Underachieving Students’ Improvements in a Primary EFL Remedial Program

Chen, Tzu-Ching∗

There is a tendency for Taiwanese elementary school students to reinforce their English in a cram school after regular school hours. However, there are still some students who constantly fail cram school classes. For this reason, the selected cram school set up a supplementary program to have these students gathered for an intensive training after regular English programs, which is what we called a remedial program. The aim of this article is to introduce a developmental approach to integrating remedial program in the process. The teaching concepts have also illustrated by investigating and observing a class in a selected cram school. In addition, how this program worked for underachieving students is explained in detail. The results showed this remedial program was significantly effective in assisting students in improving their English abilities. All students met the intended goal of the program and six students obtained growth with scores above 70%. It provided a model of the remedial program for underachieving students in cram schools or language schools in Taiwan or any countries learning English as a foreign language.

Key Words: remedial program, primary English program, underachieving students, remedial instruction, cram school.

Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied English Studies at MingDao University

In 1995. Students.第二期(2007 年 3 月) 1. Introduction The research highlighted the significance of remedial instruction by investigating the effectiveness of a remedial program in a cram school. The class was designed to remedy low English achievers in the regular cram school classes. and teacher’s reflective journals to ensure the validity of the study. The branch where the study 264 . Problem Identification Students in the selected cram school for children’s English were taught English at their grade level to meet the MOE’s standards of elementary English curriculum. interviews. The program teacher was an English major college student in her 4th year. However. especially in the Computer Assisted English Learning (CAEL) class. it became the first English cram school to offer a Children CAEL course. Setting The selected cram school is considered to be one of the best organized English cram schools in Taiwan which founded in 1986. The observation was done in a selected cram school base in Taiwan. The classes were delivered one hour a day. The school then decided to open a reinforcement class to improve those students’ English learning in expectation of remedying the situation in the shortest time to rejoin the regular class. It has a total of 90 branches in its first three years and expanded to 2500 branches as of 2005. 27% of them did not acquire adequate English skills according to the scored report given by an English proficiency test in this cram School at the end of a four-month session. show insignificant improvement which concerned the parents. While attention is paid to mastery of basic spoken English skills on corresponding with the standard of Ministry of Education (MOE) in Taiwan. She appears to have a strong interest in researching and teaching in the field of Children’s English. where the first remedial course was set. The main objective was the student’s basic English language learning skill development. twice a week after the regular classes to reinforce students’ English learning outcomes. The remedial program lasts for four months. field notes. This study adopted action research methodology and data was collected through observation.

Table 1 Student name Dagwood: (boy) Lirch: (boy) Background Information of the Participants Characteristics of individual student Dagwood is a high English beginner and also the best performer in the program. It offers math. Among them one student. It was the impetus that urged this cram school to set up a four-month remedial program for students who failed in their regular programs. Zaphod. A student who is motivated to practice writing the English alphabet 265 . either. Teachers often have to search for appropriate pedagogic approaches to help their student’s language learning. He’s a student who frequently speaks with his classmates in Chinese during class. Lirch doesn’t like to learn English and mentioned to his teacher that his older brother doesn’t like English. 1973). and other after school programs. She is terribly shy. Wentling.Underachieving Students’ Improvements in a Primary EFL Remedial Program was conducted is set in downtown Taichung area with 124 students enrolled in the entire school at the time. A significant number of students fail their regular classes even after attending cram schools courses. 1993. abacus and mental calculation. Today’s language learners require more special needs and teacher’s assistance in a new way. She can hardly concentrate on the class material and is not able to pronounce or recognize words she previous learned. Below are the backgrounds of all participants. CAEL. There were a total of seven boys and one girl. The reason why only eight participants are included in a class is for the teachers to implement individual tutoring when necessary to fulfill the concept of remedial program. but will try to respond to the teacher in class. Esmerelda: (girl) Egbert: (boy) Esmerelda. the only girl in the program. due to the fact that individual one to one instruction has the advantage in allowing the instructors to provide immediate corrective feedback (Gettinger. children’s English (Multi-levels). The Participants The participants involved in this study were eight low achievement primary students from CAEL class who scored less than 60 on the English achievement test after completing their first session. quitted this program after the sixth class due to the schedule conflict with his art class.

Scaramouch: (boy) Byron: (boy) Abner: (boy) Zaphod: (boy) Scaramouch always talks with his classmates in class and finds it hard to concentrate on the lecture. he could not attend the entire program. The focus of the curriculum was on spoken English rather than written English to fit the latest MOE standards for 266 . He can not read fluently. The observation results helped to identify if this remedial English program assisted students in language learning and also at the same time served to provide the guideline of setting up a remedial program in cram schools or even regular schools. His parents often stay abroad and he currently lives with his grandmother. edited by Kid Castle Educational Corporation located in Taiwan. To cope with this national standard. but really likes learning English. 1985). Abner is always the first one to voice his opinions in front of other students. Zaphod is eager to learn English. The goal was to help the underachieving students to improve their English abilities so they would be able to rejoin the regular class and never regain lost. Way To Go (WTG) Book 1 and Sound It Out (SIO) Book 1 were the textbooks used in the CAEL class and reviewed in the remedial program. Byron likes to learn English but often is distracted by other classmates. He has difficulty in recognizing vocabulary words and needs more practice to catch up with other students. He shows a strong willingness to participate in the class conversation with his classmates. Curriculum Design The primary English instruction in Taiwan that the students received had a heavy focus on learning English communicative skills rather than on writing and reading. Due to the schedule conflict with his art class. he is willing to take chances to present himself in front of other students. and the curriculum was tailored to suit the age of the students. Goal The concept of remedial instruction is to teach in a faster pace than the regular class to help learners’ that have been left behind by their peers (Bereiter. However.第二期(2007 年 3 月) but has problems pronouncing the words which he has learned in class.

the MOE in Taiwan implemented English Education into elementary curriculum in 2001 (Chiu. bilingual kindergartens and children’s English cram schools have been established to help despairing parents by providing after school supplementary English programs for their children to ensure their English proficiency (Wang. 2005). 2000). The implementation of Taiwan’s New Elementary English Curriculum has been a great challenge for the thousands of elementary school educators and students. 2005). Under these circumstances. what Cummins (2000) referred to as conversational language. Krashen (2003) further stated that the major concern of language learners and their parents is accent and apparent fluency. each school adopted its own English curriculum. Way To Go Book with their classmates. 2004). 2. that is. In the remedial program. The main motivations of the parents whose children attend these programs in cram schools are the well-designed curriculum. intensive teaching 267 . 2004).Underachieving Students’ Improvements in a Primary EFL Remedial Program elementary English curriculum. all elementary school students have to start English learning from 5th grade instead of starting learning English from junior high school (seventh grade). etc. which caused anxieties to the parents (Liao. many elementary schools then lowered the English learning age to first grade due to parents’ expectations. The goal is to have students demonstrate their understanding through action responses in the least stressful way to achieve English learning and follow the instructor’s directions. For this reason. Related Literature Review Children’s English Cram School Programs in Taiwan After the establishment of First to Ninth Grades Curriculum Alignment. the school and school competition. Many parents started sending their children to study English in cram schools earlier than entering fifth grade. as conversations being excellent examples of the interactive and interpersonal nature of communication (Brown. Even though the MOE declared a set of policies and regulations as to how the elementary English education should be implemented. As a result. repetition and gestures were emphasized in the classes. Sound it Out 1 is the textbook designed to cope with Way To Go Book for the purpose of reinforcing students’ pronunciation through phonics. and the influence of General English Proficiency Test (GEPT). (Chen. students learned and practiced conversations from the textbook.

“Remedial instruction focuses on specific areas. Today. most kids in Taiwan have to start their English learning as early as from kindergarten to keep their parents satisfied and for a guaranteed successful future. and the comfortable environment (Wang. 2005). because researches reported that the reinforcement course after regular programs will help underachievers who have low motivation in learning the language (Chen & Lee. 2001). 2003).第二期(2007 年 3 月) methods. Remedial instruction is set mainly for individual learners rather than for group instruction to strengthen the teaching results. Taiwanese parents tended to send their children to cram schools. Thus. 1995). Joy Enterprises Organization. In fact. depending on the student's age. 2001. with a profit of more than 40 billion in the cram school markets. There are several research topics that discuss supplementary programs to highlight the significance of remedial instruction in Taiwan (Chang. In 1995. and Kid Castle Educational Corporation. Kams. these schools comprise sixty percent of the Children’s English cram school market (Anonym. and students who attended English supplementary classes possessed more 268 . An investigation indicated that 29% of primary school students studied at the cram school after their regular elementary school hours (Krashen. Lately.000 people. 2005). Hess Educational Organization. 2002). Wu & Lin.Yang (2004) specifically indicated that the average English academic achievement of students who attended English supplementary classes was significantly higher than those students who did not attend English supplementary classes. The Effectiveness of Remedial Program The effectiveness of remedial program at all levels has been researched for years regarding its effectiveness and practices (Chan & Li. his/her specific Learning Disability and the long-term goals identified for the student” (Sankar. 2004). over 450. 2003). 2002. which made up one forth of the population. hoping to stop their children from being left behind. 2005. Besty. the MOE decided to further lower English learning age to third grade in 2005 to reflect the theory of the advantages of the early language learning and the need of improving English among Taiwan's people (Hsu. 2002). Mostly. studied English in Taiwan’s cram schools and most of them were children in private children’s English schools (Wachob. large-sized Children’s English Cram schools include Giraffe Cultural Enterprises.

students were quizzed to recall the text. The teacher always started the lesson by greeting the students and asking how they had been doing. even with only eight of them in one class. They kept talking with each other when the teacher was giving a lesson. and high test anxiety (Chan & JEgbertg. a lack of confidence. For the purpose of identifying students’ English proficiency levels. These supplementary programs. and low sense of achievement in learning English. Only a few students did not concentrate on practicing the conversation. Implementation Month One The teacher started from the book Sound it out 1 to reinforce students’ alphabet recognition. Lirch responded during the lesson spontaneously and showed improvement after the lesson was done. Occasionally. the teacher made sure that she asked each student questions before having the students practice the conversations with their classmates according to the textbook. has been assumed effective toward improving English language learning. 2004). 269 . but were chatting in Chinese instead. Teachers found that the students were not easily managed. 2004) 3. The supplementary program is important because it will help students who have low motivation. inability to socialize normally. one of the students. low motivation about self-achievement. grasped the attention of researchers and their studies. and then reviewed the text from last week before moving on to the new lesson. but focused more on the textbook. The implementation of remedial instruction for the underachievers has been included as an important measurement of contemporary educational reform (Chen.Underachieving Students’ Improvements in a Primary EFL Remedial Program cultural capital and social capital in some aspects. Students who need the supplementary program have some common characteristics: low self-esteem. and allowed the students to read the textbook several times after lecturing the text. The teacher found that students did not talk as frequently as in their first class. This also helped the teachers to further confirm the student’s English proficiency levels. After the lesson.

the teacher tried to pair them for conversation practice again and found that students immediately seized the chance to talk to their classmates before the lesson. but were fully participated in the class. The teacher expected and encouraged her students to speak correctly so that immediate corrections were made to strengthen their pronunciations. During the lesson. some of them scored more than 80 from the third quizzes. In this month. Educational technology tools such as CDs. The teacher had the students sing the “Happy Birthday" song to Egbert to start the class. The teacher also tried to start every lesson a bit differently by dividing students into small groups when reviewing a set of vocabulary and asked them to practice spelling with their group members. a quiz was given and most students answered with confidence. In the last two weeks. some students began to show their interests in learning 270 . the teacher tried to teach this month’s lessons following the routine of the previous class. In addition. The questions were taken from the text the students studied in the first two classes. and computers program and software are used to raise students’ learning motivations. six of them scored more than 80 at the last class of the month. Surprisingly. the same teaching routine was used except for beginning with a 10-minute free conversation. the teacher also tried to pair the students in the beginning of the class to practice their conversations and to facilitate the class review. After the overview of the class materials. the teacher noticed that most students changed their learning attitudes by actively participating in the classroom activities and talked to their classmates less frequently.第二期(2007 年 3 月) Month Two Hoping to give students a sense of security in class. The same teaching routine was then used in every class to create regular learning pattern for students. reviewing. Students were confused about the lesson procedure. It was Egbert’s birthday on the first class day this month. During this month. the teacher made sure to give students some hints if they didn't know how to pronounce or spell the words. films. Even though. In addition. Month Three This month. starting from the greeting. quizzes were given at the end of the class to reinforce students’ learning. the teacher sensed high anxiety from the students when giving the quiz. The teacher noticed that encouragement helped the students to participate more in the class. and then inputting of new text to establish a teaching routine.

271 . All students improved in their English proficiency test after the remedial program excludes Zaphod who failed to attend the program from the seventh classes. Students’ improvements can also be distinguished from the statistics presented in Table 2. Esmerelda. a bingo game was used to start the lesson every week to recall what they had learned in the past weeks. students who attended the entire program made statistically improvements over the four-month period. It took almost half of the class time to finish the game. were all quiet and concentrated on the lecture. the teacher followed the teaching routine in the last month and reviewed all the lessons before giving the final achievement exam.71) is higher than before the program (M=47. Even though the students were told to prepare for the final exam two weeks ago. most of the time. but apparently students liked the game as they asked to play it over and over again. In the later weeks. 4. and Byron were showing more enthusiasm about taking turns reading the text during the lessons. as shown in Table 2. the students were more motivated in their English learning.06. Even though the teacher found that it was difficult to settle the students down to the teaching routine. mean of test scores after the remedial program (M=71.86 and 5. Month Four In the first two weeks. The results indicated from paired t test. Results Statistical Findings A total of six out of seven scored more than 70%. Lirch. their faces showed their anxieties. The students.7) with standard deviation of 8. An English achievement test similar to the test they had at the end of their last term was given after the review was done to identify students’ improvements after attending the remedial program.Underachieving Students’ Improvements in a Primary EFL Remedial Program English from this specially created learning atmosphere.

p=. The test scores after the remedial program is significantly higher than the test scores before the program.911 To further identify if students’ scores before and after the remedial program are statistically significant. (2-tailed) 272 .000 9.057 Std.0 and t=-6.-24. Mean Deviation Interval Difference Lower Before . As indicated in the table.643 Upper -15.864 5. the means of scores before and after the program is -24.000<.第二期(2007 年 3 月) Table 2 English Achievement Test Results Before and After the Remedial Program Name Before After Dagwood Lirch 45 78 55 70 Esmerelda Egbert 48 72 56 66 Scaramouch Byron 53 74 47 77 Abner 30 65 Zaphod 46 Dropped out Table 3 Mean Scores and Standard Deviation of English Achievement Test Results Before and After the Remedial Program Mean Before After 47.357 -6.05.795 6 .345 -32. Independent paired samples t test was applied to analyze students’ test scores before and after the program. df=6.71 N 7 7 Std.000 Confidence of the t df Sig.71 71. which indicate significant differences between the test results before and after the four-month remedial program. Deviation 8.795.350 1. Error Mean 3. Students improved their English abilities after attending the remedial program for four months. Table 4 Independent Paired Samples t Test Results of English Achievement Test Before and After the Remedial Program Paired Differences 95% Std.

gained more confidence in reading English aloud and claimed to like learning English after the program. If the class could last for two months or longer. The class was also easy to lose control of if the teacher didn't have good classroom management skills. the researchers found difficulty with classroom management for the underachieving students because of their negative motivations toward English learning. The teacher also stated that the use of educational technology attracted learners’ attentions and inspires their learning interests. and students may have a sense of increased anxiety that hinders their learning if they cannot answer the questions. This makes sure students pay more attention on their learning. Further. has become anxious to show what he has learned from the class in front of his classmates. When the teacher focused on talking with one student or one group of students. the rest of them started to chat with each other in Chinese. the remedial program is rather short. who did not like to learn English. It was impossible for the teacher to give equal care to each student at the same time. Lirch. Classroom Observation Classroom observation by the teacher supported the statistical result that the students made good progress in improving their English communicative skills.Underachieving Students’ Improvements in a Primary EFL Remedial Program After * *p < . Esmerelda. The teacher especially noticed that most students changed their English learning attitudes over the program period. It was found that good classroom management was one of the keys to a successful English teaching. students may be threatened when they are giving quiz in class. Discussions and Suggestions From the class observations. the shy girl. students might reach higher achievements as none of them 273 . 5. The teacher might have to develop class rules in the very first class to ensure the order of the class. even though it seemed like a bad idea in classroom teaching because of the limited time.05. In addition.

Lin. Acknowledgements I am especially grateful to students whose participation and cooperation has made this study possible. further research should focus on observing a longer course to assure the effectiveness of the remedial program. 274 . who graduated from Applied Foreign Language Department at HungKuang University. even though they have improved from below 60 to a score as high as 78. the classroom teacher of this program. Therefore. My special thanks go to Yi-Ting.第二期(2007 年 3 月) scored more than 80.

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Underachieving Students’ Improvements in a Primary EFL Remedial Program 提升國小英語低成就學習者之補救教學模式 陳姿青∗ 摘 要 在台灣,小學生多傾向利用課外時間到補習班加強英語能力,但即使是如 此,仍然有學生補習效果不佳,無法達到預期學習目標,本研究針對這些英語低 成就學生,於某一知名補習班的協助下成立補救教學,目的在藉由此補救教學措 施改善學生的英語能力,以期能夠趕上其他學生的進度,重新回到原來的班級。 研究中之教學概念經由探討與觀察此一特定班級 並且詳述此補教教學班級的運 , 作與教學過程,結果顯示此課程確實有效的提升了學生的英語能力,參與的八個 學生當中,一位學生於第六週後,因課程時間與其他課程衝突而無法參加,其餘 有六位最後顯示進步達到 70 分以上,此補救教學模式可提供給台灣或其他以英 語為外語的國家,欲設立補救教學課程之補習班或學校做為參考。 關鍵詞: 補救教學,國小英語課程,低成就學習者,美語補習班 ∗ 明道管理學院應用英語系助理教授 277 .

第二期(2007 年 3 月) 278 .

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