Improving English Vocabulary for Second Graders Using Pictures at Sekolah Dasar Pangudi Luhur Jakarta, Indonesia

Luh Angelianawati

 angelianawati@gmail.com

Nur Fajar Handayani

Universitas Kristen Indonesia

ABSTRACT

There have been a lot of previous studies and related theories confirming the effectiveness of picture in teaching English vocabulary. To overcome students’ vocabulary problem, including spelling, pronunciation, grammatical use, and meaning, at Sekolah Dasar Pangudi Luhur Jakarta, Indonesia, an elementary school program, the present study was carried out. It was conducted in two cycles to twenty-five participants. Instruments used were tests, questionnaires, and observation. Results showed that an initial vocabulary mastery was 61.32 points, and increased to 81.08 in the final cycle of the study. In the same way, the questionnaire results in the second cycle revealed that although the students still found English learning (72.00) and memorizing vocabulary (64%) difficult, their interest in learning it increased (60%). Finally, the observation results of the second cycle also showed the improvement of both students’ and teacher’s teaching and learning atmosphere as well as interest. It was recorded that the teacher’s teaching outperformed, reaching (90%). It is 20% better than the previous results. To sum up, the picture used in teaching the young English learners at Sekolah Dasar Pangudi Luhur Jakarta, Indonesia was found effective to improve their vocabulary mastery. However, a further study and learning policy are worthy to assure the application of the pictorial aids facilitating the attractive and motivating learning atmosphere in the future.

Keywordsyoung learner, vocabulary, pictorial aid, visual aid

Full text

INTRODUCTION

Regardless of various attitudes towards English (Cholakova, 2015), it is still an ideal language for people around the world used to exchange information. The use of English today in a broader sense is used as one of the criteria to have a job. Besides its function as a means to build a powerful and interactive international relation and individual prestige, it facilitates the safety of international travel and increases an academic ability among scholars (Crystal, 2003, pp. 86-114).

However, English learning is found difficult. Taken for an example, learning vocabulary to elementary schoolers at Pangudi Luhur Jakarta, Indonesia, according to a preliminary study, was complicated. Its spelling, pronunciation, grammatical use and meaning (Dakhi, 2017) seem to be leading linguistic factors. In addition to external factors, like environment, material, facilities, and teaching strategies and aids, internal factors including anxiety, motivation, and prior knowledge appear to be predictors of vocabulary mastery.

To overcome such problem, the teaching vocabulary through the pictures to the elementary learners seems to be effective. Previous studies indicate a positive contribution of the picture to English vocabulary growth. Dakhi and Maritha’s (2017) action research finding showed that an initial vocabulary mastery of 21 leaners at SDN Karawang Kulon II, Indonesia was 56.19. However, after an application of the picture, the average score increased to 81.90 (post-test of the first cycle), and 94.29 (post-test of the second cycle). Furthermore, though Juang’s (2014) quasi-experimental study claimed that there was found no significantly different effects of  Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) on different grade levels of English vocabulary learners, the results of observation, questionnaire, and interview indicated that 234 participating students reported the numerous strengths of PWIM. According to them, the picture had a significant contribution to their English learning development. The last but not the least, Carpenter and Olson (2011) confirmed that the picture appeared to facilitate the foreign language vocabulary mastery.

The success of vocabulary mastery through the picture application as a teaching aid has been in accordance with the related theory. The picture appears to be functional in teaching any kind of subjects as it provides a concrete visualization of an abstract concept. Using picture facilitates receivers’ understanding on given information. Such a view is fully supported by Harmer (2001, p 135). He argues that one of the most appropriate uses of a picture is for presenting and checking of meaning.

To respond to the countered problem of second graders at the elementary school of Pangudi Luhur Jakarta, the current study was to apply the picture as a teaching media. It aimed at improving the second graders’ vocabulary mastery and developing the teaching atmosphere using the pictures.

LITERATURE REVIEW

The Importance of Vocabulary

The vocabulary, simply as the number of words that one understands (Tankersley, 2003), holds an important role in communication. It is treated as the most fundamental element of language interaction. Jamalipour and Farahani (2012) argued that vocabulary is the main communication tool. Supporting a more dominant role in vocabulary, Sullivana and Alba (2012) argue that people can still convey their ideas without grammar, but there is nothing to do without vocabulary.

Apart from the aforementioned function, Dakhi (2017) reviewed three other significances of vocabulary. He said that the vocabularies in any language are a reflection of social reality, emotional booster, and academic ability predictor. Strengthened by Can (2008), the vocabulary as the reflection of social reality results from a basic assumption that the reality can only be understood through symbols. The vocabulary, therefore, as one of the linguistic aspects and a linguistic symbol contain, form, and express the social reality.

Considering the language as a core element of emotion (Lindquist, MacCormack, & Shablack, 2015), the word choice, therefore, interacts with the creation of sensational meaning of a given message. More precisely explained by Lindquist, Sapute, and Gendron (2015), the emotion is built when the sensation is viewed using an emotion category knowledge and when it is supported by language (Dakhi, 2017).  Lastly, the vocabulary as an academic ability predictor is grounded from a belief that science and technology are widely spread through academic discourse, a string of structured words (Dakhi, 2017). It means that the acquisition of receptive vocabulary seems to be crucial in communicating and understanding research reports. Another equally important reason is the contribution of vocabulary size and breadth to writing and learning achievement. Roche and Harrington’s (2013) report revealed that the vocabulary is related to academic writing and grade point average of the students.

Principles of Vocabulary Teaching and Learning As for principles of learning vocabulary, three aspects of vocabulary are obliged to teach (Dakhi, 2017). Those aspects theorized by Nation (2001) are meaning, form, and use.

Teaching those vocabulary aspects, of course, requires some principles and guidelines. Two referred authors we need to consider are Nation (2005) and Graves (2006). Accentuated by Nation (2005), the principles of vocabulary teaching that the English teachers have to consider are (1) keeping teaching simple and clear without any complicated explanations, (2) relating present teaching to past knowledge by showing a pattern or analogies, (3) using both oral and written presentation, (4) giving most attention to words that are already partly known, (5) telling learners if it is a high-frequency word that is worth noting for future attention, and (6) not bringing in other unknown or poorly known related words like near synonyms, opposites, or members of the same lexical set. Furthermore, to Graves (2006), the guidelines of vocabulary teaching are providing rich and varied language experiences, teaching individual words, teaching word-learning strategies, and building consciousness in readers and writers.

The Application of Picture in Teaching Vocabulary

The use of picture appears to be functional in teaching any kind of subjects as it provides a concrete visualization of an abstract concept. Using picture facilitates receivers’ understanding on given information. Such a view is fully supported by Harmer (2001, p 135). He argues that one of the most appropriate uses of a picture is for presenting and checking of the meaning.

However, an application of picture in learning vocabulary has become a longstanding challenge for English teachers. To attain a complete understanding, LevinAnglin, and Carney (1987, pp. 73-77) proposed ten tenets of the picture. The picture has to be judiciously applied to the text, corresponding to the text, not bear false fitness, associated with its difficulty level, correspond to text-related imagery, textual supplement, faithfully created from generation to generation, not adulterated, appreciated for the art they art, and made to perform their appropriate functions. More practically, seven principles of the picture that seem to consider in teaching vocabulary. Termed as seven “C” principles (Carney & Levin, 2002), they are concentrated (focuses to direct a reader’s attention), compact/concise (worth a thousand words), concrete (representatively functional), coherent (organizationally functional), comprehensible (semantically functional), correspondent relating unfamiliar text to a reader’s prior knowledge), and “codable” (the mnemonic transformation function).    

METHOD

This study is an action research, which, based on his synthesis of various action definitions, is defined by Pardede’s (2016) as “a principled way of observing one’s teaching, reflecting upon it, and trying to analyze its weaknesses and increase its strengths. … through which educators can help themselves and their students overcome the specific problems they encounter in the learning and teaching process” (p.143). By implementing an action research, a teacher as practitioner obtains knowledge through his/her practices and uses the knowledge to improve his/her teaching skills. This action research was a two-cycle study conducted in two months, March to April 2017, at Elementary School Pangudi Luhur Jakarta, Indonesia. Twenty-five young English learners participated in the study.

The data were collected using test and non-test instruments. Firstly, the test technique was used to collect quantitative data from the participants. It was the young learners’ vocabulary mastery. A 25-objective-items test was conducted twice: initial vocabulary test and post-test of the second cycle. As for data analysis, a descriptive method was carried out for calculating mean score, maximum and minimum score, and its standard deviation. As the descriptive analysis finished, tabulating them in tables and figures was further step. Then, the tabulated data were described, explained, and discussed using the previous research results and theories. Interpreting the finding according to the success criterion, 73.00, was also employed. The non-test instruments consisting of questionnaire and observation were to record the participants’ view on the application of the pictures in their vocabulary learning and to evaluate the principles and procedures of the applied picture by an English teacher, respectively. Six question items were asked to the students after the vocabulary class.

FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION

The current action research was undertaken by following four steps, i.e., planning, action, observation, and reflection. The planning was to design a lesson plan, test, observation sheet, question items for the interview, and pictures. The action, on the other hand, referred to the application of the entire planned activities. To assure its effectiveness, the observation assisted by the teacher-collaborator was conducted. The whole test and non-test results were then evaluated in the reflection phase. With the teacher-collaborator, reflection results have done to trace the effectiveness and success of the vocabulary learning. The effectiveness consisted of the strengths and weakness of the applied picture, and the vocabulary growth referred to the mean score and percentage of the achieved success criterion by the participants.

Vocabulary Mastery Development

As shown in Table 3, the initial students’ vocabulary mastery is still below the expected criterion. Only five students did the test well. Two other categories fair and low were achieved by the young English learners. The findings imply three important interpretations. Firstly, the number of the students who have low score are as many as fair ones, 40%. Only one-fifth of the students have a good score in vocabulary. Compared to Dakhi and Maritha’s (2017) pre-test of the first cycle, it shows a slight difference. They reported that the average score of the initial vocabulary test of their 21 participants was 56.19, while the minimum and maximum scores are respectively 40.00 and 80.00.

Secondly, the failure of the first cycle corresponding to the preliminary study testifies the complexity of the vocabulary learning. The complexities of English vocabulary comprises pronunciation, grammatical use, spelling, and meaning. Empirically evidenced by Nurhidayah (2015), she discovered that majority of 21 participants viewed that pronunciation and meaning were two main difficulties. Apart from these, the grammar and spelling became less serious obstacles of the vocabulary learning.

Thirdly, the initial vocabulary results indicate that the students and English teacher were not aware of the vocabulary functions. This seems to be caused by the negative attitude on learning English vocabulary. Thus, the current results do not correspond to Vasu and Dhanavel’s (2015) finding who revealed that a majority of the students considered vocabulary as a leading factor in communication.

After the application of the picture in teaching, the students’ vocabulary mastery increased. Displayed in Table 1, twelve participants did the test very well, getting the score from 81.00 to 100.00 points. Regardless of a fair category, 16%, the final results showed that 40% of the participants are in a good category and none is found in the low category. This means that the excellent students were found almost half of the participants in the post-test of the second cycle, and 44% higher than that of the initial vocabulary ability. The number of good students finishing the test items was fifty percent higher than the initial ability, and a decreased number of fair and low scores were respectively 24% and 40%.

The present study, therefore, corresponds to the previous findings. Though they have different growth percentages since different contexts of the studies, Dakhi and Maritha’s (2017) post-test results showed that the mean score of the final test was 94.29, while the minimum score was 80.00 and the maximum score was 100.00. Another equally important study supporting the current one is Juang’s (2014). His quasi-experimental study claimed that though there was found no significantly different effects of  Picture Word Inductive Model (PWIM) on different grade levels of English vocabulary learners, the results of observation, questionnaire, and interview indicated that 234 participating students reported the numerous strengths of PWIM. According to them, the picture had a significant contribution to their English learning development. To end, it is more likely to conclude that the picture facilitates the success of vocabulary learning (Carpenter & Olson, 2011).

The success of the vocabulary mastery through the picture application as the teaching aid has been supported by related theory. The picture appears to be functional in teaching any kind of subjects as it provides a concrete visualization of an abstract concept. Using picture facilitates receivers’ understanding on given information. Such a view is fully supported by Harmer (2001, p 135). He argues that one of the most appropriate uses of a picture is for presenting and checking of meaning.

The Effectiveness of Picture as a Teaching Aid

According to questionnaire results of the first cycle, the students found vocabulary learning unattractive and uninteresting. The unattractiveness of the students is 68%, and uninterest is 72%. Besides it, Table 4 also shows that the application of the picture in learning vocabulary still made the students feel difficult to study English, 76% of the students reported. Such finding, therefore, is related to the failure of the vocabulary learning of the first cycle.

The questionnaire results in the second cycle, however, revealed that although the students still found English learning (72.00) and memorizing vocabulary (64%) difficult, their interest in learning it increases to 60 %. Interestingly, there is a great increase in the interest in learning vocabulary through the picture in the second cycle. It was only 84% in the first cycle and increased to 92% in the second cycle.

With reference to the questionnaire results, the observation also confirmed that almost half of the participants found it uninteresting (40%) which led to their passive learning (40%). Though giving the students assistance, using the picture as an aid, and teaching the material were (80%) helpful, those previous factors affected the low students’ vocabulary mastery in the first cycle. Such a condition became the reason for carrying out the second cycle of the action study.

The observation results of the second cycle show an improvement of both students’ and teacher’s teaching and learning atmosphere as well as interest. It was recorded that the teacher’s teaching outperformed, reaching (90%). It is 20% better than the previous results. In addition to the teacher’s ability in presenting the new words (90%) and the picture effectiveness in the students’ learning, the classroom control seemed better. In the same way, it increases to 20% better that of the first cycle.

The diverse student’s views and observation results testify the subjective opinion towards the picture. This is because people are not exactly the same. They have their own unique characteristics, styles and learning preferences. As a consequence, it is normal for the students to have diverse perceptions of the picture in the learning vocabulary. Differently viewed by grade levels, Bell & Quazi (n.d.) claimed that 226 college undergraduates had a significant difference in experiencing visual aid as an effective aid.  

The current observation results seem to indicate that it corresponds to Hashemi and Pougharib’s (2013) finding which concluded that the experimental group (N=20) was found greater than the control one (N=19). The mean score of the experimental group taught using visual aid was 19.40, and the mean score of the control one was 13.95. To them, the advantages of the pictures in learning are (1) they can facilitate a deep and full understanding of the students in comprehending synonym, antonym, sentence, and translation. Furthermore, (2) the students seemed to easily understand the given words as they are presented in two ways, visually and verbally. Finally, (3) they make the teaching class easier and interesting as the teacher can provide various and colorful pictures. 

CONCLUSION AND SUGGESTION

Conclusion

This two-cycled action study aimed at improving the students’ vocabulary mastery through pictures. Test, questionnaire and observation results revealed that the young learners’ vocabulary mastery at Pangudi Luhur Jakarta, Indonesia got improved. An initial vocabulary mastery of the twenty-five students was 61.32 points; increased to 81.08 in the final cycle of the study. In the same way, the questionnaire results in the second cycle revealed that although the students still foud English learning (72.00) and memorizing vocabulary (64%) difficult, their interest in learning it increased to 60%. Interestingly, there is a great increase of the interest in learning vocabulary through the picture in the second cycle. It was only 84% in the first cycle, and increased to 92% in the second cycle. Finally, the observation results of second cycle also showed the improvement of both students’ and teacher’s teaching and learning atmosphere as well as interest. It was recorded that the teacher’s teaching outperformed, reaching (90%). It is 20% better than the previous results. In addition to the teacher’s ability in presenting the new words (90%) and picture effectiveness in the students’ learning, the classroom control seemed better. In the same way, it increased 20% better that of the first cycle.

The success of the vocabulary mastery through the picture application as a teaching aid has been supported by related theory. The picture appears to be functional in teaching any kind of subjects as it provides a concrete visualization of an abstract concept. Using the picture facilitates receivers’ understanding on given information. More precisely, teaching vocabulary through pictorial aid facilitates a deep and full understanding of the students in comprehending synonym, antonym, sentence, and translation. Furthermore, the learners seem to easily understand the given words as they are presented in two ways, visually and verbally. Finally, the images teaching make the teaching class easier and interesting as the teacher can provide various and colorful pictures. 

Suggestions

Responding to the present study, some suggestions are addressed to:

One, to English teacher, as a determinant factor of the teaching success, teaching vocabulary using various activities and aids seem to be worthy as it facilitates the attractive teaching and learning process in the classroom. However, the application of pictorial-visual aids are more likely useful (Pouwels, 1992), consequently, the students’ learning styles, preferences, and beliefs (Angelianawati, 2012) have to be considered during the media selection.

Two, to a principal, making a learning policy of the use of media, such as pictures, in teaching vocabulary to the young English learners appears to be beneficial as the previous studies, including the current one, and related theories testify the importance and effectiveness of the pictorial aids in teaching.   Three, to researchers, since the current study only focused on the application of the pictures in teaching vocabulary, further study on its application to adolescent and adult English learners will be interesting. Besides a teacher-made picture for learning vocabulary, the study on the students’ perception of the use of pictures across grade levels and genders in Indonesia are more likely challenging.

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Note: This article was presented UKI English Education Department Collegiate Forum held on Friday, October 13, 2017

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