Teaching Vocabulary at the Initial Stage of Instruction
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YEREVAN STATE UNIVERSITY
Faculty of Romance and Germanic Philology
English Philology Chair
THEME: Teaching Vocabulary at the Initial Stage of Instruction
STUDENT: Gayane Manukyan
SUPERVISOR: Naira Avagyan
Chapter 1. Teaching English as a foreign language
1.1 Methods of foreign language teaching
Chapter 2. Teaching vocabulary at the initial stage of instruction
2.1 Teaching English to children in an EFL setting
2.2 Teaching vocabulary to children
2.3 Textbook analysis
This paper discusses the methods of teaching EFL and English vocabulary to children. The paper comprises two chapters and analysis of the fourth form English textbook (Apresyan, Thovmasyan). In Chapter 1 I speak about the current and traditional methods of teaching English as a foreign language and give a brief description of each method.
In the first part of Chapter 2 I speak about the objectives of teaching English to children in a non-English environment, the role of motivation and the teacher factors. The second part of Chapter 2 presents a study of methods and techniques of teaching vocabulary at the initial stage of instruction. The issues discussed here are the choice of teaching materials, ways of presenting the new vocabulary, the development and extension of children’s vocabulary, games and special activities as means of vocabulary acquisition and retention.
Benjamin Franklin has emphasized the role of methods in a foreign language acquisition: «Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn».
His statement is particularly true in case of children as it is enjoyable participation in the language learning process and motivation that children need first of all. Motivation, curiosity, and holistic attitude to learning new things make language learning both easy and interesting for children. The importance of the initial stage of instruction lies in creating a positive attitude towards the language learning process.
«Children can learn almost anything if they are dancing, tasting, touching, seeing, and feeling information» (Dryden & Vos, 1997).
There are a great many of methods, techniques and approaches of teaching a foreign language, and more will be created to meet the demands of the globalized world where the importance of English cannot be underestimated. We should understand that any method is as good as its implementation, and the best language teacher is the one who gets good results no matter what methods he uses. «No course book will be totally suited to a particular teaching situation. The teacher will have to find his own way of using it and adapting it if necessary» (Jiazhi Wang). The third part of Chapter 2 is the critical evaluation of an EFL textbook. After the evaluation of its design and content I have analysed how the textbook fosters the development of the four skills respectively: writing, speaking, reading, and listening.
Chapter 1. Teaching English as a Foreign Language
1. 1 Methods of Foreign Language Teaching
There are eight language teaching methods in practice today:
1. The Grammar -Translation Method
2. The Direct Method
3. The Audio-Lingual Method
4. The Silent Way
6. Community Language Learning
7. Total Physical Response Method
8. The Communicative Approach
1. The Grammar-Translation Method
Around the turn-of-the-19th-century, language students often translated volumes from Classical Greek or Latin into English via this method. It consists mainly of exhaustive use of dictionaries, explanations of grammatical rules (in English), some sample sentences, and exercise drills to practice the new structures.
Students are given target language reading passages and answer questions that follow. Other activities include translating literary passages from one language into the other, memorizing grammar rules, and memorizing native-language equivalents of target language vocabulary. Vocabulary and grammar are emphasized; pronunciation and other speaking/listening skills are not. Grammar is learned deductively on the basis of grammar rules and examples. Literary language is regarded as superior to spoken language.
Class work is highly structured, with the teacher controlling all activities. The teacher supplies correct answers when students cannot.
2. The Direct Method
The characteristic features of this method are the practical direction in the teaching of foreign language, the ignoring of the existence of the mother tongue, use of visual aids and various exercises both written and oral. The method is called direct because it aims to establish a direct connection between the words in the foreign language and their denotations. The grammatical rules are discovered through many examples. Students speak a great deal in the target language and communicate if in real situations. Speaking and listening skills and correct pronunciation are emphasized. Teacher/student interaction is fuller; it includes guessing of context or content, completing fill-ins, question-and-answer exercises.
3. The Audio-Lingual Method
The audio-lingual method developed with the advent of audio tapes. This method is based on the belief that language learning is the acquisition of correct language habits. The language learner actually hears and mimics native speakers on audio tapes, often used with earphones in a language lab setting. Lessons begin with a sample dialogue to be recited and memorized. This is followed up with substitution pattern and saturation drills in which the grammatical structure previously introduced is reinforced. The teacher directs and controls students' behavior, provides a model and reinforces correct responses.
4. The Silent Way
The teacher remains silent while pupils output the target language through perpetual prompting. A color-coded sound chart called a fidel, with both vowel and consonant clusters on it, is projected onto a screen to be used simultaneously with a pointer, thus permitting the pupil to produce orally on a continuous basis in the target language. Brightly colored Cuisenaire rods are integrated into this method for pupils to learn spatial relationships, prepositions, colors, gender and number concepts, and to create multiple artificial settings through their physical placement. The greatest strength of this method lies in its ability to draw students out orally, while the teacher «takes a back seat». This method works most effectively with round tables being used to promote small group discussion. All four skills are worked on from the beginning.
Classes are small and intensive, with a low-stress focus. Material is presented in an especially melodic and artistic way. By activating the right «creative side» of the brain, a much larger portion of the intellectual potential can be tapped, thus drawing out long-term memory. Background classical or baroque chamber music, oftentimes accompanied with soft lights, cushions on the floor for relaxation, yoga, songs and games, question-and-answer sessions are used to make language learning less anxiety provoking. Students focus on communicative use rather than form, little emphasis on grammar is given.
6. Community Language Learning or Counseling Learning
This method is designed to ease the learner into gradual independence and self-confidence in the target language. Learning a language is not viewed necessarily as an individual accomplishment, but rather as a collective experience. Small or large groups are formed to create a language learning community. Student is at first a dependent client of the counselor and becomes increasingly independent through five specified stages. Understanding and speaking are emphasized, though reading and writing have a place. The basic premise of the method can be found in the acronym SARD: S— security (to foster the student’s self-confidence), A-attention or aggression (students have opportunities to assert, involve themselves), R-retention and reflection (students think about both the language and their experience learning it), and D-discrimination (sorting out differences among target language forms).
7. Total Physical Response Method
In this method, both language and body movement are synchronized through action responses and use of the imperative (direct commands). Teacher provides often-humorous variations of commands and the students demonstrate their comprehension by acting out the commands. Once students are «ready to speak», they give other students commands too. Activities later include games and skits. TPR is very effective in teaching temporal states, personal pronouns, and other deep grammatical structures. Spoken language precedes the written word.
8. The Communicative Approach
This acquisition-focused approach sees communicative competence progressing through three stages: (a) aural comprehension, (b) early speech production, and (c) speech activities, all fostering «natural» language acquisition, much as a child would learn his/her native tongue. Following an initial «silent period», comprehension should precede production in speech, as the latter should be allowed to emerge in natural stages. Errors in speech are not corrected aloud. A deliberate, conscious approach to the study of grammar is considered to have only modest value in the language learning process. Pairing off of students into small groups to practice newly acquired structures becomes the major focus. Visualization activities that often make use of a picture files, slide presentations, word games, dialogues, contests, recreational activities, and realia provide situations with problem-solving tasks which might include the use of charts, maps, graphs, and advertisements, all to be performed on the spot in class.
Chapter 2. Teaching Vocabulary at the Initial Stage of Instruction
2. 1 Teaching English to children in an EFL setting
The introduction of any language course is affected by a great number of contextual variables. One very important variable is the status of English in a given country. «Children in non-English environments have limited opportunities to practise the language outside school and no immediate need or clear motivation to use and learn English unlike children who learn English in English environments. It’s also important to consider both learner’s and teacher’s attitude to English. Children of primary school age may not have strong opinions about other cultures or language learning in general and may meet new cultures and new languages through the experience of a primary foreign language programme. So it is of crucial importance to establish positive attitude towards this process.
The Role of Motivation
An interesting study in 1999 by Marianne Nikolov, a Hungarian teacher and researcher, shows that children as they get older draw on different sources of motivation to learn English. At the beginning, the youngest age groups are motivated by positive attitudes to English and the learning context. They want to learn English because they enjoy activities and the comfortable atmosphere in class. Children also say that they like English because they like the teacher. Young children are therefore intrinsically motivated. This means that they want to learn as they enjoy the process of learning English for its own sake. Hence we can say that motivation plays a crucial role in foreign language learning.
One of the main experts on language learning motivation, Zoltan Dorney, suggests that there are four main components of motivational teaching. The first stage is to create motivating conditions for learning: a supportive and pleasant environment in the classroom. The next stage is to introduce initial motivational techniques such as talking about values, showing positive attitudes to learning, creating expectations of success. After the initial stage, teachers need to maintain and protect their learners' motivation by offering stimulating activities and fostering self-esteem, self-confidence, and co-operation among learners. Finally, motivating teachers take care to turn evaluation and feedback into positive experiences.
The Aims and Objectives of EFL Programmes
Develop children’s basic communication abilities in English
Encourage enjoyment and motivation
Promote learning about other cultures
Develop children’s cognitive skills
Develop children’s metalinguistic awareness
Encourage `learning to learn'
The first two aims are the most important ones. Developing children’s basic communication abilities in English means teaching children to talk about themselves and their immediate environments, to understand and respond to basic English instructions, and to communicate about topics of interest with a partner. The second main aim refers to the need to make English an attractive school subject to children so as to foster their motivation and encourage them to learn languages in the future.
The primary class teacher who has a good knowledge of the children, their special needs as well as the target language is in the best position to succeed. Since the teacher is main source of the language, the way the teacher speaks is of great importance. The teacher should answer the questions with a full sentence. Children thus get used to hearing patterns of English. Since children understand things in a more holistic way than adults and concentrate much more on the totality of the message itself and not on the message’s individual components, there is no need for the teacher to slow his speaking speed.
Teachers play a key role because their decisions can make a real difference with regard to the success of a particular programme.
2.2 Teaching Vocabulary to Children
Children pick up new words at an amazing pace in both their first and second language and they can understand the concept of words well before the concept of grammar. They are interested in the meaning and function of the new language more holistically, in order to play a game, sing a song, or act out a story. The teacher, therefore, should present the vocabulary as varied as possible. He can first introduce things children can see, feel, play with, touch, and experience every day. Meaning can be made apparent without the use of the first language. Teachers can use toys, such as dolls to present parts of the body, or puppets to act out a dialogue. They can also use classroom objects such as the desks, the pictures, and posters. When appropriate, teachers can bring in real objects such as apples, carrots, baskets, bags, hats, bottles, and cups. Pictures and picture cards are often supplied with young learners' course books together with a set of games and exercises for use. These can also be made at home or teachers can ask children help to make them.
Techniques of explaining the meaning of new words to children
By demonstration or pictures
1. using an object
2. using a cut-out figure
3. using gesture
4. performing an action
5. using photographs
6. drawing diagrams on the board
7. pictures from books
8. analytical definition (to these moving images, from TV, video or computer should be added) By verbal explanation
9. putting the new word in a defining context (e.g. we use a pen to write)
10. translating into another language
Verbal explanations are useful when introducing abstract ideas such as `person', `place', etc.
All except (10) require the learner to do some mental work in constructing a meaning for the new foreign language word. The more learners have to think about a word and its meaning, the more likely they are to remember it. The immediate translation of a new word takes away from the child any need or motivation to think about the meaning of the foreign language word or to hold the new word in mind.
Pupils need to hear a new word in isolation as well as in a discourse context, so that they can notice the sounds at the beginning and end, the stress pattern of the word, and the syllables that make up the word. For example, when explaining the word `tomato':
A banana is a fruit.
Banana. Ba-na-na. It’s a banana.
The vocabulary should be accurate, and the child should be given enough information to prevent confusion.
The development of children’s vocabulary
Vocabulary development is not just learning new words but it is also about expanding and deepening word knowledge. Children need to meet words again and again, in new contexts that help increase what they already know about words. Encouraging memorization strategies is an important way to practise new vocabulary. Children should also have the chance to use the new vocabulary in situations where they have control over the choice of language. Recycling vocabulary with board or card games, class surveys, and project work provides an opportunity to integrate the language skills. For example, children can create `mind maps' on topics already covered such as `holidays' or create poster displays with drawings and words. Memory games, such as `I went to the market and bought…' can be an enjoyable way of revising food or animal vocabulary. The principle of the same type of memory practice can be extended to other vocabulary such as presents in `For my birthday I would like… ', wild animals:' In the zoo I saw… ', or household object, such as `In my cupboard there are… '
Words and word knowledge can be seen as being linked in networks of meaning. The teacher should show the links between vocabulary items so that children learn words in dynamic and meaningful way. For example, if the children learn the word 'sandwich', this is also a good opportunity to recycle possible types of fillings the children might know, such as jam, ham, or cucumber sandwich, honey, fish, or cheese sandwich, tomato or chicken sandwich, etc. As a follow-up, children can invent different sandwiches and put them on the menu of their coffee shop. Activities like this will illustrate to the children that when they learn a new noun such as `sandwich', it can interact with language they already know. This kind of dynamic view makes vocabulary come alive and paves the path to explicit grammar learning.
Activities to sort and categorise will practise vocabulary through its organisation in general to specific hierarchy. If food words are being learnt, children can sort real items into vegetables and fruit, naming the individual items as they go.
Some language games also exploit this type of organisation. The game `Shipwreck' puts pupils into teams with pencil and paper. They are given three minutes to list all the drinks they can think of, then all the food, then all the clothes. Then one of them reads out their list item by item. Teams can only keep items that no-one else has listed. At the end of the game, teams have to imagine themselves landing on a desert island after a shipwreck, with only those items left on their list (usually an amusing selection of odd things).
Extending children’s vocabulary beyond the textbook
Most of the textbooks for young learners start with words connected to the family, the house, the school. But children are getting more and more global in their interests through the Internet, television and video, and computer games. Their worlds are much bigger, form much younger ages, than used to be the case. So difficulties in learning vocabulary can arise since the vocabulary is insufficiently connected to pupil’s real lives. To extend the vocabulary beyond the textbook, the teacher can give words which are thematically connected to the words given in the unit. Vocabulary learning around a topic could begin from the learners rather than from the book, by asking them directly what words they already know and what words they would like to learn about the topic. For example, the book has a unit on wild animals. The teacher could write `wild animals' on the board and ask learners what they already know and which words they would like to know. The words are then written on the blackboard and translated into the foreign language.
Vocabulary learning strategies and young learners
· Teachers can show how to find clues to the meaning of a new word in a picture or in other words in the same sentence
· Teachers can teach the sub-skills needed to make use of strategies. For example, to use a dictionary efficiently requires knowledge of alphabetical order and lots of practice with it.
· When reading a story, teachers can explicitly encourage prediction of the meanings of new words
· Children can be helped to prepare lists of words they want to learn form a lesson, can be shown ways of learning form lists and later can be put in pairs to test each other.
· Children can be helped to reflect on their learning process through evaluating their achievements. For example, at the end of a lesson they can be asked how many new words they have learnt, and which words they need to learn more about. Through regular self-evaluation, children can come to understand more about what they are learning and how.
Special activities for developing vocabulary and forming concepts
1. Word Puzzles
Crossword Puzzles are good because they work on the definition as well as the spelling. The puzzles should not be very long.
2. Riddles and puns
Riddles encourage critical thinking skills. For example, if the topic of the lesson is `Weather', the teacher can use some riddles after introducing the key-words to help children memorize them.
I blow the clouds around and around, but you can’t see me, I can’t be found.(the wind) Sometimes I am big and fluffy and white and when rain is coming I am dark as night. (the sky)
What is full of holes, and holds water? (a sponge)
What is full at night and empty at daytime? (a bed)
Which hand do you use to sit soup- the right hand or the left hand? (I use a spoon)
How many lions can you put in an empty cage? (one; after that, the cage is not empty)
When is a piece of wood like a king? (when it is a ruler)
Who raises things without lifting them? (a farmer)
When is a sailor not a sailor? (when he is ashore)
What kind of dog has no tail? (a hot dog)
What is black and white and red (read) all over? (a newspaper)
Games are highly-motivating and entertaining, and they can give shy students more opportunity to express their opinion and feelings. Through games children can learn English unconsciously and without stress like they learn their mother tongue. With the use of games, the teacher can create various contexts in which students have to use the language to communicate, exchange information and express their own opinions.
There are many kinds of games which can be used in teaching English. For example Role-Playing Games. A role-playing game is a game in which two or more people interactively participate in the creation of a shared story. Most players act out roles of characters in the story, while one player is the referee or narrator of the story, playing the part of all the minor characters and providing a framework by which dramatic conflict is resolved. There are a lot of role-playing games such as «Broomstix: The Harry Potter RPG», «Fairy Tale», «Amazing monkey adventures». The teacher can invent one himself. RPG teach social skills such as negotiation and decision making. They foster an environment where vocabulary is improved. They allow values, ethics, and morals to be taught in the context of a story. They promote reading and the study of myth and literature.
Learning vocabulary through music can help children to understand the power of language and how it can shape ideas, feelings, and actions. Children will be able to use rhyme and rhythm to increase their reading fluency and vocabulary. By listening to English songs, children can hear the native pronunciation of words. It improves their ability of hearing the language because the 4-beat division of most songs coincides well with the linguistic foundation of binary alteration, or stressed and unstressed syllables. Music also has a freeing, relaxing influence and can help shy children to express themselves.
I like apples and oranges.
Apples and oranges are so sweet.
Apples and oranges are good to eat.
I like apples and oranges. I like apples and oranges.
2.3 Textbook Analysis
language teaching vocabulary translation
General Appearance and Design
As the textbook is intended for 10-year-old children, the cover should be very colorful and attractive. There is a picture of a funny dwarf who is pointing to some pictures of London. The dwarf is unlikely to be children’s favorite cartoon character, so it will not create associations of familiarity with the subject. Moreover, the dwarf with a stick can even be associated with the teacher explaining the lesson. The architectural monuments on the cover are also unfamiliar to children.
The illustrations in the book are simple and close to the text. They add to its meaning and make it more vivid. The shortcoming of the illustrations is the appearance of the characters. They do not have an Armenian appearance, and this can be a little distracting for children. The illustrations sometimes cover most of the page leaving little space for the text. The children’s attention may be focused on the big illustrations rather than on the lesson.
The texts vary both in form and in content. There are topical and descriptive texts, poems, short dialogues, songs. The texts cover a wide range of topics: School, Family, Animal World, Holidays, Seasons, Shopping, Travelling, Appearance, etc. The texts are taken from foreign language textbooks, and there is little reference to Armenian culture. The names of the characters (Jane, Mike, Pete, Bob) are foreign which again makes children feel the difference of their native environment from the English one, thus creating distance between them and English.
The exercises are aimed to develop children’s reading, speaking and writing skills. The activities facilitate children’s use of grammar rules by creating situations in which these rules are needed. For example, children should make up dialogues on their own or write short compositions answering the given questions. However, grammar rules or grammatical patterns are not presented in the textbook in any way. The textbook, therefore, meets the language needs but doesn’t take into consideration the learner’s needs. Besides the grammar references, vocabulary lists and expression glossaries are not included in the units either.
The new vocabulary is presented with sample sentences and pictures. There are no flashcards to make vocabulary presentation more interesting and effective.
The weakness of the textbook is that it has few revision units. Children have an opportunity for formal review after every 5 lessons, and the new vocabulary words are not repeated in subsequent lessons to reinforce their meaning and use.
The word-stock is quite large and a little complicated for children who have been studying English only for a year. The concepts presented in the texts may be unfamiliar to children even in their native tongue. For example, a ten-year-old child may not know (and doesn’t have to know yet) what is `volleyball', `sportsground', `stomachache', `monument', or it may be difficult for a child to understand and memorize the difference between snub, straight, large noses.
Each unit begins with a short list of new words. For example, exercise 8 of Unit 4 («Family») presents five words together with sample sentences. The plural form of the words and their transcription is given. There is, however, no translation of the words in mother tongue. A more complete list of words is given at the end of the Unit. The latter doesn’t give the translation or the usage patterns of the words. The word- list should not be presented at the end of the Unit. Besides, it should be as clear as possible to make vocabulary learning an easy task for the children. Another shortcoming of the unit is that there are no games and special activities for the assimilation of the new vocabulary.
There are different recognition and drill exercises such as «True or false», «Complete the sentences according to the example», «Make up sentences, dialogues according to the example», etc. This will help children to retain the vocabulary learnt. However, drill exercises are of little help when not combined with creative exercises and activities (role play, crossword puzzles, etc.) It is due to creative exercises that children develop their speaking and writing skills, use the vocabulary they learn to communicate and express their own ideas or to solve problems. So it would be good to add this kind of exercises to each unit.
There are interactive and task-based activities that require students to use the new vocabulary to communicate. Speaking practice takes place through the practice of new language items, in dialogue work and class activities. This develops both their speaking and social skills and can be considered as one of the obvious pluses of the textbook. The more mechanical aspects of speaking are also occasionally covered in pronunciation practice.
The textbook does not provide children with exercises for developing listening skills. This means that children do not have the opportunity to listen to native speech. No CD, cassettes, videos are offered with the textbook to help children to discriminate sounds, stress, melody and to acquire correct language habits.
The instructions in the textbook tell students to read for comprehension and to express their own opinion concerning the text. The exercises promote critical reading of the text. The only serious shortcoming is that the instructions are in English and the child can have difficulties in understanding them.
There are two approaches to writing skills: a product- oriented approach and a process-oriented approach. The product-oriented approach typically engages learners in imitating, copying and transforming models of correct language texts while the process-oriented approach emphasizes brainstorming, planning, drafting, revision, and editing. Product writing focuses on sentence structure and grammar, while process writing demands more creative work. The activities and exercises presented in the textbook incorporate both approaches. The children should write compositions, letters, short stories using the new vocabulary. Other writing exercises include asking questions to the text, making up questions and answering them, etc.
The textbook develops children’s basic communication abilities in English by teaching children to talk (write) about themselves and their immediate environments, and to communicate about topics of interest with a partner.
The textbook differs from other ones that it offers a number of tales and stories which can be given as home-reading or read in the classroom by the teacher. These are authentic pieces of literature. Besides, stories and tales are always appealing to children and can make English an attractive school subject to children, foster their motivation, and encourage them to learn languages in the future.
Children in non-English environments generally want to learn as they enjoy the process of learning English for its own sake. Hence we can say that motivation plays a crucial role in foreign language learning. Teachers of EFL should create motivating conditions for learning. They need to maintain their learners' motivation by offering stimulating activities and fostering self-esteem, self-confidence, and co-operation among learners. Finally, motivating teachers take care to turn evaluation and feedback into positive experiences. Only due to good motivation is it possible to realize the main aim of foreign language teaching: developing children’s basic communication abilities in English.
Children pick up new words at an amazing pace in both their first and second language. Vocabulary learning around a topic can begin from the learners rather than from the book, by asking them directly what words they already know and what words they would like to learn about the topic. The presentation of the vocabulary should be as varied as possible because children are interested in the meaning and function of the new language more holistically, in order to play a game, sing a song, or act out a story. Teachers can use an object, cut-out figures, photographs, pictures from books. The meaning of new words can be explained by performing an action, drawing diagrams on the board, giving the analytical definition, or by verbal explanation: putting the new word in a defining context (e.g. we use a pen to write), translating into another language. Recycling vocabulary with board or card games, class surveys, and project work can give children the chance to use the new vocabulary in situations where they have control over the choice of language. This kind of dynamic view makes vocabulary come alive and paves the path to explicit grammar learning.
Through games children can learn English unconsciously like they learn their mother tongue. There are many kinds of games and activities which can be used in teaching English: riddles, puzzles, crosswords, puns, songs. Riddles encourage critical thinking skills. By listening to English songs, children can hear the native pronunciation of words. Music can also help shy children to express themselves. Crossword Puzzles are good because they work on the definition as well as the spelling. Games and special activities form an important part of teaching English to children.
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