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Enhancing the Effectiveness of English Vocabulary Learning and Teaching at Primary Level

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Title: Enhancing the Effectiveness of English Vocabulary Learning and Teaching at Primary Level


1
Enhancing the Effectiveness of English Vocabulary
Learning and Teaching at Primary Level
  • Arthur McNeill Tony Lai
  • Department of Education Studies
  • Hong Kong Baptist University
  • English Language Education Section, CDI

27 August 2007
2
Growing global concern about inadequate
vocabulary of L2 learners
  • there is mounting evidence that many learners,
    particularly in EFL contexts, are not developing
    their lexicons to levels that would permit them
    to communicate, read, or write adequately in
    English, despite years of formal study. (Atay
    and Kurt 2006 256)

3
L2 vocabulary learning at primary school is still
largely un-researched
  • it seems likely that limited L2 vocabulary
    would affect elementary school EFL learners in
    carrying out the basic skills in English. Given
    the importance of vocabulary to oral and written
    language comprehension, it is astounding that
    there have been few experimental studies on
    English vocabulary learning among elementary
    school children.
  • (Atay and Kurt 2006 256)

4
Growing interest in students vocabulary in Hong
Kong
  • Recent evidence of inadequate vocabulary of HK
    university entrants
  • Most 2004 entrants to CUHK knew between 2000 and
    3000 English words only
  • International research suggests that students
    need at least 5000 words to cope with university
    study in English

5
Vocabulary projects conducted by EDB
Projects Participants Expected Outcomes
Vocabulary Study Focus Group wordlists for KS1, KS2, KS3 KS4
Seed Project on the effective L/T of vocabulary Seed school Network schools effective pedagogies to make good use of the wordlists and promote the development of vocabulary building skills

6
Sources of input for the EDB wordlists
Vocabulary Study
  • Teachers familiar with the respective KS
  • Frequency data about how vocabulary is used in
    English
  • General English
  • Academic English
  • Topics and themes listed in CGs
  • Vocabulary content of the recommended textbooks

7
Vocabulary Study
References of the frequency-based wordlists
  • General Service List (GSL) - West, 1953
  • Academic Wordlist (AWL) - Coxhead, 2000
  • British National Corpus (BNC)

8
Frequency-based lists/corpora
GSL
Classic list of the most frequent 2000
words. Very widely used and respected.
BNC
100 million word collection of written and
spoken English. A new standard.
AWL
570 words which occur frequently in academic
texts across disciplines
9
Frequency-based lists/corpora
GSL
General words
BNC
AWL
Academic words
10
Principles guiding final selections
  • Relevance to learners (now and later)
  • Usefulness
  • Combinability (collocations)
  • Word class distribution
  • Superordinates

11
Design of the vocabulary selection procedure
12
Vocabulary targets
Key Stage Stage Target Cumulative Target
KS1
KS2
KS3
KS4
1000 1000 1000 2000 1500 3500 1500 5000
13
Wordlists
  • In alphabetical order
  • By category

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22
Does L2 vocabulary teaching need to change?
23
Possible pedagogical problems
  • Over-reliance on reading as a source of
    vocabulary acquisition
  • Over-reliance on learner training and indirect
    learning (i.e. assuming that students will learn
    vocabulary by themselves provided they learn
    effective strategies)

24
How much vocabulary do L2 students learn from
reading?
  • Finally some empirical evidence of the low extent
    of vocabulary gains from L2 reading
  • Claims about number of encounters required to
    learn a new word vary between 6 and 20
  • ESL learners in Canada learn 70 new words a year
    from reading, i.e. 2000 words in 29 years.
    (Zahar, Cobb Spada 2001)

25
Extensive reading revisited
  • Disappointing gains from reading of novels (Horst
    2000)
  • Subjects able to select only one correct
    definition in 12 of the new words in text
  • Far more vocabulary is learned if the same text
    is read several times (Horst Meara 1999)

26
Learning new words from context revisited
  • Encouraging learners to infer the meaning of new
    words from context may be useful for their
    academic development.
  • However, inferring the meaning of new words from
    context does not lead to vocabulary acquisition.
    For words to remain in the memory, learners
    should confirm the guesses by referring to a
    dictionary or asking their teacher (Mondria Wit
    de-Boer 1991).

27
Insights from genre we need to select texts
carefully
  • Expository texts provide greater repetition of
    key lexis than narrative texts.
  • Success reported with primary learners who read
    more expository texts (Gardner 2004).

28
Key priorities in vocabulary teaching
  • Providing multiple exposures to target words
  • Cognitive elaboration of the form-meaning
    relationship
  • Activities which require students to focus
    on vocabulary appear to promote retention (e.g.
    reading plus, pre-task and post-task vocabulary
    focus).

29
Some teaching implications
  • Enhance L2 vocabulary acquisition through
    instructional intervention
  • More direct teaching of vocabulary
  • More vocabulary-focused activities

30
Vocabulary nowCinderella has arrived at the ball
  • Landmarks of the 1990s
  • Lexical Syllabus (Willis)
  • Lexical Approach (Lewis)
  • Some excellent books for teachers about
    vocabulary teaching (e.g. Nation, Schmitt
    McCarthy)
  • Vocabulary software (concordancing frequency
    profiling)
  • Corpus linguistics
  • Enormous expansion in L2 vocabulary research

31
What has changed since vocabulary became centre
stage?
  • Language teaching now attaches importance to
  • Collocation
  • blondgirl torrentialrain
    risingprices
  • Multi-word units/formulaic language
  • see you later have a nice day
  • Word-building compounding affixation
  • Lexical relations such as antonyms
  • high/low ancient/modern

32
Vocabulary building skills recommended in CG
  • Word formation
  • Affixation (e.g. unhappy, careless)
  • Compounding (e.g. footballfootball)
  • Conversion (e.g. cook a meal, a cook)
  • Derivation (e.g. excite, exciting, excited,
    excitement)

33
Vocabulary building skills recommended in CG
  • Word association
  • Synonyms (e.g. happy, glad)
  • Antonyms (e.g. bright, dark)
  • Homonyms (e.g. catch a bus, catch a cold)
  • Collocation (e.g. make a wish, watch TV)
  • Lexical sets (e.g. furniture table, chair,
    desk, cupboard)

please refer to CG (CDC, 2004) pp. 168-171
34
What challenges does L2 vocabulary present to
teachers?
AREAS OF FOCUS
DEPTH
BREADTH
35
  1. Productive vocabularyWhat are the main
    vocabulary issues in HK students writing?

36
Text written by a primary school pupil in a HK
exam
  • I have a rubber, an old, small rubber.
    Although it is so small that I can not use it
    anymore, I still keep it carefully in my drawer
    as it is so important for me.
  • That is a long, long time that I have my
    rubber. Four years ago, when I was still an
    eight-years-old child, my parents bought me a
    rubber as my birthday present. I put it into my
    pencil-box and brought it to school everyday.
  • We had an interesting game in the past. We
    used our rubber to play with in the game. We
    pushed our rubber one by one and tried not to be
    pushed out at the desk by another rubber. We
    pushed and pulled our rubbers, soon our rubbers
    became older and smaller one day than one day.

37
Vocabulary Profile (VP) provides the following
breakdown (RANGE, 2002)
Word List Tokens Types Families
1 1st 1000
2 2nd 1000
3 AWL
4 not in the above
Total
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40
  • I have a rubber, an old, small rubber.
    Although it is so small that I can not use it
    anymore, I still keep it carefully in my drawer
    as it is so important for me.
  • That is a long, long time that I have my
    rubber. Four years ago, when I was still an
    eight-years-old child, my parents bought me a
    rubber as my birthday present. I put it into my
    pencil-box and brought it to school everyday.
  • We had an interesting game in the past. We
    used our rubber to play with in the game. We
    pushed our rubber one by one and tried not to be
    pushed out at the desk by another rubber. We
    pushed and pulled our rubbers, soon our rubbers
    became older and smaller one day than one day.

41
Lexical characteristics of L2 student writing
  • Repetition of key words rather than lexical
    substitution
  • Under-use of super-ordination
  • Need for lexical enrichment (in particular,
    adjectives and adverbs)

42
What vocabulary skills are involved in developing
lexical richness?
  • Avoiding repetition of words
  • (e.g. by lexical and pronominal substitution)
  • Knowing and using synonyms
  • Ability to give definitions
  • Knowing the name of the immediate superordinate
  • Knowing the name of the member of the group (e.g.
    item, piece, article, etc.)
  • Use of metaphor (e.g. using known words in a
    metaphorical sense)

43
General superordinates can also help
  • EXAMPLES
  • Stuff
  • Problem
  • Issue
  • Thing
  • Material
  • Business
  • Behaviour
  • Phenomenon
  • Trend
  • Pattern

44
Lexical expansion of a first draft
  • My hobby is swimming. Every Saturday I go to
    the swimming pool in Ma On Shan. I swim for one
    hour. At the end, I feel good. Then I go to
    McDonalds with my friend.

45
Lexical feedback on a first draft
  • My adjective hobby is swimming. Every
    Saturday I go to the adjective swimming pool in
    precise location Ma On Shan. I swim how
    exactly do you swim? for one hour. At the end, I
    feel good a better adjective?. Then I go
    better verb of movement to McDonalds with my
    friend.

46
2. Pre-requisites for vocabulary building
47
Paradigmatic approach (topic strand)
  • Deliberate organization of words into hierarchies
  • Develops associative networks
  • Encourages efficient vocabulary learning
  • Paradigms are fixed (but open)
  • Other associations are more personal
  • (e.g. acoustic, visual, linkword)

48
Assumptions about paradigmatic arrangement
  • Allows for efficient vocabulary growth because
    the system is open and allows for additions
  • Associated with receptive vocabulary knowledge in
    particular
  • Retrieval of words operates through the cohort
    principle

49
Example One
50
Example Two
51
Teaching the names of the superordinates
52
Teaching the names of the superordinates
53
What is the missing word?
54
What is the missing word?
55
Paradigmatic Association
Syntagmatic Association
56
Paradigmatic Association
Syntagmatic Association
57
Receptive
Paradigmatic Association
Syntagmatic Association
58
Receptive
Paradigmatic Association
Syntagmatic Association
Productive
59
Syntagmatic approach (collocation strand)
  • E.g. Topic transport
  • Car drive fast wet road
  • Brakes skid collide - accident
  • Develops associative networks
  • Word combinations are the key to productive use
    of English
  • Focus on multi-word units
  • (e.g. See you later., Have a good trip!)
  • Collocations
  • (e.g. go shopping, have a shower, play
    football)

60
Assumptions about syntagmatic arrangement
  • Associated with productive vocabulary because it
    is based on the words which tend to occur
    together in sentences
  • The associations are based on collocations rather
    than semantic categories

61
From receptive to productiveProviding
opportunities to combine words
PEOPLE ACTIONS OBJECTS PLACE




62
From receptive to productiveProviding
opportunities to combine words
PEOPLE ACTIONS OBJECTS PLACE
Chef cook meals restaurant
Teacher
Singer
Pilot
63
Helping learners to create useful word
associations
  • ACTIVITY
  • FINDING/CREATING PATTERNS IN A LEXICAL SET

64
KS2 Wordlist Caring about our community and
environment
Beggar Energy Pollution Smoke
Care Environment Protect Spit
Community Flag Recycle Steal
Crime Fund raising Reduce Volunteer
Donate Government Save Vote
Electricity Plastic Serve Waste
65
KS2 Wordlist Caring about our community and
environment
  • Possible associations - Collocations
  • (e.g. verb noun)
  • Recycle waste
  • Reduce crime
  • Protect (the) environment
  • Serve (the) community

66
KS2 Wordlist Caring about our community and
environment
  • Possible associations - Compounding
  • (e.g. noun noun)
  • Community care
  • Energy waste
  • Pollution crime
  • Government volunteer

67
KS2 Wordlist Caring about our community and
environmentFinding semantic categories
68
KS2 Wordlist Caring about our community and
environmentFinding semantic categories
  • PROBLEM
  • SOLUTION

69
KS2 Wordlist Caring about our community and
environmentFinding semantic categories
  • PROBLEM
  • Pollution (smoke, spit, waste,..)
  • SOLUTION

70
KS2 Wordlist Caring about our community and
environmentFinding semantic categories
  • PROBLEM
  • Pollution (smoke, spit, waste,..)
  • SOLUTION
  • Save energy
  • Reduce waste

71
KS2 Wordlist Caring about our community and
environmentOther categories?
  • People? Organisations?
  • Nouns? Abstract nouns? Concrete nouns?
  • Verbs?
  • Words which can be both nouns and verbs?
  • THE MAIN PURPOSE OF THIS ACTIVITY IS TO
    DEVELOP LEARNERS ASSOCIATIONS BY ENGAGING WITH
    THE WORDS

72
3. From Form to Meaning
  • Starting with a focus on word form
  • Activity reading a postcard

73
Find the words which end in -ing
  • Dear Chris,
  • This summer our family holiday is really
    interesting. Were spending a week in a mountain
    hotel in Japan. The hotel activities include
    walking, mountain climbing and canoeing. The view
    is amazing. We can see wild birds flying around
    and hear the river flowing past. In the evening,
    we eat in the hotel dining room, then watch TV.
    The programmes are a bit boring, mostly singing
    contests and game shows. The trip is tiring but
    great fun. Im looking forward to showing you the
    photos.
  • Andy

74
Find the words which end in -ing
  • Dear Chris,
  • This summer our family holiday is really
    interesting. Were spending a week in a mountain
    hotel in Japan. The hotel activities include
    walking, mountain climbing and canoeing. The view
    is amazing. We can see wild birds flying around
    and hear the river flowing past. In the evening,
    we eat in the hotel dining room, then watch TV.
    The programmes are a bit boring, mostly singing
    contests and game shows. The trip is tiring but
    great fun. Im looking forward to showing you the
    photos.
  • Andy

75
Put each -ing form into a category
Verb in the continuous aspect Adjective Verb used as a noun (gerund) After see, hear, etc.

76
Put each -ing form into a category
Verb in the continuous aspect Adjective Verb used as a noun (gerund) After see, hear, etc.
Spending Looking Interesting Amazing Boring Tiring Walking Climbing Canoeing Showing Flying Flowing
77
Put each -ing form into a category
Verb in the continuous aspect Adjective Verb used as a noun (gerund) After see, hear, etc.
Spending Looking Interesting Amazing Boring Tiring (Dining Singing) Walking Climbing Canoeing Showing (Dining Singing) Flying Flowing
78
Using mini-activities or games in vocabulary
learning and teaching
79
Key priorities in vocabulary teaching
  • Providing multiple exposures to target words
  • Cognitive elaboration of the form-meaning
    relationship

80
Some teaching implications
  • GENERAL APPROACH
  • Enhance L2 vocabulary acquisition through
    instructional intervention
  • IN PRACTICAL TERMS WE NEED MORE
  • Direct teaching of vocabulary
  • Development of learners own word associations
  • Vocabulary-focused activities
  • Process-writing with lexical feedback
  • Conscious reflection about words
  • Systematic re-cycling of target vocabulary
    (multiple exposures)
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