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In Vietnam, vocabulary has not been considered as a major subject that should be taught separately and officially instead of being taught together with listening, speaking, reading and writing lessons. Moreover, students often feel bored during vocabulary lessons, learn it in a very passive way and may not be able to use the words properly regarding to different contexts (Khuat & Nguyen, 2003).
In fact, there are a lot of effective ways to introduce English vocabulary to the learners. One of them is by using games. However, the use of games in helping students acquire vocabulary in Vietnam has been ignored or underestimated. Many teachers assume that games are just a waste of time and merely add fun to the lessons without any significant contribution to vocabulary improvement of learners. The writer believes it is a misconception.
As a consequence, the writer desires to conduct a research on using games to improve students’ vocabulary acquisition and motivate young students’ interest in learning English vocabulary. The research is going to focus on games and its effects to improve young students’ vocabulary and shed light on the following questions:
– How effective is the use of games in developing young students’
– What are the benefits of games on young students’ vocabulary
acquisition in comparison to some traditional techniques?
– What are some practical problems that the teachers have to deal with
while implementing vocabulary games to young learners?
In order to support the writing of the research methodology and methods, the writer will review some previous research that relates to the topic: using games to improve vocabulary acquisition for young students. Among these research articles, some used qualitative research methodology, some employed quantitative methodology, and others deployed a combination of the two. The research methods in these research articles also varied. In the next part of this paper, the writer will review the methodologies and methods of each article in detail and justify her choice of research methods for the future “Innovation” research.
II. SUMMARY OF METHOD/S OF SELECTED ARTICLES
1. “The use of games: for vocabulary presentation and revision” (Uberman, 1998)
Uberman (1998) conducted a quantitative research to examine some traditional vocabulary teaching techniques and compare them with the use of language games in order to determine whether games were more effective in presenting and revising vocabulary than other methods. To reach that goal, Uberman undertook two experiments. For the purpose of introducing new vocabulary, she applied a picture- puzzle game with one group of third form students and the method of translation and context guessing with the other group. Similarly, so as to test out the effectiveness of games for revising vocabulary, a cross-word puzzle was used with a group of first year students and with the other group, a traditional matching technique was deployed. In order to find out which group acquired and consolidated the vocabulary better, the author administered two short tests containing a traditional vocabulary testing exercise and a game (Uberman, 1998).
In term of research methods, the first article holds some following strengths. Firstly, the experimental method was used appropriately for the focus of the study. In Vietnamese context, this kind of research method is possibly used as it will help the researcher find answer for the second research question. Secondly, the tests allowed learners to activate their memory with the type of activities they had been exposed to, which was very suitable with the research purpose. However, test method is not enough to triangulate data to support Uberman’s (1998) argument. The results of only one activity can hardly lead into informative conclusions; in other words, the author fell into overgeneralization when interpreting data and results. The reliability of this research is threatened as a result.
2.”Learning vocabulary through games” (Nguyen, & Khuat, 2003)
Nguyen and Khuat (2003) conducted an action research into the effectiveness of learning vocabulary through games. The authors focused on finding out how students reacted to the method of learning vocabulary via games as well as any problems that might arise during the process of teaching. In order to attain that aim, Nguyen and Khuat (2003) focused on the perception and attitudes of their students as well as what students gained through their learning with vocabulary games. Over a period of two weeks, data were collected through a variety of methods such as observations, interviews with teachers and students, their own reflective journals of applying games in the classes they were teaching, lesson plans and game handouts from experienced teachers and a small post-class survey.
Although Nguyen and Khuat (2003) did not mention the ethical issues in their research, they employed a wide range of research methods in an extremely appropriate way. The use of multiple sources of data and multiple methods helped the researchers have an in-depth understanding of the effectiveness of using games to improve their students’ vocabulary learning and strengthen the trustworthiness of their findings. However, in the writer’s research context at a language centre, it is hard to follow some research methods. For example, the writer cannot borrow lesson plans from other teachers because unfortunately, most of the teachers there do not prepare a lesson plans in advance. Also, interviewing teachers is extremely tough as they just come on time for their classes and go straight back home when their lessons are finished.
3. “The use of memory and guessing games in teaching vocabulary to
young learners” (Al Zaabi, 2007)
This action research took place during the first and second semester of the author’s final year teaching practice in a boys’ primary school in Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The focus of the investigation was in the use of guessing and memory games in the English classroom in order to access if they would benefit vocabulary learning. This study also attempted to find out what some practical challenges of applying games were. To collect data, Al Zaabi (2007) applied interviews, surveys, observations and video recordings during the first two semesters.
In the context of the research article, observations and video recording methods showed a strong benefit in revealing what actually happened in the class comparing with what was written in the lesson plans. Besides, interviews and video recording were helpful in uncover the challenging obstacles when implementing games. However, in Vietnamese context, the writer finds it difficult to deploy the advantages of using video recording method because of financial issue and young students’ comfort with a camera in the classroom.
4. “The effects of using games to reinforce vocabulary learning”
(Al Neyadi, 2007)
Another action research on the value of using vocabulary games was conducted in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) classroom. However, the participants of this study were twenty- nine girls at Grade Six. The author attempted to find answers to the following questions: “Do language games enhance students’ ability to memorize the words?”, “Do language games develop positive interaction?” and “Do language games enhance students’ motivation?”. In order to find answers for these questions, three research tools were used: interviews, observations and a reflective journal (Al Neyadi, 2007).
Among the eight chosen articles, it was the only one mentioning the ways to ensure ethical treatment. This provides some valuable suggestions for the writer of how to deal with ethical issues when she does her research. Nevertheless, the results of the investigation mostly lay in the author’s observations, interviews with students, and comments from her mentor teacher. These facts may raise a question of the nature of the study. Also, the data collected are not sufficient to answer the research questions. Observations and comments from the mentor teachers merely are not enough to lead to the conclusion that using games enhanced students’ ability to memorize words or encouraged student interaction and enhanced student motivation.
5. “Using word- search- puzzle games for improving vocabulary
knowledge of Iranian EFL learners” (Vossoughi, & Zargar, 2009)
This mere quantitative research was an attempt to test the assumption whether word- search- puzzle games could make any difference on learners’ vocabulary improvement. The research venue was at a language institute in Semnan with the involvement of sixty intermediate female students. They were split into two equal groups: experimental and control. The experimental group was treated with word- search- puzzle games; meanwhile, the control one received traditional practice. Both groups took a pre-test and post- test, and then the means of the two groups were compared through a t-test (Vossoughi, & Zargar, 2009).
Taking the strengths of the article into consideration, the writer noticed that this article supplies the reader with clearly documented details about the participants, research procedure and research instrumentation. Moreover, the research methods and data collected are appropriate for the research focus. However, in the writer’s research context in Vietnam, test method cannot provide her enough information to have a deep insight into the students’ attitudes, perspectives and feelings as well as the possible anticipated challenges when using games to improve vocabulary for the students. Furthermore, the writer is not well acquainted with the statistical skills when analyzing a t-test. Therefore, t-test may not be a worthwhile choice to the writer when conducting the research.
6. “Educational games as a vehicle to teaching vocabulary” (Alemi, 2010)
Alemi (2010) investigated the role of using word games in expanding the learner’s vocabulary. In order to accomplish that goal, she did an experiment using five word games with 60 homogeneous third- grade junior high school students (their age ranged between 13-14 years old). They were randomly divided into two groups: experimental and control. Both groups were taught vocabulary using traditional method; however, the experimental group was treated with word games at the end of each session. A t- test was carried out to assess the improvement of her students in term of vocabulary (Alemi, 2010).
As with the article by Vossoughi and Zargar (2009), the writer may deal with lots of difficulties in applying t-test a means of data collection. As a result, this article provides little value to the writer in term of research methods although the research approach and data analysis approach were clearly outlined and appropriate in Alemi’s (2010) research context.
7. “Effects of instructional games on facilitating of students’
vocabulary learning” (Dolati & Mikaili, 2011)
This quantitative research was situated in Urmia, Iran. Its aim was to identify how games may facilitate the teaching process and help students to learn vocabulary. Also, it tried to find out whether games can improve ESL learners’ vocabulary learning as well as identify the potentiality of using games for literary training. The participants for this case study were 70 students in two classes of Noor primary school in Urmia, Iran. The samples of the study were 12- 13-years old female students of the low intermediate level and mostly came from the same socio-economic background. These students were divided equally into control and experimental group. Dolati and Mikaili (2011) collected data by utilizing a pre-test and a post- test in the beginning and at the end of the study and two games called “Find me game” and “The charade”.
The pre-test and post-test method in this article allowed Dolati and Mikaili (2011) a chance to empirically evaluate the effectiveness of their instruction and assess the vocabulary acquisition of their students through formative assessment. However, tests only could show, by before and after tests, what changes have occurred. Tests could not reveal in fine detail just how changes occurred in day-to-day activities, negotiations and decisions.
8. “Using games to promote vocabulary learning” (Al-Aliyani, n.d)
This article focused on the use of games to teach vocabulary to young learners of English. Al-Aliyani (n.d) believed that games could be effective to stimulate language learners. So as to support that belief an experimental research was carried out with the participation of two classes of Basic Education Grade 3. One class was taught using the textbook method and the other using four games. After each game, a test was delivered. Al-Aliyani (n.d) also collected data by observing the participation of five students in the experimental group when they were playing the games.
Despite the fact that the observation method did not show consistently high levels of students’ participation in the games, it played as an effective research tool to better understand students’ attitudes and confidence. In comparison to Vietnamese context, the writer finds observation can be an extremely relevant method to strengthen validity as the researcher is able to collect a depth of information about students’ performance when using games to acquire vocabulary.
III. METHODOLOGY FOR THE FUTURE RESEARCH PROJECT
After summarizing and assessing the methodologies and methods of eight research articles, the writer finds out that there are various methodologies and methods to conduct a research, and each methodology and method holds its own strong points and weak one. From these findings, the writer realize that to better understanding the research problems and find good answers to research questions this project will utilize both quantitative and qualitative data collection tools, but is rooted in a qualitative epistemological position that recognizes the importance of locating the research within a particular social, cultural, and historical context. It also takes seriously the social construction of these contexts and the identities participants construct within them.
Data collection will consist of pre-test, post- test, questionnaires, classroom observations and interviews with students, as well as written documents such as lesson plans, student work, and self- reflective journals.
The combination of different research methods is relevant and useful to the writer’s research context by helping minimize ambiguity and increase confidence in the possible findings.
IV. VALIDITY AND RELIABILITY ISSUES IN THE FUTURE RESEARCH PROJECT
There are a number of possible threats to the validity and reliability of the writer’s chosen research methods. For example, the findings may not be consistent or the writer may get so little data or may not collect enough data from participants over a short period of time. Also, the time for the interviews may not enough, especially at a language centre. The teacher researcher may not find the time to interview sufficient number of children in the class. Besides, being able to get all consent forms back may be another problem that the writer may come across. The questionnaire may be hard for students to comprehend and give appropriate response. Some of the children may not have enough English language to answer the questionnaire in English. Moreover, the data from interviews or questionnaire may be misinterpreted.
In order to mitigate the threats to validity and reliability in the future research project for “Innovation” unit, the researcher is going to employ the following strategies. First of all, the writer will deploy the triangulation- the use multiple sources of data and multiple methods to confirm the findings. Secondly, the writer will check the interpretations of the data with the students in order to make sure that the interpretations are plausible. Besides, collecting data over a long enough period of time will ensure an in-depth understanding of the research outcomes to the writer. Planning interview time in advance and arrange interviewing time plots to suit the teacher and the students. In case students are not capable of understanding the questionnaire in English, the writer may translate it into Vietnamese in order to make sure that the questionnaire will be fully understood. The consent forms will be sent out at the beginning of the course and the teacher will keep reminding students about that with a view to ensuring to get as many consent forms as possible. Moreover, to ensure for greater consistency, the writer also use multiple methods of data collection. Last but not least, peer examination can provide a check that the researcher is plausibly interpreting the data.
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