A study on the use of communicative activities to enhance 12th grade students' speaking skill in Hong Lam upper secondary school

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MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING VINH UNIVERSITY NGUYEN THI KIEU VAN A STUDY ON THE USE OF COMMUNICATIVE ACTIVITIES TO ENHANCE 12th GRADE STUDENTS’ SPEAKING SKILL IN HONG LAM UPPER SECONDARY SCHOOL MASTER’S THESIS IN EDUCATION NGHE AN - 2014 0 MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING VINH UNIVERSITY NGUYEN THI KIEU VAN A STUDY ON THE USE OF COMMUNICATIVE ACTIVITIES TO ENHANCE 12th GRADE STUDENTS’ SPEAKING SKILL IN HONG LAM UPPER SECONDARY SCHOOL Major: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Code: 60.14.01.11 MASTER’S THESIS IN EDUCATION Supervisor: Nguyen Gia Viet, Ph.D Nghe An, 2014 ACCEPTANCE I hereby state that I: Nguyen Thi Kieu Van, being a candidate for the degree of Master accept requirements of the College related to the retention and use of Master’s graduation Paper deposited in the library. In terms of these conditions, I agree that the origin of my paper deposited in the library should be accessible for the purposes of study and research, in accordance with the normal conditions established by the librarian for the care, loan or reproduction of the thesis. September, 2014 Signature Nguyen Thi Kieu Van i ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This study would not have been completed without the support of many people, to all of whom I am profoundly indebted. Foremost, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my supervisor Nguyen Gia Viet, Ph.D for the continuous support of my M.A study and research, for his patience, motivation, enthusiasm, and immense knowledge. His guidance helped me in all the time of research and writing of this thesis. I could not have imagined having a better advisor and mentor for my M.A study. Also, sincere thanks are due to the teachers and 12 th students at Hong Lam Upper Secondary School for allowing me to administer the test and interview schedule during their invaluable time class. Without their patience in participating in doing questionnaires as well as interviews, the study could not have been completed. Last but not least, I would love to send my gratitude to my family, especially my husband and friends for their continual encouragements during the time I conducted the study. ii ABSTRACT Although speaking is recognized as a crucial part of second language teaching, it has been undervalued by English teachers in Vietnamese classrooms. Many teachers are still using traditional techniques such as repetition drills and memorization of dialogues. The use of communicative activities, in spite of having been known to teachers in Vietnam, has been really limited due to many reasons, such as teachers’ low proficiency, class size, limited teaching facilities, and tight teaching schedules. There have been a few research studies that investigated effectiveness of communicative activities in the classroom in some part of the world. However, very few studies have been conducted in Vietnam about how teachers and students perceived about these activities in upper secondary schools. Especially, no research has been carried out in Hong Lam Upper Secondary School. This research study aims to investigate the use of communicative activities to enhance speaking skill for 12th grade students in Hong Lam UPSS. It uses two sets of questionnaires for teachers and students in Hong Lam Upper Secondary School. A total of survey questionnaires for teachers and survey questionnaires for students were collected. The data collected were coded in charts and percentage was yielded and figures were built as to address the research questions. The data showed that the majority of the student participants were inclined to communicative activities. As for the teachers, based on the results of the study, a number of implications and suggestions have been provided for teachers, students, policy makers, and researchers. The findings of this study, being a case study, cannot be generalized, but they contribute to the academic understanding of a context where little research has been done. Generally, the students are not interested in doing speaking tasks that are given in the textbooks. Also, they are not aware of whether these tasks are effective for them or not. Nevertheless, they express their desire for some types of communicative activities that they have chances to work with. iii For the teachers, most of them admit that they often have difficulties in using communicative activities to teach speaking skill for their 12th grade students. The study aims to serve as a useful source of reference for teachers, students and those who are interested in this subject matter. iv TABLE OF CONTENTS Pages ACCEPTANCE......................................................................................................... ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS..................................................................................... ABSTRACT............................................................................................................ TABLE OF CONTENTS......................................................................................... LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES..................................................................... ABBREVIATIONS............................................................................................... CHAPTER 1. INTRODUCTION........................................................................... 1.1. Rationale.......................................................................................................... 1.2. Aims of the study............................................................................................. 1.3. Scope of the study........................................................................................... 1.4. Methods of the study....................................................................................... 1.5. The organization of the thesis.......................................................................... CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW..................................................................... 2.1. Review of Previous Studies............................................................................. 2.2. Theoretical Background of Communicative Activities.................................... 2.2.1. Definition of The Communicative Activities............................................ 2.2.2. Features of Communicative Activities...................................................... 2.2.3. Types of Communicative Activities.......................................................... 2.2.4. Factors Affecting Communicative Activities.......................................... 2.3. Speaking........................................................................................................ 2.3.1. Speaking as a Skill.................................................................................. 2.3.2. The role of speaking in language learning and teaching......................... 2.3.3. Approaches to the teaching of speaking.................................................. 2.3.4. Teaching speaking in rural areas............................................................. 2.3.5. Teaching Speaking In Upper Secondary School..................................... CHAPTER 3. METHODOLOGY........................................................................ 3.1. An overview of the research site.................................................................... v 3.2. Participants.................................................................................................... 3.3. Methods of data collection............................................................................. 3.3.1. Instrumental Development...................................................................... 3.3.2. Procedures of data collection.................................................................. 3.3.3. Methods and procedures of data analysis................................................ 3.4. Summary....................................................................................................... CHAPTER 4. RESULTS AND DISCUSSION.................................................... 4.1. Evaluation of the English 12 textbook........................................................... 4.1.1. Overview of the English 12 textbook...................................................... 4.1.2. Evaluation of Speaking Skill................................................................... 4.2. Results from the survey questionnaires......................................................... 4.2.1. The frequency and interest of each kind of communicative activities in class..................................................................................... 4.2.2. Difficulties that the teachers have when using communicative activities.................................................................................................. 4.3. Findings and Discussion................................................................................ 4.4. Implications................................................................................................... 4.4.1. Implications for teaching each kind of communicative activities............ 4.4.2. Giving students inspiration by activities involving the lesson................. 4.4.3. Using the situation in introduction.......................................................... CHAPTER 5. CONCLUSION.............................................................................. 5.1. Summary of Findings.................................................................................... 5.2. Limitations of the Research........................................................................... 5.3. Further Research............................................................................................ REFERENCES....................................................................................................... APPENDIX vi LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES Pages Tables: Table 3.1. Summary of selected students............................................................ Table 4.1. Topics in English 12........................................................................... Table 4.2. Students' evaluative attitudes toward textbook speaking tasks........... Figures: Figure 4.1. The frequency of using speaking tasks in textbook............................ Figure 4.2. The attitude of students towards doing speaking tasks in textbook.............................................................................................. Figure 4.3. The evaluation of the effectiveness of speaking tasks in textbook ........................................................................................................... Figure 4.4. The frequency of using acting from a script/simulation and role play, given by students....................................................................... Figure 4.5. The frequency of using acting from a script/simulation and role play, given by teacher......................................................................... Figure 4.6. Interest in acting from a script/simulation and role play, given by students.............................................................................................. Figure 4.7. The frequency of using communication games, given by students.............................................................................................. Figure 4.8. The frequency of using communication games, given by teachers.............................................................................................. Figure 4.9. The interest of using communication games...................................... Figure 4.10. The frequency of using discussion in class, given by students........... Figure 4.11. The frequency of using discussion in class, given by teachers........... Figure 4.12. Interest of the students in discussion.................................................. Figure 4.13. Some kinds of communicative activities that teachers have difficulties when teaching speaking skill............................................ vii viii ABBREVIATIONS EFL : English as a Foreign Language UPSS : Upper Secondary School HFLSS : Hanoi Foreign Language Specializing School C.A : Communicative Activities CLT : Communicative Language Teaching MOET : Ministry of Education and Training ix CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1.1. Rationale In the flow of global integration trend, English has become indispensable means in communication over the world. The importance of English has been realized in Vietnam because English is considered to play a crucial role on the path of industrialization and modernization of the country, English is now taught in almost every school, college, university and language centre all over the country. One of the main tasks assigned to foreign language teaching at school is that of training students to be communicatively competent. At Hong Lam UPSS, like at many other Upper Secondary Schools in Vietnam, English has been a compulsory subject in secondary curriculum for many years. The fact is that, due to the demand of the Upper Secondary School graduation and university entrance examinations, the students' focus is on grammar and vocabulary, which means little attention has been paid to speaking skill. Besides, teaching English at school is mainly performed with a traditional method - the Grammar Translation method, which focuses mainly on grammatical and vocabulary items. As a result, students who are passive recipients become structurally competent but communicatively incompetent. While speaking may be a necessity for school leavers, and may serve as a “keystone” in successful communication, evidence shows that too many school students are unwilling to take part in speaking activities in class. This may be caused by many factors, among which is the lack of useful activities. The achievement of a lesson fully depends on students’ active participation. So that for the students, the lesson should also be fascinating and motivating to them. To motivate students, communicative activities (including games and activities) (Simon, 1984) need to be carefully designed and effectively used in speaking lessons because “communicative games and activities provide an 1 opportunity for learners to try out their newly acquired competence in a context where they feel psychological secure” (Simon, 1984, p.6) Therefore, it is really essential to know whether the communicative activities have the good effects on teaching speaking skill to the students of Hong Lam UPSS. With the aim to access the method on teaching speaking skill through the communicative activities, I would like to choose this topic. In Vietnam, there have been a few studies on communicative activities in English learning and teaching. Yet no researcher has conducted investigation into the communicative activities to enhance speaking skill for 12 th grade students in rural areas such as at Hong Lam UPSS. 1.2. Aims of the study According to the importance of the participation of students in speaking lessons, this study aims at investigating the use of communicative activities to enhance speaking skill for 12th grade students in Hong Lam UPSS. With the reasons mentioned above, the specific aims of the study, accordingly, are: + To investigate the current English speaking teaching and learning situation at Hong Lam UPSS. + To explore the teachers’ viewpoints in the necessity of applying the communicative activities in teaching speaking skill. + To learn about the students’ attitude toward practicing their speaking skill through the communicative activities. + To find out the students’ problems in speaking skill and elements leading to such difficulties. + To provide strategies to overcome such difficulties and give some suggestions pedagogical suggestions to apply communicative activities in speaking lessons. In order to serve the above mentioned objectives, the researcher hopes to find out the answers to the following questions: 2 Research question 1: To what extent are speaking tasks from the textbook used by the 12th grade students in Hong Lam UPSS? Research question 2: What are the attitudes of students toward using the communicative activities in speaking skill? Research question 3: What are difficulties that teachers have in teaching speaking skill via the communicative activities? 1.3. Scope of the study Within the scope of graduation paper and due to the limitation of time, the study can not cover all classes in Hong lam UPSS, I just hope to concentrate on the situation of the 12th grade. Moreover, although the communicative activities could be used widely in all four skills, the study is in dealing with the speaking skill only. Participants in this study are students from three 12 th grade classes, Hong Lam UPSS, Hong Linh town, Ha Tinh province. 1.4. Methods of the study The study firstly employs a quantitative approach in order to accomplish the aims of the study. Survey questionnaires for the 12 th grade students and survey questionnaires for teachers at Hong Lam UPSS are delivered to collect the data as the basis for evaluation and conclusion at the end of the study. Moreover, the researcher also carries out the evaluating of English 12 textbook in order to get the general English teaching context at Upper Secondary School. 1.5. The organization of the thesis This thesis contains five chapters: Chapter 1: Introduction This present chapter provides general information about the study, including rationale, aims, scope of the study, and an overview about the research methodology. Chapter 2: Literature review This chapter introduces the theoretical foundations for the whole thesis. Besides providing the definitions of key terms such as communicative activity and speaking skill, the chapter presents some of the basic issues in relation to some 3 theoretical questions and related studies on communicative activities, as well as the role of communicative activities in enhancing speaking skill for students; Chapter 3: Methodology The chapter covers the research design, information about the participants, the instruments, the three-phase procedure of collecting data and the procedure of processing data from the survey questionnaire and interviews. Chapter 4: Results and implications This chapter presents and discusses the findings, which give comprehensive answers to the three research questions through the data taken from the survey questionnaire for students and teachers analyzed and categorized. The findings are used as the cornerstone for the recommendations in the next chapter. Chapter 5: Conclusion The chapter summarizes significant findings, highlight contributions of the research, puts forward practical suggestions for future research as well as addressees notable limitations. 4 CHAPTER 2 LITERATURE REVIEW This chapter, as its name suggests, provides an overview of the literature related to this study, laying the solid foundations for the subsequence development for the paper. Not only are key terms like communicative activity, speaking skill defined but critical background information about the key terms is also presented to ensure a thorough understanding of the research matters. Besides, this review will reveal the research gap, thus rationalizing the need to carry out the study. 2.1. Review of previous studies In recent years, it is seen that a large body of research has investigated into applying Communicative Language Teaching (CLT) or Communicative Approach in teaching English language aspects as well as the four language skills. Among them, the issues of applying communicative activities into teaching speaking skills have drawn attention of many educators as well as researchers. There were some studies that refer to some aspects of the topic. One of the most relevant is “Some problems in speaking activities of freshmen of English Department of College of Foreign Languages” by Phuong Lan Le. Her study had a part that mainly focuses on “pointing out types of speaking activities freshmen like best” … (p.10). However, to concentrate on the goal, the study should have made survey questionnaires such as which activities that the freshmen like best instead of asking them about only the activities she often does. The question only helps her find out what freshmen do in speaking class. Moreover, it seems that she feels interested when she does what she likes, so the question “How do you feel in the speaking activities” and “how is your class atmosphere in speaking” was redundant. In the list of the activities for the freshmen to choose, there were some activities that seem to be not relevant. Group work and pair work are only the way that an activity is done not a kind of activity. Because of it, the result of the survey was not completely exact. One of the pioneering studies on the application of eliciting techniques into English lessons is 5 “Eliciting spontaneous speech in bilingual students: Methods and techniques” by Cornejo, Ricardo and Najar (1983). Some other innovative techniques were put forward to foster students’ spontaneous conversations, both with their teachers and students. While the study could provide significant background theory and practical recommendations, it still had two perceivable limitations. Since it was conducted outside Vietnam, the scope of the study did not seem relevant to the Vietnamese language teaching and learning context. In addition, the subjects of the study were bilingual students whose culture, education and other conditions were totally different from Vietnamese EFL students’. The gap that no specifications for Vietnamese students were made as communicative language teaching became the most prevailing approach implemented in almost every upper-secondary school in Vietnam, there have been several studies on the field. The first one is “Using elicitation techniques to teach Vocabulary to 11th form students in Hanoi” by Pham (2006). On shedding light on the issue, the author attempted to investigate three aspects: the situation of teaching vocabulary to 11th form students in Hanoi, the application of elicitation techniques to teach vocabulary to these subjects and pedagogical recommendations to make a better use of elicitation techniques in teaching vocabulary. Knowing that his effort in conducting this study was praiseworthy and the findings had a significant contribution to the field, there were still some limitations that should be addressed. Firstly, the study centered on the teaching vocabulary. Although this was one of three core teaching components where the employment of elicitation techniques could be considered a must in modern EFL classrooms, the results of a thorough investigation into this field only could not represent that of the others namely grammar, pronunciation and four macro skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Secondly, the classroom settings where the survey of this research was conducted were not yet introduced the new textbook which still followed the old teaching methods. One year later, another research on enhancing speaking skill was carried out by Tran (2007) named “eliciting technique to teach speaking skill to grade-10 6 students in HFLSS”. Firstly, she investigated the real situation of teachers’ using eliciting techniques to teach 10th grade students in HFLSS in Hanoi. Outstanding advantages of this practice could be drawn out. Hindrances to the employment process of this technique were diagnosed for timely and necessary pedagogical adjustments. Notably, the author gave a close look at the speaking skill as the focus. It means that the whole study shed light on the issue of how to employ eliciting technique to teach speaking skill, not others. This can be seen as the first limitation of the study. The second problem is that the subjects of the study were students from FLSS only, which could hardly be generalized into a wider population of other institutions across the city and country. These listed gaps intensify the significance of the current study which targets at techniques teachers use to elicit students’ talk to develop numerous skills simultaneously, rather than any single one, and among grade 12 students in some selected classes in Hong Lam UPSS. Therefore, the study mainly focuses on investigating on applying the communicative activities into teaching speaking English language to 12 th grade students in Hong Lam UPSS. The result of the study can be the good foundation of next ones so that it could help educators multiply teaching methods and students enhance their speaking skill. 2.2. Theoretical background of communicative activities 2.2.1. Definition of the communicative activities There have been so far many researches on the theory of communicative activities which have generally come to a conclusion that communicative activities include any activities that encourage and require a learner to speak with and listen to other learners, as well as with people in the program and community. Communicative activities have real purposes: to find information, break down barriers, talk about self, and learn about the culture. In speaking class, communicative activities are often employed because the use of communicative activities is a way to improve the students’ ability to use the language meaningfully. 7 Also, they can alter the environment of speaking lesson (Carrier, 1980).This will make the speaking lesson “a kind of bridge for learners between the classroom and the world outside” (Hadfield & Hadfield, 1999) more interesting. Some learners question whether games is a kind of communicative activities? The answer is yes because according to Carrier (1980), the term “games” used whenever there is an element of competition between individual students or team in communicative activities (p.10). The answer is also supported by Noor Eka Chandra (2008) “it can be said that language games not only function as time filling activities but also they can bring some educational values that enable the children to learn the language. To sum up, a communicative activity is a piece of work that involves all the learners in; the comprehension of the foreign languages (spoken or written); the production of the foreign languages (spoken or written) or interaction in the foreign languages. During a communicative activity, learners’ attention is principally focused on meaning rather than form, that is, on what is being expressed rather than on the linguistic forms used for expressing it. In addition, as far as possible, a communicative activity resembles activity which students or other people carry out in daily life, thus reproducing processes of daily communication. A communicative activity is usually part of a sequence which often creates a context for the activity. Beside, both teachers and learners can evaluate this task, in relation to both process and outcome. A communicative activity has the ultimate purpose of developing students’ ability to communicate in English, so it has a pedagogic purpose. 2.2.2. Features of communicative activities Communicative activities are categorized by two key features. Firstly, it must contact with authentic target language. Students are required to use real language. In classes where communicative language teaching is applied, students’ attention is not on the code of the language but on the meaning. By using authentic materials in the classroom, even when it is not in an authentic situation, it still provides the learners with many significant advantages (Martinez, 2000). 8 Martinez (2000) summarized several benefits of using authentic materials. By using authentic material, students are exposed to real discourse, as in videos of interview with famous people where intermediate students listen for general idea. Authentic materials keep students informed about what is happening in the world, so they have an intrinsic educational value. Language change is reflected in the materials so that students and teachers can keep abreast of such changes. Reading texts are ideal to teach/practice mini-skills such as scanning, e.g. students are given a news article and asked to look for specific information. Also, teachers can have students practice some of the micro-skills of listening, e.g. basically, students listen to news reports and they are asked to identify the names of countries, famous people, etc. Different authentic materials such as books, articles, newspapers, and so on contain a wide variety of text types, and language styles not easily found in conventional teaching materials. Thus, it can help student extend their vocabulary and help memorize them in a number of meaningful recycling. Authentic materials can encourage reading for pleasure because they are likely to contain topics of interest to learners, especially if students are given the chance to have a say about the topics of kinds of authentic materials to be used in class. As a result, learners will keep high motivation and interest in language teaching through these meaningful interactions with the materials. Its second feature is experiential property. In contrast, with analytic factor, experiential feature is global and non-analytic. Learners are invited to use language for a purpose that is to focus on the message rather than specific aspect of the code. Through experiential strategy, students become involved in language. 2.2.3. Types of communicative activities The communicative activities used now are the activities for communication. Communicative activities are believed to be useful because they carry many characteristics that promote learning, among of which are enhancing, and eliciting. Firstly, enhancing involves the class by focusing students’ attention and making them think. In the presentation stage, it is likely that teachers will be those 9
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