An investigation on vocabulary teaching in the advanced level textbook program for english specialized students grade 11th in chu van an high school

Vocabulary acquisition is one of the most challenging obstacles language learners must overcome. This is especially true for students in English specialized classes where comprehension of academic texts is required. This minor thesis investigates the vocabulary strategy teaching component of an advanced-level course book for students in the grade 11th of Chu Van An High School. It first describes the course and the issues which prompted the study. The present study is an effort that aims to examine the students’ usage of vocabulary learning strategies that occurs as the course progresses and to analyse the development of passive and active vocabularies over a three-month period. It then reviews the literature relevant to the topic of research which serves as a theoretical for framework for the study. The data were collected by means of questionnaires and interviews. Results showed that students employed some certain determination, social, memory, cognitive and metacognitive strategies during the course. However, the frequency of determination strategies use was significantly higher than that of social and metacognive ones. The findings emphasize the potential influence of these strategies on the learners’ vocabulary development. Particularly, this study can claim to have achieved its goal of measuring improvements in students’ passive vocabularies and matching them to suitable targets after a three-month period. However, the findings from these studies have neither been completely sufficient nor consistent, which requires further research into particular strategies employed by learners of different proficiency levels in varied contexts. The study has developmental implication for researchers and teachers. It provides a categorization scheme of vocabulary learning strategies that are applicable to other studies in this field. In addition, based on the findings, it suggests explicit instruction to improve the efficiency of teaching vocabulary strategies.

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VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI COLLEGE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES POST GRADUATE DEPARTMENT PHƯƠNG NHÂN AN INVESTIGATION ON VOCABULARY TEACHING IN THE ADVANCED LEVEL TEXTBOOK PROGRAM FOR ENGLISH SPECIALIZED STUDENTS GRADE 11TH IN CHU VAN AN HIGH SCHOOL NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ VIỆC GIẢNG DẠY TỪ VỰNG TRONG CHƯƠNG TRÌNH SÁCH GIÁO KHOA NÂNG CAO DÀNH CHO HỌC SINH LỚP 11 CHUYÊN ANH TRƯỜNG CHU VĂN AN M.A MINOR THESIS FIELD : METHODOLOGY CODE : 601410 HANOI, 2008 VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI COLLEGE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES POST GRADUATE DEPARTMENT PHƯƠNG NHÂN AN INVESTIGATION ON VOCABULARY TEACHING IN THE ADVANCED LEVEL TEXTBOOK PROGRAM FOR ENGLISH SPECIALIZED STUDENTS GRADE 11TH IN CHU VAN AN HIGH SCHOOL NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ VIỆC GIẢNG DẠY TỪ VỰNG TRONG CHƯƠNG TRÌNH SÁCH GIÁO KHOA NÂNG CAO DÀNH CHO HỌC SINH LỚP 11 CHUYÊN ANH TRƯỜNG CHU VĂN AN M.A MINOR THESIS FIELD : METHODOLOGY CODE : 601410 SUPERVISOR : ĐINH HẢI YẾN, M.Ed HANOI, 2008 CERTIFICATE OF ORIGINALITY I certify my authorship of the minor thesis submitted today entitled “An investigation on vocabulary teaching in the advanced level textbook program for English specialized students grade 11th in Chu Van An High School” in terms of the statement of requirements for the thesis and the field study reports in Masters’ programs is the result of my own work, except where otherwise acknowledged and that this minor thesis or any part of the same had not been submitted for a higher degree to any other universities or institution. Signature Date: December 29th, 2008 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS First of all, I wish to express my deepest gratitude to my supervisor, Ms. Dinh Hai Yen, M.Ed, for her academic guidance and support throughout this study. Without her valuable assistance, my thesis would not have been completed. I would like to sincerely thank the lecturers of the Department of Post Graduate Studies, College of Foreign Languages, Hanoi National University for their useful lessons that have helped in the clarification of many points. Last but not least, many special thanks are due to the teaching staff and students from English specialized classes 11th grade in Chu Van An High School, who contributed data to the study. Without their enthusiastic cooperation, I would not have been able to conduct my research. I hope that the insights this paper has yielded will be of benefit for future students in the program. ABSTRACT Vocabulary acquisition is one of the most challenging obstacles language learners must overcome. This is especially true for students in English specialized classes where comprehension of academic texts is required. This minor thesis investigates the vocabulary strategy teaching component of an advanced-level course book for students in the grade 11th of Chu Van An High School. It first describes the course and the issues which prompted the study. The present study is an effort that aims to examine the students’ usage of vocabulary learning strategies that occurs as the course progresses and to analyse the development of passive and active vocabularies over a three-month period. It then reviews the literature relevant to the topic of research which serves as a theoretical for framework for the study. The data were collected by means of questionnaires and interviews. Results showed that students employed some certain determination, social, memory, cognitive and metacognitive strategies during the course. However, the frequency of determination strategies use was significantly higher than that of social and metacognive ones. The findings emphasize the potential influence of these strategies on the learners’ vocabulary development. Particularly, this study can claim to have achieved its goal of measuring improvements in students’ passive vocabularies and matching them to suitable targets after a three-month period. However, the findings from these studies have neither been completely sufficient nor consistent, which requires further research into particular strategies employed by learners of different proficiency levels in varied contexts. The study has developmental implication for researchers and teachers. It provides a categorization scheme of vocabulary learning strategies that are applicable to other studies in this field. In addition, based on the findings, it suggests explicit instruction to improve the efficiency of teaching vocabulary strategies. TABLE OF CONTENTS Page Acknowledgements i Abstract ii Part I: INTRODUCTION 1 1. Rationale 1 2. Scope, aims and significance of the study 2 2.1 Scope of the study 2 2.2 Aims of the study 3 2.3 Significance of the study 3 3. Methods of the study 4 4. Organization of the thesis 4 Part II: DEVELOPMENT 5 CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW 5 1.1 Vocabulary in SLA 5 1.2. Linguistic Input of Word 6 1.2.1 Necessary information of ‘knowing’ a word 6 1.2.2 Receptive and Productive knowledge 7 1.2.3 How many words do learners need to know? 7 1.3 Vocabulary learning strategies 9 1.3.1 Determination strategies 10 1.3.2 Social strategies 11 1.3.3 Memory strategies 12 1.3.4 Cognitive strategies 13 1.3.5 Metacognitive strategies 14 1.4 Vocabulary teaching in language education 14 1.5 Summary 16 CHAPTER 2: METHODOLOGY 18 2.1 Participants and settings of the study 18 2.1.1 The school system 18 2.1.2 Vocabulary in the curriculum 18 2.1.3 Needs analysis 19 2.2 Instruments of data collection 20 2.2.1 Questionnaires 20 2.2.2 Survey 21 2.3 Data collection procedures 21 2.4 Data analysis 21 2.5 Summary 22 CHAPTER 3: RESULTS AND DISCUSSION 23 3.1 Results 23 3.1.1 Determination strategies 23 3.1.2 Social strategies 24 3.1.3 Memory strategies 25 3.1.4 Cognitive strategies 27 3.1.5 Metacognitive strategies 28 3.1.6 Teaching staff survey 29 3.2 Summary of major findings 30 3.3 Discussion of major findings 31 3.4 Summary 33 Part III: CONCLUSION 34 1. Summary of previous parts 34 2. Conclusions 35 3. Implications of the study 37 4 Limitations and suggestions for further research 38 REFERENCES I APPENDIXES III Appendix 1 III Appendix 2 VI Appendix 3 VII LIST OF ABBREVIATIONS CFL : College of Foreign Language VNU : Vietnam National University CVA : Chu Van An High School SSP : Structured Speaking Practice SLA : Second Language Acquisition LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. Vocabulary size and text coverage in the Brown corpus (Nation and Waring, 1997, p.9) Figure 2. Text coverage in written academic text (Nation and Newton, (1997, p.239) Figure 3. Determination strategy survey results Figure 4. Social strategy survey results Figure 5. Sample of Memory strategy survey results Figure 6. Cognitive strategy survey results Figure 7. Metacognitive strategy survey results PART I: INTRODUCTION 1. Rationale It is common knowledge that learning a foreign language mainly involves learning the sound system, grammar, and vocabulary of that language among which vocabulary learning plays a very crucial role. Seal, (1990, as cited in Celce-Murcia, 1991, p.269) state that to the non-language specialist, the common sense how languages are learned is that you substitute the words in your first language for the corresponding words in the second language. Words are perceived as the building blocks upon which knowledge of the second language can be built. Considering the crucial role attributed to vocabulary learning in second or foreign language learning, one can implicitly understand the importance of vocabulary teaching as well. In the past, vocabulary teaching and learning were often given little priority in second language programs, but recently there has been a renewed interest in the nature of vocabulary and its role in learning and teaching (Richards & Renandya, 2002). A number of research studies have dealt with lexical problems, that is, problems which language learners face in vocabulary learning. The given research findings have revealed that lexical problems frequently interfere with communication. As a matter of fact, communication breakdown occurs when people do not use the right words (Allen, 1983). It is also generally accepted that second or foreign language learners who possess good word power or knowledge of vocabulary are usually more successful language learners. To put it simply, people with large vocabularies are more proficient readers than those with limited vocabularies. In fact, there is usually a positive correlation between one’s knowledge of vocabulary and his/her level of language proficiency (Luppescu & Day, 1993). In most English classrooms in Vietnam today, a significant amount of time is spent on lexis teaching and learning.  Indeed, many EFL learners favour the type of vocabulary book that lists words frequently appearing in entrance examinations. However, these are unhelpful for the communicative purposes since they do not present information on usage.  Therefore, considering the treatment of lexis in current English textbooks for EFL learners and what improvements that could be made has become a major concern for language professionals nationwide.  The significance then is not simply a focus on lexical elements, but a careful consideration of the kinds of lexical features that should be presented and applied. Advanced ESL (English as a Second Language) learners, particularly those who have been admitted to English specialized classes which use English as the mode of instruction such as the case of Chu Van An high school, ostensibly have a sizeable vocabulary.  To begin with, they must pass the school entrance exams, which test the breadth of vocabulary at the disposition of the learner. In the English specialized classes, vocabulary learning is of great importance to the students because they need to work with a lot of English books and materials to support their studies. In recent advanced-level courses I taught, the learners were expected to learn the entire Academic Word List (Coxhead, 2000) and sublist over the course of one three-month semester.  Remarkably, the students in these particular classes consistently received 80%-100% correct answers on AWL vocabulary quizzes, representing a gain of approximately 560 new word families. However, apart from some students who are quite good at English, most students find vocabulary acquisition one of the biggest challenges, especially when they have to work with a wide range of academic materials. They often complain that they have little understanding of the texts they have read and gain little knowledge from their reading exercises in the advanced textbooks. Having worked with the newly developed advanced textbooks for more than two years, I am fully aware of the students’ problems and want to help them improve their vocabulary learning efficiency. Therefore, I intend to carry out an investigation on vocabulary teaching in the advanced level textbook program for English specialized class students who are in the grade 11th in Chu Van An High School. 2. Scope, aims and significance of the study 2.1 Scope of the study The study investigates the vocabulary teaching in the advanced level textbook program for English specialized class students who are in the grade 11th in Chu Van An High School. Particularly, this minor thesis only refers to the learners’ lexical strategy training. That is how to develop learners’ lexical learning strategies in the most efficient way. Thus, the study of learning and teaching strategies involving other aspects would be beyond the scope. 2.2 Aims of the study This study evaluates the vocabulary teaching component of an advanced English study program. The aims of the study are: a) to examine the students’ usage of vocabulary learning strategies that occurs as the course progresses, to analyse the development of passive and active vocabularies over a three-month period in order to assess whether students finishing the program have acquired sufficient knowledge of lexical items to comprehend different types of academic texts. To realize the given aims, an attempt is made to seek answers to the following research questions: (1) To what extent does the vocabulary component of the advanced level textbook program for grade 11th students support their own vocabulary development? (2) What is the students’ evaluation of the effectiveness towards vocabulary learning strategies that they employ after a three – month period? (3) What are the suggested solutions to improve the efficiency of teaching vocabulary strategies? 2.3 Significance of the study The study is the first one to be carried out in the field of vocabulary teaching at Chu Van An High school. It gives a detailed description of vocabulary development used by students in English specialized classes. More importantly, it works out changes in study behavior over a three-month period. The findings of the vocabulary teaching of the textbooks newly developed for the advanced level can help teachers to understand more about their students’ vocabulary acquisition and can serve as the foundation for some further recommendations on how to improve students’ vocabulary breadth. 3. Methods of the study This study is to be conducted as a descriptive study that utilizes both quantitative and qualitative approaches. The quantitative analysis is employed through the process of data collected from written questionnaires to reveal changes in study behavior over a three-month period and to measure passive vocabulary growth over the same period. In addition, the qualitative approach is used to deal with the data collected from interviews with the teaching staff that are fully responsible for the teaching of some 11th English specialized classes in Chu Van An High School. The combination of these data collection methods will help ensure both reliability and validity of the study. 4. Organization of the thesis  The study consists of three parts: Part I is the Introduction, which states the rationale, scope, aims, significance, method and organization of the study. Part II consists of three chapters. Chapter 1 reviews the literature relevant to the topic of research and summarizes some related studies on vocabulary acquisition, which serves as a theoretical framework for the study. Chapter 2 presents the research methodology of the study. It provides information about the participants, the instruments, and the data collection procedures and data analysis. Chapter 3 is the main part of the study that reports and discusses the main findings according to the research questions. Part III is the Conclusion that summarizes the major findings, presents the implications and limitations of the study and gives some suggestions for further research. PART II: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW For long, vocabulary learning has occupied an uncertain position in literature. Since the 1970s though, there has been a growing appreciation of the importance of lexical knowledge for learners. This, together with the gradual shift away from prescribed methods of teaching, has led to a greater emphasis on developing the use of learning strategies. Until recently, however, there have been few attempts to accurately describe the strategies that learners can bring to bear on the task of acquiring vocabulary (Schmitt, 1997, p.199). Several key questions stand out regarding current thinking on vocabulary learning, some of which attract a remarkable consistency of opinion, while others provoke more debate. Vocabulary in SLA Some specialists in methodology believe that the meaning of words can not be adequately taught, so it is better not to try to teach them. Others in methodology fear that students would make mistakes in sentence construction if too many words are learned before the basic grammar has been mastered. Actually, vocabulary learning is not simply a matter of learning that a certain word in one language means the same in all contexts. It is widely accepted that vocabulary is more important than grammar in SLA. Firstly, words still can be used to communicate successfully without the grammatical correction. For example, as in baby’s utterance “Mummy, water”, one can easily get his intention that he asks his mother for water, although his utterance which lacks a subject and a predicate is grammatically wrong. Secondly, knowledge of grammar is limited but that of words are not. Thus, learning vocabulary should last as long as the language is being in use. Vocabulary breadth in learning a foreign language is viewed as a primordial factor in successful communication and, to a great extent, in high-level reading ability and comprehension. Furthermore, reading itself is frequently singled out as the most important vocabulary-building activity both for the first language (L1) and the second language (L2). The impact of reading on vocabulary acquisition outweighs by far the impact of aural language because of the relatively simple lexicon used in the spoken language (Krashen, 1989, p. 455). A large number of the studies on SLA (e.g., Horst, Cobb, & Meara, 1998; Knight, 1994; Krashen, 1989; Nagy, Herman, & Anderson, 1985; Nation & Coady, 1988) examine the role of context in vocabulary acquisition which takes place through reading or reading-associated tasks. Context plays a significant role in this acquisition by supplying the necessary input. In many cases, the vocabulary acquisition which occurs while we are reading is incidental and is largely dependent on the learners' guessing (Krashen, 1989). However, numerous articles concerned with the controversy between guessing from context and the use of a dictionary or glosses (marginal or computerized) in L2 acquisition provide data in favor of dictionary/ gloss use in addition to vocabulary embedded in a natural context (Groot, 2000 ; Hulstijn, 2000 ; Lomicka, 1998; Lyman-Hager & Davis, 1996; Summers, 1988). Dictionaries are particularly helpful for rarely occurring, low-frequency words and for cases where the subjects do not have enough background for correct guesses. Moreover, even a correct guess does not necessarily lead to acquisition. This conclusion can be explained by the assumption that learners who guess words correctly do not pay sufficient attention to the link between form and meaning in the learning stage nor think they know the words well. 1.2 Linguistic Input of Word 1.2.1 Necessary information of ‘knowing’ a word It is important for learners to recognize that there is more to ‘knowing’ a word than checking its definition in a dictionary. Teachers need to emphasize that vocabulary learning is an incremental, ongoing process, and that learners will be able to improve their understanding of words by encountering them repeatedly. Word knowledge can be thought of as encompassing three elements: the word’s form, meaning and use. Knowledge of form might include phonological and orthographical form as well as any recognizable word parts. Beyond the word’s definition as given in a dictionary, meaning also encompasses connotation and synonyms. Using the word requires an understanding of appropriate grammatical function, common collocations, appropriacy in different contexts and frequency of use, all of which can be acquired from incidental exposure to language (Ellis, 1997, p.127). In Laufer’s study (1998) of vocabulary development in Israel high school students , productive knowledge is further subdivided into two parts. Controlled productive knowledge can be accessed when prompted by a task but free productive knowledge is used spontaneously without prompts. This is an important point, since learners who are being prompted to use a particular word are being provided with a context, and are therefore not exhibiting complete control of a lexical item unaided. It is only when items are used appropriately without any prompts that a teacher can be sure that an item has been f
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