Teaching Vocabulary to Young English Learners

Category: Vocabulary
Last Updated: 27 Mar 2020
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A crucial component of learning a foreign language is the acquisition of vocabulary. For young learners, the very first words that they acquire could lay the profound basis for a better later learning of the children. This study is intended to investigate the specific application of techniques in teaching English vocabulary to young learners. I strived to investigate the current techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners and studied the difficulties that teachers encounter during this process. 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 survey 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 the English vocabulary.

The exploitation of combining different techniques is considered rather limited; in conclusion,, this study provides some suggestions for teachers to realize the benefits of having available activities and games in young learners’ classroom. 1. Introduction I chose this topic for my research study because I consider that for young learners, 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.

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They know their students must learn thousands of words that speakers and writers of English use. ” (Allen, 1983). The well-known linguist Wilkins, one of the leaders in language learning and teaching, indicated that “without grammar, very little could be conveyed, without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed” Teaching vocabulary is considered to be an add- on to teaching grammar or simply a by-product of language teaching and communicative functions.

The reasons are: firstly, too many words in one sentence are believed to break its grammar structure and spoil children in learning systematic grammar; secondly, it is thought that vocabulary can be learned through experience only and therefore, there is 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 are already taken too much of any lesson in the classroom.

The basic 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) 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. . An overview of Vocabulary 2. 1. 1. Definition In order to find the best and most easy-to-understand definition of the vocabulary, 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 has applied a meaning for vocabulary as “all the words which exist in a particular language or subject. ” 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, H. Dellar and D. Hocking 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 the learner himself 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). 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, p. 251). 2. 2. 2. Characteristics of young learners Vocabulary knowledge is a major building block in children's early literacy development. It provides the foundation for learning to decode and comprehend text.

Many children, especially English language learners, need support in acquiring the substantial vocabulary they need to become good readers. Reading books to children is one way to introduce them to a wide range of vocabulary that they may not hear in their everyday conversations with adults and peers. Young learners need to be able to transfer their understanding of words to new contexts, so that when they see or hear those words in other places they understand what they mean. Talking about words from book to book is one way of showing children how words are used in other contexts.

Another way to help them see how words are used in other contexts is asking them to think about how the words apply to their own knowledge and experiences. In explaining the word freight, for example, a teacher might say, "Have you ever seen a train on the tracks? Did you notice the cars of the train? Inside of those train cars, there are lots of things that are being taken from one place to another. The stuff that is being brought from one place to another is called freight. What are some things that you think could be freight on a train? " 2. 3. Vocabulary teaching . 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, I am going to list each stage with its typical features to have a better review for further techniques followed that. 2. 3. 1. 1. Presenting The title of this very first stage has indicated clearly its function in introducing new lexical items to learners. As suggested by Thornbury, 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. . 3. 1. 2. Practicing Suggested by Gower, students often need a little time for the new lexical items to “sink in” (p. 148). He pointed out that learners may recognize new item but often delay putting it into active use. In this case, is of pure necessity the use of planned activities for recycling and reactivate the new vocabulary. This kind of practice, as implied by Thornbury (2002) underlines the popular belief that “practice makes perfect” (p. 93). He additionally emphasized the action of moving words from short-term memory into permanent memory.

He emphasized 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). Words or lexical items need to be put to work, or into practice as it is often understood in many other contexts, in order to ensure the long-term retention and recall. Vocabulary needs 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.

2. 3. 1. 3. Consolidating and Revising Checking students’ comprehension and revising those words are a final important stage in teaching this specific field. In this stage, students are advised to complete high-level tasks namely production tasks. 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. 2. 4. Techniques in teaching vocabulary There are three main parts or namely stages in teaching vocabulary, as they are mentioned above. . 4. 1. 1. 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. 2. 4. 1. 2. Techniques in practicing vocabulary 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.

Selecting tasks are “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. Learners are also requested to do matching tasks, apart from recognizing and making choice amongst words. 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) Learners are being asked to do sorting tasks, by grouping words into different categories. It should be noted that the categories can be given in advance or learners have to guess what the categories are. 2. 4. 1. 3. Games Games are one indispensable advice for many teachers not only in English teaching but also in the field of language teaching. Instead of listing common word games, I will discuss 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. Yet they can be often keen on word games with a variety of options and movements. Especially in the context of teaching English to Romanian learners who are often labeled as inactive and afraid of risk-taking learning, games are said to be an extrinsic motivation for them to participate actively in the lesson. 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. Advantages of using games in learning vocabulary were indicated by showing that games not only helped and encouraged learners to sustain their interest but also gave teachers 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. 2. 5. Difficulties in teaching vocabulary This study, concerning the issue of constraints encountered by teachers, deliberately focuses on finding external factors, that is to say 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 hen meaning or meaning first then form later. Another matter deterred by many researchers is about the mistakes that learners often make when learning vocabulary.

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. 27). 2. 5. 1 Proposed activities and games in order to make a lesson vivid 2. 5. 1. 1 Proposed activities: Bingo: 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. 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.

Word associations: 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.

Pictionary: 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. 2. 5. 1. 2 Proposed games: Board sentence making: the rule is quite easy to follow and it is specially created to increase team work as well as the acquisition of words.

The 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. Categories: Young 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 played 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 (3- 4) 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: In this game, class is divided into small groups.

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 to the member at the 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: 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, C for example, students have to find one word which starts with letter C 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. The 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: It has the aim to get as many pairs of words as possible. Divide class to work in pairs or small groups. 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. 3. Conclusion 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, accompanied by difficulties and solutions. As a conclusion, 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 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 say that they have been familiarized with sentence and text completion rather than that of creation. Finally, this research proposes some compiled games and activities that might be helpful for teachers’ repertoire. 4. Summary: Scopul acestui studiu este acela de a sublinia importanta invatarii vocabularului, de catre tineri, inca din faza incipienta.

Am incercat sa prezint cateva idei, despre ceea ce inseamna predarea vocabularului si implementarea tehnicilor folosite in predare, alaturi de dificultatile intampinate cat si solutii pentru reusita. Definirea vocabularului poate fi inteleasa prin, totalitatea cuvintelor ce alcatuiesc o limba. Prin elev tanar ne referim la acea categorie de copii cuprinsa intre 5-12 ani. Ca si concluzie, cele mai folosite tehnici in predarea vocabularului tinerilor elevi pot fi impartite in trei grupe(prezentare, exersare si recapitulare).

In prezentarea noilor termeni( cuvinte), folosirea cartonaselor ilustrate si mima este cel mai des intalnit procedeu. In a-i face pe elevi sa exerseze cuvinte invatate, gruparea cuvintelor pe anumite categorii este cea mai de succes metoda folosita.. In ceea ce priveste etapa finala in predarea vocabularului –recapitularea, majoritatea profesorilor spun ca au fost obisnuiti cu finalizarea propozitiilor si a textelor, decat cea a crearii. Spre finalul lucrarii am incercat sa descriu cateva jocuri si activitati care ar putea fi de folos in alcatuirea portofoliului unui profesor.

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Teaching Vocabulary to Young English Learners. (2017, May 01). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/teaching-vocabulary-young-english-learners/

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