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  • Proceedings-Teaching Techniques-006 1 4th International Conference on Humanities and Social Sciences

    April 21st , 2012 Faculty of Liberal Arts, Prince of Songkla University

    Teaching Listening and Speaking to Grade 3 Students:

    A Comparison between Non-English and English-Majored

    Teachers in Songkhla, Thailand

    Nontaporn Kumjun 1

    and Asst. Prof. Dr. Chonlada Laohawiriyanon 2

    1. Department of Languages and Linguistics Faculty of Liberal Arts Prince of Songkla University Hat

    Yai, Songkhla, Thailand

    2. Department of Languages and Linguistics Faculty of Liberal Arts Prince of Songkla University Hat

    Yai, Songkhla, Thailand

    Abstract

    The purposes of the study were to investigate the teaching techniques of listening -

    speaking English skills, and problems in teaching listening - speaking English skills with

    Grade 3 students. The subjects in this study, selected by a purposive sampling technique,

    were six English teachers who taught in Grade 3 in five elementary schools in a district of

    Songkhla province in 2011. Among these, three teachers obtained a Bachelor’s degree with

    English as their major or minor subjects; the other three majored in Technology education,

    Tourism and Chinese. Their age ranged from 23 to 48 years old. Data collection was obtained

    from classroom observations and a questionnaire. The observation ranged from three to five

    occasions, depending on the number of hours assigned to cover one teaching unit.

    The results from the questionnaire demonstrated that five subjects had approximately

    one to two years of teaching English to Grade three students; only one subject had five-year

    experience. The majority (four subjects) had never attended any training due to

    administrative problems. As a result, they had to interpret the national curriculum themselves

    and write their own lesson plans. They reported that they did not encounter any problems

    concerning teaching English listening and speaking skills. The observation results revealed

    the opposite picture. In that, most teachers used Thai in class mainly to teach listening and

    speaking to their students, even using CD-ROMS to introduce the lessons. They relied their

    teaching on prescribed commercial course books. The most frequently used technique was to

    read conversations aloud and the students repeated after the teachers. The students, then,

    were asked to do exercises in the course books, for example, matching words with picture,

    filling appropriate words in conversations, drawing pictures and coloring in. Interestingly

    enough, there was one subject who used distant-learning TV program to teach his class. He

    only monitored the students to follow the lessons on the TV. The lessons emphasized

    listening and speaking skills and were very well made. The students, however, did not benefit

    much from merely watching the TV programs due to the lack of feedback from a human

    teacher. As for the quality of English pronunciation, the non-English-majored teachers had

    better pronunciation than the subjects with an English major degree.

  • Proceedings-Teaching Techniques-006 2 4th International Conference on Humanities and Social Sciences

    April 21st , 2012 Faculty of Liberal Arts, Prince of Songkla University

    1. Background and Rationale

    Thailand has acknowledged the importance of English and thus commenced

    its English language teaching since 1999 (Thongsri, 2005) during which English served as a

    foreign language. It was not until the most recent curriculum reform in 2008 in the wake of

    several curriculum reforms by the Ministry of Education that the status of English was

    changed to an international language. Since then, all the educational institutions offering

    basic education have been required to adopt new frameworks and prescribed directions for

    their course/curricula arrangements in order to equip Thai students with English and essential

    skills for survival in the society or for further study.

    The most current English curricula aim to provide the preparatory level

    graduates (Grades 1-3) with English communication skills on the topics related to

    themselves, namely families, schools, environments, foods, drinks, and leisure and

    recreational activities using a range of around 300-450 words. However, despite the

    continuous curriculum and teaching practice reforms, Thai primary students have not been

    able to meet such a goal of the curriculum. Their English learning achievements have always

    been low. For instance, according to the Ordinary National Education Test (O-NET) in

    English in the academic year 2009, primary six students in Songkla Province had as low as an

    average score of 28.79 out of 100. When compared with other subjects, the English scores

    were the lowest (National Institute of Educational Testing Service; 2010). Such low scores

    spur the question of what the root of this problem is. Is it the curriculum itself or other factors

    that contribute to the unsuccessful English teaching and learning?

    Duangporn Noopong (2002), in her study on the problems contributing to

    failure in English teaching and learning, identified fives problems: 1. students themselves

    having insufficient English background knowledge, 2. the lack of teaching support including

    insufficient native speaker English teachers and the lack of fund for teachers to arrange

    extracurricular activities, 3. the lack of expert guidance for curriculum implementation and

    impractical teaching activities, 4. the lack of knowledge and ability to construct tests and to

    understand test analysis and types of language tests, 5. teachers lacking teaching experience

    and knowledge. Her findings have been partially attested in a study by the Ministry of

    Education (2010) which asked teachers to rate their own abilities. It was found that 51.91

    percent of the teachers were unsatisfied with their own English proficiency. Furthermore,

  • Proceedings-Teaching Techniques-006 3 4th International Conference on Humanities and Social Sciences

    April 21st , 2012 Faculty of Liberal Arts, Prince of Songkla University

    Wichit Srisa-aan (2010) mentioned during a roundtable discussion on problems arising from

    teachers held as part of an academic cooperation between Thailand and the U.S. ---that the

    teachers were not only insufficient in terms of quality but also in terms of quantity. A number

    of teachers taught subjects outside their areas of specialization. As a result, they possessed

    insufficient knowledge in the subjects and failed when being assessed on the teacher quality.

    This previously reported problem coincides with the research on the lack of quality teachers

    by Pruet Siribanphitak (2005) who collected data from 24,206 primary and secondary level

    teachers under the Office of the Basic Education Commission of Thailand in 115 educational

    regions. He found that firstly, 20 percent of teachers in public schools and 17 percent in

    private schools taught subjects outside their specialization and secondly, a large number of

    teachers had low English proficiency so when it came to English teaching, speaking and

    pronunciation, they had no confidence as they thought that they were neither native speakers

    nor English major graduates.

    Therefore, various factors seem to be responsible for the failure in English

    teaching and learning. However, the most urgent problems that need to be solved are those

    arising from teachers themselves because they are vital determining factors in the success of

    curriculum implementation. Since the primary level is an important academic foundation, the

    quality of teachers teaching at this level certainly has effects on the students. Although the

    curriculum or teaching practices are revised, such efforts are futile if the teachers do not

    understand such changes. Apart from this, English teaching should begin with listening skills

    as they are widely used and the learners must first understand spoken messages before they

    can respond to them verbally followed by reading and writing. Listening skills thus are the

    important foundation on which other skills are built. Paul (2004: 71) argues that the most

    important thing in teaching English to children was to have them listen to English with a

    difficulty suitable for their proficiency level as much as possible. Primary teachers must

    provide teaching and learning arrangements suitable for the age of students. And since the

    primary level is an important foundation for further study in the higher levels, primary

    students must be equipped with the right knowledge. Unfortunately, in spite of the

    significance of primary teachers, there is a relatively scarce amount of qualitative research to

    date which studies the English learning and teaching arrangements of junior primary teachers

    focusing on listening and speaking skills as targeted in the curriculum set forth by the

    Ministry of Education. In particular, English-majored or -minored primary teachers and non-

  • Proceedings-Teaching Techniques-006 4 4th Internat