom to teach young learners. Pronunciation, as a part of form-related group, presumably regarded as another difficult part to teach does not affect much of the lesson in comparison with the others when it only takes up 20% of the total number. Clearly, the matter whether to teach form-related parts or meaningrelated parts cause constant headache to many teachers. T1 shared her experience in deciding which part to teach first in class. She said that whether to introduce meaning or form first depended largely on the level of learners. Examples were also given to elaborate to her point. Teaching children aged six, for example, as they are in their early year learning a new language, they hardly know how to write a word, the solution can only be teaching meaning first. Gradually, when they are at higher level, when they are able to comprehend and write down the word, spelling will be implemented. T2 and T3 seemed to share another opinion. As they observed their students, pronunciation was among the very first element that they would like to teach their students in the early stage. As for them, young Vietnamese learners at Ila often have difficulties in pronouncing new words correctly. Consequently, getting them to work with accuracy in pronouncing words is their preference.
Regarding difficulties in teaching vocabulary to young learners, T4 claimed that his students talked too much Vietnamese during each activity he assigned them to do. “They all go crazy speaking Vietnamese whenever I told them to work in pairs”, he said mournfully. He totally understood the fact that as young learners, his students could hardly use English in every sentence; however, the thing that mattered most was that even when they were capable of using English, they didn’t do so. Asking for permission to go out, for example, or asking friends to lend a pencil are the two easy-touse-English sentence that he supposed his students should have acquired. Students’ speaking too much Vietnamese in class is the problem that not only T4 encountered. The other three teachers also had the same problem but each of them had, to some extent, reasonable resolution which will be discussed in the next research question. “It is true that many of them were not be focused at the same time as I was presenting some thing new on board”, T2 complained. “However, this does not happen to every class that I teach”, she added cheerfully. So it means that the problem of unfocused students may arise in some classes, which seldom occurs in the others. “They were too excited to stay concentrated”, “They were often too energetic to stay still, and too busy doing other things with their friends to pay attention” are some of T1’s brief explanations for the reasons why young learners in her class could not be focusing on her lesson. One unavoidable difficulty in teaching vocabulary to young learners is the fact that some of the students are often uncooperative. “They refused to take part in any of the activities I asked him to” T4 stated. To partially explain for the reason of this problem, T3 said “I think as they have to go to school to appease their parents or they consider themselves inferior to
others that they are often reserved and reluctant to enthusiastically participate in any physical activities”. As observed by the researcher, common difficulties are not only comprised of students’ small attention span, their using of L1, their uncooperative attitude but also involved their misunderstanding of teacher’s instruction. In T4’s lesson, as the level was lower, it took him almost 5 minutes to get his students understand what they should be doing in the activities. Instead of making all three steps: running, slapping the right picture on the board and shouting out loud the name of the object, most students involving in this “slap the board” game failed to do the third step. It was until the game went halfway and he had to keep reminding them to shout the word that his students finally remembered. By that time, the game was nearly towards the end.
4.1.3. Recommendations made by teachers for teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila
The very first recommendation that T1 suggested was to be flexible in teaching. This also reflects one major principle in teaching. What she meant by flexibility was to “quickly adapt changes in class and smoothly make advances by asking or requesting students to do what you need.” For the problem that students are not focused in class, a solution raised by T1 was to make them work continually. To be more exact, for young learners, activities “should always be changing in every 10 minutes”, T1 additionally suggested. She explained that when activities were quickly changed, students would not have spare time doing other things other than focusing on the lesson. Besides, as their attention span was considerably short, within 10 minutes they were in the mood of working and would not
get bored of having to do. Sharing the same idea, T3 acclaimed that in teaching young learners, one thing you should always bear in mind was to create a fun and active learning environment. Briefly, it is lying under the fact that young learners are most of the time keen on playing and moving around. So as far as they are allowed to involve in games and physical activities, they will at least learn some thing. Secondly, when students speak L1 too much in classroom, T1 suggested using special system, a set of rules at the beginning of each course, for example to make sure students are informed in advance not to use L1. Her special rule system was to use point to advocate class’s point. For each lesson they followed strictly the rules, they would get a point and a minus point would be traced every time they broke the rule. This particularly works when the point system was applied to teams, boys versus girls for example, which was recommended by T3. Since the whole class was involved in a gender competition, each individual had to take serious responsibility in order for the rule of not speaking L1 to be kept. As a matter of social face, students would presume that they would be a spoiled member if they do not follow. For children, it would be a harsh punishment to be deserted when they accidentally destroy the whole team’ effort by instinctively using their mother tongue too much in another language class. Regarding the issue of how to minimize the use of L1 in classroom, T4 applied another method. By using the so-called “countdown box” in classroom, he intentionally allow some time for his students to speak L1 in class. When the time in the countdown box was over, everything went back to normal, which meant every one had to speak English only.
It is worth trying any of those suggested special systems in class to avoid not only the use of L1 but also such situation as students misbehaving in class. Thirdly, in order to cope with uncooperative students in class, T2 proposed an interesting way that she thought it might be useful for most cases. In her opinion, to make students join the activities more enthusiastically, first of all the activity must be engaging enough to attract their attention, or in another word, appear to be appealing to their curiosity. Secondly, for those who are uncooperative, teachers should try to use activities that they could normally do the best, which means activities that they often perform to the best of their ability. Furthermore, for difficult students, teachers are encouraged to motivate them by giving them “certain jobs” in the class. Delivering handouts, rubbing the board to write date and time or similar things can help to make those students think they play an important role to a certain extent in class. Gradually they may realize their engagement in class’ activities and the amount of involvement might be increased accordingly.
4.2. Pedagogical Implications
As suggested in chapter two - Literature Review of this paper, vocabulary plays an equal role as grammar in learning a foreign language and so does vocabulary teaching. Such language school as Ila provides precious chance for students to have close-to-real learning environment as they are taught by native teachers. Moreover, young learners at Ila are equipped with ideally available materials and resources to better their every day learning. Therefore, as a matter of fact, bettering teachers via teacher training course and every day teaching is of essence. Hence, some
pedagogical implications that the researcher is going to mention, to some extent, should be taken into considerations. At the first place, throughout this study, the researcher repeatedly emphasized the importance in creating a fun and active learning environment so that learners are frequently motivated. Teaching vocabulary on the whole does not necessarily require working with words all the time. Teachers, in the role of a monitor and facilitator are doubtlessly capable of creating a vocabulary section in which students can play with words. For reference, a list of common and useful games is enclosed in the next part of this chapter. Secondly, in terms of teaching vocabulary, a combination of various techniques is strongly recommended by the researcher. This is obviously true when the fact that young learners can easily find themselves bored when a continuously single activity is identical for their every day lesson. It is even more obvious when teaching vocabulary demands a hard-working effort from the key person in classroom. The reason is when they have enough of one thing; they may want to get rid of it. A quick adaptation in various activities – do not let students play as long as they want and move to another task, may therefore help to promote the situation. Certainly, there are no qualified teachers to absent-mindedly repeat a single activity day after day. However, the truth is for young learners, especially those at their early days at school, repetition is one vital thumb rule that teachers should bear in mind. Repetition aims at scaffolding the very first groundwork and making their basic knowledge of the vocabulary more profound. Though this point sounds contradictory to the previous one, it is worth taking into consideration. Repetition in this case can be referred
to creating a daily routine that learners get used to and practice without falling in to the state of boredom. Last but far from least, flexibility is not only helpful for teachers but can also provoke students’ curiosity in learning. To explain for this point, the reason is surprisingly simple, as teachers are flexible in their lesson, in the way they teach, students (especially if they are young) can hardly predict what might come next. As a consequence, they are motivated in a positive way to learn more and more. This is almost true for almost all young learners. Exceptional ones can be motivated as suggested previously to become an important member of the class. With times, their achievement will be attributed to the success of class community as a whole.
4.3. Recommended games and activities
In this part of chapter four, the researcher presents some suggested games and activities as a resource for teachers to make their lesson vivid and lively, turning a vocabulary section into a section of “playing with words”.
4.3.1. Suggested games
Board sentence making: this game may sound strange; however, the rule is quite easy to follow and it is specially created to increase team work as well as the acquisition of words. Basically class is divided into two teams; each team is given six to seven small white boards. Teacher writes a word on the big board, each team has to make a sentence using the given word. Each word of the sentence must lie in each small board that the team is provided. The length of the sentence can be increase gradually (from four to six words per sentence).
Categories: Learners work in pairs or small groups. On a piece of paper, they draw up a number of columns, according to a model on the board, each column labeled with the name of a lexical set: e.g. fruit, animals, transport, clothes. The teacher calls out a letter, B for example, students write down as many words as they can beginning with that letter in the separate columns (banana, bus, blouses, bat, …). The group with the most correct words wins. Drawing/ miming or explaining: this is a game playing with the dice. Each time, representative from one of the two teams in the class has to throw the dice to know whether they have to draw (if throw 1-2), mime (34) or explain (5-6) the word that teacher gives them. It can create a fun learning environment when students really don’t want to explain but they throw 5 instead. Hammer: the aim of the game is to get students quickly operate words that they have learnt in class. Students stand in a circle, teacher stands in the middle of the circle, holding the paper hammer. Teacher can give a topic himself or ask students to choose one topic in which every one in the class has to take turn call out a word belonging to given topic. Anyone who cannot give one word will be hit on the head with the hammer. The last person to stay is the winner. Pronunciation race: this game is not only for revising the old words that students have learnt but also create a fun atmosphere where minimal pairs can be easily confused. In this game, class is divided into small groups (depending on the number of students). Each group sends a representative to the board. The teacher gives the rest of the group a small grid of words which they use to pronounce (not spell) to the member on
board. Once hearing the word, that member has to write down the word he/she gets. The team with most of the correct words wins. Spelling race: this game is useful for getting students to remember word’s spelling. Class is divided into two teams. For each time teacher writes a scrambled word on board and two representatives from each team have to race to the board and write the correct spelling of the word. Each correct word wins the team a point. The team with the most points wins. Stop the bus: In the same way as Categories, students write labeled column. When teacher calls out a letter, A for example, students have to find one word which starts with letter A and belongs to provided category. The first group to find all words shouts “Stop the bus”. The other teams have to stop. Teacher checks accuracy and spelling. Word Bang: This game can be used best to check students’ understanding of old vocabulary in class. Again, class stands in a circle and teacher stands in the middle holding a set of flashcards (make sure that students know all the cards in advance). Each time, two students compete each other to shout out loud the name of the card that teacher shows in front of them. The quicker is the winner. The game continues until there is only one student left, who is also the winner of the game. Word snap: The aim of the game is to get as many pairs of words as possible. Divide class to work in pairs or small groups (3-4 members). Each pair/group receives a set of words and pictures which correspond to the words. Each time one student face up two cards, if they match he will take them, if they don’t, he has to put them face back down. Turn goes to the next person. The one who gets the most pairs win.
4.3.2. Suggested activities
Bingo: this activity is useful for checking students’ comprehension and pronunciation of the old vocabulary. Teacher gets the class to brainstorm a list of ten or fifteen new words and puts them on the board. Students choose any five and copy them into a piece of paper. Teacher reads out the words (can be the definition if students are at higher level and flashcards if students are of lower level). Each time having one word that teacher reads, students put a tick or cross that word. The one to have five ticks or crosses shouts “Bingo” and the game can continue. There can be different version of this game, thus basically this is a good game to motivate students to remember words. Word associations: this can be applied to high level of young learners. Teacher writes a topic in the middle of the board and gets students to think about words that associate with it. In case students cannot think of as many words as expected, teacher can ask question to provoke answers that may enlighten students’ ideas. Half a crossword: this activity is to get students to use sentence for asking the meaning of a word. Students work in pair, each receives half a crossword. One student, in order to get the answers for the missing half has to ask the other either to act or give a definition of the word. This game can specifically combine both vocabulary and grammar for revision, which is quite useful for large class. Pictionary: this activity is normally used in the form of a game; however, teacher can utilize it as a fun activity in class. Class can be divided into two big groups. Each time, one person in the group, after receiving one word/phrase from the teacher has to turn to his/her group to draw so as to get the group guess correctly the word. Members take turns to draw and the activity can be played twice but should be not too long.
Chapter 5: Conclusion
5.1. Summary of findings
As the title of the paper suggests, this study has its focal point in investigating the current implementation of techniques used in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila, accompanied by difficulties and solutions as perceived by teachers of the school. After conducting a questionnaire-based survey, four interviews and observation, the researcher has found several major points as follows: The first major finding that the researcher got is the answer to the first research question. Common techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners can be divided into three groups. For presenting new words, using flashcards and miming are preferred by most of teachers in the study. In getting students to practice the words they have learnt, grouping words into certain categories preferably outnumbers the other techniques. For the final stage in teaching vocabulary – revising, most of the teachers responded to the study to have been familiarized with sentence and text completion rather than that of creation. Regarding difficulties in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila, it is necessary to state the difficulty in the first stage of presenting. Additionally, for presenting new words, making choice to teach form or meaning is another consideration that teacher may sometimes feel hesitated. Students’ small attention span, students’ using too much L1 and uncooperative students are also major problems that often cause tension for teachers in classroom when teaching vocabulary.
It is important to propose resolutions and solutions to any of the problems encountered by teachers, which plays an essential role in the researcher’s findings. Using a combination of various techniques along with being flexible in changing class’ activities is one best solution to minimize the difficulty in the first stage of teaching vocabulary. So as to attract students’ attention at the longest time, teachers are recommended to vary their tasks, activities and not to allow students play as long as they like the game should be. Interestingly, some teachers suggest using special point system or a set of rules at the beginning of every course to notify students about their using L1 in classroom, which reduces effectively this popular problem in language classroom. Furthermore, recommendations to motivate uncooperative students are skillfully made to maintain the community feature of the classroom. Finally, this research proposes some compiled games and activities that might be helpful for teachers’ repertoire. With a view to broaden teachers’ resources, available games and activities are of precious assistance and help so as that every vocabulary lesson with teachers is a lesson in which students can play with words.
5.2. Limitations of the study
To be honest, it is unavoidable that the researcher encountered some difficulties during the process of conducting this study, which entailed some pitiful limitations for the research as follows: First and foremost, even though the researcher was well aware that the range and number of samplings played a vital role in obtaining valid and reliable research results, it was hard to enlarge the number of participants when there were only a handful of them. This is due to the fact that
language school in Vietnam, specifically in Hanoi has just been introduced and become popular for recent years. The of number of teachers and students is still in its limitation, which the reason why there are only ten teachers participating in this study. Concerning the scale of population, a considerable shortcoming of this research is the lack of students’ participation. The researcher fully understands that learners play a vital part in second language researches; however, as a matter of fact, the target subject of this study is young learners, they are still too young to attend and guarantee the accuracy of the research’s results. More importantly, young learners are said to be subject to mood changes, their perception of effectiveness and efficiency has not yet formed, which means they might feel happy or satisfied with one teacher merely because of his/her lively characteristics while a quiet teacher can also created miracle in classroom. In addition, young learners could hardly give the researcher a closer look at what techniques should be used or what solutions should be made in order for the lesson to be fun and active. Thus, instead of piloting on young learners themselves, the researcher chose to observe the class to witness their behavior and performance. One limitation that the researcher could hardly avoid was the number of interviewees. In methodology chapter, the researcher expected to have five teachers joining short interviews. Only four of them could eventually make it and contribute greatly to the findings of this research. In conclusion, the research has inevitably undergone some limitations; therefore, it is advisable to take these issues into consideration and make necessary changes should further studies be conducted on the same topic.
5.3. Recommendations for further studies
Teaching vocabulary is a time and energy-consuming part in the body of teaching English. Teaching vocabulary is a large field to do research on and working on techniques in teaching vocabulary can worth researcher’s effort. Firstly, when doing a research on techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners, further aspects could be dug deep into such as how to utilize the most from multi-techniques and how to adapt that combination into classroom where students’ levels are different. An alternative is to further delve into the current study, improving its limitations and utilizing the implications suggested by the researcher. Secondly, further studies can be conducted on the same issue, yet on a larger scale and longer span of time for more reliable results. For example, other researchers carry out a study for a whole course at Ila for three to four months. Besides, a larger population may be used to get more reliable results, for example all teachers at the school attend in the research and further details can be searched among students as well. More desirably, in the whole process of conducting the research, other researchers can drop in random classroom during the time of the course that the class is performing and the number of observation can be more regular so that incidents can be recorded in time.
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Hi there, I’m Nguyen Thi Kim Chi from 06.1.E1, currently a fourth-year student at University of Language and International Studies. I am conducting a research concerning teaching vocabulary to young learners and this survey questionnaire is designed accordingly. Every detail you provide here will be kept confidential and will not pose any impact on your current teaching. Your cooperation will be of much help to the success of the research. Thank you very much. ______________________________________________________________________
Your name is: …………………………..(optional) Contact detail (email/phone number): ……………………………………(optional) Years/months of teaching English: …………………………… 1. How long have you been working at Ila? ……………………………………………. 2. How often do you work with young learners (age 6 – 12) at Ila?
□ very often (most of your classes are with young learners) □ usually (some of your classes are with young learners) □ sometimes (only one or two of your classes are with young learners) □ rarely (you do not have classes young learners, just covering for another
teacher) 3. What techniques do you often use in teaching vocabulary to young learners at Ila? (please verify the frequency of using each by putting a tick in the column next to it. Number 1 – 5 represents the rating scale: 1- least often and 5- most often)
a. In presenting new words 1. using real objects 2. using pictures/flashcards 3. using miming 4. giving examples/ specific examples 5. using synonyms/antonyms 6. using translation Others: ……………………………………………. b. In 1. using identifying tasks (finding where the words are
consolidati- hidden/ mentioned), i.e., listen and tick the items you hear. ng and checking vocabulary 2. using selecting tasks (recognizing words and making choice among them), i.e., choose the odd one out 3. matching 4. sorting (putting words into different categories), i.e., food, animals 5. ranking and sequencing (putting words in a certain order), i.e., “what are three things to bring with you when your house is on fire?” 6. others: …………………….. c. In producing tasks 1. using sentence/text completion Eg: gap fills, multiple choice 2. using sentence/text creation Eg: choose 6 words >> form a sentence Others: ……………………………………………………...
4. Which stage do you find most difficult?
□ presenting new words □ practicing and consolidating □ producing
5. Which element of the word do you often find difficult to teach to young learners? (you can choose more than one option.)
□ □ □ □
pronunciation spelling grammar (tense) meaning (i.e., overlap meaning between “make” and “do”)
6. What are some obstacles coming from the students?
□ □ □
they are not focused they are of multi-level they use L1(their mother tongue) a lot
□ they are uncooperative □ they don’t understand what you are saying □ others:
.…………….…………………………………………………………………… …………………………………………………………………………………… ……………………………………………… Thank you for help!
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