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Preschool children need to experiment different ways and tools to learn in order to internalize better the EFL vocabulary. This article is based on a research project, developed at the Corazonista School, which proposes the use of karaoke in the English class to increase students' range of vocabulary. The teacher designed two lesson based on karaoke and two more based on other traditional strategy in order to compare which proved to be more effective in helping children to achieve the vocabulary class objectives. The results showed that both lessons are effective for teaching and learning vocabulary and chunks meaningfully; however, karaoke based lessons foster more interaction in the class and help children to learn more motivated while they get fun.
Key words: teaching children, karaoke based-lessons, early vocabulary.
Los niños de preescolar necesitan experimentar diferentes formas y herramientas para interiorizar mejor el vocabulario en inglés. Este articulo está basado en un trabajo investigativo, en el Colegio Corazonista, que propone el uso de karaoke en las clases de inglés para incrementar el rango de vocabulario de los estudiantes. El profesor diseño dos lecciones basadas en karaoke y dos basadas en otra estrategia tradicional para comparar su efectividad en ayudar a los niños a alcanzar los objetivos de vocabulario propuestos. Los resultados mostraron ambas fueron efectivas para la enseñanza y aprendizaje de vocabulario significativamente; sin embargo, las lecciones basadas en karaoke promueven más interacción en clase y ayudan a motivar a los niños para aprender mientras que se divierten.
Palabras claves: enseñando a niños, Lecciones basadas en karaoke, vocabulario temprano.
E-mail: [email protected]
Address: Master program in English Language Teaching, 2010 La Sabana University. Chía, Colombia.
Actually it is important to engage learners in their own learning process, and it is also important to motivate them to learn. Because of that, creativity and innovation is required in the English classroom in order to help children to get fun while they learn. Interactive activities and entertaining tasks are mandatory complements when teaching children because it helps to develop a sense of security and this helps children to participate more fully. The challenge is to implement enjoyable activities, tools and tasks for catching students' attention and involve their interests while they have the opportunity to learn. Frequently, teachers and students adopt traditional procedures in the teaching and learning process, what can be a good way for teaching and learning; however those traditional procedures tend to be monotonous and repetitive. When the teacher is able to adopt new strategies and tools where students' likes and dislikes, interests and styles are involved, classes become interactive and monotony is forgot. Nowadays, children are immersing in a world of technological tools and bringing them to our English classes is also a good option to make it more interactive while children learn a new language.
Taking into account the mentioned factor above, I consider the main difficulties that children have to interact when they are learning a second language, and I realized that the main challenge for them is to learn a broad range of vocabulary which is often difficult for them. Children, during the first phase of English learning were afraid of the class and also to participate because they did not understand what the teacher was saying because of their lack of vocabulary. There are many books and methods that propose strategies for teaching vocabulary, but I still noticed that children need more than listen and repeat exercises, they need a context to put the vocabulary in practice and they also need extra activities to learn how to use that vocabulary.
Consequently, the idea of setting up an enjoyable activity where children experiment a new approach in the classroom to learn vocabulary took place. From my own learning English experience, I know that song - based teaching practices have a good level of acceptance because songs are a good source of chunks, vocabulary and idioms. Besides, I realized that children liked to sing and they enjoyed the music because they could dance and make gestures while they sang. I proposed to integrate song-based lessons with a technological tool into the class as a way to help increase children's range of vocabulary.
The research problem
Preschoolers need a wider range of vocabulary in order to better their understanding and production of oral texts. The implementation of new strategies and ways of teaching can help to give children language tools such as vocabulary to interact with their partners using the English language. Thinking about that, I realized that English classes at the school need to implement more than traditional strategies to teach ELT vocabulary in order to have in mind students' technological interests. Besides, checking my students' oral performance in English I noticed that it was not good enough for what was expected in class; then, I considered to start having my own account of strategies in order to foster students' oral production by increasing their range of vocabulary and I explored different activities for teaching English while motivating children to learn and also to use the language, but some of them did not work as expected. After the identification of the problem, I searched for similar experiences to support my implementation, and I remembered my own experience to learn English with music. Because of that I decided to support my language teaching experience with music.
One I had the idea of using music in my classes; I wanted to find an effective tool to implement in the classroom which allows me to engage children and also to help them to develop language skills and I found the Karaoke, a technique used in other countries for teaching languages and here in Colombia for a researcher to improve pronunciation. Then, I considered that karaoke could help me to teach children English vocabulary and I project to answer the main question of the project: How different is the effect that V-K based lessons and not V-K based lessons have in the learning of early EFL vocabulary to preschoolers at the Corazonista School? Furthermore, sub questions were proposed to inquire which lessons foster better interaction between teacher and students using the vocabulary learnt and which lessons prove to be more effective in helping students achieve the vocabulary class objectives.
Learning English is a big challenge for children given that they are becoming familiar with an academic environment and also with a new language. For children it is difficult to understand what the teacher is saying in English and also to produce oral text due to they have not learnt sufficient vocabulary. That is why children require to wide their range of EFL vocabulary and also to get confidence with the new language in order to be able to take the risk for using the language to interact with other.
What preschoolers need to learn?
Children at the age of 4 or 5 years start learning English for the first time at the school, they become familiar with the school environment and the academic schedules. At those ages children develop more social skills that allow them to learn, as it is stated by Brown (2007) "the fluency and creativity continues into the school age as children internalize increasingly complex structures, expand their vocabulary, and sharpen communicative skills. At the school ages, children not only learn what to say but what not to say as they learn the social functions of the language". Emphasizing communication within a carefully controlled grammatical input allows children to be immersed in a variety of activities that foster interactive communication. Because of that, children need to be regularly presented with new vocabulary and structures or chunks in order to be able to communicate at each new level of difficulty. In addition, William and Wright (2006) argue that at this level, children require help to get used to the idea of a new language and to develop a positive attitude towards it and it can be possible by promoting experiences that are familiar to children such as dialogues, songs, and exercises that involve their expectances and interests.
Children learning environment
Sanoff (1988) provides some specific issues to be considered when teaching to young learners in order to provide them an environment where they can have an integrated development. Children need a positive emotional climate where they can learn to trust others and themselves, it can be developed in the English classes by providing situations where the teacher "builds informal communication channels, verbal and non-verbal, which include adult-to-child and child-to-child", as it is mentioned by Sanoff. Working on activities where children can interact with others favor the acquisition of a language; besides, creating supportive adult role "where the adult is the source of comfort, trouble - shooter and has an investment in the children's learning", children become confident with the learning environment and then, they feel motivated to work on learning a new language. As children like to play and have fun, the learning and teaching process should be fitted with their own nature. That is why, for this project were used fun activities for children that are designed based on music, and songs.
Children need also to be exposed to different sensory, motor and perceptual experiences which help them to extend modes of general representation, in the case of this project, of the vocabulary and the chunks that they are learning. Sanoff (1988) also argue that "developing facility with language through words meanings and usage, scope of vocabulary, meaningful verbal communication and expression and mastery of syntax", it is possible to help children to acquire abilities to organize concepts, in that way they can have interactive experiences that allow them to find the support for solving understanding problems through a selective interpretation of meanings.
What a good lesson should have for kids
Planning is a concern that young learners' teachers always have. Teachers are always analyzing the children's behavior during the activities planned to determine if they were successful and if they involved children in the learning process. Sanoff (1988) emphasized the importance these condition in this paragraph: "Children's behavior in the activity centers can be described as secondary activities. The activity center acts as a stimulus to generate the secondary activities that occur." The learning materials and strategies used in a lesson are the generators of the children's responses or secondary activities, because of that when planning lessons for children it is important to consider that in the learning environment it should be options for the different learning styles from which "children can derive positive feelings and self-confidence" (Sanoff, 1988) when learning a language. Furthermore, develop secondary activities is too relevant to the classroom given that children are engaged during the lessons and interact with others, samples of those secondary activities are: pasting, cutting, drawing, painting, modeling and, the used for this project, singing; in addition, it is important to select materials appropriate to facilitate experiences in which the secondary activities or students responses are directed towards the language learning.
Vocabulary range and quality in kids
Children need to establish a core vocabulary as an important step for language learning. The population in which it was applied this project, children between 4 and 6 years old, had the necessity to increase their range of vocabulary to facilitate their development of receptive, expressive, and communicative competence. As their teacher I wanted to determine what vocabulary they need to learn and I defined that early language goals for them should include developing skills to comprehend vocabulary and its use according to the environments and the social contexts. Lewis (1997), Kamil and Hiebert (2005) agree with the assumption that vocabulary teaching does not consist in teaching individual words but giving the learners the definition as well as the contextualized use of the word. It is also necessary to provide opportunities for children to process the information by applying it in creative ways and connected with the previous knowledge (if they have) what is the case of this project for which the early vocabulary was considered given that the term refers to the words and multi-words or prefabricated chunks that children need to learn.
Chunks are words or expressions composed by two or more words. Those expressions allow learners to know and explore the environment in which certain kind of words occur. Then, as early vocabulary is composed by chunks after learning them, students can produce coherent sentences and the cumulative effect will help for more effective teaching and more efficient learning of the language (Lewis, 1997). Taking into account that in order to speak English well it is necessary to have a large vocabulary, but not only words alone but many prefabricated chunks, made of the most frequent words of the language, song-based lessons help to learn these chunks as well as their pronunciation. Thus, students' performance will have more relevant challenges to communicate ideas and participate in the class using the English language, with the help of fixed expressions which are part of the chunks. The early vocabulary development promoted in this project is focused on explicit and systematic receptive and expressive language training with chunks learned through music; this, help children to learn basic semantic vocabulary (words and multi-words with complete meanings) and the association between the lexical representation and the cognitive perception.
Teaching and learning strategies for kids.
Dörnyei (2001) argues that "the learner's enthusiasm, commitment and persistence are key determinants of success or failure. Indeed, in the vast majority of cases learners with sufficient motivation can achieve a working knowledge of a second language, regardless of their language aptitude or other cognitive characteristics. Without sufficient motivation, however, even the brightest learners are unlikely to persist long enough to attain any really useful language". Taking this into account, a good lesson for children includes motivational strategies that allow them to develop positive attitudes towards the learning of the English language. Because of that, Dörneyi (2001) proposes a model of learning motivation in the L2 classroom which is divided in three stages: preactional stage, where choice motivation is a matter of setting goals, forming intentions, and launching actions; then, an actional stage when executive motivation takes place by generating and carrying out subtasks, ongoing appraisal of learners' achievements, and regulating actions; finally, the postactional stage that involves a motivational retrospection that is focused on elaborating standards and strategies, dismissing intentions and further planning.
The lesson planned for this project are supported by the though above, when designing the lessons the teacher reflected on the various goal properties and its relevance, and also on the environmental support and strategies. For choosing the tool (karaoke) it was necessary to think about the quality of the learning experience, the possible influence on the learners' performance and finally, as it is required to engage children in the learning process, the way to generate self - confidence by giving feedback or praises.
Introducing music in the curriculum.
""..There is strong evidence supporting the use of music in the ESL classroom. Language and music are tied together in brain processing by pitch, rhythm and by symmetrical phrasing. Music can help familiarize students with connections and provides a fun way to acquire English."(Lake, N.D.). Song- based teaching refers to the way how teachers can use songs in their classes, mixing music and language teaching. Lake (N.D.) argues that music trains the brain for higher forms of thinking. Music can enhance the learning of a second language due to the fact that there are several features of Krashen's hyphotesis (Brown, D. 2007) relevant to music and language where music is a natural way to expose the new language to the learners. Three of the most accepted components are: the affective filter, the monitor model and natural input. Music programs for young children should focus on creating a rich musical environment where teachers function as guides and facilitators, and where children have opportunities to participate in different ways.
Why Karaoke to increase students' range of vocabulary?
The definition of karaoke given by Mitsui & Hosowaka (1998) is taken from Longman's English Dictionary (Longman 1995:773) "the activity of singing to recorded music for entertainment" and "a machine that plays recorded music when people can sing to". There is another definition according to the Oxford Dictionary of new words (1991:172) "a sound system with a prerecorded soundtrack of popular music from which the vocal part has been erased so as to allow an individual to sing along with it". But this is not the only connotation of karaoke, it is more than a machine or an application to play, due to the technological advances and other cultural aspects in which some meaning of words are changed according to its use, the word karaoke has a more comprehensive dimension; it refers not only to the place or the machine but also to the action of singing and all the activities that sing implies.
On the other hand, Xun & Tarocco (2007) argue that karaoke has caught the eye of all kind of people around the world because it is a global phenomenon that involves the music with modern technologies. The big advantage of karaoke is that it allows interaction in many social groups and people like to sing for having fun. This is a good reason to work with this tool; it can be helpful for fostering interaction in the classroom while children are learning the English language. Besides it is a way to integrate a technological tool in the classroom because it has turned into a serious cognitive exercise and become a subject of training.
â€¦.. while traditional satrtegies to teach â€¦â€¦ music Fosterâ€¦.. then, children are involvedâ€¦..
Aqui habkar de cuales tradicilanes formas hay y por que me difni por karaoke como innovative.
This project is developed taking into account the strategies to overcome the difficulty of a specific group in a specific context to interact with others using the English language due to the lack of vocabulary. Hence, the need to find a technique with a innovative tool to help children to increase their range of vocabulary, and in that way help them to produce oral texts. As the project attempted to overcome a specific problem to change and improve students´ performance, the Action Research is the approach used in this project to transform the particular problem. Sagor (2005) defines action research as "investigations conducted by and for the people taking the action, on their own action to inform their future actions". I chose to carry out Action Research because this method has the potential to generate genuine and sustained improvements in schools as it is useful in "real" concrete situations.
Using the methods of Action Research, the implementation was divided into two stages that would allow determining the different categories of analysis after the comparison between the two implementations. Sagor (2005) proposes four phases to develop an accurate research based on Action research methods: clarifying the vision, articulating theories, implementing action and collecting data, and reflecting and panning informed action. These methods consist of a set of stages that can be implemented starting on planning, followed by acting, observing, and reflecting. Action research is a cycle that allows teachers to act and reflect to find solutions for a problem in benefit of the class. The problem in this project, as mentioned before, was to help children to increase their range of vocabulary in order to better their understanding and production of oral texts.
The process followed during third research involved the observation and reflection on the students' responses and results of the implementation after each one of the lessons. The observations and comments on the students' performance in the English classes and their attitude towards the activities designed were written and reported after each implementation in order to determine how much interaction with the new language there were among the students. For this, data triangulation was used, and as a result, the teacher could hypothesize and also put in practice the strategy using karaoke.
In order to define the categories of analysis it was necessary to do a triangulation of the data gathered, and then the grounded theory and its stages were used. According to Strauss and Corbin (1990) this theory is useful for analyzing data given that its purpose is to find the theoretical explanations by using qualitative material and their analysis. In this research, I took into account the different observations reports to reach the categories of analysis and a conclusion. First of all it was selected the research question based on the observations and reflections of the target population's needs. Then, I applied a survey to determine the students' learning styles in order to support the choice of the song based approach and after design the lessons with and without karaoke, which were implemented; video recordings, field notes, and students' documents were gathered for being analyzed to find indicator and variables of categories in the different events and students' behavior and outcomes. Finally, a critical review of the data was done in order to move from the description of the things done, to the theoretical interpretations of the results and at the end report the conclusions.
The project was designed to surmount the specific needs of preschoolers in a private School in Bogotá; the students' ages ranged from four to six (4 to 6) and the groups are around 24 - 25 students. Most of them were becoming familiar with the academic environment and also the English language. Their language level is beginners according to the CEF (Common European Framework) and after applying the first survey it was possible to determine that their learning style is overall kinesthetic and aural.
Observation Techniques Used in This Project
During the implementation of this project observations and reflections were made in order to account these characteristics:
To assess the effect of V-K based lessons in the improvement of vocabulary of preschoolers.
To assess the effect of lessons using vocabulary learning strategies different from video karaoke.
Compare the results of V-K based lessons and lessons based on other vocabulary learning strategies.
Having in mind those issues the principal aim was to find out the students' performance when acquiring a wider range of vocabulary, including chunks, and their improvement when using the language to interact with the teacher and partners. Because of that, qualitative gathering techniques were used and video recorder, field notes and students' documents were collected.
Before the design of the lessons, I revised the class objectives to determine the kind of vocabulary and the chunks to teach. Then, the plan was written taking into account the general stages of the class: war- up, presentation, practice and assessment. Students were not conditioned for the classes; the teacher started the classes as always by doing a review of the vocabulary learnt during the previous lessons. The lessons were applied in two different groups in order to give place to the comparison between the different effects of the lessons based on karaoke and the lessons based on other traditional strategies in the students' performance.
The group in which the lessons based on traditional strategies were applied, just have another class in the program with the normal activities that we used to work during our classes, listen and repeat, changing roles, go in front of the class with a partner to do a role play and finally work with the book following instructions. While the children of the group in which karaoke was going to be applied, were informed that the activities implementing this tool were about to begin, and the teacher asked some of them to help with the record of the videos to create de karaoke, the songs were chosen according to the program of the guide book. After the creation of the karaoke with special software the implementation was done simultaneously in both groups with the same vocabulary objectives, the difference was the activity using karaoke.
The activities were part of the class, and usually, the teacher needed to model singing in the karaoke at the first time, for children getting familiar with the activity and also to give them an idea about what they were going to do. When all of the students had sung, we had role plays activities, where children had the opportunity to display internalization of the vocabulary worked and also the chunks included.
After the implementation of all the lessons children were interviewed and video recorded, the teacher asked them questions for eliciting information related to the vocabulary worked and using the chunks and simple structures children answered, displaying understanding about what the teacher said and using the EFL vocabulary learnt during the activities. Vale and Feunteun (1995) emphasized the importance of giving children the opportunity to interact with the language and also provide them activities where the focus is not only the language but early learning too, this could be possible by considering what Brown (2007) mentions about the way to motivate learners to learn since motivation is an important factor in the learning process. Having in mind these issues, giving children the opportunity and the conditions to participate in class and creating an environment of learning where they are motivated due to the strategies, the tools and the methods used, successful in language learning and teaching can be assured. Because of that, the lessons were setting up in a relaxed and friendly environment and the use of first language was allowed while children begin speaking in English.