An analysis of vocabulary instructional methods relevant for grade 4 learners
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The acquisition of vocabulary is one of the most important objectives for the teaching of English as a second language (ESL). In South African primary schools, Grade 4 learners, who are taking English as a separate learning area for the first time, are confronted with the immense task of acquiring between 2000 and 3 500 English words. Thus, a need exists for effective ESL vocabulary acquisition strategies that can be used in Grade 4. Reading research has persistently found that the extent of students' vocabulary knowledge relates strongly to their reading comprehension and overall academic success. Vocabulary learning and vocabulary teaching are central to vocabulary knowledge and this study. Various issues play a role in learning vocabulary such as the role of age and nature of the students' first language. Research has found that the use of different vocabulary learning strategies used at different stages of vocabulary learning leads to optimal word acquisition. There is an urgency to provide vocabulary instruction which will amount to more words in less time. According to research, there is no one single instructional method that is sufficient, therefore effective instruction must use a variety of methods to help learners acquire new words. The variety of methods should include incidental word learning as well as direct explicit instruction. Computer-related instruction is another instructional method used for vocabulary learning. This method has capabilities not found in printed materials. This study looked at the CAMI Reader software programme as an example of software that can be used for computer-related vocabulary instruction. A quasi-experimental nonrandomised control group pre-test-post-test design was used in this study. Two classes at a primary school in the Limpopo province were used in this study. Both classes wrote a pre-test to make sure that the vocabulary to be learnt for the purpose of this study was unknown to them. The experimental group was then exposed to thirty new words by using the indirect computer- related instructional method in the form of CAMI and the control group was exposed to thirty new words through direct explicit instruction which made use of three different vocabulary strategies prescribed by the national curriculum. One day after exposure to the thirty words, both groups wrote the first post-test and seven days after the exposure both groups wrote the second post-test Focus group interviews were also held with fifteen learners from both the experimental and control groups to determine how the participants experienced the different instructional methods. The results of the pre- and post-test were processed by using t-test and the ANCOVA statistical procedure. After analysing the data, it was clear that the indirect computer-related instruction (CAMI) only resulted in better short-term results and that there was no practical difference on the long term (seven days) between the results of the second post-tests of the two groups. Both strategies resulted in vocabulary acquisition. A combination of indirect computer-related instruction and direct explicit instruction would benefit Grade 4 learners more than the use of a single instructional method.
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