A Young Learners Vocabulary And Content Knowledge Education Essay

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This study examined whether a young learner increases English vocabulary and content knowledge through a CBI-based English video program. To achieve the goal of this study, a CBI-based English video program, Knock, Knock, English Playground (KKEP), was used. The English program included three subjects such as math, science, and social studies to learn vocabulary and content knowledge. Based on the English video episodes, pre- and post-tests were created to evaluate a learner's vocabulary and content knowledge. A participant of this study was a 4-year-old girl who just arrived in the U.S. from Korea. The findings of this study showed that the learner's vocabulary and content knowledge improved through the CBI-based English video program.

Introduction

According to the 2009 U.S. Census, slightly more than 1.1 million immigrants arrive in the United States annually. Among these 1.1 million immigrants, Korean immigrants are 25,582 and this amount is the fourth biggest in Asia following China, India, and Philippines. In general, Korean immigrant parents have higher educational aspirations than do natives of the same racial or ethnic groups (Sohn & Wang, 2006). Therefore, when an immigrant family just arrives at the United States, many of the parents are more concerned about their children's English acquisition.

English educators have been looking for not only the most effective and enjoyable way to teach English, but also how to use various approaches and methods in a given circumstance. Among the various approaches, including grammar translation and audio-lingual method, Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) is commonly considered as one of the best ways of dealing with the predicament to meet the main goal of language use, which is communication (Brown, 2006). However, CLT does not seem to help young immigrant learners reach the goal because they spend a lot of time with parents who speak mother tongue at home and do not have strong needs for using English as a communication tool. Consequently, as an alternative approach, Content-Based Instruction (CBI) has recently become more popular in early English education all over the world (Park, 2003) because the goal of this approach is to integrate learners' content knowledge and skills into the language learning process.

The Korean Educational Broadcast organization created an English video program, Knock, Knock, English Playground (KKEP) for four and five-year-old children in 2009. This English video program has been widely used in Korea because it was created by cooperating early childhood education professionals and English education professionals, and it includes various worksheets, activity materials and CD-ROMs to practice with parents, teachers, or other helpers. It was developed based on the CBI approach to provide efficient and appropriate English lessons through the use of video materials. According to Cameron (2001), since video clips provide visual clues with an immediate impact, language learning can be activated in an attractive and enjoyable way, which plays a positive role in language learning. However, whether the English video program, KKEP, affects young immigrant children's English capacity has not been verified yet. Therefore, this research explores whether a young child increases English vocabulary and content knowledge through the CBI-based English video program, KKEP.

Literature review

Content-Based Instruction (CBI)

CBI is an approach that integrates language and content objectives to improve the target language competence and content knowledge of learners. According to Brinton, Snow and Wesche (1989), CBI uses the content in accordance with the language teaching to fuse them together to form a cohesive whole, which is of use to students.

CBI has many benefits to learn languages and contents. Met (1999) states the content of integration instruction method of subjects is considered as the most effective method in acquiring concepts and language together. Furthermore, CBI has many chances to use meaningful words and it is effective in delivering messages and developing communicative competence. Leaver and Stryker (1989) also explain that CBI can enhance learners' motivation, self-confidence, language confidence, and cultural literacy because it can use language and content objectives from the school curriculum or the learners' individual purposes for learning the target language. Therefore, CBI is more appropriate to meet learners' needs when compared to general purposes for learning English in a context which young learners just arrive in the U.S. It helps learners not only to increase their awareness of the target language and content knowledge at the same time, but also to make learning a language more interesting and motivating.

CBI models vary according to the degree of emphasis on language or content that underlines each particular program, generating a continuum which places content-driven models at one end and language-driven models at the other extremity. This continuum is envisioned by Met (1999) as follows:

Content-driven

Language-driven

Total immersion

Partial immersion

Sheltered course

Adjunct

model

Theme-based course

Figure 1. Content-based instruction continuum

As showed above, there are six different approaches. Among the models, the theme-based course is the most popular and widely used CBI model at all levels of instruction in second language settings. The theme-based course is a theme or topic-based language course to represent one way to increase the use of subject matter content in language classes. There are numerous interrelated themes in each subject, and these can overlap according to the level of content. This stimulates teachers to combine and apply the connective factors from different subjects into the target theme in a manageable way. The theme-based model also can be designed by integrating more than one subject based on the target theme within an appropriate level of the target language and content. Gianelli (1991) explains that teachers can create an effective and powerful learning environment with thematic units because young learners become familiar with the interrelated context. New knowledge or language can be made easily comprehensible based on the background knowledge acquired from other subjects which makes input more meaningful.

Furthermore, since language and content are closely related to each other, the certain aspects of vocabulary could be defined in various ways according to the different content areas. Vocabulary can be a critical factor of understanding content in CBI (McKay, 2006), which enables learners to recognize the different functions of language based on the content areas. If theme-related vocabulary or language patterns can be repeated in new contexts, language learning can be meaningfully facilitated in an effective way. Therefore, this study focuses on the influence the simulated CBI model, which is the integration of a language-driven model using videos, on a young child's vocabulary and content knowledge.

Research questions

The purpose of this study is to investigate the effect of an English video program "Knock, Knock, English Playground" based CBI on a young learner's vocabulary and content knowledge. This study addresses two research questions;

Does an English video program, KKEP, increase a learner's vocabulary knowledge?

Does an English video program, KKEP, increase a learner's content knowledge?

Method

To examine whether a CBI-based English video program influences a young learner's vocabulary and content knowledge, a quantitative method approach was used. Furthermore, the performances of a four-year-old child were examined in pre- and post-tests.

Participant

The participant in this study was a four-year-old girl, Yuri (pseudonym), who came to the United States from Korea in August, 2010. Her father came to the U.S. to get a doctoral degree and the family will live here for at least five years. During the time this research was conducted, Yuri usually spoke Korean with her parents and did not yet go to a preschool or daycare. She had never received formal English instruction in Korea, but has learned phonics and simple words (e.g. dog, sun etc.) from her parents during the short period since she moved to the U.S.

Instruments

Two instruments that were used in the study are described below.

Knock Knock English Playground (KKEP)

KKEP was used to teach the participant English. KKEP is designed for a beginning level, four to five-year-old learner in order to develop language competence as well as content knowledge through CBI. It also aims to promote interaction between the program and learners, believing that learners acquire language through meaningful interaction.

KKEP was developed in 2009 in accordance with principles drawn from the Korean national kindergarten curriculum, to ensure that it would be appropriate for a participant's language needs and content knowledge. It includes 130 episodes with 26 themes such as seasons, sports, and size. Each theme is designed to be taught for a week under three subject areas: science, social studies, and math. The weekly vocabulary is used repeatedly in all three subjects, which are linked by a weekly theme. The weekly themes proceed as follows: 1) the language focused lesson is on Monday, 2) the science-mediated lesson is on Tuesday, 3) the social studies-mediated lesson is on Wednesday, 4) the math-mediated lesson is on Thursday. In this study, seasons and body parts were selected from the original KKEP weekly themes and were used for the first and second weeks of the original KKEP program. Four episodes underlying a weekly theme provide chances to develop the target language through repetition.

Each episode takes 25 minutes and is organized according to the following structure, which guides learners to acquire language and content knowledge systematically and effectively.

Table 1

Basic structure of an Episode in KKEP

Step

Time (minute)

Features

Pre-teaching

1-2

Introduce topic and key vocabulary

Core-teaching

7-8

Explain the context

Start the main lesson through language pattern acquisition based on storytelling and chanting

Post-teaching

10-11

Integrate language and content based on the task completion

Extension

3-4

Extend lessons by introducing additional activities

Pre- and post-tests

Pre- and post-tests included the same types of questions in the same format. The pre-test was used to judge both the participant's vocabulary and content knowledge before the experimental lessons, whereas the post-test was used to measure how much the participant had improved in vocabulary and content knowledge after the experimental lessons. All test questions were created by the researcher by considering the level of language and content as well as a review activity which is included in KKEP.

Table 2

Pre- and Post-tests in Each Subject

Main target

Part

Types of questions

Number of questions

Point/

each

vocabulary

Listening

Question & touch

(word recognition)

3

1

Speaking

Question & answer or do

(ability to use words)

3

2

content

Listening

Closed true or false questions

(comprehension of language and content)

3

3

Speaking

Closed WH- questions

(demonstration of content knowledge)

2

3.5

Total

11

25

As table 2 shows, there are 11 questions in each subject area. The tests include card sorting, question-and-answer, and completion tasks. The questions in the vocabulary part were designed to serve as a warm-up, whereas question-and-answer tasks in three subjects were designed to progress from simple to complex. To assess both language and content, the test guides the participant to conceptualize the content through simple and repeated true or false questions. Finally, the participant has opportunities to speak English by delivering the meaning of the content which she has been exposed to. Pictures were used for tests because the visuals serve to assist a beginner in understanding the concept of the questions more easily. Each section is scored differently, because the level of difficulty changes. The total score in each subject is 25 points.

Procedures

The study was conducted after obtaining the permission of the participant's parents. The researcher visited the participant's house four times a week from 2 pm to 2:30 pm for two weeks. Before the pre-test, the participant spent some time with the researcher, talking and playing games to become familiar with each other. The pre-test was conducted two days before starting KKEP lessons and conducted through one-on-one interviews.

After taking the pre-test, the participant took part in KKEP lessons. The KKEP lessons progressed through the four steps (pre-teaching, core-teaching, post-teaching and extensions), as described in an "instruments" section. The lessons included question-and-answer, elicitation imitation, reading aloud, a completion task, card sorting, and Total Physical Response (TPR). After all the lessons were over, the post-test was conducted.

Analysis of Data

All pre- and post-test scores were analyzed. The total score in each subject is 25 points and the score that a participant gained was converted into a percentage. Also, to examine the participant's improved competence, the pre-test percentage was subtracted from the post-test percentage.

Results

The findings come from the analysis of the participant's pre- and post-tests. In the vocabulary section, the participant shows listening and speaking skills in three subjects, science, social studies, and math.

First, the participant improved vocabulary through the experimental lessons. Table 3 reveals the results of the participant's pre-and post-tests in vocabulary.

Table 3

Vocabulary Learning

Part

Test

Science

Social studies

Math

Advance

Listening

Pre

40.1%

39.6%

43.3%

41.0%

Post

80.5%

61.6%

85.8%

76.0%

Post - pre test

(improvement)

40.4%

22.0%

42.5%

35.0%

Speaking

Pre

26.8%

20.7%

25.2%

24.2%

Post

57.8%

49.5%

59.1%

55.8%

Post - pre test

(improvement)

31.0%

28.8%

34.9%

31.6%

As shown in Table 3, the participant had an average 30% improvement in science and math subjects. Social studies presented 22.0% in listening and 28.8% in speaking. The most improved subject in listening was science (45.5%), followed by math (32.5%) and social studies (22.0%). In speaking, the most improved subject was math (34.9%), followed by science (31.0%) and social studies (28.8%).

In addition, the participant had similar improvement in listening (33.3%) and speaking (31.6%). These results indicate that the experimental lessons helped the participant improve vocabulary by more than 30% in both listening and speaking.

The participant's content knowledge was also improved through the experimental lessons. Table 4 presents the results of the participant's pre- and post-tests in content knowledge.

Table 4

Content Knowledge Learning

Part

Test

Science

Social studies

Math

Advance

Listening

Pre-test

38.9%

34.3%

37.4%

36.9%

Post-test

71.5%

69.2%

73.7%

71.5%

Post - Pre test

(improvement)

32.6%

34.9%

36.5%

34.6%

Speaking

Pre-test

6.7%

11.2%

18.0%

12.0%

Post-test

44.2%

52.1%

77.1%

57.8%

Post - Pre test

(improvement)

37.5%

40.9%

59.1%

45.8%

The participant had a 40.2% improvement in content knowledge learning and got higher scores at the post-test in all three subjects. The participant improved more in speaking (45.8%) than in listening (34.6%). Furthermore, the most improved subject in both listening and speaking was math (36.5%, 59.1%), followed by social studies (34.9%, 40.9%) and science (32.6%, 37.5%).

Discussion

In this chapter, the results will be discussed on the basis of the research questions. First, in vocabulary learning, the participant improved her listening and speaking skills in all three subjects, and the most improved subject was math. This finding supports Cameron's (2001) argument that videos provide learners with a great resource of vocabulary. Since the English video lessons provide learners with vocabulary repeatedly in various real-life situations, the learners can recognize and remember words easily.

Second, in content knowledge learning, the participant improved listening and speaking skills in all three subjects. This result supports Arcario's (1990) argument that videos affect the amount of comprehension. He asserts that audiovisual materials offer various educational experiences from actualized to abstracted concepts, and through this experience learners understand the concepts. Therefore, it can be concluded that content knowledge is improved by the support of audio-visual materials.

In both vocabulary and content knowledge, the participant showed the greatest improvement in math. This is because vocabulary in math had been repeatedly used in social studies and science in order to have more opportunities to acquire the target language. On the other hand, science lessons tended to pay more attention to nature and science experiments than to practicing vocabulary. Also, since the participant obtained the highest score on the math pre-test, the pre-existing vocabulary and content knowledge may have continued to improve oral skills

Finally, one important finding is that the learner improved vocabulary more than content knowledge. Thus, it might be inferred that the English video lessons would be more helpful for improving the learner's content knowledge through the target language acquisition process. This result was attributed to the experimental English video based on CBI.

Conclusion

The purpose of this study was to examine the effect of the CBI-based English video program, KKEP, on a young learner's vocabulary and content knowledge. To achieve the goal of this study, data were collected through the pre- and post-tests. The pre- and post-tests were designed to evaluate the participant's vocabulary and content knowledge. This study has two main findings: 1) an English video program, KKEP, led to increase a learner's vocabulary, and 2) an English video program, KKEP, improved a learner's content knowledge.

There are several limitations to this study. First, the study used only eight episodes out of 130 episodes in the video program for two weeks. This could be considered as a short period to evaluate a learner's English competence. Second, this research had only one participant. It would be unrealistic to generalize the findings from a single person. Third, the validity and reliability of the pre- and post-tests were not examined. Therefore, further research which includes more English episodes and a larger number of participants would be necessary.

This study suggests that the English video program could be implemented to develop a learner's language competence. To improve vocabulary and content knowledge, relating the target language lessons to learners' real-life topics is an important factor for young learners. Therefore, it's very important for language teachers to consider how they can incorporate this aspect into their teaching situations for more effective utilization of this English program.

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