A study on how oral practice can change TNH 10th graders' attitudes towards grammar learning

As far as I’m concerned, grammar is central to the teaching and learning of languages . It is also one of the most difficult aspects of language to teach students perfectly.At Tran Nguyen Han High School where many English teachers prefer traditional approaches in teaching grammar, students seem not to pay attention to their study and show negative attitudes towards learning. This study is therefore conducted with the hope to find out whether communicative approach helps students change their attitudes towards grammar learning. So as to reach this aim, the study sets out to test the hypothesis that oral grammar practice can change students’ attitudes towards grammar learning. The study is applied to 200 students at 10 C1, 10 C2, 10 C3, 10 C4-Tran Nguyen Han High School, Hai Phong City.The data is collected through interviews , questionnaires . By doing this, we can compare the changes of students’ attitudes towards grammar learning. Findings show that students have positive attitudes towards the use of oral grammar practice in grammar lessons. Moreover, students can absorb grammar rules as they hear and use the language through oral communicative activities. And they remark that the use of communicative activities in grammar lessons helps them acquire grammar more efficiently. This way of teaching grammar may be a good solution for the 10th grade students in particular and other graders in general. Based on the findings of the study, some practical recommendations are derived for the application of communicative activitives so that it can help teachers teach grammar better. It is also hoped that this study will provide an effective way of teaching grammar and thanks to it, students at Tran Nguyen Han High School will be more interested in learning grammar to gain a better result.

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DECLARATION I certify that this minor thesis entitled “A study on how oral practice can change TNH 10th graders' attitudes towards grammar learning ” is submited in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts is the results of my own work, except where otherwise acknowledge and that this minor thesis or any part of the same has not been submitted for higher degree to any other University or Institution. Hanoi, 3/2009 Signature Nguyen Thi Chuc Ha ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I am, first of all, particularly indebted to my supervisor, Ms. Nguyen Bach Thao, MA for her invaluable advice, instructions and correction, excellent suggestions and constant encouragement during the research period. Without her guidance and help, this work would not have been accomplished. Secondly, my sincere thanks also go to all lecturers and staff of the department of Post- Graduate studies for their valuable lessons and precious helps. Thanks to their lessons as well as needed helps, I could overcome enormous obstacles when doing the study. Besides, I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to my colleagues and my students at Tran Nguyen Han High School who have participated in this research and many others who helped me during my study at Tran Nguyen Han High School. Last but not least, I would like to convey my deepest gratitude to my husband, my children, and my parents for their constant support and thorough understanding.Their great encouragement and love have helped me to overcome the difficulties during my study. ABSTRACT As far as I’m concerned, grammar is central to the teaching and learning of languages . It is also one of the most difficult aspects of language to teach students perfectly.At Tran Nguyen Han High School where many English teachers prefer traditional approaches in teaching grammar, students seem not to pay attention to their study and show negative attitudes towards learning. This study is therefore conducted with the hope to find out whether communicative approach helps students change their attitudes towards grammar learning. So as to reach this aim, the study sets out to test the hypothesis that oral grammar practice can change students’ attitudes towards grammar learning. The study is applied to 200 students at 10 C1, 10 C2, 10 C3, 10 C4-Tran Nguyen Han High School, Hai Phong City.The data is collected through interviews , questionnaires . By doing this, we can compare the changes of students’ attitudes towards grammar learning. Findings show that students have positive attitudes towards the use of oral grammar practice in grammar lessons. Moreover, students can absorb grammar rules as they hear and use the language through oral communicative activities. And they remark that the use of communicative activities in grammar lessons helps them acquire grammar more efficiently. This way of teaching grammar may be a good solution for the 10th grade students in particular and other graders in general. Based on the findings of the study, some practical recommendations are derived for the application of communicative activitives so that it can help teachers teach grammar better. It is also hoped that this study will provide an effective way of teaching grammar and thanks to it, students at Tran Nguyen Han High School will be more interested in learning grammar to gain a better result. TABLE OF CONTENTS LIST OF GRAPHS Graph 1: Students’ opinions of the importance of English grammar for language learning. Graph 2 : The reasons why English grammar is important in language learning. Graph 3: Students’ opinions of learning English grammar. Graph 4: Students’ impression of learning English grammar at school. Graph 5 : Factors influence students’ attitudes towards grammar learning. Graph 6 : Students’ opinions of English grammar teaching at school. Graph 7 : Teaching techniques to present a new English grammar structure. Graph 8 : Activities students get involved in class to practise new grammar structures. Graph 9 : Students’ expectations Graph 10 : Oral English grammar practice makes English grammar lessons more lively, interesting and stimulate students to learn English. Graph 11: Oral grammar activities students got involved in. Graph 12 : Ranking oral grammar activities according to students’ preference. Graph 13 : Frequency of students’ involvement in oral grammar activities. Graph 14 : Students’ preference with regard to oral grammar activities organization. Graph 15: Students’ difficulties when doing grammar practice orally. Graph 16: Students’ opinions of oral grammar activities. Graph 17: The usefulness of oral grammar practice in students’ language learning. Graph 18: Students’ preference in oral grammar practice in the coming time. Graph 19: Reasons for continuing oral grammar practice in the coming time. Graph 20: Reasons for not continuing oral grammar practice in the coming time. LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS A : Answer B.C : Before Christ CA : Communicative Approach CLT : Communicative Language Teaching E : English M.A : Master of Art Q : Question Q&A : Questions and Answers TNH : Trần Nguyên Hãn T : Teacher Ss : Students CHAPTER I - INTRODUCTION 1.1. Rationale It has widely been accepted in language teaching and learning that grammar structures are very important because they make up the skeleton of a language. Without grammar, words hang together with no real meaning or sense. So as to be able to use a language to some degree of proficiency, we need to master some grammatical knowledge. Grammar is an important and necessary part in students’ learning because it forms the basis for the development of four skills: reading skill, speaking skill, listening skill and writing skill. Students, with good grammar mastery, not only produce sentences grammatically but also acquire the ability to apply grammatical knowledge in certain contexts to express their thoughts and feelings as well as to receive feedback. By teaching grammar, teachers not only give students the means to express themselves, but also fulfill students’ expectations of what learning a foreign language involves. However, how to teach grammar effectively is not very easy and it is of constant concern of high school teachers. So far, a great number of studies have been conducted to assist teachers and students in teaching and acquiring English grammar. Research and teaching practice have revealed that there’s a close relation between teaching methods and learners’ attitudes towards learning, which in turn have great influence on the learning results. This study, therefore, is carried out to investigate how the shift from traditional methods to communicative ones affect the attitudes towards English grammar at Tran Nguyen Han High school. When teaching grammar, teachers of English at Tran Nguyen Han High School seem to prefer traditional teaching methods in which grammar rules are taught deductively because of the great influence on teaching habit caused by Haiphong environment and the former objectives of teaching. The common practice of some senior teachers is just giving the explanation of new words and grammar structures, asking students to learn by heart and make sentences, reading the structures, texts or conversations aloud, asking students to repeat and in general making students passive. Even younger teachers rarely organize communicative activities in their lessons because they are afraid of making noise which may influence the neighbouring classes and also they find it difficult to control the class then. That’s why teachers seem to be interested in giving students a lot of written exercises to do in class. This makes students have no interests in learning grammar at all. Students often do their grammar exercises reluctantly and passively. The fact is that the 10th grade students at Tran Nguyen Han High School have lots of difficulties in learning grammar. They are taught grammar through repetition and written exercises. Students are required to repeat the models and memorize the rules . Lasen- Freeman (2005) points out that such activities in class are boring and not effective. Further more, many teachers approach grammar far too seriously, with unsmiling faces, particularly during the first phases of a new lesson when students are trying to grasp an initial understanding of the form and meaning of the grammar structure. The shortage of useful materials and high technology equipment also makes students’ learning slower and uninteresting. According to Beatty(2003: 248), if a language learner can make use of high technology equipment such as a computer, his language will be improved much more and faster. In terms of teaching schedule, the 10th grade students are currently required to attend only one period (45 minutes) of grammar per week. The students depend on the textbooks . In class, students do not have a chance to use grammar in communicative activities. They are just asked to do grammar exercises in the textbooks after the teacher’s presentation and explanation of a new grammar point and at home they have to do grammar exercises in the workbooks without having them corrected because the teachers have no time for it. It’s difficult for teachers to finish their teaching successfully because of the time constraint, the large class size, and the students’ mixed level. As the result, the students can produce correct forms when doing exercises and taking tests, but consistently make errors while trying to produce their own free writing or speech. It’s obvious that the students do not master grammar structures thoroughly. And of course, this way of teaching and learning may result in the students’ negative attitudes towards English grammar acquisition which surely hinders their language learning conduct. This situation also provides another good reason for the study to be conducted with the hope to identify whether oral practice can change positively Tran Nguyen Han High school students’ attitudes towards English grammar learning . 1.2. Aims of the study The purpose of this study is to investigate Tran Nguyen Han 10th grade students’ attitudes towards grammar learning when grammar is practiced orally instead of through written exercises 1.3. Research questions What are Tran Nguyen Han 10th graders’ attitudes towards grammar learning when traditional teaching methods are used? How can oral practice change positively Tran Nguyen Han 10th graders’ attitudes towards English grammar learning ? 1.4. Scope of the study Due to the time limit and financial constraint, the author was unable to carry out the investigation on a large scale. The researcher, therefore, would like to focus on the real teaching and learning English grammar at Tran Nguyen Han High School, restricted to the 10th graders only. 1.5. Significance of the study The study was conducted with the expectation that its results would be useful for teachers of English at TNH High School. Based on the finding, conclusion could be made on whether oral grammar practice should be applied or not. Hence, it could be a considerable contribution to teaching and learning English grammar effectively and enjoyablely at TNH High School. 1.6. Outline of the study I . Introduction This gives an overview of the study including the study background. This provides a brief description of the thesis topic and information related to English grammar teaching and learning atTNH Upper Secondary School. The aims, the research questions, the scope of the study and the outline of the minor thesis are also included in this . II. Literature review This reviews the relevant literature related to the communicative language teaching methods especially oral practice in English grammar teaching. Particularly, the focuses on the attitude change and the application of grammar oral practice to change students’ attitudes in learning grammar. III. Methodology The actual procedures of the study are presented in this :Study design, subjects of the study, the data collection method, instruments as well as process of data collection and data analysis. IV. Data analysis and discussion This focuses on presenting, analyzing and discussing the results obtained from the study. V. Conclusion This provides the summary of the findings, some recommendations on how to teach English grammar through oral practice at Tran Nguyen Han High School. The conclusion and limitation of the study will also be presented in this . CHAPTER II- LITERATURE REVIEW This focuses on some theoretical grounds of attitude and grammar teaching and learning. It consists of two parts. The first part is concerned with major issues regarding attitudes, the roles of attitudes in language learning and factors that affect the attitudes change. The second one discusses communication approach in teaching grammar as well as oral grammar practice. 2.1. Attitudes 2.1.1. Definition of attitude According to Hallorah (1967) , attitude represents an individual’s like or dislike for an item. Attitudes are positive, negative or neutral views of an “attitude object” i.e. a teaching style, person, situation or event. People can also be “ambivalent” towards a target, meaning that they simultaneously possesses a positive and a negative bias towards the attitude in question. In Gibb’s opinion (1988) attitude is generally defined as a state of mind, which is influenced by feelings, experiences of the world and belief. Fazio (1986) states that attitude comprises of three components: “an affective component involving feelings about and evaluation of the object, a cognitive component involving belief about the object and a behavioral intentions component” . The above definitions show people’s attitude towards certain referent object, a behavioral intentions component and a cognitive component involving belief about the object. In language learning, we can see students’ attitudes in their feelings and belief about the way of acting towards the lessons,learning style, teachers and the course books. Briefly, attitudes have three main components : affective, behavioral and cognitive. The affective components are easily assessed by monitoring physiological signs such as heart rate whereas the behavioral aspects may be assessed by direct observation. On the other hand, the cognitive aspects of attitude are generally measured by interviews, survey and other reporting methods. This study concentrates on affective and cognitive components. It relates to students’ feelings and belief about communicative teaching as well as evaluation of grammar learning. 2.1.2. Attitude change According to Hovland (1973), attitude change is a response to communication. Listeners will keep positive attitudes if the communication is successful and interesting. Otherwise, negative attitudes of the listeners will be formed if the communication is unccessful and unattractive. The success of communication depends on several factors. The first of these is the interest of the communicator of a message. To get interest, the tasks and topic are very important. A frequent change of topic not only makes every student get something that interests him or her sooner or later, but also helps to maintain students’ attention and motivation. Further more, teachers should make sure that maximum language use in fact takes place in every task. To be effective, a communicator must have credibility based on his or her perceived knowledge of the topic, and also be considered trustworthy. The greater the students have perceived similarly between the audience and the communicator, the greater the communicator’s effectiveness becomes. Hallorah (1967:60-61) states that formation and change of attitude are not two separate things , but they are interwoven. People always adopt, relinquish and modify attitudes to fit the ever- changing needs and interests. Simple education can’t change attitudes. Acceptance of new attitudes depends on who presents the knowledge, how it is presented, how the person is perceived, the credibility of the communicator, and the conditions by which the knowledge is received. In Sherif’s view (1975: 16) , we can understand that attitude will be changed based on how a person sees the communication and the communicator. Less commited people will change ideas more frequently. According to Hallorah (1967:60-61) ,attitude change also has to do with other personality characteristics such as susceptibility to persuasion, intelligence, readiness to accept change, ect. We are more likely to accept information if we feel the communicator has no intent to change our attitudes and opinions. Attitudes are expected to change as a function of experience. Hereditary variables may affect attitudes- but believes that they may do so indirectly. For example, if one inherits the disposition to become an extrovert, this may affect one’s attitude to learning a foreign language ( Tesser, 1993) . Abelson (1968) argues that there are numerous theories of attitude formation and attitude change such as Consistency theories, which imply that we must be consistent in our beliefs and values. Heider (1959) states that when beliefs are unbalanced, stress is created and there is pressure to change attitudes. Attitudes can be changed by a number of sources including other people, media, family or other subject itself. In 1968, McGuire developed steps to change an attitude.The steps are attention, comprehension, retention, yielding, and action. Traindis (1971:144-146 ) agrees that in analyzing the attitude –change process, we must consider the effect of who says what, how to whom, with what effect.According to him, attitudes change : - When a person receives new information from others or media - Cognitive change. - When a person is forced to behave in a way different from normal - Behavioral change. - Through direct experience with the attitude object - Affective change. ( Traindis, 1971 :142 ) Students may become bored and inattentive in class, do badly on tests and get discouraged from the courses if students keep poor attitudes in learning. In some cases, they can dropt out of University. But by applying a new technique or providing practical useful information , teachers can change students’ attitude. Learners’ attitudes will be more favorable if they are learning new information that they can apply to the needs they have. Therefore, depending on some theories of attitude change, the author decided to follow the Hovland’s view (1973) “Attitudes change as a response to communication’’ with the fully hope that the findings of the study will be the certain application of oral grammar practice in teaching and learning at TNH High School. As the result, students’ attitudes can be changed from negative to positive because oral grammar practice not only meets the demands of communication but also supports students’ needs as well. 2.2. The role of attitudes in language learning Attitudes and learning go hand in hand. Garder and Lamber (1972) all agree that “ success in mastering a foreign language would depend not only on intellectual capacity and language aptitude , but on one’s attitudes towards representatives of that language as well” . In fact, attitudes play an important role in students’ learning. If they maintain a positive attitude, they will carry out their learning to the best of their ability and vice versa. Students’ attitudes have an effect on their classroom behaviour, learning style and learning results. Lightbrown and Spada (1999) state that attitude is fundamental to the success or failure that we experience in learning. Depending on the learners’ attitudes, learning language can be a source of enrichment or a sourse of resentment. Agreeing with the role of attitudes, Brown (1994) says that language learners benefit from positive attitudes while

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