A study on the effectiveness of some clt classroom activities in teaching vocabulary to first year non-English major students at the AJC

“It is said that people living in the global integration age should know English at least for communication. Do you agree with this?” Once a friend of mine asked me this question, and without thinking, I answered at once “Yes, undoubtedly so.” This thought has not changed since that day and English nowadays dominates over the other foreign languages and is considered a second language in many countries all over the world. Like other developing countries, in Vietnam the demand of using English has increased dramatically in the last few years. Actually, with the open policy and a stable political system, Viet Nam today has attracted more and more foreign investors, tourists come to do business and relax. And obviously, English is the first choice for most Vietnamese people, especially the youth. That reflects in the enormous number of English centers, clubs, schools, universities . including home and foreign ones. However, the reality of teaching and learning English in Vietnam is still not a perfect picture even at the universities, colleges let alone at the English centers. One of the reasons is a less effective teaching methodology and wrong myths on understanding it. Let’s take teaching vocabulary as an example. This aspect of teaching methodology has been lightened and even neglected for a long time, while we all know that vocabulary is a means to link four skills, namely speaking, writing, listening, and reading and without vocabulary we cannot transfer exactly what we want to say to the listeners. As a communication instrument used by people all around the world, the use of English required much vocabulary. According to many linguists, in communication, vocabulary is more important than grammar. However, it has not received the recognition it deserves in the classroom. “A vast amount of teaching time is consumed by explanation and definition, classroom blackboards are often littered with masses of new lexical items, and students compile page upon page of vocabulary word - lists that they rarely have the opportunity to practice” (Ruth Gairns & Stuart Redman 1986).

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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI COLLEGE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES DEPARTMENT OF POST-GRADUATE STUDIES ------------------------- NGUYỄN THỊ THU HÀ A STUDY ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF SOME CLT CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES IN TEACHING VOCABULARY TO FIRST YEAR NON-ENGLISH MAJOR STUDENTS AT THE AJC (Nghiên cứu tính hiệu quả của một số hoạt động theo đường hướng giao tiếp trong việc dạy từ vựng cho sinh viên năm thứ nhất không chuyên tại Học viện Báo chí và Tuyên truyền) M.A Minor Programme Thesis Field: English Language Teaching Methodology Code: 601410 Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Hoàng Văn Vân HANOI - 2008 DECLARATION I hereby that the thesis entitled A STUDY ON THE EFFECTIVENESS OF SOME CLT CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES IN TEACHING VOCABULARY TO FIRST YEAR NON-ENGLISH MAJOR STUDENTS AT THE AJC is the result of my own research for the Degree of Master of Education at College of Foreign Languages, Vietnam National University, Hanoi. I confirm that this thesis has not been submitted for any other degrees. Student’s Signature Nguyen Thi Thu Ha ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am grateful to all the people who have helped me with this research study. My thanks to: My supervisor - Prof. Dr. Hoang Van Van, whose expert help and guidance has been invaluable to me throughout the writing of this thesis. The teachers of the Postgraduate Department - College of Foreign Languages - Vietnam National University for the knowledge they have provided. The two teachers of English and 40 first year students of Ho Chi Minh Ideology department, Academy of Journalism and Communication for their assistance and participation in my experimental research. And finally, my thanks go to my family members, friends and other colleagues at the AJC for their love and support to me, which are very significant for me to finish this research study. ABSTRACT This thesis is devoted to examining the comparative effectiveness of some CLT approach classroom activities in teaching vocabulary to first year non-major students at the Academy of Journalism and Communication. In order to achieve this objective, a theoretical and practical research is carried out. In the Theoretical Background, the background of vocabulary and relevance to teaching vocabulary are summarized. An overview on CLT approach that has been employing in foreign language teaching in Vietnam is also introduced in this part. After that a brief background setting to the quasi-experiment relating to teaching and learning vocabulary at the AJC is highlighted. Subsequently, the quasi-experimental study is given to evaluate the effectiveness of some CLT approach classroom activities. And the results we will get based on data analysis are in the third chapter. Finally, some recommendations for vocabulary teaching/learning effectively are suggested. TABLE OF CONTENTS Declaration i Acknowledgemments ii Abstract iii Table of contents iv List of abbreviations vi List of tables vii List of charts ix PART I: INTRODUCTION 1 1. Rationale 1 2. Aims of the study 3 3. Significance of the study 3 4. Scope of the study 3 5. Research Questions 4 6. Methods of the study 4 7. Design of the study 5 PART II: DEVELOPMENT 6 CHAPTER 1: THEORETICAL BACKGROUND 6 1.1. Introduction 6 1.2. Vocabulary in teaching and learning English 6 1.2.1. Definition and types of word 6 1.2.2. Definition and types of vocabulary 7 1.2.3. The importance of vocabulary 8 1.2.4. The role of vocabulary in language skills 8 1.2.4.1. In communication 8 1.2.4.2. In other skills 9 1.3. Teaching vocabulary 9 1.3.1. The role of vocabulary teaching 9 1.3.2. What needs to be taught while teaching vocabulary? 10 1.3.3. Methods and approaches of teaching vocabulary at university 11 1.3.4. Theoretical background of CLT approach 12 1.3.4.1. Introduction and definition of CLT 12 1.3.4.2. Basic features of communicative approach 13 1.3.4.3. The role of the teacher in CLT 13 1.3.4.4. Challenges for applying CLT in Viet Nam 14 1.3.4.5. Some principles of employing CLT in teaching vocabulary effectively 14 1.3.4.6. Prominent features of CLT activities that encourage vocabulary learning 14 1.4. Summary 15 LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS AJC: Academy of Journalism and Communication CLT: Communication Language Teaching EFL: English as Foreign Language ESP: English for Specific Purpose M.A: Master MC: Master of Ceremonies. TPR: Total Physical Response VNU: Viet Nam National University LIST OF TABLES Pages Table 1: Vocabulary designed in the course-book Lifeline – Elementary 19 Table 2: The results and mean of the post-tests 33 Table 3: Rating students through post-tests 35 Table 4: Modes of the post-tests 36 LIST OF CHARTS Pages Chart 1: Below-average 35 Chart 2: Average 35 Chart 3: Good 36 Chart 4: Excellent 36 PART I: INTRODUCTION 1. Rationale “It is said that people living in the global integration age should know English at least for communication. Do you agree with this?” Once a friend of mine asked me this question, and without thinking, I answered at once “Yes, undoubtedly so.” This thought has not changed since that day and English nowadays dominates over the other foreign languages and is considered a second language in many countries all over the world. Like other developing countries, in Vietnam the demand of using English has increased dramatically in the last few years. Actually, with the open policy and a stable political system, Viet Nam today has attracted more and more foreign investors, tourists come to do business and relax. And obviously, English is the first choice for most Vietnamese people, especially the youth. That reflects in the enormous number of English centers, clubs, schools, universities…. including home and foreign ones. However, the reality of teaching and learning English in Vietnam is still not a perfect picture even at the universities, colleges… let alone at the English centers. One of the reasons is a less effective teaching methodology and wrong myths on understanding it. Let’s take teaching vocabulary as an example. This aspect of teaching methodology has been lightened and even neglected for a long time, while we all know that vocabulary is a means to link four skills, namely speaking, writing, listening, and reading and without vocabulary we cannot transfer exactly what we want to say to the listeners. As a communication instrument used by people all around the world, the use of English required much vocabulary. According to many linguists, in communication, vocabulary is more important than grammar. However, it has not received the recognition it deserves in the classroom. “A vast amount of teaching time is consumed by explanation and definition, classroom blackboards are often littered with masses of new lexical items, and students compile page upon page of vocabulary word - lists that they rarely have the opportunity to practice” (Ruth Gairns & Stuart Redman 1986). At the Academy of Journalism and Communication - a national training institution, which is assigned the task of training communication, education officers and producing the future journalists for the country, the reality of teaching and learning vocabulary is somehow not different in comparison with the whole general vocabulary teaching picture. AJC students usually feel bored in vocabulary lessons because they have not changed their learning habits such as writing words on paper, trying to learn by heart or learning passively through the teacher’s explanation. Besides, AJC students after graduation have a huge demand of reading and communicating in English. In order to do this, they must have a certain amount of vocabulary and moreover, they must know how to use it properly in the specific context. From this, we can see that in order to master English, apart from students’ appropriate learning strategies, the teachers’ role and teaching methodology are also very important. What ways should be applied to teach vocabulary effectively? In recent years, CLT has been applied in Vietnam and it has shown its effectiveness in teaching and learning language. “CLT is an approach that helps students be more active in real life situations through the means of individual, pair and group work activities. It encourages students to practice the language they learn in meaningful ways.” (Nguyen Thi Thu Van & Khuat Thi Thu Nga 2003 ). From this background, the question “Is it true that CLT classroom activities are more effective than traditional ones?” has come to my mind and reminds me of my colleague’s teaching period regarding teaching vocabulary. At that period, many communicative activities were applied, which involved the whole class and attracted students’ attention so much. “Why don’t we apply CLT activities to teaching vocabulary? Is it effective for students of all levels? However, does only one period reflect exactly the effectiveness of CLT activities?” – Those thoughts and worries plus the reality of teaching and learning vocabulary led me to carry out a quasi-experimental research to examine “the effectiveness of some CLT classroom activities in teaching vocabulary to first year non-English major students at the Academy of Journalism and Communication”. 2. Aims of the study The study is aimed to find out the role of vocabulary in acquiring a foreign language and to make a comparison between the traditional activities and CLT classroom activities through the quasi-experiment so as to evaluate the effectiveness of some CLT classroom activities in teaching vocabulary to first year non-major students at the Academy of Journalism and Communication. From these, the writer tries to give some recommendations to teach vocabulary more effectively. 3. Significance of the study As mentioned in the Rationale, vocabulary is really necessary and important for learners to communicate well, however it has been undervalued or it is taught in merely traditional ways, which makes the lessons boring. This study tries to test the comparative effectiveness of some CLT classroom activities and suggest some recommendations for teaching/learning vocabulary more effectively. With this study, the writer hopes to make a small contribution to teaching/learning vocabulary communicatively and effectively, which may help students retain vocabulary and help the teachers find the most appropriate way in teaching vocabulary. 4. Scope of the study The study was designed to find the answer to the main question “Is it true that CLT classroom activities are more effective than traditional ones?” Due to the limit of a minor thesis, the quasi-experiment just lasted in 6 weeks basing on three first units (Unit 1, 2 and 3) of the textbook Lifelines – Elementary. The subjects of the research are 40 first year non-major students of the Ho Chi Minh Ideology department and the two teachers of English, who co-prepared the lesson plan and taught these two classes – experimental and control ones. I myself could not teach the students, because I’m not working as an official teacher. 5. Research Questions 1. What is vocabulary’s role in language teaching and learning? 2. Is it true that CLT classroom activities are more effective than traditional ones? 3. What are suggestions for teaching and learning vocabulary more effectively? 6. Methods of the study First of all, the Theoretical Background relating to the research was conducted by collecting materials, internet sources… In the Development, we took a brief look at the reality of teaching and learning vocabulary at the AJC including the descriptions of the teachers, students, course-book… as the background setting to the study. With an attempt to find out the comparative effectiveness of some CLT classroom activities in teaching vocabulary to first year non-major students, a quasi-experimental research was made. The study was limited to only the first year non-major students of Ho Chi Minh Ideology department (Academy of Journalism and Communication). These 40 students belonging to two classes were not randomly selected. One class was randomly assigned as the experimental and the other as the control class. Similarly, two teachers almost similar in respect of educational qualifications, age, training, and experience at teaching to non-English majors and their reputation at the university were selected. One teacher was randomly assigned to the experiment and the other to the control class. The quasi-experiment lasted in 6 weeks with three first units of the textbook - Lifelines - Elementary. The pre-test was administered to the students of both classes at the beginning of the experiment in order to check students’ vocabulary knowledge. After finishing one unit, a post-test, whose content was based on the knowledge of that unit was delivered to students of both classes. However, the content of the last post-test included the knowledge of all three units. Apart from the post- tests, class observation and teachers’ self-assessment were used as supplementary testing instruments to confirm the post-test results. The data obtained were thoroughly analyzed by statistical descriptions. By these ways, we can see which of two kinds of activities namely traditional and CLT had a positive effect on the vocabulary teaching. From these, some recommendations were suggested. 7. Design of the study The research includes three parts. The first part is Introduction, in which the rationale, aims, scope, methods, research questions and design are identified. The second one is Development which consists of three chapters. Chapter one – Theoretical Background gives an overview of the theories relating to vocabulary. In the chapter 2 - The Quasi-Experiment, the answers to the research questions are given. The last chapter – chapter three - Data analysis, results and discussion prescribed the results of the quasi-experiment. The Part three - Conclusion gives the summary of the study, the suggestions for teaching/learning more effectively and the recommendations for further study. PART II: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER 1 THEORETICAL BACKGROUND 1.1. Introduction This chapter focuses on providing an overview of the theoretical knowledge relevant to the study including Vocabulary in teaching and learning English; Teaching vocabulary; Methods and approaches of teaching vocabulary at university and Theoretical background of CLT approach. 1.2. Vocabulary in teaching and learning English 1.2.1. Definition and types of word Vocabulary mastery begins with a word. So what is a word? According to Arnold I.B., (1996) the term “word” denotes the basic unit of a given language resulting from the association of a particular meaning with a particular group of sounds capable of a particular grammatical employment. The word is structural and semantic entity within the language system. The American Heritage Dictionary (1985) tells us that words are usually separated by spaces in writing, and are distinguished phonologically, as by accent in many languages. Words as single units cannot provide the act of communication by themselves: a man, I, like, good. They provide the act of communication when they are combined in a certain way: I like a good man. Charles Carpenter Fries in his book “The structure of English: An Introduction to the construction of English tendencies” (1952) distinguished four types of words according to the function in the sentences and their combinability with other words: - Function words: do (forming the question) - Substitute words: he, she, they… - Grammatically distributed words: some, any - Content words, which constitute the bunk of the language vocabulary 1.2.2. Definition and types of vocabulary “Vocabulary is knowledge of words and word meanings” is defined by Fran Lehr and his associates (2004) in a research entitled “A Focus on Vocabulary”. Now let’s take a look at the term “vocabulary knowledge”. How is “vocabulary knowledge” understood? Steven Stahl (1998) gives us a definition as follows: "Vocabulary knowledge is knowledge; the knowledge of a word not only implies a definition, but also implies how that word fits into the world." That means vocabulary knowledge is not something that can ever be fully mastered. It is something that expands and deepens over the course of a lifetime. Instruction in vocabulary involves far more than looking up words in a dictionary and using the words in a sentence. Vocabulary is acquired incidentally through indirect exposure to words and intentionally through explicit instruction in specific words and word-learning strategies. From the explanation above, we can see a new vocabulary learning strategy that is very interesting and useful. Besides, it can be seen that vocabulary is very important when students want to learn English, because a student who has much vocabulary will find it easier to understand and master English than any other student who does not. Researchers often refer to four types of vocabulary: - Listening vocabulary: the words we need to know to understand what we hear. - Speaking vocabulary: the words we use when we speak. - Reading vocabulary : the words we need to know to understand what we read. - Writing vocabulary : the words we use in writing. 1.2.3. The importance of vocabulary Vocabulary is one of vital parts of English, especially in the field of communication. The three following quotations will illustrate this: "Without grammar very little can be conveyed; without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed." (Wilkins 1972: 111). "When students travel, they don't carry grammar books, they carry dictionaries.” (Krashen in Lewis 1993: iii). “Knowing words is the key to understanding and being understood. The bulk of learning a new language consists of learning new words. Grammatical knowledge does not make for great proficiency in a language.” (Vermeer, 1992: 147) 1.2.4. The role of vocabulary in language skills 1.2.4.1. In communication English is used as a communicative tool between two or more people speaking different languages. As a communicative tool used by people all around the world, the use of English will require much vocabulary. Needless to say, a person who has much vocabulary will find it easier to master English than any other person who does not. With much vocabulary people can also be more proficient in communication, because they do not need to worry when selecting the words that will be used in conversation. From this, we can say vocabulary and communicative ability are highly correlated. I would like to quote Lewis’s point of view to support this: “Vocabulary is basic to communication. If acquired do not recognize the meaning of key words used by those who address them they will be unable to participate in the conversation If they wish to express some idea or ask for information they must be able to produce lexical items to convey the meaning. Indeed, if our students know the morphology and the syntax of an utterance addressed to them, but do not know the meaning of key lexical items they will be unable to participate in the conversation” (Lewis, 1993) 1.2.4.2. In other skills A good vocabulary is as necessary for writing as it is for reading and listening.  Students can hardly choose the proper word to express oneself unless they have a choice; and that means having several words to select from, which will come from building a good vocabulary.  Furthermore, a student who has trouble generating satisfactory length in themes reveals another important writing by product of vocabulary. “With a poor vocabulary, the free flow of ideas and pen is blocked and dribbles out; with a good vocabulary, it will be helped to flow.”  (www.aug.edu/fenglish/learning_materials/how2_vocabulary.htm) Vocabulary is also very important to reading and listening comprehension. Students cannot understand what they are reading and listening without knowing what most of the words mean. To

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