Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Learning Word Meanings from Teachers' Repeated Story Read-Aloud in EFL Primary Classrooms

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Learning Word Meanings from Teachers' Repeated Story Read-Aloud in EFL Primary Classrooms

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study used a quasi-experimental design to determine the effects of teachers' story read-aloud on EFL elementary school students' word learning outcomes. It specifically examined whether the word learning was enhanced by teachers' repeated story read-aloud and word-meaning explanations and further determined whether the learning outcomes were related to children's English proficiency. Two native English-speaking teachers read a story to their fourth-grade classes four times. The results showed that increasing frequency of story read-aloud yielded greater word-learning gains across time. The EFL children, on average, learned approximately half of the target words by the third read-aloud. While both high- and low-proficiency groups showed significant vocabulary gains with the frequency of teachers' read-aloud, the high-proficiency children consistently outperformed their low-proficiency peers, especially on the L1 meaning-matching vocabulary test. The overall findings were quite encouraging and showed empirical evidence that teachers' repeated story read-aloud can be an effective way to facilitate elementary school children's word learning in a context where English is a foreign language.

Keywords: EFL, elementary school, story read-aloud, vocabulary learning, repetition, English proficiency

1. Introduction

Listening to stories is a common and enjoyable activity inside and outside a language classroom (Holdaway, 1982; Wells, 1986). Stories provide linguistic, paralinguistic, discourse, and cultural information for children to develop their language skills in a meaningful context. It also provides children with opportunities to develop decontextualized language skills and has been suggested to contribute to vocabulary growth and language development (Elley, 1989; Heath, 1983; Krashenand, 1989; Robbins & Ehri, 1994). Teachers reading stories to students in a foreign language in the elementary school is also considered to benefit language learners who often have relatively limited exposure to a rich spoken environment in the target foreign language (Kirsch, 2012). However, teachers teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in Asian countries often find themselves confined to set curricula and prescribed English textbooks which contain mostly premodified simple dialogues or texts written at students' proficiency level. Given the limited class time available and rigid curriculum to follow (Sheu, 2006), teachers may not be compelled or convinced to devote class time to reading storybooks to their students. A corpus-based study (Hsieh, Wang, & Lee, 2011) specifically examined and compared the language input in the EFL elementary textbooks with 65 storybooks used in a storytelling programme (Wang & Lee, 2007). It was found that the storybooks provide richer language input than the textbooks in terms of more diverse vocabulary, sentence patterns, and culture information within more authentic and meaningful contexts. The researchers thus suggested that reading storybooks aloud to young EFL learners can help to promote a variety of English skills related to oral and literacy development and should be integrated into the EFL elementary school curriculum.

This study explored the use of story read-aloud as a context for learning word meanings in EFL classrooms. It specifically examined whether the word learning was enhanced by teachers' repeated story read-aloud and word-meaning explanations and further determined whether the learning outcomes were related to children's English proficiency.

1.1 Listening to Stories and Vocabulary Learning

One most noticeable benefit of listening to stories is the potential for learning new words. Substantial research has shown that children of different age groups learn new words from listening to stories, such as children in preschool (Karweit & Wasik, 1996; Sénéchal, Thomas, & Monker, 1995; Wasik & Bond, 2001), in kindergarten (Eller, Pappas, & Brown, 1988; Robbins & Ehri, 1994), and in primary grades (Brabham & Lynch-Brown, 2002; Brett, Rothlein, & Hurley, 1996; Elley, 1989; Nicholson & Whyte, 1992; Penno, Wilkinson, & Moore 2002; Wilkinson & Houston-Price, 2012). …

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