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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 200 7.

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enhancing the effectiveness of english vocabulary learning and teaching at primary level

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

27August 2007

growing global concern about inadequate vocabulary of l2 learners
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)
l2 vocabulary learning at primary school is still largely un researched
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)

slide4

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
sources of input for the edb wordlists
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
vocabulary study
Vocabulary Study

References of the frequency-based wordlists

  • General Service List (GSL) - West, 1953
  • Academic Wordlist (AWL) - Coxhead, 2000
  • British National Corpus (BNC)
slide8

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

frequency based lists corpora
Frequency-based lists/corpora

GSL

“General” words

BNC

AWL

“Academic” words

principles guiding final selections
Principles guiding final selections
  • Relevance to learners (now and later)
  • Usefulness
  • Combinability (collocations)
  • Word class distribution
  • Superordinates
design of the vocabulary selection procedure

Frequency data from GSL/BNC/AWL

Word samples by frequency

Teachers select words for own KS

Initial (incomplete) wordlist

Rejected items to be considered for next KS

Project team add remainingitems

Textbook corpus

Topics from CGs

Completed wordlist

Design of the vocabulary selection procedure
vocabulary targets
Vocabulary targets

1000 1000

1000 2000

1500 3500

1500 5000

wordlists
Wordlists
  • In alphabetical order
  • By category
possible p edagogical p roblems
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)
how much vocabulary do l2 students learn from reading
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)
extensive reading revisited
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)
learning new words from c ontext revisited
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).
insights from genre we need to select texts carefully
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).
key p riorities in v ocabulary t eaching
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).

some t eaching i mplications
Some teaching implications
  • Enhance L2 vocabulary acquisition through instructional intervention
  • More direct teaching of vocabulary
  • More vocabulary-focused activities
vocabulary now cinderella has arrived at the ball
Vocabulary now:Cinderella 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
what has changed since vocabulary became centre stage
What has changed since vocabulary became “centre stage”?

Language teaching now attaches importance to:

  • Collocation:

“blond+girl”; “torrential+rain”; “rising+prices”

  • 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”

vocabulary building skills recommended in cg
Vocabulary building skills recommended in CG

Word formation

  • Affixation (e.g. unhappy, careless)
  • Compounding (e.g. foot+ball=football)
  • Conversion (e.g. cook a meal, a cook)
  • Derivation (e.g. excite, exciting, excited, excitement)
vocabulary building skills recommended in cg1
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

text written by a primary school pupil in a hk exam
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.
slide40
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.
lexical characteristics of l2 student writing
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)
what vocabulary skills are involved in developing lexical richness
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)
general superordinates can also help
EXAMPLES:

Stuff

Problem

Issue

Thing

Material

Business

Behaviour

Phenomenon

Trend

Pattern

“General” superordinates can also help
lexical expansion of a first draft
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 McDonald’s with my friend.”

lexical feedback on a first draft
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 McDonald’s with my friend.”

paradigmatic approach topic strand
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’)

assumptions about paradigmatic arrangement
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
slide55

Paradigmatic

Association

Syntagmatic

Association

slide56

Paradigmatic

Association

Syntagmatic

Association

slide57

Receptive

Paradigmatic

Association

Syntagmatic

Association

slide58

Receptive

Paradigmatic

Association

Syntagmatic

Association

Productive

syntagmatic approach collocation strand
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’)

assumptions about syntagmatic arrangement
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
helping learners to create useful word associations

Helping learners to create useful word associations

ACTIVITY:

FINDING/CREATING PATTERNS IN A LEXICAL SET

ks2 wordlist caring about our community and environment1
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
ks2 wordlist caring about our community and environment2
KS2 Wordlist: Caring about our community and environment

Possible associations - Compounding

(e.g. noun + noun)

  • Community care
  • Energy waste
  • Pollution crime
  • Government volunteer
ks2 wordlist caring about our community and environment finding semantic categories
KS2 Wordlist: Caring about our community and environmentFinding semantic categories
ks2 wordlist caring about our community and environment finding semantic categories1
PROBLEM

SOLUTION

KS2 Wordlist: Caring about our community and environmentFinding semantic categories
ks2 wordlist caring about our community and environment finding semantic categories2
PROBLEM

Pollution (smoke, spit, waste,..)

SOLUTION

KS2 Wordlist: Caring about our community and environmentFinding semantic categories
ks2 wordlist caring about our community and environment finding semantic categories3
PROBLEM

Pollution (smoke, spit, waste,..)

SOLUTION

Save energy

Reduce waste

KS2 Wordlist: Caring about our community and environmentFinding semantic categories
ks2 wordlist caring about our community and environment other categories
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

3 from form to meaning

3. From Form to Meaning

Starting with a focus on word form

Activity: reading a postcard

find the words which end in ing
Find the words which end in “-ing”

Dear Chris,

This summer our family holiday is really interesting. We’re 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. I’m looking forward to showing you the photos.

Andy

find the words which end in ing1
Find the words which end in “-ing”

Dear Chris,

This summer our family holiday is really interesting. We’re 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. I’m looking forward to showing you the photos.

Andy

key p riorities in v ocabulary t eaching1
Key priorities in vocabulary teaching
  • Providing multiple exposures to target words
  • Cognitive ‘elaboration’ of the form-meaning relationship
some t eaching i mplications1
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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