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At Education First we utilize our unique teaching methods, developed through our many years of experience and research, making the learning of English not only fun but also much easier. Therefore, our students learn their vocabulary and grammar in considerably less time and, most importantly, they retain them without much effort.

 

1. Why is learning vocabulary challenging?

2. Why out method works

3. Our Experiment

4. Limitations of the Experiment

5. Students Feedback

 

 

 

       Why is learning vocabulary challenging?  

Vocabulary is one of the most important aspects in language as a lack of adequate vocabulary in L2 prevents understanding or production of spoken or written language. It is certainly true that vocabulary teaching and learning is also considered one of the major challenges in EFL as it challenges both teachers and learners. Frequently, a lot of students struggle or even fail to learn new vocabulary and some of those who succeed tend to forget the new words they learn soon after. It is no wonder that many students become overwhelmed and discouraged in second and foreign language classes. Students need as much help as they can get in order to be encouraged, motivated and successful. One of the most frustrating experiences for most foreign language learners is the difficulty in communicating in the target language because of their limited vocabulary and limited exposure to the target language. Not surprisingly, it is not a coincidence that the method of teaching foreign language vocabulary has occupied experimental psychologists for decades.

   Why Our Method Works  

Our teaching method helps learners to store, recall and retain new information. Numerous studies have shown that the method we use is an effective tool in learning new vocabulary in a very short period of time. In particular, scientists have found that learners managed to learn up to 120 new words in three days.

The question is what makes this method so effective? According to scientists, the answer might rely on visual imagery as this method is effective because of its reliance on visual memory. Another explanation is that new information is processed in two different subsystems of the human brain. The verbal coding system which deals with language (left hemisphere) and the visual coding system which deals with mental images (right hemisphere). Hence, the recall is greater since this method involves the process of both brain hemispheres.

In other words, our method uses the students’ acquired knowledge as a bridge to the unfamiliar new information. In addition, the procedure of this method is entertaining and fun for students. Therefore, acquisition takes place since it creates low anxiety, while it maintains student engagement and motivation.

 

     Our Experiment     

In order to obtain some realistic results of our method we ran an experiment at our institute. We chose two groups that were in the same year (year 5), equal in number, gender and performance to teach them twenty unknown vocabulary items. The idea was to teach the unknown vocabulary to the first group (GROUP1) by using our method and for the second group (GROUP2), teaching the same vocabulary with any other technique such as repetition, synonyms, word in context, and so on.

The new vocabulary included words that students would learn in more advanced levels. As a result, a new hypothesis emerged. That is, if our method is so effective then the recall rate would be the same as if the students were exposed to words corresponding to their level. Hence, the majority of the words were selected from more advanced levels (year 6, 7, 8).

The first test was an immediate test (Immediate Test 1) taken place exactly after the lesson, that is the first time the students were exposed to the vocabulary. The second test (Delayed Test 1) was taken a week later, while the third test (Delayed Test 2) was taken a month later. It should be noted here that both groups did not have any further exposure to the new vocabulary besides the day they were taught the words for the first time. Students were taught the vocabulary only once.

As expected, the students in GROUP1 greatly outperformed the students in GROUP2 in all three tests. The table below illustrates the score for each group:

DATE 05/03/2012 12/03/2012
 05/04/2012
 TESTS Immediate Test  Delayed Test 1
Delayed Test 2
 % % %

Group1

(our method)

90 85.5 77

Group2

(traditional method)

41.5 22 21.5

Vocabulary retention over a one-month period

 

The immediate test was really important as it illustrated how much information the students would be able to retain in memory over the passage of time. Although the new vocabulary was still fresh in the students’ minds, GROUP2 had already forgotten more than half of the words taught in class. They dropped from 100% to 41.5%. Therefore, it was expected that after the passage of time the rate of recall of GROUP2 would decrease even more. After a month, the group’s word recall dropped significantly from 41.5% to 21.5%. That is 78.5%. The results illustrate that the method of teaching in GROUP2, which is what most language teachers use, is rather ineffective since it is not only weak to begin with (41.5 %), but the rate of recall drops very rapidly over time (21.5 %).

It is an undeniable fact that GROUP1 significantly outperformed GROUP2. In the immediate test, GROUP1 scored 90%, a result which indicates the immediate effectiveness of our method. Nevertheless, it was naturally expected that there would be a decrease of recall rate over time. Not surprisingly, the recall rate dropped from 90% to 80.5% and finally to 77% over the period of a month. Despite this natural decline, the recall rate did not drop as rapidly as it did in GROUP2. The students’ score between the immediate test and the final test dropped only by 13% in comparison to 50% in GROUP2. The graph below illustrates the rate recall between the two groups.


 Comparison - Vocabulary recall decline over a one-month period

 

     Limitations of the Expirement    

Students in both groups were taught and exposed to the new vocabulary only once. Obviously, this is not how students are taught new vocabulary in real classroom conditions. In real classroom conditions, students are taught new vocabulary and they are exposed to it regularly. In particular, they are exposed to it through vocabulary exercises, grammar exercises, reading, speaking activities, and writing. In addition, students have the new words in their course book which means that they can study what they have covered in class at their own pace at home. Moreover, the vocabulary taught in class is regularly revised by the teacher in the following lessons. As a result, students are exposed to the new vocabulary repeatedly. Thus, the more times a new word is repeated, the more chance there is for the students to remember the word. The students in question were no further exposed to the new vocabulary besides the day they were presented the words for the first time. Thus, the results would have been definitely much better if students had been exposed to the new vocabulary under normal teaching conditions.

It is also significant to point out that the findings confirmed the hypothesis put forward, namely that the recall rate would still be very high even though students were exposed to more advanced words. The students did not seem to have any problems handling more advanced words as long as they applied our method. The fact that their average score in all three tests was 82.5% proves its effectiveness.

     Students' Feedback   

Students stated that they learned and remembered new vocabulary more easily than before when they used our method. In fact, they generally maintained that the most difficult task in learning English is to learn new vocabulary so they were excited that they found a way to overcome this difficulty. Below, are some of the comments provided by the students:

  • “I learn the words in class and not at home on my own”
  • “I need less time studying at home”
  • “I remember the words with not much effort”
  • “I improved my grades a lot”
  • “Lessons are more enjoyable and fun”
  • “Time in class passes very quickly”
  • “I feel motivated and self-confident”
  • “I love learning English with this method”
  • “The English language is easy”

 
 

Interestingly, the students in GROUP1 exhibited enthusiasm, self-worth and a sense of achievement when they discovered that the words they had been taught were addressed to more advanced levels. They were even more amazed with their performance when they were informed that they significantly outperformed their peers in GROUP2. What is more, GROUP2 claimed that it was extremely difficult to remember any of the words without the use of our method.

The students in GROUP1 expressed their enthusiasm learning vocabulary using this method as it helps them remember and retain new words more effectively without much effort. They also stated that learning new vocabulary with our method is more like a fun activity. Since using this method, their grades have improved significantly, a fact that has boosted their self-confidence.

Taking into consideration these incredible results, we also managed to incorporate this method into grammar. Therefore, students do not learn grammar by heart as they apply our method to remember the rules. Our method undeniably illustrates the same amazing results as in teaching new lexical items.

 
More details and a practical demonstration of our unique teaching methods are offered to parents who are interested in enrolling their children at our school. For appointments please contact us on 99311440.

 

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