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A study of english vocabulary learning strategies of 12th graders at nguyen tat thanh high school in hanoi, vietnam

VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POSTGRADUATE STUDIES

PHAN DIỄM MY

A study of English vocabulary learning
strategies of 12th graders at Nguyen Tat
Thanh high school in Hanoi, Vietnam
(Nghiên cứu về những chiến lược học từ vựng
tiếng Anh của học sinh lớp 12 trường THPT
Nguyễn Tất Thành, Hà Nội)

A Master Thesis

Field: English Teaching Methodology
Code: 60140111

Hanoi, 2017



VIETNAM NATIONAL UNIVERSITY, HANOI
UNIVERSITY OF LANGUAGES AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
FACULTY OF POSTGRADUATE STUDIES

PHAN DIỄM MY

A study of English vocabulary learning
strategies of 12th graders at Nguyen Tat
Thanh high school in Hanoi, Vietnam
(Nghiên cứu về những chiến lược học từ vựng
tiếng Anh của học sinh lớp 12 trường THPT
Nguyễn Tất Thành, Hà Nội)
A Master Thesis

Field: English Teaching Methodology
Supervisor: Assoc.Prof. Nguyễn Văn Trào, PhD
Code: 60140111

Hanoi, 2017


DECLARATION
I declare that the thesis submitted for the Master of English degree at
University of Languages and International studies is an undertaken work of my
own research and has not been previously submitted at any other universities for
any degrees. Contributions of other researchers involved is made to indicate this
clearly, with due reference to the literature, and acknowledgement of
collaborative research and discussion. This work was under the supervision and
advice of Assoc.Prof. Nguyen Van Trao, PhD, at University of Languages and
International studies.
Hanoi, November 2016

Phan Diem My

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS
The completion of this undertaking is a great thank to the participation and
assistance of numerous people whose names may not all be enumerated, but


contributions are sincerely appreciated and gratefully acknowledged.
First of all, I would like to express my deep appreciation and indebtedness
particularly to Assoc.Prof. Nguyen Van Trao, PhD, my supervisor, whose
expertise, endless support, kind and understanding spirit during my dissertation
made it possible for me to work on a topic that was of great interest to me, for
finding out time to reply to my emails, for being ever so kind to show interest in
my research and for giving his precious advice regarding the topic of my
research. It is my pleasure working with him.
I also appreciate the authority of University of the Languages and
International Studies in general and Faculty of Postgraduate Studies indeed for
giving me their permission and required samples to carry out the research in the
university library.
I would like to express my gratitude to all my lecturers who put their faith in
me and urged me to do better.
I am thankful to Nguyen Tat Thanh high school‘s teachers and students for
their strong kindness and support during my data collection of the research.
I am highly indebted to my mom, to all my relatives, friends and others who
in one way or another shared their support, either morally, financially and
physically, and gave me a lot of encouragement for keeping up with this task.

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Abstract
This study investigated the English vocabulary learning strategy use by 100
students with different levels (50 from talented classes and 50 from other
classes) enrolled at Nguyen Tat Thanh High School in Hanoi, directly under
Vietnam National University of Education. The study found a curvilinear
relationship between strategy use and English proficiency which means the high
achievers (subjects with higher proficiency than the others) prefer using more
grouping strategy to consolidate new words and have their own management
and planning strategies to work well. The remaining gaps between almost
subjects‘ strong perception about the usefulness level of several strategies and
their factual implementation are due to the common issue from a large number
of Vietnamese students called ―verbal passiveness‖ and the ―afraid-of-makingmistakes‖ learning style culture. Hence, more vocabulary learning strategies
should be introduced to learners and strategy training is essential for learning.
Choosing their own learning strategies according to their characteristics such as
proficiency and learning style may be beneficial for learners. It is high time for
both learners and teachers to be mindful of the quality or depth of the learned
vocabulary for the sake of achieving basic success in EFL learning, and also
reach a general consensus on the learning goal during designing the course or
curriculum.

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TABLE OF CONTENT
DECLARATION ................................................................................................... i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .................................................................................. ii
Abstract ................................................................................................................ iii
TABLE OF CONTENT ....................................................................................... iv
PART A: INTRODUCTION ................................................................................ 1
1.

RATIONALE OF THE STUDY ................................................................. 1

2. AIMS OF THE STUDY.................................................................................... 2
3. THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS ...................................................................... 2
4. SCOPE OF THE STUDY ................................................................................. 3
5. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY .................................................................. 3
6. DESIGN OF THE STUDY ............................................................................... 3
7. DEFINITION OF TERMS (OR KEY CONSTRUCTS) .................................. 3
PART B: DEVELOPMENT ................................................................................. 6
CHAPTER 1:......................................................................................................... 6
LITERATURE REVIEW...................................................................................... 6
1. Theoretical background ..................................................................................... 6
1.1. Background of vocabulary learning strategies .......................................... 6
1.2. Taxonomy of language learning strategies ................................................ 7
1.2.1. Stern's (1992) Classification of Language Learning Strategies ......... 7
1.2.2. Schmitt’s classification of vocabulary learning strategies ................. 8
2. Practical backgrounds ....................................................................................... 9
2.1. Students’ understanding and performance in their English vocabulary
learning ............................................................................................................. 9
2.2. High achievers’ opinions on vocabulary learning................................... 10
2.3. Teachers’ performance in their English vocabulary teaching ................ 10
3. Review of the previous studies ....................................................................... 11
3.1. Carlo’s research (2004) ........................................................................... 11
3.2. Francis’s research (2015) ........................................................................ 11
3.3. Zheng’s research (2012) .......................................................................... 12
3.4. Kim (2014)................................................................................................ 12
3.5. According to Decarrico (2001). ............................................................... 12
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3.6. Nguyen‘s research (2015) ........................................................................ 12
CHAPTER 2:....................................................................................................... 13
METHODOLOGY .............................................................................................. 13
1. Research questions restated............................................................................. 13
2. Research method ............................................................................................. 13
3. Setting of the Study ......................................................................................... 14
3.1. Teaching and learning condition ............................................................. 14
3.2. Participants of the study........................................................................... 14
3.2.1. Teachers ............................................................................................ 14
3.2.2. Students ............................................................................................. 14
4. Data collection instruments and procedures ................................................... 15
4.1. Vocabulary learning strategies questionnaires ....................................... 15
4.2. Think-aloud vocabulary task .................................................................... 16
4.3. Semi-structured interview ........................................................................ 16
5. Data analysis procedures ................................................................................. 16
CHAPTER 3:....................................................................................................... 17
FINDINGS AND DISCUSSION ........................................................................ 17
1. Students‘ understanding of vocabulary learning ............................................. 17
2. Students‘ practices in their English vocabulary learning ................................ 18
3. Teachers‘ practices in their English vocabulary teaching ............................... 19
4. Students‘ vocabulary learning strategies......................................................... 20
4.1. The most-used discovery strategies by the twelfth-form students (Table
4.1)................................................................................................................... 20
4.2. The most-used discovery strategies by the high achievers ...................... 21
4.3. The most-used consolidation strategies by the twelfth-form students ..... 22
4.4. The most-used consolidation strategies by the high achievers ................ 23
5. Students‘ perceptions of the usefulness of the strategies ................................ 24
5.1. The most useful discovery strategies perceived by the twelfth-form
students ............................................................................................................ 24
5.2. The most useful discovery strategies perceived by the high achievers .... 25
5.3. The most useful consolidation strategies perceived by the twelfth-form
students ............................................................................................................ 26
5.4. The most useful consolidation strategies perceived by the high achievers
......................................................................................................................... 27
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6. Think-aloud protocols by the high achievers .................................................. 28
6.1. Guessing from context .............................................................................. 28
6.2. Use of dictionaries ................................................................................... 31
7. High achievers‘ opinions about vocabulary learning ...................................... 32
7.1. Importance of vocabulary learning.......................................................... 32
7.2. What “knowing a word” means to the high achievers ............................ 32
7.2.1. Word meaning ................................................................................... 32
7.2.2. Spelling and pronunciation ............................................................... 33
7.3. Lack of time on vocabulary learning ....................................................... 33
PART C: CONCLUSION AND IMPLICATIONS ............................................ 34
1. Summary of major findings ............................................................................ 34
2. Concluding remarks and Recommendations................................................... 35
3. Limitations of the study .................................................................................. 40
4. Suggestions for further researches .................................................................. 40
REFERENCES .................................................................................................... 42
APPENDICES ..................................................................................................... 44

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PART A: INTRODUCTION
1.

RATIONALE OF THE STUDY
Some countries use English as the mother tongue and other countries learn it as second

language in their schools; hence, undoubtedly, English constitutes the language of
communication among people from different cultures. Moreover, English is also used as the
language of science, technology and computers that helps to integrate people around the
world via Internet technology and emails. Therefore, mastering a foreign language especially
English is becoming strongly needed.
In reality, studying a language is inseparable from studying vocabulary because of the
fact that the vocabulary as the focus of language is in words that sound and meaning interlock
to help us communicate with one another and arrange together to make sentences,
conversations, and discourse of all kinds. Obviously, vocabulary is really important in every
language skill as well as any language learning.
However, to study perfect English vocabulary is not easy. In fact, students have difficulty
in memorizing a new word with its meaning, spelling and pronunciation or often being
confused with knowing how can apply grammar into sentences. Moreover, day-by-day
traditional teaching methods and similar activities make students become fed up with learning
English; therefore, it is necessary to apply interesting techniques to teach English for the sake
of fostering students to learn English vocabulary better.
The meaning variables are regarded as their biggest problem learners encounter in
learning to use new words because each word contains more than one meaning while each of
their meaning is included in the membership of an inter-related system; hence, it is highly
required to reach the thorough knowledge of words for understanding the meaning of words
and how to use them correctly. For instance, if a speaker chooses to use one new word, the
need is assigning the right meaning to the right word in the appropriate context but not in the
surface positioning of the words nor their wide range of meaning.
Besides, sometimes negative interference in foreign language learning process is caused
by mother tongue features due to learners accustomed to the rules and the ways of using
mother tongue. Moreover, the high influence of large class size and the lack of foreign
language environment also generate many obstacles on the teaching method and learning
style. Often, new words in lessons and their related exercises are provided for students as a
list of meanings or mostly but on non-context sentences; as a consequence, no idea of the

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subtle social or cultural information that each new word provided conveys can be successfully
transmitted to students.
Learning a second language involves the manipulation of four main skills: listening,
speaking, reading and writing. One crucial factor embedded in all four skills that helps the
success of the second language acquisition is the vocabulary enrichment. Very few empirical
research have been carried out exclusively to investigate learning strategies which pupils need
employ for dealing with learning foreign language vocabulary. An English Vocabulary Lists
for high schools strongly needs to be developed to raise students‘ awareness of how words
are formed and related to each other, such as synonyms, antonyms, collocations and idiomatic
uses of words; whereas the vocabulary teaching and learning introduction as a discrete topic
still remain rare in Nguyen Tat Thanh High School.
From the above reasons, investigating students‘ vocabulary learning strategies and also
presenting some effective techniques to teach English vocabulary in high schools are my
ambition in order that students can improve their English vocabulary learning. Despite my
knowledge limitation and the frame of the graduation paper, the research paper entitled ―A
study of English vocabulary learning strategies of 12th graders at Nguyen Tat Thanh High
School in Hanoi, Vietnam‖ was conducted with my entire best endeavor.
2. AIMS OF THE STUDY
The study investigates the Nguyen Tat Thanh High School pupils‘ perceptions and their
actual use of learning English vocabulary strategies in their vocabulary learning. Specifically,
this study aims to:
- investigate the pupils‘ opinions on learning English vocabulary and their actual
vocabulary learning;
- identify if there is a significant difference between the use of the strategies by the
high achievers and other participants in the study; and
- suggest some implications for English vocabulary teaching and learning.
3. THE RESEARCH QUESTIONS
The study is conducted to answer the following questions:
(1) Which discovery strategies and consolidation strategies do the twelfth form pupils and
the high achievers use most frequently?
(2) Which discovery strategies and consolidation strategies do the twelfth form pupils and
the high achievers perceive as most useful?
(3) Is there a significant difference between the use of strategies by high achievers and
other participants in the study?

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(4) How do the high achievers in Nguyen Tat Thanh High School perceive vocabulary
learning?
4. SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The

aim of the study is

to

investigate

Discovery Strategies and Consolidation

Strategies most frequently used by the English learners as well as the perceptions of these
strategies‘

usefulness.

Furthermore, the features and behaviours of high achievers are

examined by means of a think-aloud task and semi-structured interview. Finally, the study
would give teachers the mutual understanding about the vocabulary acquisition among the
learners so that teachers could make adjustments or enhancements to vocabulary teaching
as well as strategy training.
5. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
As seen, one of the most difficulties in reading is caused by vocabulary; so the study is
formed to fill this gap and undertake a preliminary exploratory investigation designed to
examine types of strategies which pupils employ in order to obtain new vocabulary items
based on questionnaires and oral interviews.
The Nguyen-Tat-Thanh-high-school pupils‘ perceptions and their actual use of learning
English vocabulary strategies are clearly viewed, hence to improve their vocabulary size and
enrich words already known.
A significant difference between the use of strategies by high achievers and other
participants will be seen in the study.
6. DESIGN OF THE STUDY
The study includes five chapters:
The introductory chapter: Introduction, represents rationale of the study, aims of the study,
scope of the study, significance of the study, research questions and overview of the thesis.
Chapter 1: Literature review, presents a review of literature, concentrating on the issues
relates vocabulary learning strategies and perceptions.
Chapter 2: Methodology, describes the methodology employed in the study, the data
collection instruments, the subjects, and the data collection procedures.
Chapter 3: Findings and Discussion, presents the results and give some discussions of the
results.
The conclusion chapter: Conclusion and Implications, summarizes the findings, shows the
limitations, gives recommendations and makes suggestions for further research.
7. DEFINITION OF TERMS (OR KEY CONSTRUCTS)
1. High achievers (n): Students who have high achievements in English study

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2. Manipulation (n): Use and handling
3. Language acquisition (n): an asset or object bought or obtained in language learning
4. Vocabulary enrichment (n): Action which helps expand vocabulary size
5. Synonym (n): a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly the same as another word
or phrase in the same language
6. Antonym (n): a word or phrase that means exactly or nearly opposite to another word
or phrase in the same language
7. Collocation (n): the habitual juxtaposition of a particular word with another word or
words with a frequency greater than chance
8. Idiom (n): a phrase or a fixed expression that has a figurative or sometimes literal
meaning. An idiom's figurative meaning is different from the literal meaning.
9. Discovery Strategies (n): methods to discover new words‘ meaning
10. Consolidation Strategies (n): methods to consolidate new words‘ meaning
11. Think-aloud task (n): a method used to gather data in usability testing in product
design and development, in psychology and a range of social sciences (e.g., reading, writing,
translation research, decision making, and process tracing)
12. Semi-structured interview (n): a method of research used in the social sciences. While
a structured interview has a rigorous set of questions which does not allow one to divert, a
semi-structured interview is open, allowing new ideas to be brought up during the interview
as a result of what the interviewee says.
13. Perception (n): the organization, identification, and interpretation of sensory
information in order to represent and understand the environment
14. Comprehension (n): ability to understand—usage
15. Text genres (n): a type of written or spoken discourse
16. First-hand documentation (n): an original document
17. Historical accounts (n): things of or relating to history; concerned with past events
18. Fiction (n): any narrative or descriptive content that is derived from imagination, in
addition to, or rather than from, history or fact
19. Semantic (adj): be related to the study of meaning
20. Affixes (n): morphemes attached to a word stem to form a new word
21. Cognates (n): words that have a common etymological origin
22. Morphological relationships (n): relationships relevant to morphology linguistics
23. Efficacy (n): the capacity for beneficial change (or therapeutic effect) of a given
intervention, most commonly used in the practice of medicine and pharmacology

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24. ELT settings (n): English Language Teaching settings
25. Metaphorical competence (n): A Language Learning Strength of. Students with a
Holistic Cognitive Style
26. Autonomy (n): Self-government; freedom to act or function independently
27. Follow-through (n): activity to carry through to complete a task; to see a task through
to its completion
28. Taxonomy (n): the practice and science of classification of things or concepts,
including the principles that underlie such classification
29. Bilingual (adj): be able to speak two languages with the facility of a native speaker
30. Retrieval (n): 1.The process of accessing information from memory or other storage
devices. 2. The possibility of being retrieved or restored

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PART B: DEVELOPMENT
CHAPTER 1:
LITERATURE REVIEW
1. Theoretical background
1.1. Background of vocabulary learning strategies
Besides mind to think, verbal language or speaking differentiates human from animals. A
child to first acquire speech is learning new words as well as the adult speaker with largest
vocabulary has the best command of English. So, what is vocabulary? A vocabulary is
defined as ―all the words known and used by a particular person‖ and ―all the words which
exist in a particular language or subject‖ (Cambridge Advanced Learners Dictionary).
In other words, vocabulary constitutes the knowledge of words and word meanings. More
complex, words are divided into two forms called oral and print. Oral vocabulary helps us
recognize and use in listening and speaking; whereas print vocabulary is relevant to reading
and writing. Second, there are two forms of word knowledge called receptive and productive.
Receptive vocabulary supports us to recognize when we hear or see them; while productive
vocabulary is to use when we speak or write. Receptive vocabulary, which is typically larger
than productive vocabulary may have some meanings, even sometimes we do not know their
full definitions and connotations – or ever use them ourselves as we speak and write (Kamil &
Hiebert, in press).
Besides, as a component of language, vocabulary maintains all of information about
meaning and using word in language (Kridalaksana, 1993, p. 27) and also be one of the
important factors in learning English besides sound system, grammar and culture. Serving as a
useful and fundamental tool for communication, vocabulary usually grows, evolves with age
and determines one‘s cultural literacy, which all becomes very vital to his/her own success in
the world.
The term ―strategy‖ originated from the military field refers to carefully designed plans
for military operations, which has been taken on a new meaning and has been transformed
into learning strategies if applied for a non-military setting like school study. Language
learning strategies are defined as ―…strategies that contribute to the development of the
language system which the learner constructs and (which) affect learning directly‖ (Rubin,
1987, p.23). Therefore, learning strategies determine the approach for achieving the learning

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objectives and include in the pre-instructional activities, testing and follow-through, help
learners‘ study more efficient and increase their self-directed learning.
1.2. Taxonomy of language learning strategies
Table A: Defining language learning strategies (Wenden & Rubin, 1987, p.32)
Authors

What are LLS?

What are LLS for?

Rubin

Techniques or devices

To acquire knowledge.

Bailystok

Methods/

To

conscious

enterprises

exploit

available

information to increase the
proficiency of L2.

Cohen

Mental operations

To accomplish learning
tasks.

Rubin

Set of operations, steps,
plans, routines

To

facilitate

the

obtaining, storage, retrieval
& use of information, to
regulate learning.

Wenden

Learning behaviors

To learn and regulate

Strategic knowledge
Knowledge

learning on L2.

about

learning
O‘Malley & Chamot

Special

thoughts

behaviors

or

To help comprehend,
learn

or

retain

new

information.
Oxford

Specific actions

To
easier,

make
faster,

enjoyable,

learning
more

self-directed,

effective and transferable to
new situations.
1.2.1. Stern's (1992) Classification of Language Learning Strategies
According to Stern (1992, p.262), there are five main language learning strategies which
can be presented as follows:
A. Management and Planning Strategies

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The learner's intention to direct his own learning is related. A learner helped by a teacher
whose role is an adviser and resource person could manage the development of his own
programme. The learner must "decide what commitment to make to language learning set
himself reasonable goals decide on an appropriate methodology, select appropriate resources,
and monitor progress, evaluate his achievement in the light of previously determined goals
and expectations‖.
B. Cognitive Strategies
Steps used in learning or problem solving require direct analysis, transformation, or
synthesis of learning materials, included Clarification/Verification, Guessing/Inductive
Inferencing, Deductive Reasoning, Practice, Memorization, Monitoring
C. Communicative-Experiential Strategies
Circumlocution, gesturing, paraphrase, or asking for repetition and explanation are used
by learners to keep a conversation going. They aim to avoid interrupting the flow of
communication.
D. Interpersonal Strategies
Their own development and their own performance should be monitored and evaluated.
Contacting with native speakers and cooperating with them are good ideas to do well in order
to become acquainted with the target culture.
E. Affective Strategies
Good language learners clearly employ distinct affective strategies because language
learning can be frustrating in some cases, which the feeling of strangeness can be evoked by
the foreign language; or L2 learners may have negative feelings about native speakers of L2.
Good language learners, either more or less conscious of these emotional problems, will try to
create associations of positive affect towards the foreign language and its speakers as well as
towards the learning activities involved. So learning training can have great effects on helping
students to face up the emotional difficulties and to overcome them by drawing attention to
the potential frustrations or pointing them out as they arise.
1.2.2. Schmitt’s classification of vocabulary learning strategies
Schmitt (1993) separates into two groups which include: (i) Discovery Strategies and (ii)
Consolidation Strategies.
Learners must discover its meaning by guessing from their structural knowledge of the
language, guessing from an L1 cognate, guessing from context, using reference materials, or
asking others, in which Determination Strategies facilitate gaining knowledge of a new word
from the first four options for learners to be able to discern the new word's part of speech in
the guessing process.

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Guessing an unknown word's meaning from context has been seen to fit in more
comfortably with the communicative approach; nevertheless, it commonly refers to inferring a
word's meaning from the surrounding words in a written text. First, it highly requires the
learner to have a certain level of language proficiency in order to use this strategy, including
the ability to accurately decode the orthographical form of new words and also have adequate
background knowledge of the subject and the strategic knowledge of how to effectively go
through the inferencing process. In addition, the context itself is considered rich enough with
clues to enable guessing, with the most easily utilizable clues being in close proximity to the
target word.
A second way to discover a new meaning is the Social Strategy of asking someone who
knows, particularly teachers (often in this position), who can be asked to give help in a variety
of ways: giving the L1 translation, a synonym, a definition by paraphrase or using the new
word in a sentence, or any combination of these. The advantage of L1 translations is being
fast, easily understood by students, and possible to the transfer of all the knowledge
(collocations, associations, etc.) onto the L2 equivalent; however, the disadvantages remain
that the teacher must know learners' mother tongue and most translation pairs tend to be not
exact equivalents.
Grouping plays an important role in recalling, but learners often organize words into
groups naturally without prompting. Learners can learn new words by studying them with
pictures of their meaning instead of definitions. Alternatively, learners can create their own
mental images of a word's meaning which is seen more effective than mere repetition for
reading passages.
The present study implements the theory given by Schmitt (1993) as the mainstreaming
model during research and analysis schedules.
2. Practical backgrounds
2.1. Students’ understanding and performance in their English vocabulary learning
Most students believe that vocabulary plays a very important role in language learning.
The students have the idea to learn vocabulary because they know in order to acquire
vocabulary; they have to learn the basics, e.g. pronunciation, spelling, and meanings of the
words. The traditional methods are favored by most students such as learning vocabulary by
reading repeatedly, learning vocabulary by writing automatically, learning vocabulary by
analyzing affixes and roots, learning vocabulary by association, learning vocabulary by
keeping word cards with pictures, photographs, objects, etc. Despite those methods being easy
to handle, most of them are considered to be not effective and systematic because of the fact
that the students usually learn vocabulary one by one according to the word list. Some
methods, such as learning vocabulary by association and keeping word cards seem to be time-

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consuming; therefore, better methods are strongly needed to help them learn the vocabulary
systematically.
2.2. High achievers’ opinions on vocabulary learning
High achievers recognize the importance of vocabulary learning. ‗Knowing a word‘
defines as knowing the semantic value of a word and many of the different meanings
associated with a word. Remembering a corresponding Vietnamese equivalent perhaps seems
to be ineffective and unnecessary because of the unequivalence between the first and second
languages. Most of the learners opt for monolingual dictionary when facing with a new word
or confirmed meaning.
2.3. Teachers’ performance in their English vocabulary teaching
The important position of traditional teaching methods is still clearly seen in English
vocabulary teaching. Many teachers are not optimistic about the efficiency in their vocabulary
teaching. As for the teaching practice, some techniques are applied to help the students to
learn new vocabulary by teachers, such as: guessing from contexts, using word parts, using
word cards, learning vocabulary through reading, listening and speaking, etc. Sometimes,
word collocations, different meanings of an item, grammar-related words and affixes, etc. are
also taught. Despite all these helpful techniques, the words are only dealt with in an isolated
manner; hence, some more effective methods are strongly essential to stimulate the students‘
interests in learning the vocabulary. The learners definitely feel boring with explaining the
words one by one and learning words by memorizing the word list alone, and hence would
lose interests in vocabulary learning after a while. The efficiency of vocabulary
teaching/learning could not be fulfilled without adequate methods and interests. So the
urgently existing problem is a better teaching method needed to effectively enlarge the
learners‘ vocabulary and enhance the learners‘ understanding of the lexical meanings for the
sake of improving the efficiency of English vocabulary teaching and learning in the class.
Teachers tend to build up their own curriculum based on the content of the lesson, the
students‘ level, the grammatical items they want to teach to find a suitable method in order to
achieve the best results.
Techniques for presentation


Presenting the new-word structures through contextualization

Either real or simulated situations have been used by teachers to make learning activity
more effective and the students more motivated by means of contextualization in the teaching
of new words; also, the full use of real situations in the classroom is often made and combined
with the appropriate facial expression and actions to make the lesson more interesting and the
meaning of the items clearer.


Presenting the new-word structures through dialogues

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Reading and doing role plays in dialogues are usual activities that students prefer owing
to good results these activities can bring about. By presenting new words and their equivalent
structures through dialogues, teachers could save much more time creating situations because
of dialogues themselves being very clear in such situations. Besides, some new structures
introduced and clearly presented may be met by students to have knowledge.


Presenting the new words and their equivalent structures through visual aids

According to Adrian Doff, showing directly by using things seen such as objects, the
classroom, the students themselves and pictures constitutes the simplest way and clearest way
to present a structure; particularly, in the class, visual aids could be shown at any stage of the
lesson because of good visual aids not just used once but again and again.


Presenting the modal auxiliary verbs and their equivalent structures through examples

It is so effective when using examples in presenting new words and their equivalent
structures. Either inductive method or deductive method can be provided to achieve good
results. As illustrated, a series of examples of the structures are given to students to draw out
the rules for themselves. On the other hand, the rules with examples will be clearly explained
by teachers so that students study and finally make up sentences with the help of the teachers,
which all helps students to have chances to use the language.
3. Review of the previous studies
3.1. Carlo’s research (2004)
Carlo (2004) aimed to establish the vocabulary learning strategies applied during English
lessons and outcomes in learning English. A 15-week intervention was designed to build up
breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension in 254 bilingual and
native English-speaking pupils from nine 5th-grade classrooms in four schools in California,
Virginia and Massachusettes. Shared book readings of a variety of text genres, including
newspaper articles, diaries, first-hand documentation of the immigrant experience, historical
accounts and fiction are provided for each weekly lesson. Words are considered best learned
from rich semantic contexts; because of the fact that activities helped children make semantic
links to other words and concepts and thus to attain a deeper and richer understanding of each
word‘s meaning, to infer meanings from context and to use roots, affixes, cognates,
morphological relationships and comprehension monitoring.
3.2. Francis’s research (2015)
Francis aimed to examine the efficacy of incorporation instructional practices associated
with improved outcomes into middle-school social studies instruction in the same central
Texas school districts as a means of improving vocabulary knowledge and comprehension for
ELLs. It includes (a) selecting words to improve students‘ academic language, (b) providing
students with opportunities to encounter new words in texts and video clips. The seventh-

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grade students (381) at both middle schools were randomly assigned to 15 sections of
seventh-grade social studies classrooms at their schools.
3.3. Zheng’s research (2012)
Two questionnaires were designed and directed to more than 100 students and teachers in
one of China‘s key universities to improve vocabulary learning and teaching in ELT settings.
An enhanced awareness of cultural difference, metaphorical competence and learners‘
autonomy in vocabulary acquisition would effectively facilitate the vocabulary learning to
help them overcome their general learning style limitations.
3.4. Kim (2014)
The study was designed to investigate English vocabulary learning troubles that nonnative speakers have in learning English word systems with roots and standard rules for
prefixes and suffixes extending the way these core items are used. A total of 54 student into
two groups took part in the experiment at a private English School in Korea, in which the
study was carried out over 10 weeks with only 10 minutes out of each 50-minute class used
for studying the selected words. The goal was to determine how affixation patterns of English
words are acquired and expanded, hence help students learn English vocabulary much faster
and avoid the need to repeatedly look up words.
3.5. According to Decarrico (2001).
Guessing meaning from context, mnemonic devices, and vocabulary notebooks are
provided to be several typical vocabulary learning strategies. Meanwhile, using mnemonics
(using keyword technique or visual element), word cards/ flashcards, guessing from context,
coping strategies for production, using dictionaries, spelling rules, keeping records, and
motivation are often used by good vocabulary learners (Thornburry, 2002).
3.6. Nguyen’s research (2015)
The study investigates vocabulary learning strategies
which are employed by the second-year students of different learning styles at at School
of Law, VNU as well as gives several possible ways to help students better their vocabulary
learning strategies for fitting their learning styles. The data collection tools were survey
questionnaires and interviews; then the findings were coded and analysed by both quantitative
and qualitative methods. The major findings revealed that most of these students preferred
visual learning style, auditory learning style.

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CHAPTER 2:
METHODOLOGY
1. Research questions restated
The study is conducted to answer the following questions:
(1) Which discovery strategies and consolidation strategies do the twelfth form pupils and
the high achievers use most frequently?
(2) Which discovery strategies and consolidation strategies do the twelfth form pupils and
the high achievers perceive as most useful?
(3) Is there a significant difference between the use of strategies by high achievers and
other participants in the study?
(4) How do the high achievers in Nguyen Tat Thanh High School perceive vocabulary
learning?
2. Research method
In this study, questionnaires, think-aloud tasks and interviews were adopted to achieve
the stated research aims. Using questionnaires helps reduce expense and time involved in
training interviewers and sending them to interview. The questions are designed to be a high
order, concise, meaningful questions and stated in common language. Respondents were
given the same set of questions phrased in exactly the same way; therefore, data covering
large amounts of information can be collected from a large number of people may be
collected and analysed more comparably and objectively in a short period of time and in a
relatively cost effective way than those obtained via an interview. For think-aloud protocols,
participants are required to think aloud when performing a set of specified tasks and asked to
say whatever comes into their mind to complete the task (including what they are looking at,
thinking, doing, and feeling); hence, researchers have insights into the participant's cognitive
processes during task performance.
On the other hand, by interviewing, the interviewer can clarify questions and observe
verbal and non-verbal behaviors of the respondents as well as the informants tend to respond
in any manner they see fit. Indeed, interview is a means of obtaining personal information,
attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs. First, interviewer gives students open-practical questions;
whereas think-aloud protocols are given in writing forms for selected students to follow and
answer. Second, the researcher gathered data by using various sources of data was done to
better understand the scope of happenings in the classroom, then selected the suitable data for
the research issue and organised the data in a logical way to identify trends and themes. Next,
data was interpreted to analyse and identify major themes throughout using different kinds of

13


data from classroom data, individual data to subgroup data. Finally, by assessing the effects of
the intervention, the researcher evaluated the results and decided improvements.
3. Setting of the Study
In reality, the interdependent relationship between teachers, educational materials and
students is clearly seen. All of those are the really-essential factors toward lectures‘ success.
Due to the time limitation, the questionnaires were only conducted in Nguyen Tat Thanh High
School in Hanoi and found their reality. The focus is based on the characteristics of the
teachers and the students as well as the teaching and learning condition in the target school.
3.1. Teaching and learning condition
At Nguyen Tat Thanh High School, the fairly-good teaching and learning condition is
equipped with a system of the blackboards, modern equipment and furniture. In terms of
infrastructures, classroom in general, chairs and tables in specific are quite comfortable and
large enough. Each class is facilitated with illustrations English pictures for studying, which
all prompts the English class atmosphere to be relatively pleasant. However, the only one
poor condition is about inadequate English reference books and teaching aids which pose the
lectures not to attract students‘ attention. Despite this good environment provided to teach
English, my observations suggest that more and more new techniques should be collected and
implemented to teach English effectively and scientifically.
3.2. Participants of the study
3.2.1. Teachers
At Nguyen Tat Thanh High School, quite-young English teachers who all graduated from
colleges and universities or even post-graduates are enthusiastic and have experience in their
work. Before class, their lessons are always prepared carefully and thoroughly but sometimes
by implementing the traditional teaching methods or just using their book and material related
with the lesson. Hence, it is strongly needed to apply interesting teaching aids in lessons,
especially at high schools.
3.2.2. Students
Most of the students performed their activeness and eagerness in English lessons;
however, the traditional teaching methods such as teacher lecturing on the board, and students
writing down words and grammar in their notebook do not work well for students to express
their ability of logic and activeness. So applying newly-effective techniques for teaching
English is definitely necessary.
Questionnaire I was distributed to 100 students (50 from talented classes and 50 from
other classes), while Questionnaire II was handed out to the teachers respectively. In order to
help the subjects to understand the questions, every question and choices in student‘s
questionnaires was dubbed in its Vietnamese translation. The students were required to fulfill

14


the questionnaire in one class hour, while the teachers were expected to finish it in their spare
time of the day. The answer sheets were collected after all subjects had finished them. 100
copies of student questionnaires and 10 copies of teacher questionnaires were sent out,
completed, collected and analyzed.
4. Data collection instruments and procedures
4.1. Vocabulary learning strategies questionnaires
In this study, questionnaires, which consists of a variety of questions of different types
such as multiple choice questions, ranking questions, yes/no questions and open-ended
questions, were used (quantitative method) as a data collection instrument because of the
following reasons. The questionaires on vocabulary learning strategies set up were based on
the referencing process related as well as the overall observation of traditionally and newlyapplied learning methods by students. First, a large amount of information is obtained from a
wide range of individuals. Then, researchers have a chance to find the appropriate answers to
the needed questions. Clearly, questionnaires as one of the most objective means of collecting
data foster students express their own opinions without fear to be embarrassed or punished
and disclose their names when filling in the questionnaires.
This present study used a pre-questionnaire (Question 1 to 7) and a post-questionnaire
(Question 8 to 11). The pre-questionnaire and post-questionnaire were administered to the
teachers and students so as to investigate the teachers and students‘ attitudes towards English
vocabulary teaching and learning. The post-questionnaire has a different format and content
with the pre-questionnaire, which evaluates different vocabulary learning strategies students
use in their study process as well as their perception of effectiveness.
These two sets of the survey questionnaires were conducted to get information about
teaching and learning English vocabulary in Nguyen Tat Thanh High School (one for
students, one for teachers). Teachers and students were asked to choose the most suitable
answers corresponding with their opinion. The questionnaires are designed as below:
For teachers (Questionnaire II): there are 3 questions to find out
Question 1 finds out the techniques or methods are used in teaching vocabulary and their
effectiveness.
Question 2 reveals the teachers‘ attitudes towards the vocabulary teaching.
Question 3 shows the teachers‘ self-evaluation about their vocabulary teaching.
For students (Questionnaire I): there are 11 questions conducted in order to study and the
data collection is separate from talented classes and others.
Question 1 aims to find out the students‘ attitudes towards learning English vocabulary in
particular.
Question 2 investigates the students‘ knowledge relevant to vocabulary learning.

15


Question 3+4 aim to reveal advantages and disadvantages students have when learning
vocabulary.
Question 5 finds out the students‘ general ways in learning the meaning of words.
Questions 6+7 investigate the students‘ feelings and self-evaluation on vocabulary learning
and their effectiveness.
Questions 8+9 are designed to examine vocabulary learning strategies the students often use
in their study process.
Questions 10+11 search the students‘ opinions on the usefulness of these strategies.
4.2. Think-aloud vocabulary task
By applying think-alouds, the researcher could model comprehension processes such as
making predictions, creating images, linking information in text with prior knowledge,
monitoring comprehension, and overcoming problems with word recognition or
comprehension (Gunning, 1996). Students' strengths and weakness can be diagnosed by
teachers. Eight excerpts in written forms are designed to examine guessing ability of the high
achievers in vocabulary learning.
4.3. Semi-structured interview
Semi-structured interviews, which are believed to provide a 'deeper' understanding of
social phenomena than those obtained from purely quantitative methods, such as
questionnaires, not only comprise several key questions for defining the areas to be explored
but also help the interviewer or interviewee in order to pursue an idea or response in more
details. In this study, five questions were used to interview the high achievers.
Question 1 explores the high achievers‘ general knowledge about the meaning of a word.
Questions 2+3 find out the high achievers‘ opinions on the importance of vocabulary learning.
Question 4 investigates their study plans.
Question 5 examines their outside-classroom learning strategies.
5. Data analysis procedures
All the data were collected and analysed using a systematic process of analysis and
interpretation according to the preset criteria. So the result of the analysis can be used to
compare the changes in my own teaching and also my students‘ learning.
Turning back to the investigated classes, after several weeks, these classes were recorded
again. All available information and data were synthesized. The outcomes are considered very
positive. More complex interactions took place during the lessons. There is much greater
involvement and interest in vocabulary improvements expressed by the students, and the
complexity of their language is enhanced.

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