By Tarun Patel
An Exploratory Outlook in the Use of Vocabulary Notebook
by P.Dasharatham, V.Sudhakar Rao, Dr.V.Srinivas and K.Yugandhar
Teaching learning vocabulary is a major concern in ESL class. Role of learners and their involvement is the crux in acquiring the word power in English language. Vocabulary notebooks play a vital role in promoting vocabulary acquisition besides learner autonomy. After the use of language laboratory for teaching learning language skills, several studies showed evidence for the effectiveness of vocabulary instruction on computers. Prominent scholars like Lyman-Hager, Davis , Burnett, & Chennault computerized reading and non-computerized reading. Computerized readers consult printed glosses drawn directly from the computer program. The results showed that the students who worked with the multimedia program were able to obtain significantly better scores than the non-computerized readers. Both readers need several resources for learning vocabulary such as concordance, dictionary, cloze-builder, hypertext, and a database with interactive self-quizzing feature, to facilitate learners’ deep processing. The participants are encouraged to insert vocabulary information (e.g., example sentences, parts of speech, and definitions) on a collaborative on-line word bank by themselves, and the gain of their vocabulary knowledge is examined in a posttest. What ever may be the mode of learning vocabulary the learners need to follow his / her own learning style to improve the usage of words. observed vocabulary acquisition under two conditions:
Vocabulary notebooks play a major role in feedback functions, automatic scoring, through multiple-choice items, fill-in-the-blank items, and cloze passages to check learners’ progresses of vocabulary knowledge. These activities are effectively used by learners to compensate for the limited contact time in class and to enhance individual vocabulary learning. From cognitive psychology, the principles of ease of perception (information must be easy to receive), differences (difference and changes attract and maintain attention), and position of information (position of information affects our attention to and perception of it) are employed to vocabulary learning (Alessi & Trollip, 2001). All of the three principles indicate that the presentations of important instructional points should be noticeable so that learners are able to gain information in an effective way. In the field of Second Language Acquisition, these principles are closely related to the Noticing Hypothesis proposed by Schmidt. This hypothesis places emphasis on learners’ selective attention on input during instruction, and it is claimed that learners must consciously notice forms as well as meaning in the input in order for the acquisition to take place. The input during learning teaching are documented in the notebook for memory and ready reference later. The matter arranged in the book is also arranged in the minds of the learners and can be used for their communicative needs.
Organization of Learning Materials in Vocabulary Notebook
Organization of the material in vocabulary notebook is done in three stages. In the first stage, the basic aspects of vocabulary knowledge, such as a target word, word segments, pronunciations, word class, and synonyms and antonyms, example sentences with translations, are organizeded by the learners. The content of the first stage were presented in two sections, which became a place for learners to familiarize themselves with the target word and to obtain detailed vocabulary knowledge. The second stage is a place to practise and to try out the vocabulary knowledge obtained in the previous stage, which is created based on the active learning principle from cognitive psychology. In order to facilitate learners’ active learning and deep cognitive processing, two types of activities are incorporated in the second section: (a) spelling practice and (b) practice questions with feedback. In the second activity (practice questions), three types of questions are further integrated: (a) question of meaning, (b) question of grammar, and (c) question of spelling. The information that the learners provided in the second stage are stored in log files as process data. The first two stages are consecutively presented to learners, based on the belief that all the aspects of a word should be learned at once. After understanding the content of a word in the first stage and practising and testing the newly obtained vocabulary knowledge in the second stage, the learners are directed to the final conformation pages for main meanings of the word in the third stage. The main purpose of this stage is to reconfirm the newly learned word before proceeding to the next new word.
Incidental and Systematic Vocabulary Learning
In the first stage, basic aspects of vocabulary knowledge, such as a target word, word segments, pronunciations, word class, and synonyms and antonyms, example sentences with translations, are provided to the participants. However, the method of presenting the content differed in the two materials. The acquisition of vocabulary for native speakers able to acquire lexical items “incidentally” as they encounter them in speech or writing of other people. Here “incidental” means that people are able to learn vocabulary in a natural manner through reading or listening without being told to focus on the vocabulary in the input.
The incidental vocabulary learning is the dominant way of acquiring vocabulary knowledge for native speakers. On the other hand, the process of incidental vocabulary learning has been found to be weaker for language learners in several research studies. Hulstjin & Laufer conducted a study to investigate the vocabulary retention rates in the order of three different tasks. They found that vocabulary retention was highest in a composition task, lower in a reading fill-in task, and lowest in a reading task. Laufer also tested incidental vocabulary learning in reading with Jewish, Arabic, and Russian learners of English, and concluded that the vocabulary retention of the reading group was significantly worse than those of the composition group and the sentence writing group. Moreover, Paribakht & Wesche investigated learners’ reading process using introspective and retrospective think-aloud methods, and found that learners tended to ignore a large portion of the unknown words appeared in reading texts. These three studies clearly suggest the difficulty of incidental vocabulary learning for language learners. Regarding a possible reason for this phenomenon, Ghadirian and Kitajima stated the difficulty of guessing or inferring word meanings from reading texts, and argued that contextual information does not necessarily guarantee vocabulary learning for second language learners. Vocabulary notebook provides opportunities to remember the incidents related to the newly acquired words. This helps learners to convert passive vocabulary into active vocabulary.
Contrary to these three studies that showed ineffectiveness of reading tasks for vocabulary learning, there are several L2 studies that reported significant results on incidental vocabulary learning. However, the retention rates of incidental vocabulary learning is obtained through the effective use of vocabulary notebook.
Various Learning Styles during Vocabulary Acquisition
Over the last few decades, more than twenty learning styles have been identified and there seem to be three main categories: (a) cognitive, (b) physical (sensory), and (c) affective. While keeping vocabulary notebooks, the following features or elements are preferred in these learning styles:
Analytic vs. global. The first pair of cognitive learning styles is the global and analytic learning style dichotomy. Analytical learners focus more on details, logical analysis and contrasts, while global learners focus on the key points without being anxious about detailed concepts, enjoy guessing meanings, and communicating. In addition, analytic learners are distinct to obtain information more effectively individually, prefer setting their own goals, respond to a step-by-step presentation of materials, while global learners were distinct to learn more effectively through concrete experience and by interaction with other people.
Regarding global learners, Felder (1993) and Felder and Henriques (1995) also mentioned that they take in information in unconnected (non-linear) fragments, achieve understanding in large holistic leaps, and grasp the total picture before understanding. In the field of educational psychology, more detailed explanation of these learning styles have been described. In an empirical study that investigated the influence of gender and age on learning styles, Le Cornu (1999) argued that analytic learners are the people who take a step-by-step approach by moving to the next topic when the first is mastered, who utilize a critical reasoning which involves analyses and questioning, who look for logic and use structure information, and who seek to identify contrast features by forming and using specific hypotheses. Global learners, on the other hand, are defined as the people who quickly seek to establish a frame of reference, who have a wide focus of attention, and who seek to understand the topic as a whole, aiming to build the overall picture from the start.
Field dependence vs. field independence. The next dichotomy in the cognitive learning styles is field independence and field dependence (FI/FD), which are defined as the degree of ability to separate insignificant details from significant details. In general
learners classified as FI have ability to overcome the embedding context of a field and to perceive certain parts of the field as discrete from the surroundings. Learners classified as FD are, on the other hand, influenced by the field elements and complexity of surrounding area, and are not able to isolate key factors in the field easily. In addition, Oxford and Skehan mentioned that FI learners select analytic-based and logic-based learning strategies, and that FD learners are sensitive to the social context and prefer auditory learning that involves social interaction. Brown also noted that FI learners are generally more independent, competitive, and self-confident, while FD learners tend to be
more socialized and more empathic, and be perceptive of feelings and thoughts of other people. Reid also described both FI and FD learners in a similar manner.
Reid defined FI learners as the people who learn effectively step by step, or sequentially, beginning with analyzing facts and proceeding to ideas, and described FD learners as the people who learn more effectively in contexts, holistically, intuitively, and who are especially sensitive to human relationships and interactions. Regarding the use of visual effects and field dependency, Chapelle argued that FI learners have the ability to disembed or restructure visual stimuli. Worley and Moore also stated that FI learners adapt to all types of visual presentation better than FD learners. In an empirical study that investigated the effect of color-coding (black-and white and color materials), Dwyer and Moore found that FI learners outperformed FD learners in receiving color-coded structures, and concluded that color-coding illustrations apparently provided an insufficient structures for FD learners.
Reflective vs. impulsive. The last cognitive learning style dichotomy is reflective and impulsive, which are also described as systematic and intuitive, or concrete-sequential and intuitive-random. Reid described reflective learners as the people who learn more effectively when they have time to consider options before responding, and impulsive learners as the people who respond immediately and take risks. Jamieson, in an empirical study that investigated the relationship between cognitive styles and ESL success, also described these learning styles, and mentioned that reflective learners are more concerned with accuracy when responding and take more time to reach a decision, while impulsive learners tend to reach decisions and report them immediately with little concern for accuracy. Brown explained that reflective learners tend to make all the considerations in problem solving with extensive reflection, while impulsive
learners make a number of different gambles on the basis of their hunches. In addition, Carrell and Monroe described reflective learners as the people who pay close attention to step-by-step task requirements, and impulsive learners as the people who focus on futuristic possibilities, general concepts, abstract thinking.
Visual vs. auditory. The next learning style dichotomy, visual and auditory learning styles, belongs to sensory learning styles. There are, however, three other main sensory learning styles that have been identified in the literature: (a) kinesthetic, (b) tactile, and (c) haptic. Aa kinesthetic person is defined as a learner who learns more effectively though touch (hands-on), a tactile person as a learner who learns more effectively through body experience, and a haptic learners as a person who has both kinesthetic and tactile modalities. Learners with these learning styles use the notebooks with their ways of learning. However, every learner cannot restrict to only one / particular style of learning and all ways are interrelated and interdependent.
According to Reid, visual learners in general learn more effectively though the eyes (seeing), and auditory learners learn more effectively though the ears (hearing). More specifically, Reid added some characteristics of the two learning styles. For visual learners, reading, studying charts, seeing words, instead of listening to them, taking notes, and learning alone, were identified. For auditory learners, hearing words, reading aloud, listening to oral explanation, hearing audio tapes, lectures, and class discussion, and conversing with others were listed. In a similar manner, Brown argued that visual learners prefer reading and studying charts, drawings, and other graphic information, and that auditory learners prefer listening to lectures and audiotapes. Felder and Henriques also pointed out learning methods through visual means (books, video, movies, lists, diagrams, and manuals) for visual learners, and learning methods though discussions, spoken presentation, debates, audio tapes, role plays, lectures, and meeting for auditory learners. In addition to these features, Ehrman and Oxford mentioned that visual learners prefer a quiet place and like to work alone, and Kinsella added social and collaborative characteristics for auditory learners. Both the learners find comfort in improving their vocabulary with the effective use of the notebooks.
Thus, vocabulary notebooks enable the learners feel the responsibility for their own learning. The notebooks also are the reflections of the teacher’s guidance in improving the learners’ vocabulary. No two notebooks at the end of the academic year are the same, as they reflect the variations in acquisition of vocabulary by different learners.
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