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Visual Aids Help Tths Students Improve Their English Education Essay

In Vietnam, English is considered the most important foreign language, which is taught as one of the main subjects in schools as well as in universities and is also used the most in communication among other foreign languages. According to the Longman dictionary of language teaching and applied linguistics, English is used as a foreign language or a second language to communicate with foreigners who speak the English language in non-English speaking countries.

The English teaching and learning at Thuong Tin High School is not very significant in terms of the students’ achievement. Especially, the big concern is for English vocabulary retention. At the end of the first term 2009 – 2010 only about 50% of the students got an average of 5 and 6, and only 8% got 7 or 8 and the rest got 3 or 4 in the English oral test in the 2009 State First Term Examination. These figures have made the teachers of English in TT High School feel worried, they need to consider the serious problem carefully and find out the best methods to improve the situation quickly.

This poor achievement is not new but has lasted for years, and there have been many things done about it but the situation has not improved. Students have been given extra lessons so that they have more time to practice their English, especially English speaking lessons, they have been helped a lot with revision before every test. They have even been provided with well-prepared hand-outs of the points on which they are going to be tested and told what to learn to do the tests well. In spite of what they have been informed and reminded of, unexpected things have still occurred, students have not improved their achievement, and the fact that most students were not very proficient in speaking and writing tests which were shown on the report of first term.

To find out which factors are important in language learning, it is necessary to have a close look at social factors as well as a number of psychological dimensions of difference. Attitudes and motivation, self-confidence, intelligence, language aptitude, and language learning strategies have also been found to have an effect on language learners’ success in their language learning (Gardner, 2001).

The research project took place at Thuong Tin High School located in Thuong Tin, a town about 30 kilometres from Ha Noi Capital and has been developing very fast. The people have become richer and a large number of families have invested money in after school activities and private tutoring for their children in English and other core subjects. If students and learners have an excellent level of English, they will gain acceptance to higher schools of learning and better-paid jobs.

English is an important and compulsory subject at almost every school in Vietnam. Thus, usually students have to learn English for at least 7 years, from grade 6 to grade 12. In many schools in cities children start learning English in grade 3. There is even a trend to learn English before elementary school as their parents believe that the English language is a useful investment for their children's future. Most jobs now require the applicants to have knowledge of English language at certain levels. Though English is taught from grade 3 in primary schools, most high school students are difficult to read an English paragraph fluently, talk to each other in English as a conversation, listen to a short introduction on television or write a letter or even a paragraph of description in English well.

The issue that why most TTHS students have still had low results on speaking and writing tests though they have been helped a lot before tests, and what possible solutions could be found. The TTHS teachers have had a serious discussion and come to conclusion that most TTHS students have low English vocabulary retention and this has great influence on their speaking and writing tests. Students can not speak, listen, read and write English if they do not have enough necessary English vocabulary. But what we, teachers, have to do to help our students improve their English vocabulary. More things must be done to change the situation for the better, and the concerns were carried out, such as; motivation, methods of teaching and learning, environment of teaching and learning, materials and inclusive of Visual Aids. The defined solution for this issue was that Using Visual Aids to help students improve English vocabulary retention, because the teachers believed that there is no ways of learning vocabulary better than seeing the real things or illustrated things.

Most teachers of English agree that it is difficult for them to have successful lessons on vocabulary or communication without visual aids and students will not be easy to understand and practice if they do not have certain visual aids for every task because students do not have enough necessary vocabulary to practice. The purpose of this research is to determine using Visual Aids helps TTHS students improve English vocabulary and the effects that visual teaching strategies have on the academic achievement of TTHS students.

Research questions:

How do VISUAL AIDS help students improve English vocabulary retention?

What effects do visual teaching strategies have on the academic achievement of TTHS students?

LITERATURE REVIEW

Visual aids

Brown (1973:1) emphasizes that using variety of media, visual aids, will increase the probability that the students will learn more, retain better what they learn and improve their performance of the skills they are expected to develop. Moreover, Finocchiaro (1974:63) states that the students will understand and retain better when they have been shown or taught some objects that associate with it.

Educational professionals have acknowledged the fact that students who struggle in reading comprehension because they may lack the ability to comprehend words. Joseph (2006) realised, “there are several approaches to teaching word-reading skills but few incorporate systematic procedures that facilitate mastery, build fluency and lead to retention of skills for struggling readers”(p.803). Students who struggle in acquisition skills need specific interventions to increase their reading level and word knowledge. These interventions should be ongoing and occur early in the learning process in order to ease the cognitive load at the students’ current reading level and for the next grade level. Using visual aids to enhance English vocabulary and vocabulary retention is a strategy that has been researched and implemented into TTHS English classromms.

With the use of visual aids, such as; authentic materials or illustrated things, students could increase their English vocabulary retention as well as they can base on their vocabulary to improve their speaking, writing, listening and reading comprehension skills. Joseph (2006) confirmed that students tend to be more motivated and choose to complete assignments and tasks that contain some items that are known to them and that appear to demand lower level of effort because they feel confident about their ability to complete such tasks. If implemented properly, visual aids, which are authentic materials or illustrated things, can make ongoing deffernces in students’ ability to read with confidence independently and continually. It is the consistency of vocabulary interventions that allows the struggling students to see the vocabulary terms within the reading passage if they are to expand their knowledge of the vocabulary term. This can make the difference in their proficiency of language acquisition

Dave (1975: 10-11) also proposes some of the visual aids as follows:

Real things and toys with different sorts, sizes and colors are useful to

draw students’ interest. Real things can be presented to students by means of field trip or bringing the object to the class for direct observation.

Chalkboard or blackboard are certain to be the most useful teaching aids, used in the class. They have the advantage of providing points of attention for the class and they can be used for many purposes. Pictures are flashed for a brief moment, therfore, the pictures should be simple and big enough to be seen clearly by every student in the class. Wall charts or wall pictures are big papers with some pictures and words, useful for presenting vocabulary to the class. From the explanation above, not all of media can be applied in the classroom; the teachers have to select the appropriate media that directly related to the learning process.

Vocabulary assessments should also be used for a precursor to evaluate students’ comprehension. Johnston (1997) pointed that “as childen spend more and more time reading and writing, many routines and common patterns become automatic, picking up speed and actually going through a different part of the brain, no longer involving conscious efforts” (p 145). This is an important factor if students are to become independent of the classroom teacher. It is important to increase students’ toolbox of vocabulary strategies.

According to Haycraft (1983: 102) teaching aids can be used for consolidating vocabulary, practicing structure and word order or for variety of games. Besides, teaching aids can also give a great help to the teacher in the class. A learner cannot always successfully learn English just by listening to the explanation from the teacher. Visual aids help teacher give more emphasis on pronunciation of the words, utterances and incorrect written of words. Moreover, in vocabulary class, the learners are encouraged to give their opinions about the visual aids that are presented by the teacher, thus the learners can be more active in teaching-learning process. Visual aids are also very useful to train the students to speak and memorize the words automatically.

Visual aids, especially pictures are very useful in teaching vocabulary to encourage and motivate the students to learn the language. As stated by Coppen (1969: 88) pictures are parts of visual aids.“The purpose of picture is to provide a stimulus which will elicit a particular response from the learner. The picture represents some action and in order to learn the appropriate words to describe the action itself must not be in question”. Pictures are parts of visual aids. They may be used in teaching the elementary school students to avoid boredom. Brown (1973: 410) states some functions of pictures as follows: Media are used to teach the students to learn effectively. Pictures help the students read the books and eventually interpret and memorize words.

Edmund Fason (1959: 416) states that teaching-learning process with pictures will get succeed if the pictures are related to the material of the study, pictures should be coloured and varied, colourful pictures intensify the students’ imagination.

Using visual aids can give a great help to the teacher in the class. The students will not always be successful in learning English just by listening to the explanation from the teacher or by reading many books. Using visual aids in vocabulary class encourage the students to give their opinions about the presented pictures. The teacher can make them more active during the teaching-learning process. Moreover, flashing visual aids for a short time is very useful for the students to speak and memorize the words automatically.

Retention

Retention should be a requirement for the acquisition of vocabulary terms. Joseph (2008) makes these recommendations, “in specific environmental conditions, words that were taught were considered learned when they were read correctly on next-day retention probes. Words that were not read correctly on next-day retention probes were not considered learned. Previously taught but unlearned words were retaught with the same instructional condition until they were read correctly on next-day retention probes” (p 298). This would be a good procedure to follow if learners are to highten their retention of vocabulary terms. These retention probes were designed to measure students’ vocabulary acquisition. Retention probes were always administered the day immediately following the instructional condition and before another round of instructional conditions bagan. Each retention probe consisted of all the visual aids of unknown words that were taught in the previuos daily sessons. The visual aids were exchanged and presented as one group of words to the students. Reiser and Dempsey (2007) states, “maximizing learning with rich media involves two memories systems; working memory and long term memory that shapes human learning” (p314).

METHODOLOGY

Subjects

This research study took place in Thuong Tin High School in Thuong Tin town, 30 kilometres away from the centre of Ha Noi Capital. The subjects involved in this research were 40 students, they were in two different classes 12A2 and 12A3 (aged 16-18). They were randomly selected to put into two groups: 20 students in the control group (12A2) and 20 other students in the experimental group (12A3) (This means that the class 12A2 has 20 participants who belong to the control group, and the class 12A3 has 20 participants who belong to the experimental group). All of them are grade-12 students in the school year 2009 – 2010 and go to school everyday from Monday to Saturday. They have 3 English periods every week, each period lasts 45 minutes. The experiment lasted one month.

After forming two groups, a test was given to students to check their English vocabulary so that the researcher could ensure students in two groups had the English vocabulary equivalence (Appendice 2).

Instruments.

Many visual aids were used when conducting this research, this was done by using pictures, real things and illustrated things. To make clear the research question, these following types of data were collected: surveys, pre-tests and post-tests, interviews, observations, and test scores.

A survey was given at the beginning of the study to determine if the students enjoyed learning English and their attitudes to the instructional style of the class (Appendice 1). This helped me understand students’ perception of the class and if any changes, other than those used during the study, needed to be made to maximize the students’ academic performance.

A Pre-test and Post-test were used before and after the research to find out the difference between the pre-test results and post-test results in order to know whether students’vocabulary retention has been improved (Appendice 3A, 3B).

Observations and test scores were also used as measurement tools. In order to take notes and determine the participation and attitudes of the students, observations were used daily. Did the students respond differently to the various visual aids? Were the students on task during a certain visual strategy? Did the students enjoy some visual strategies over others? Observing also made it possible to determine if outside variables affected the students’ test scores. Were the students having a stressful day? Did the students just come back to school from a holiday break? To determine if the use of visuals affected test scores, test scores during the four week study were compared with those from the previous four weeks. At the end of the study, the answers to the questions must be found; Why do TTHS students speak, listen to, read and write English so badly? How do visual aids help them improve their English vocabulary retention? Which effects do the visual teaching strategies have on the academic achievement of TTHS students?

Design and Methods of Data Collection

When implementing the experiment, the researcher used different visual aids in lessons, for example; pictures, real things and illustrated things were utilized alternatively so that students could understand the mentioned words and memorize them more effectively.

Interviews were done before and after the research in order to know whether students were interested in the experiment, how they behaved during the research and what they achieved after the research.

Observation was implemented in the process of research, this helped the researcher know that all the students in the experimental group took part in the experiment regularly.

Test scores were done after the experiment finished, the test scores were collected from the pre-test results and the post-test results to show the improvement and difference of using visual aids in teaching and learning English vocabulary.

Teaching activities that used visual aids were provided to the experimental group students in the class 12A3 in all the lessons; listening, speaking, reading and writing lessons every week.

RESULTS

Survey Results.

The survey that was given to the two English classes included five questions and five answers, numbers 1-5 (Appendice 1). When asked students the five questions, the researcher found that there was a big difference about students’ attitude to learning English, and learning English vocabulary with the help of visual aids before and after the experiment. The result was compared in the Pre and Post-survey (Appendice 1).

Questions

Answers

Before the experiment

(n=students)

After the experiment

(n=students)

1. Do you enjoy learning English?

Yes

32

68

No

48

12

2. If you do not like learning English, why?

Because :

Teaching methods

34

18

Lack of visual aids

46

62

3. Would you like to learn English vocabulary by watching visual aids, such as; pictures, real things or illustrated things?

Yes

52

68

No

28

12

4. Do you think you will improve your English vocabulary better by looking at the visual aids when you are discussing a topic?

Yes

46

67

No

34

13

5. Should visual aids be used and taught regularly and variously in classes

Yes

48

66

No

32

14

There were several tests (a sample test in appendice 2) given to students in the both groups to ensure that the students in the experimental group was equivalent with students in the control group about the English vocabulary before the experiment.

Groups

Percentage of words that recalled and written down before the experiment

0 – 20%

30 – 50%

50 – 70%

80 – 100%

Control group

(n=20)

2

8

7

3

Experimental

Group

(n=20)

3

9

6

2

Interview Results

In each group, 5 students were randomly invited to interview before and after the experiment. They were asked to give answers to 3 questions (Appendice 4). The 5 students in the experimental group produced the same words as the 5 students in the control group before the experiment but the experimental students produced more words than the control students after the ezperiment.

a. An interview before the experiment

b. An interview after the experiment.

Tests Results

Pre-tests:

Groups

Number of words

10 - 40

40 - 70

70 -100

Control

(n=students)

8

9

3

Experimental

(n-students)

7

10

4

Pots-tests

Groups

Number of words

(n=100 words)

10 - 40

40 - 70

70 -100

Control

(n=students)

5

10

5

Experimental

(n-students)

2

11

7

From the results of the post-tests, it was easy to find that if students were provided with visual aids in their lessons. They could increase their vocabulary much better. Before the experiment, the two groups were equivalent in their vocabulary, but there was a big gap between the control group and experimental group after the experiment. The experimental group increased their vocabulary a lot more than they were before. However, the control group did not improve their vocabulary a lot.

Questionnaire Results

After the study time, the 20 students in the experimental group were given a five question interview about their feelings towards the class. The answers were categorized as either being agreement and disagreement and compared with the results before the experiment..

Comparison of Agreement and Disagreement Responses from the Interview

QUESTIONS

Answers from Ex-group

(n=students)

YES

NO

Before

After

Before

After

1) Do you like the English class?

8

15

12

5

2) Do you enjoy learning with visual aids

12

17

7

3

3) Do you think the visual aids are helping you?

10

14

10

6

4) Do you want to have visual aids in future lessons?

11

16

9

4

5) Are you motivated with and interested in learning English vocabulary with visual aids?

10

18

10

2

Discussion

The objective of my research was to find out how visual aids help students improve their English vocabulary and to discover if visual learning strategies have an effect on ESL academic achievement in a high school English classroom. The main findings of this research show that there is a positive correlation between the use of visual aids and the results when using surveys, interviews, observations, and test score comparison

Comparison of Averages from the Control and Study Periods

According to Dong (2002), he found that when teachers use visuals, the students ask more questions. During the study period, I observed that the students in the experiment asked more questions than the control group. The students were interested in the visual aids and always asked questions to clarify their misunderstanding.

CONCLUSION

This research indicates that students may learn in many different ways and teachers should do many things possible to support and to meet the needs of all students. Visual aids can break the language barrier that separates students from teachers. Pictures, ral things or illustrated things always helped to explain both special and common English words fully. For example, the word “fire an employee” was given to students in a question on a test, but none of the students in the class knew what that word meant and trying to explain it did not help either. The meaning of the word was then made clear when I made a picture on the board. This research would recommend that teachers use as many visual aids as possible in their classroom.

This research also shows that visual aids can increase students’ English vocabulary and improve their vocabulary retention. The most useful and popular visual aids were introduced in class were pictures, illustrated things, such as; toys or model forms. For example, during the unit on cars, it was so easy for students to guess and to know the parts of a car when they saw pictures of car parts or a toy car.

My research had a positive impact on student learning, English is quite a difficult subject with lots of vocabulary and visuals are the best way to learn those words. There are also a lot of topics that have to be covered in an English class. Visuals, especially pictures, are a great way to show students the overall concept and the minute details of a topic. The students in my English class have learnt and improved their vocabulary a lot when I applied the visual aids in the class. As already mentioned, pictures were the most popular and effective. There was a purpose behind each and every visual. I carefully planned out how I would do and explain each visual so that students could performed well.

REFERENCES

Collier, V. P. (1992). A synthesis of studies examining long-term language minority student data on academic achievement. Bilingual Research Journal, 16 (1-2), 187-212.

Dong, Y. R. (2002). Integrating language and content: Education and Bilingualism, 5 (2), 40-57.

Duran, B. J., Dugan, T., & Weffer, R. (1998). Language minority students in high school

Hamblen, K. A. (1993). Theories and research that support art instruction for instrumental outcomes. Theory into Practice, 3 (4), 191-198.

Mayer, R. E. (1989). Models for understanding. Review of Educational Research, 59 (1), 43-64.

Gardner, R.C. (1985), Social Psychology and Second Language Learning: The role of attitudes and motivation, London: Edward Arnold

Gardner, R. C. 2001. Language Learning Motivation: The Student, the Teacher, and the Researcher.Texas Papers in Foreign Language Education, Volume 6, Number 1, Fall 2001.

Joseph, L. (2006, May). Incremental rehearsal: A flashcard drill technique for increasing retention of reading words. International Reading Association, 51 (1), 90-92.

Petrie, G. M. (2003). ESL teachers’ views on visual language: A grounded theory. The Reading Matrix, 3 (3), 137-168.

Tan, A., & Nicholson, T. (1997, June). Training poor readers to read words faster improve their comprehension of vocabulary. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(2), 276.

Appendice 1

Survey

The servey was given to 2 classes (each class consists of 40 students).

Questions

Answer

Before the experiment

(n=students)

After the experiment

(n=students)

1. Do you enjoy learning English?

Yes

32

68

No

48

12

2. If you do not like learning English, why?

Because :

Teaching methods

34

18

Lack of visual aids

46

62

3. Would you like to learn English vocabulary by watching visual aids, such as; pictures, real things or illustrated things?

Yes

52

68

No

28

12

4. Do you think you will improve your English vocabulary better by looking at the visual aids when you are discussing a topic?

Yes

46

67

No

34

13

5. Should visual aids be used and taught regularly and variously in classes

Yes

48

66

No

32

14

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