Using Direct Method Teaching and A Designed Board Game to Motivate and Improve Young Learners’ Pronunciation and Recognition of Short and Long Vowel Sounds
Teaching young learners to read English is challenging as the letters represent different sounds depending on how and where they are used. The association between sounds and spelling is a difficult concept to grasp at first.Learners need to understand that certain letter combinations can make a vowel short or long (such as “sit” and “site”) and that different spelling variations can end up making the exact same sound (such as “low” and “boat”).Thus, the development of vowel sound recognition plays an important role in building up learners’ reading skills and at the same time helps with their spelling, speech and comprehension. Teaching pronunciation is thus a significant part of English language lessons. It is considered essential that pronunciation activities be incorporated into EFL classes through the use of different materials and tests (Pourhosein Gilakjani, 2012). It is therefore necessary and beneficial to devise and experimentally deploy a variety of teaching methods aimed at teaching pronunciation. Direct Method (DM) teaching encourages young learners to associate meaning and the target language directly without the help of the learners’ mother tongue. This association is most often presented through the use of pictures or pantomime. DM was initially advocated by M Francois Gouin. The impetus for this research thus emerged from the background and considerations mentioned above. The specific purpose was to examine whether DM teaching could be effectively used to help develop young learners’ recognition and understanding of vowel sounds. 20 young learners in 5thgrade, aged 10 to 11 years in an Elementary school in central Taiwan took part in the research. They were taught using DM teaching for 80-min per week, for a total of 5 weeksand the last two weeks a designed board game called “Spot the Image“ was used in the classroom. Both qualitative and quantitative data research tools were used.Observation sheets, questionnaires, interviews, and document analysis were used to collect the data and assess the outcomes. The questionnaires were given out at the end of the entire teaching period. The observation sheets were used to monitor learner and teacher activities during the teaching learning process. The interviews were conducted at the end of the process. Based on the collected data, the researcher concluded that the use of DM teaching did help learners in the pronunciation learning process and at the same time appeared to significantly improve their motivation for learning. The learners’ expressed the views that playing the board game was interesting and effective. Further they commented that they felt their anxiety levels in the language classroom, related to peer pressure, decreased. It stimulated them to be more active and engaged in learning and they were able to retain new words more easily and fix pronunciation mistakes.
Keywords - Direct Method (DM), Board Game, EFL Learners, Vowel Sounds.