Dạy từ vựng tiếng Anh cho trẻ em ở Việt Nam hiện nay – Dạy gì và dạy như thế nào

Cùng với sự phát triển của phương pháp

dạy ngoại ngữ theo hướng giao tiếp và nhằm đạt được

mục tiêu đề ra trong Quyết định 1400/QĐ-TTg ngày 30

tháng 9 năm 2008 của Thủ tướng Chính phủ về việc

phê duyệt Đề án “Dạy và học Ngoại ngữ trong Hệ

thống Giáo dục Quốc dân, giai đoạn 2008-2020”, việc

dạy tiếng Anh cho trẻ em đã có những bước chuyển

biến đáng kể trong những năm gần đây. Vì vậy, dạy từ

vựng tiếng Anh cho trẻ cũng khác nhiều so với trước.

Bài viết này nhằm mục đích nghiên cứu và tìm ra thực

tế hiện nay giáo viên ở Việt Nam dạy gì liên quan đến

từ vựng và dạy từ vựng như thế nào trong lớp học tiếng

Anh trẻ em. Nghiên cứu cho thấy trẻ em không những

được dạy nghĩa mà còn được dạy hình thức của từ

(cách viết và cách phát âm). Một số đặc điểm ngữ

pháp của từ, ví dụ dạng số nhiều theo quy tắc và bất

quy tắc của danh từ cũng được giới thiệu. Ngoài ra,

nghiên cứu còn cho thấy giáo viên sử dụng những

phương pháp khác nhau để dạy từ vựng cho học sinh,

bao gồm phương pháp sử dụng hình ảnh và nhắc lại,

phương pháp trực tiếp, phương pháp giao tiếp (CLT)

và sử dụng cử chỉ, điệu bộ (TPR) cùng với phương

pháp dịch Anh-Việt truyền thống.

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Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 
143 
DẠY TỪ VỰNG TIẾNG ANH CHO TRẺ EM Ở VIỆT NAM HIỆN NAY 
– DẠY GÌ VÀ DẠY NHƯ THẾ NÀO? 
Hoàng Thanh Liên 
Trường Đại học Hà Nội 
Tóm t
t: Cùng với sự phát triển của phương pháp 
dạy ngoại ngữ theo hướng giao tiếp và nhằm đạt được 
mục tiêu đề ra trong Quyết định 1400/QĐ-TTg ngày 30 
tháng 9 năm 2008 của Thủ tướng Chính phủ về việc 
phê duyệt Đề án “Dạy và học Ngoại ngữ trong Hệ 
thống Giáo dục Quốc dân, giai đoạn 2008-2020”, việc 
dạy tiếng Anh cho trẻ em đã có những bước chuyển 
biến đáng kể trong những năm gần đây. Vì vậy, dạy từ 
vựng tiếng Anh cho trẻ cũng khác nhiều so với trước. 
Bài viết này nhằm mục đích nghiên cứu và tìm ra thực 
tế hiện nay giáo viên ở Việt Nam dạy gì liên quan đến 
từ vựng và dạy từ vựng như thế nào trong lớp học tiếng 
Anh trẻ em. Nghiên cứu cho thấy trẻ em không những 
được dạy nghĩa mà còn được dạy hình thức của từ 
(cách viết và cách phát âm). Một số đặc điểm ngữ 
pháp của từ, ví dụ dạng số nhiều theo quy tắc và bất 
quy tắc của danh từ cũng được giới thiệu. Ngoài ra, 
nghiên cứu còn cho thấy giáo viên sử dụng những 
phương pháp khác nhau để dạy từ vựng cho học sinh, 
bao gồm phương pháp sử dụng hình ảnh và nhắc lại, 
phương pháp trực tiếp, phương pháp giao tiếp (CLT) 
và sử dụng cử chỉ, điệu bộ (TPR) cùng với phương 
pháp dịch Anh-Việt truyền thống. 
Abstract: Being affected by the development of 
Communicative Language Teaching approach and the 
goal stated in Decision 1400/QĐ-TTg dated 30 
September, 2008 of the Prime Minister on the Approval 
of the Project entitled “Teaching and Learning Foreign 
Languages in the National Education System, Period 
2008-2020”, English Language Teaching in young 
learners’ classes in Vietnam has undergone 
considerable changes for the past few years. Teaching 
English vocabulary to young learners is, therefore, 
different compared to that in the past. This paper aims 
at studying what to teach and how to teach vocabulary 
in young learners’ English classes in Vietnam at the 
present time. It is found that the children have been 
taught not only the meaning but also the form of the 
words (spelling and pronunciation). Certain 
grammatical features of them, for example regular and 
irregular plural forms of the nouns and past forms of 
irregular verbs have also been taught. In addition, the 
study reveals that teachers have used various 
techniques in teaching vocabulary to young learners, 
namely visualizing and repeating, direct method, Total 
Physical Response and Communicative Language 
approach along with the traditional method (English – 
Vietnamese translation). 
VOCABULARY TEACHING 
IN YOUNG LEARNERS’ ENGLISH CLASSES 
IN VIETNAM NOWADAYS – THE WHAT AND THE HOW 
INTRODUCTION 
English has been considered an international 
language because it is used in almost all ar eas of 
life, such as education, business, tourism, 
entertainment, and others. English language, thus, 
becomes the first foreign language that has been 
taught in primary schools since the early 1990s in 
many countries in the world. Along with this 
development, the National Foreign Language 
2020 Project of Vietnam which demonstrates the 
goal of the government to build the English 
capacity of its workforce in order to engage in the 
global economy and to compete and develop 
regionally and globally has been approved by the 
Prime Minister of Vietnam on September 30, 2008. 
One of the main objectives of the project is to 
thoroughly renovate English teaching and learning 
throughout the country and to implement a new 
program on teaching and learning English at every 
school level and training degree, so that by the 
Tiu ban 1: Đào to chuyên ng 
144 
year 2020 most Vietnamese graduates from 
vocational schools, colleges and universities will 
be able to well communicate in written and 
spoken English. Teaching English in primary 
schools, therefore, has undergone considerable 
changes. This also leads to an innovation in 
English vocabulary teaching at this school level. 
This study aims at studying what to teach and 
how to teach English vocabulary to young learners 
at primary schools in Vietnam in recent years. The 
paper will cover two parts, namely literature 
review of the study and findings of the research as 
well as discussion of these findings. 
LITERATURE REVIEW 
Young learners 
A young learner can be anybody aged three to 
eighteen. What a three-year-old child can do is 
much different from what a fifteen-year-old one 
can. Their development should be considered, too. 
Some children develop faster while the others 
need more time. It requires the teachers of the 
knowledge of all the development differences of 
the young learners. Understanding these 
differences can help a teacher to develop 
appropriate methods and techniques in their 
teaching for the right age group in general and a 
certain child in particular (Přibilová, 2006). 
Characteristics of young learners 
In this paper, young learners can be understood 
as those aged 6-10, that is the children at primary 
school. According to Přibilová (2006), this age 
group has the following characteristics. Firstly, 
they enjoy playing while learning, so they are able 
to use language skills not even realizing them. 
Second, they love to share experiences and to be 
paid attention to. Thus, they often “teach” each 
other and are able to talk about what they are 
doing. They are also very imaginary and they can 
not tell the difference between facts and fictions. 
It is very important to note that they love to be 
praised for what they have done or learnt. 
However, they only have a certain span of 
attention and often pretend they understand and 
know everything. 
Young learners as language learners 
Children learn a foreign language in a natural 
way like when they learn their mother tongue. 
They also learn more quickly if they are motivated 
by the teacher. They learn by listening and 
repeating, imitating the teacher, doing and 
interacting with each other in a child-friendly 
atmosphere. However, they often feel afraid of 
making mistakes (Moon, 2005). 
It is also proved that “the children need 
opportunities to try out and experiment with 
language, but they also need feedback to confirm 
or modify their hypotheses” (Moon, 2005, p. 5). 
From the above characteristics of the children 
themselves and the children as language learners, 
it is important to note that the teachers definitely 
have to be sensitive to the needs of the children 
and have to plan the lessons well, using the 
appropriate way of teaching. 
Vocabulary - Importance of learning 
vocabulary 
“Without grammar very little can be conveyed, 
without vocabulary nothing can be conveyed.” 
David Wilkins, linguist 
Vocabulary plays an essential role in 
expressing ideas and thoughts. Widdowson (1978) 
thinks that native English speakers can understand 
language material with correct vocabulary but not 
so proper in grammar rules rather than those with 
correct grammar rules but not so proper in 
vocabulary use. A good range of vocabulary 
means better reading comprehension, ability in 
technical subjects and written ability. 
“Researchers have found that word knowledge in 
primary school can predict how well students will 
be able to comprehend texts they read in high 
school” (Johnson C. & Johnson D., nd, p.1). 
Challenges when learning vocabulary 
When learning the vocabulary of a second 
language, a learner can encounter such problems 
Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 
145 
as making the correct connections, when 
understanding the second language, between the 
form and meaning of words; or using the correct 
form of a word for the intended meaning (i.e. nose, 
not noise) during the language production process. 
To these challenges, the learners are supposed to 
get a high range of vocabulary for use in both 
language understanding and producing and to 
remember words over the time, to be able to recall 
them readily, and to work out strategies for coping 
with unknown words, or unfamiliar uses of known 
words (Přibilová, 2006). In addition, the language 
learners also have to be responsible for expanding 
their vocabulary (Thornbury, 2002, p.31). 
Particularly, for the young learners, learning 
vocabulary is fun but is also challenging because 
they can not absorb a certain number of new 
words at a time without repetition. Cameron 
(2001) says that each non-native child in good 
learning conditions must learn up to 500 words a 
year, which means about 13-14 words a day. “The 
amount of mental work done by learners affects 
how well a new word is engraved in memory, the 
more learners have to think about a word and its 
meaning, the more likely they are to remember it” 
(Cameron, 2001, p.75). 
Problems in vocabulary learning among 
children may result from the fact that vocabulary 
is not sufficiently connected to pupils’ real lives. 
Their vocabulary may be extended beyond the 
textbook without taking their choices, interest or 
incidental learning through stories into 
consideration (Cameron, 2001). 
Approaches of teaching vocabulary to young 
learners 
Accoriding to Přibilová (2006), there are a 
variety of methods and approaches how to teach a 
foreign language, including vocabulary, some of 
which can be used for teaching young learners, 
namely visualizing, the direct method, 
suggestopedia, Total Physical Repsonse, 
Communicative Language Approach. 
Visualizing 
Přibilová (2006) states that it is important to 
visualize the items and then to have the children 
repeat or use them actively so that they can 
understand them. Visualising means letting the 
children see or perhaps touch the vocabulary item 
by using pictures, flashcards or real objects, which 
can help create a fun and natural learning 
environment. The children should also be given 
chance to listen and repeat these words in different 
ways, probably by listening to the teacher or the 
CD player and repeat as a class, in groups, in pairs 
or individually. 
Direct method 
In this approach, there is no mother tongue or 
translation from the target language into the first 
language. Also, only complete sentences are used 
and culture is an important aspect. 
In this instruction, there are many specific 
exercises and activities that focus the learners’ 
attention directly on certain words in lists, 
learning word parts, and vocabulary games. These 
techniques are beneficial to all learners, especially 
the ones with limited personal experience with 
words as well as limited knowledge of words 
(Vacca,Vacca and Gove, 2000; Omanson et al., 
1984; Jenkins, Stein, and Wysocki, 1984; 
McKeown et al., 1983; Kameenui, Carnine, and 
Freschi, 1982). 
This technique has also been known to do good 
to all readers required to read a specific text and 
deal with vocabulary items that are necessary for 
the text comprehension (Herber and Nelson-
Herber, 1993). 
Suggestopedia 
By applying this method, the teacher can inspire 
a desire to learn the new words among children 
because the music is on while learning. This is 
considered to be a successful way in assisting the 
learners in memorizing the words; however, it has 
become less common now in language classes 
(Přibilová, 2006). This can be explained by the 
possible distraction from the main focus of the 
class among learners of language. 
Total Physical Response (TPR) 
This works best for young learners because 
many children are now very hyper and physically 
Tiu ban 1: Đào to chuyên ng 
146 
active. TPR works well with parts of the body, for 
example Touch your head, shoulder, knees and 
toes; actions (I’m washing my face or He’s 
jumping high); and the imperative commands (Sit 
down! Open your books!). The children’s short 
span of attention can also be a reason for the use 
of TPR. The children have no time to get bored or 
distracted when they are continuously put in 
games or fun activities and the teachers change 
topics or activities over the time (Přibilová, 2006). 
Communicative Language Approach 
Teaching (CLT) 
The meaning of a language in context is the 
focus of this approach. Then the words are taught 
in context. It is the communicative competence 
that is highly developed here and the learners are 
encouraged to communicate in the target language. 
Vocabulary teaching approaches can also be 
classified into formal or planned instructions and 
formal instructions. While the former means 
teaching the meaning of the words and ways to 
discover the meaning, with the latter instruction 
there is no teaching with rule or systematic approach. 
Both of these ways help the children to engage 
their cognitive skills and to create opportunities 
for them to use the words (Linse, 2005). 
For vocabulary development among children, 
the teacher can also apply both “Direct instruction 
(teaching the words and their meaning such as pre-
teaching vocabulary items) and Indirect instruction 
(teaching strategies to help learners figure out the 
meaning themselves such as teaching prefixes and 
suffixes)” (Linse, 2005, p. 120). 
Words and word-related components to be 
taught 
Teachers of a foreign language in general and 
those of English in particular may come up with 
such questions as which words and what should be 
taught to the learners of language in general and 
primary school children in particular. According 
to Cameron (2001), the young learners aged 6-10 
should be taught the followings. 
Basic level words 
Unlike the older children who can have an 
access to superordinate and subordinate 
vocabulary linked to basic level words they 
already know, they younger children should only 
learn the basic level words like table, classroom 
which can be known as the most commonly used 
words or words of high frequency. 
Concrete words 
While older children can cope with abstract 
words/ topics, the younger children need concrete 
vocabulary. Course books for young children, 
therefore, often lay emphasis on nouns because 
“they are easy to describe and often the children 
do not have literacy skills, so the only words that 
can easily be featured are nouns” (Linse, 2005, 
p.120). Linse (2005) also states that it is also 
important to teach verbs, adjectives, adverbs and 
prepositions as well as various lexical fields (food, 
jobs, drinks) along with the nouns. 
Words in collections 
The older children can learn words through 
pragmatic organization (style and register), but the 
younger ones learn words as collections. That is 
why all the course books are now theme-based 
and they provide vocabulary according to it 
(Přibilová, 2006). 
According to Cameron (2001), for young 
children, knowing a word also includes 
Receptive knowledge: recognizing and 
understanding its meaning when heard/ read 
Conceptual knowledge: use it with correct 
meaning 
Grammatical knowledge: accurate use of the 
words 
Orthographic knowledge: spelling of the 
words 
Cultural content: what is significance of use 
in the culture, for example giving presents on 
Christmas day or delivering milk. 
Ur (1996) states that the language learners 
Chin lc ngoi ng trong xu th hi nhp Tháng 11/2014 
147 
should be taught form of the words (spelling and 
pronunciation), then grammar (singular or plural 
form of the words), collocations (words that go 
together), meaning and word formation (like 
using prefixes and suffixes or hyphenated words). 
However, for him, collocations and word 
formation are either too difficult or not important 
to the children. Instead, it is more important to 
inform them of the meaning as well as the form 
and grammar of the words. Nation (2001) also 
states that knowledge of a word can be divided 
into knowledge concerning its form 
(spoken/written), its position (grammatical 
patterns/collocations), its function 
(frequency/appropriateness), and its meaning 
(concept/associations). 
Vocabulary presentation 
In his bachelor work, Přibilová (2006) suggests 
that the teachers should bear in mind the number 
of words to be taught during the lesson, the 
guidelines in presenting the words, and several 
techniques of presenting the new vocabulary items. 
Number of words to be taught 
In making decision about the number of words 
to be taught in one lesson, the teacher should 
consider the target language level of the students, 
their familiarity with the words, the word 
difficulty in terms of pronunciation, cultural 
features, spelling or concrete or abstract meaning 
of the words. The teacher should also care about 
ways in which the words can be easily 
demonstrated or not (by using realia or pictures or 
verbal explanation). 
Vocabulary presenting guidelines 
In Přibilová’s opinion, the vocabulary should 
be taught in spoken form first so that the students 
can avoid pronouncing the words in the form they 
are written. Then the new items should be placed 
in context, and revised later. 
Vocabulary presenting techniques 
In Přibilová’s (2006) study, the techniques are 
classified into the followings: 
Verbal techniques: using illustrative 
situations, descriptions, synonyms and antonyms, 
and using various forms of definition: for example, 
definition by demonstration, contextual definitions, 
and definition by translation. It is more difficult to 
give explanation this way at beginner level. 
Visual and repetition techniques: using 
pictures – flashcards, photographs and magazines 
pictures, wall charts, posters, blackboard drawings, 
word pictures, several realia that the teachers can 
hold up and point, and then they can say out the 
words for the children to repeat. To present 
actions and feelings, mime, actions and gestures 
can be used. Learners can then label the pictures 
or objects or act. 
Regarding visualizing techniques, Allen (1983) 
also says that there are several ways to show the 
meanings of an English word, through such aids 
as: (1) real objects (umbrellas, scissors, tools, 
buttons of many colors and sizes, etc); (2) 
drawings by the teacher or by the students; (3) 
demonstrations to show actions. He also 
recommends teachers to use the real objects 
whenever possible when presenting the meaning 
of an English noun. Real objects are better than 
pictures. 
Translation: This technique is quick and easy 
but not commonly used recently because it is 
proved to be discouraging for the learners. They 
can not interact with the words, and the learners 
will not have a habit of thinking in the target 
language and then producing the words and 
sentences in that language quickly. 
Choosing activities to teach vocabulary 
There could be a variety of methods and 
techniques to choose from in teaching vocabulary 
to young children; however, teachers should be 
realistic because of the possible noise of the 
language classrooms, the large size of the class, 
the shortage of teaching facilities like projectors 
or visual aids in the language class. As a result, it 
is the teachers to choose the right activities for the 
right class at the right time. The activities can be 
Tiu ban 1: Đào to chuyên ng 
148 
categorized into “settle-down” (to keep the class 
quiet and attentive) and “stir-up” activities (used 
to wake up the class). Some examples of the 
former are reading and drawing, whole-class 
listening activities, using stories or storybooks, 
arts and crafts activities. Some examples of the 
latter are oral work (songs, chants and raps), 
mingles or surveys, movement games, using 
drama or acting out, co

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