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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI

UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES


ENGLISH DEPARTMENT

NGUYỄN THỊ 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


Acknowledgements
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.

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Abstract

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

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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.

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List of tables, figures and abbreviations

List Page
1. Table 1 ....................................................................................... 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

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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
2.3.1.1. Presenting ................................................................... 22

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2.3.1.2. Practicing ......................................................................24
2.3.1.3. Consolidating and Revising .........................................25
2.3.2. Techniques in teaching vocabulary .........................................25
2.3.2.1. Techniques in presenting vocabulary............................25
2.3.2.2. Techniques in practicing vocabulary ............................27
2.3.2.3. Techniques in consolidating and revising vocabulary .29
2.3.2.4. 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

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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

REFERENCES
APPENDIX

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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 add-
on 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

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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 English-
speaking 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

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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.

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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.

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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-to-
understand 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

subject.
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.

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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

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“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

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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

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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 Example


Receptive knowledge: To understand it when
aural/decoding it is spoken/written
Memory To recall it when
needed

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Conceptual knowledge To use it with the Not confusing
correct meaning protractor with
compasses
Knowledge of the To hear the word and To hear and produce
spoken form: to pronounce it the endings of verb
phonological acceptably, on its own, forms, such the /n/
knowledge and in phrases and sound at the end of
sentences undertaken
Grammatical To use it in a She sang very well not
knowledge grammatically *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 To know which other A beautiful view not *a
knowledge words can be used good-looking view*
with it
Orthographic To spell it correctly Protractor not
knowledge *protracter*
Pragmatic knowledge, To use it in the right “Would you like a
knowledge of style and situation drink?” is more
register 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

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knowledge and negative positive connotation,
associations, to know when used about a
its associations with person, whereas skinny
related words is negative.
Metalinguistic To know explicitly To know that
knowledge 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).

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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

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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 self-
consciousness 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

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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)

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• 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.

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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, 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.

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• 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.

2.3.1.2. Practicing
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

24
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


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.

2.3.2.1. 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. If the latter listed a set of choices
related to presenting the meaning through:

25
• 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.

26
• 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.

2.3.2.2. 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

27
• 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.

28
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)

2.3.2.3. 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 • Guess the picture

• Rub out and • Matching


remember
• Noughts and Crosses
• Networks
• What & where
• Bingo
• Wordsquare
• Wordstorm
• Jumbled words
• 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

29
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.

30
2.3.2.4. Games

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

31
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
32
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
33
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, un-
cooperative 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

34
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.

35
Chapter 3: Methodology
3.1. Participants

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 well-
accustomed 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

36
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

37
interviews. In using such a way, the researcher could gather most of the
information needed for the study.

3.2.2. Interviews

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.

3.2.3. Observation

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

38
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.
39
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.

40
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.

41
Chapter 4: Findings and Discussion
4.1. Findings
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

80
real objects
70

60 pictures/flas
hcards
50
miming
40
examples
30

20 synonyms/a
ntonyms
10
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
42
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 identifying
tasks
50
selecting
40 tasks

30
matching
20

10 sorting

0
never rarely sometimes usually very often ranking and
sequencing

Figure 2: Common techniques used in practicing vocabulary items

43
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 questionnaire-
based 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.

44
60

50 sentence/text
completion
40

30
sentence/text
20 creation

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

45
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.

46
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 pronunciation

40 spelling

30 grammar (tense)
20 meaning
10
connotation
0

Figure 5: Part of a word that is most difficult to teach

47
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 meaning-
related 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.

48
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-to-
use-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
49
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
50
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.

51
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
52
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

53
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).
54
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 (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: 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

55
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


56
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.
57
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.

58
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
59
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.
60
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.

61
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64
Appendix
Questionnaire
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)

Stage Techniques Frequency

65
1 2 3 4 5
a. In 1. using real objects
presenting 2. using pictures/flashcards
new words 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 2. using selecting tasks (recognizing words and making
checking choice among them), i.e., choose the odd one out
vocabulary 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 1. using sentence/text completion
producing Eg: gap fills, multiple choice
tasks 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
66
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”)

□ connotation
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!

67