Fascinated by Words: An Explorative Study into English Language Learners' Interest in Vocabulary in the Early Elementary Grades
Vocabulary instruction needs to be an important part of any language arts curriculum because having a strong vocabulary equips students with the abilities they need to read with excellent comprehension and write in a clear and interesting way. However, building a strong vocabulary can often be an overwhelming task, especially for nonnative English speaking students who are still in the early stages of learning English. As teachers seek to teach vocabulary effectively, it is important that they contemplate student interest in vocabulary and seek to make vocabulary instruction engaging. This research study took place at Christian Academy in Japan, an international school in Tokyo. The research participants were the first, second, and third graders at this school, 90% of whom speak a language other than English with their parents at home. As a result, this research study studied English language learners (ELL), sometimes known as English as an Additional Language (EAL) students, and their interest in and perceptions related to vocabulary. The data was gathered through student and parent questionnaires as well as focus group sessions with each class. The results showed that, overall, the students involved in this study feel positively about learning vocabulary but many of them felt that their interest in vocabulary depended on how they were able to learn and review vocabulary. Many of the research participants struggled to see how learning vocabulary was relevant to their lives now and others felt that it was too hard to remember all the words they learned. Many of the students also explained that using more games to practice vocabulary would make it more interesting to them. Considering these student perspectives, this study encourages teachers to help students, particularly English language learners, see how vocabulary is needed and crucial to their success as an early elementary student, provide strategies for students to remember the words they have learned, and set aside time to use games to learn and practice vocabulary.