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Is there any difference in high school students’ performance when learning vocabulary with visual aids and when being taught with translation technique?

Is there any difference in high school students’ performance when learning vocabulary with visual aids and when being taught with translation technique?

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through the sense either in the form of objects or in the form of events”

(Mallikarjun, 2002). In other words, people can see or touch the things. In

contrast, vocabulary items representing “the entity like love, soul, and fear

can be called abstract vocabulary” (Mallikarjun, 2002) 7 This is because

these concepts cannot be physically perceived. People need to use their

imagination to sense them mentally. In other words, people can only feel or

experience them but can not touch such concepts as real objects. In terms

of teaching, due to the diverse features of concrete and abstract words,

teachers have to apply various ways of teaching to present their meaning.

For concrete ones, teachers can show meaning visually such as using

miming, realia, pictures, actions, gestures, facial expressions or objects.

Meanwhile, the meaning of abstract ones can be showed through examples,

situations or translations. Teachers have difficulty in explaining abstract

words to students because they are not physically represented in teaching

environment (Igbaria, n.d). “It is easier to remember concrete words like a

chair and a dog than abstract words” (Přibilová, 2006, p. 18) 10

3. Aspects of vocabulary

As mentioned above, learning vocabulary is a big challenge for students

in high school. Students need a lot of guidance right from the very beginning.

Therefore, the teacher’s role in teaching vocabulary is very important. In

addition to selecting the essential vocabulary to teach, the teacher must know

what aspects of lexis need to be taught in the classroom. Vocabulary knowledge

should include such aspects as the form of the word, its grammar, collocation,

different aspects of meaning and the word formation (Ur 1996, as cited in

Sussane Flohr, 2008). 2 Basic dimensions of a lexical item are presented as


4. Form

The first important aspect that defines vocabulary is the form of words,

consisting of pronunciation and spelling. Pronunciation refers to the way a word

is spoken. It includes word stress, sentence stress, intonation, and word linking.

“Pronunciation has been seen as the Cinderella of language teaching due to its

complexity” (Kelly, 1969, as cited in Qian-Mei Zhang, 2009) 1 “It is believed

that only few learners can ever attain native-like pronunciation in the foreign

language, especially those who learn to speak a second language after puberty”

(Lenneberg, 1967, as cited in Qian-Mei Zhang, 2009) 1 Generally, not every

learner is capable of sounding like a native speaker, yet it is possible to develop

correct pronunciation. Bad pronunciation often confuses the listener and

sometimes causes unexpected misunderstanding. That is why it is crucial to

teach students the right pronunciation so that they will not come up against any

difficulties in expressing themselves.

Spelling is another factor contributing to a learner’s language competence.

As defined by Kress (2000), “spelling is knowing how to write words correctly”


(p. 1). In fact, an English word is not always written exactly the way that people

would expect from its pronunciation. Students’ pronunciation is often confused

by the spelling of a word. Hence, the solution is to introduce spoken form before

written form so that students can learn to pronounce the word correctly first.

5. Grammar

The next aspect that requires teacher attention is the grammar of

vocabulary. As defined in the Oxford Advanced learner’s dictionary, grammar

is “the rules in language for changing the form of words and joining them into

sentences.” (Hornby, 2005) 8 Grammar knowledge of a word includes part of

speech, tense and word forms. Mastering the basic rules of grammar enables

learners to know where the word stands in a phrase, a clause or a sentence,

and what form of the word to be used in different contexts. For example,

when teaching a noun, the teacher has to show its plural forms if any, i.e.

goose-geese, child-children, ox-oxen, etc. Or when teaching verbs, the

teacher should present their past forms. Learners should be taught how to

build the past forms of a regular verb by adding “ed” at the end of the word or

of an irregular verb by memorizing the forms of each single verb as there is

no common rules for verbs of this type.

6. Collocation

Why do people say “a handsome man” and “a beautiful woman” but not

“a beautiful man” and “a handsome woman”? This is a matter of word

collocation. “A collocation is a combination of two or more words which

frequently occur together” (O'Dell & McCarthy, 2008, p. 6) 9 For instance, it’s

considered appropriate to talk of high mountains and tall trees, not tall

mountains and high trees. One can make a big or great mistake but cannot make

a large or wide mistake. Indeed, collocation is an endless list that one cannot

master overnight. As a matter of fact, most English learners have very limited

‘collocational competence’, especially high-school students who are at an

intermediate level or below. They may know the meaning of individual words

but do not know which words can go together as word partners. Thus, a teacher

should never forget to teach common and important collocations to the students.

This is part of vocabulary knowledge and cannot be ignored.

7. Aspects of meaning

Understanding of vocabulary also involves knowledge of different aspects

of meaning. Those aspects are denotation, connotation appropriateness and

meaning relationships such as synonyms, antonyms, hyponyms, co-hyponyms,

superordinates and translation (Ur, 2006, p.23) 2

According to the Oxford Advanced Learners’ Dictionary, denotation is

“the actual object or idea to which the word refers” (Hornby, 2005) 8 Simply

put, it is the literal meaning of the word that we can look up in the dictionary. On

the other hand, connotation is the association (emotional or otherwise) that the

word evokes. For example, the words house and home all have the same


denotation, that is, the place where one lives, but the connotation of each word is

very different. The denotation of house is just an actual building used for a

particular purpose while home is associated with something cozy, loving and

comfortable. Sometimes students know what the word denotes but are not fully

aware of its connotation, which causes failure in language use. Therefore, the

teacher should teach students both of these concepts so that they can make good

use of the words they’ve learned.

Appropriateness is another aspect of vocabulary that should be covered. It

concerns the matter of politeness and formality. A learner has to know whether it

is suitable to use a certain word in a certain context. For example, when talking

to a foreign stranger at the airport, it is more polite for a person to say “Would

you mind telling me the time, please?” than to say “What’s the time?” This

aspect is extremely complex, partly due to differences in culture. What a teacher

can do is to expose learners to a wide variety of language and contexts within

which that language can be used. In this way, learners do not acquire only the

language itself but the actual use of the language as well.

In addition to the aspects that have just been discussed above, there are

areas of meaning relationships that a teacher should bear in mind when teaching

vocabulary. First, the teacher should be aware of the synonym and antonym of a

word. Synonyms are “items that mean the same, or nearly the same” (Ur, 2006,

p.23) 2 For example, the synonyms of the word “sad” includes “unhappy”,

“gloomy”, “depressed” or “sorrowful”. On the other hand, antonyms are “items

that mean the opposite” (Ur, 2006, p.23) 2 For example, honest-dishonest,

wealthy-poor, hopeful-hopeless are pairs of antonym. Word meaning also

includes such aspects as hyponyms, co-hyponyms and superordinates.

Hyponyms are “items that serve as specific examples of a general concept” (Ur,

2006, p.23). For example, scarlet, vermilion, carmine and crimson are all

hyponyms of red. In this case, scarlet, vermillion, carmine and crimson are

called co-hyponyms as these words share the same hyponym, namely “red”.

Another term related to this area is superordinates which is “red” in this

case. Specifically, superordinates are defined as “general concepts that cover

specific items” (Ur, 2006, p.24) 2 Metaphorically, a superordinate term acts as

an “umbrella” term that includes within it the meaning of other words. The last

area to be mentioned is translations which are defined as “words or expressions

in the learners” mother tongue that are (more or less) equivalent in meaning to

the item being taught” (Ur, 2006, p. 24) 2 Some examples of translation can be:

Moon Lady - chị Hằng, moon cake – bánh trung thu, etc.

8. Word formation

The very last feature of vocabulary that need taking into consideration

is word formation. This refers to how words are put together into the right

order in a sentence. “Teachers might also need to teach the component parts

of words and multi-words, particularly prefixes and suffixes, so that learners


can readily interpret words in context such as ‘disrespectful’, ‘ungrateful’,

‘mismatch’. (McDonough & Shaw, 2003, p. 113). Knowing the meanings of

suffixes and prefixes can help students widen their vocabulary. This

knowledge helps them to guess the meaning of some unfamiliar words and

remember those words quite at ease.

9. Procedure of teaching vocabulary

In order to have an effective vocabulary lesson, teachers should follow a

step-by-step procedure. There are 8 basic steps that are often mentioned in

literature to be involved in this process (Doff, 1988, p.11, Flohr, 2010, p.5) 1

First of all, the teachers need to identify a list of words that needs presenting

from the reading text that they intend to teach. Both active and passive items

should be selected. As highlighted earlier in this chapter, the teachers have to be

very careful when selecting words to teach. In the book entitled “Literacy:

Helping students construct meaning”, David, Nancy and Kathryn (2008) suggest

some techniques that a teacher can use to decide on a to-teach-list. First, the

teacher has to review the text to identify the story line(s) or main idea. Next, the

teacher goes on starting to compile a list of words related to the story line(s) or

main idea. As for words that are adequately defined in the text and words that

students can determine through the use of prefixes, suffixes, roots words or base

words, teacher does need to conduct direct teaching. Only words that are likely

to cause difficulty may require direct teaching ( Cooper & Kiger, 2008, p. 255)


Actually, this is a key step because it influences other steps and determines

the effectiveness of the lesson.

After the word selection step, it is time to choose an appropriate technique

to show the meaning of the word. There is no best technique, but the techniques

chosen should “help students relate new knowledge to old knowledge, actively

involve students in the process of learning, help students thoroughly learn words

and support students in the process of learning to use their own strategies for

independently inferring word meanings.” (Cooper & Kiger , 2008, p. 259) 11

In other words, selecting a suitable technique to present a new word should

serve as a good means to facilitate students in their vocabulary learning and

enhance their language competence. Some common techniques will be discussed

later on in this section.

The next step is saying the word aloud and writing it on the board. “It is

always important that the teacher pronounces the new word before he spells it or

writes it on the board” (Flohr, 2010, p. 5). This is because “the students should

know how to pronounce and use the word in spoken language before they use it

in written language and write the whole texts using new words” (Flohr, 2010, p.

5). Saying the word aloud is a useful technique as “information that is verbally

rehearsed is much more likely to be remembered.” (Manning, 1991, p. 181).

“Statistics indicate that students remember 20 percent of what they hear from the


external source, 70 percent of what they themselves repeat aloud, and 90 percent

if they speak aloud to themselves about a task as they are performing the task.”

(Manning, 1991, p. 181) 5 In addition, the board is also considered an essential

tool in this step. “Whenever a new word is introduced, it should be written down

on the board. This will help the pupils to retain the visual image of the word”

(Baruah, 1991, p. 296) 5

Afterwards, the teacher should moves to the step of showing the form.

What matters here is that the teachers have to distinguish between active and

passive items so as to present the form of a particular item in the right way. As

for active vocabulary, the teachers should give not only key transcription but

also stress and word class. However, if the presented word is passive, the

teachers do not need to spend too much time showing its form. Only key

transcription and stress should be shown in this case.

After both the meaning and form have been shown, it is time for the

teacher to give examples in which the word is used. When the word is placed

somewhere amid a sentence, its affective meaning is clear and the word is more

readily absorbed by the students. The number of examples should be considered

as well. As for a passive item, only one simple example should be given;

however, if the item is active, it is advisable to introduce two or more model

sentences so as to “provide the student with multiple exposures to the word in

different contexts or settings” (Thompson & Vaughn, 2007, p. 92) 4

Next, to ensure that the students have known the word clearly, the teacher

should ask questions to check the students’ comprehension. Or the teacher can

give hints for the students to make their own sentences using the newly-learnt

word. Questions of this kind aims at 3 purposes: (1) to ensure students’

understanding of the word, (2) to show how the word is used in specific

contexts, and (3) to let students practice other language (Doff, 1988, p. 17) 1

Moreover, the teacher must bear in mind that “questions using a new word

should be simple and requires only short answers” (Doff, 1988, p. 17) 1

After presenting all the new words selected, the teacher conducts

repetition of the word list and model sentences. During this stage, the students

are asked to repeat the words and examples first chorally and then individually.

In the book entitled “Cognitive self-instruction for classroom processes”,

Manning (1991) 3 describes the mechanisms by which a new word comes to

and fixes in a student’s mind when that student speaks the word aloud by


As the sound waves leave the mouth and return back into the ears, the

cycle stimulates the memory capacity. The word is spoken and received. The

brain is activated as the word is spoken and heard. The spoken word

semantically sets up associations of meanings as the word is stored for

retrieval. (p.181).


This mechanism indicates that repetition is essential in a vocabulary

lesson as repeating new words and examples many times can help stick the

words to the students’ mind.

“Memory clearly plays a key role in vocabulary learning and the benefits

of revision and repetition have been clearly demonstrated in studies of

vocabulary learning” (Schmitt & McCarthy, p.276) 6 And revision could be

encouraged by means of consolidation activities. Practically speaking, there are

many ways of reviewing vocabulary. Exercises of this kind may range from

multiple choice, matching, gap-filling, network, translation to sentence

completion or hidden words and more. What matters here is whether the teacher

is clever enough to design meaningful activities to help the students effectively

revise new items of vocabulary.

In practice, there is no fixed procedure in teaching vocabulary. The eightstep procedure suggested above should not be regarded as the “right” or “ideal”

method that can be applied for all teachers and students. The teachers, actually,

can be flexible in their teaching process by adding or ignoring some steps.

II. Principles for teaching vocabulary

1. Showing the meaning visually

A. Drawing- On the backboard the teacher can draw a picture of some

words that will quickly convey the meaning, for example, happy, sad, a map, a

flower, an animal, preposition of location, ect



B. Realia or real objects

Teacher can show the meaning of the words by using thing available in

the classroom or anything that can be brought into the classroom, eg. a hat, ties,

food, toy or small objects from home. These are not only for seeing, but also for

holding and passing around


Using photographs, prints or painting, the teacher can communicate about

many types of words, eg. photographs from magazines, personal photographs of

family members, ect.


D.Flashcards or charts

On cards, we can have a picture on one side of the word on the others. On

a chart we can organize groups of words or draw diagrams. We can, for

example, make cards with animals on them, chart with body parts marked, or a

chart with an apartment map.

Eg: A flashcard with number from 0 to 10, one card with the picture of a

horse on one side and the word horse on the other.

0 1 2


4 5 6


8 9 10


E.Mime or facial expressions

This is very useful, especially for actions: we can act out a word to

demonstrate its meaning. For example, we can act out some home activities such

as eating, drinking or school activities such as listening, reading, writing, ect.

2. Showing the meaning verbally

A. paraphrasing/ defining

We can explain a new word by using a different simple already-known

word, words or a definition, eg. a cat is an animal which eats a mouse, a car is a

vehicle that carries people

B.Giving antonyms

The teacher can use the already-known word with the opposite meaning to show

the meaning of the new one. For example, the students have already known the

word quick, the teacher can use this word to introduce the word fast or slow.

C.Semantic field

To show words in relation to other words, we can present words in

semantic fields, for example: school – classroom, blackboard, teacher, students,

books, study, etc, animal- dog, cat, cow, etc.

D.Guessing from context


The meaning of many words can be guessed from a context, that is,

sentences, paragraphs or stories in which the words occur.

To show the meaning of the word building ,the teacher can provide a

context “ houses are buildings. This school is also a building. In big cities there

are many large buildings – there are hotels, offices and cinema. They are all

buildings of different kinds”

To show meaning of the words lazy, the teacher can provide a context:

Some people work hard. Other people don’t work hard- they are lazy. For

example, I have a brother. He is very lazy. He gets up late and then he does

nothing all day”

It is not necessary to give a complicated explanation, the meaning can be

shown by simple sentences. The context is very useful for showing the meaning

of abstract words, e.g. love, imagine, happiness, etc

E.Guessing from stems and affixes

Many words are formed by adding affixes, thus their meaning can be

understood through the affixes, e.g.:















F. Translation

To save time, the teacher can give the equivalent of the words in the

students’mother toungue, e.g. in an English class for Vietnamese students:

Teacher: giáo viên

Student: sinh viên

Translating a new word is in itself a useful technique - it is often the

simplest ans clearest way of showing what a word means. However, if the

teacher only gives a direct translation, this will hinder the students’ ability to use

the target language and even they can’t see the word is used in an English


G. Using dictionary

If we need to save time or communicate about a different word, the

dictionary might be the best option, e.g. showing the meaning of the word


3. Combining different techniques

A combination of techniques can be very useful to show the meaning of a

new word as students can perceive it from different source of information. For

example, to present the meaning of the word smile, the teacher first draws a

picture on the board and asks the students look at the picture and listen:


T: Look. He is smiling. (showing the meaning by a picture)

Now look at me. I’m smiling (showing the meaning by facial expressions).

Smile. We smile when we are happy. Smile.

S: Smile

T:Good. What does it mean? (students can give translation)

Different techniques in the example are very useful. The picture on the

board is interesting, helping students remember the word. The facial expression

can help give the meaning clearly. The example shows how Smile is used as a

verb. Finally, translation can help to make sure everyone understands the

meaning. Each techniques is very quick ( a few seconds), and they can reinforce

each other.

III. Steps for teaching vocabulary

1. Provide the context for the word

2. Say the word clearly and write it on the board

3. Show the meaning of the word

4. Get the class to repeat the word in chorus and individually.

5. Give examples to show how the word is used

6. Ask questions using the word

7. Ask students to make sentences with the word

IV. Practice

- Material : textbook 11 – Unit 2 Personal experiences and Unit 7 world

population period A : Reading

Unit 2 Personal experiences

Textbook: 11

Period A : Reading

Teaching some new vocabulary

1. Idol (n): (example): thần tượng

Ex: Who’s your favorite singer?

Hong Nhung

Hong Nhung is your idol.


2. glance (v) (miming): liếc mắt

3. sneaky (a) (situation): lén lút

 What would you do if you couldn’t do your test?


 What’s your attitude?

Be afraid of the T. and look sneaky.

4. embarrassing (adj) (synonym ) = confusing (adj): bối rối

5. make a fuss (exp) (over/about) (explanation): làm ầm ĩ.

He complains noisily about something he doesn’t like.

Unit 7 World population

Textbook: 11

Period A : Reading

Teaching some new vocabulary

1.family planning ( n ) (Give picture and students to guess the meaning of

the word ): kế hoạch hóa gia đình

2. fingure (n)- use synonym number to explain : con số

3. Increase (v)- (Ask students to look at the graph to guess the meaning):



4. decrease >< increase ( v ) ( antonym ): giảm

3. Raise animals ( look at the picture and guess the meaning ): nuôi động vật

4. Double (v) (look at the chart to guess the meaning) gấp đôi



5. Resource (n) (look at the picture to guess the meaning): nguồn tài



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Is there any difference in high school students’ performance when learning vocabulary with visual aids and when being taught with translation technique?

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