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The ASEAN Journal of Education ASEAN Journal of Education

The Listening and Speaking Abilities of First Year Students Enrolled in the English for Communications Class Using the B-SLIM Model


Sirikorn Rochanasak,


Abstract

The objectives of this research were: (1) to study the English speaking capability of first year Early Childhood Education students enrolled in the English for Communication course (2) to find out about their listening/speaking abilities using the B – Slim model as part of an in – class application (3) to compare their listening/speaking competencies before and after applying this method to the course. The population samples were: (1) 72 first year Early Childhood Education students enrolled in the English for Communication course in the first semester of 2013, the tools applied (Pre-Post) consisted of the B – Slim model application, Mor Kor Or3 lesson plans and speaking/listening tests. In conclusion, the results indicated significantly higher scores for students exposed to the B – Slim model relative to those exposed to Mor Kor Or 3 (p<0.01).

Introduction

  English for Communication course is a mandatory subject for students who major in Early Childhood Education. Based on the university curricular, the course content in the textbook  focused  on  all  four  key  aspects  (listening,  speaking,  reading,  and  writing)  of communicative English for everyday life; each chapter was divided into different functional and situational activities. For the first year early childhood education students, whose primary focus was on situations, events, activities related to children, the survey on their perception towards the course was not very resounding. Certainly, there were many factors behind the students’  lack  of  enthusiasm  and  motivation;  when  reading  each  unit  and  performing according to TQF instructions, the students oftentimes found it irrelevant to their major.  

From  thoroughly  observing  how  the  students  responded  to  Mor  Kor  Or  3’s  teaching instructions, it appeared that there were many factors behind the students disinterest and lack of   engagement when learning each unit and performing activities according to TQF instructions; this observation led to this conducting this research. With the objectives to find out of their capacities, preferences related to the use of teaching methods/techniques and sources resulted in  the  selection  of  B-Slim  instructional  model  as  a  tool.  Since  the  overall  levels  of  the students  were  varied,  ranging  from  low  to  lower  intermediates  with  only  a  handful  of intermediates, it was imperative to divide them into groups based on their English capacities. Pre-tests  and  post-tests  based  on  key  criteria  indicated  in  Mor  Kor  Or  3  and  B  –  Slim instructional  model  were  used  in  order  to  find  out  pros  and  cons  when  using  the  two instructional methods. Mongkol S. (2010) stated that using B-Slim model increased high school students’ enthusiasm and motivation chiefly from knowledge sharing and analytical/thinking process as one of required steps. When coupled with suitable materials/sources, it appeared that students’ engagement was enhanced and they were more engaged.

  So  what  is  B  –  Slim?  It  is  a  planning  model  for  second  language  teaching  in classroom  settings.  Dr.  Olenka  Bilash,  a  renowned  education  professor  at  University  of Alberta, had presented a cycle of planning, teaching and evaluating for teachers to use in classroom. B-Slim consist of five parts of understanding instructions for a lesson in which each  part  correlates  and  generates  results. As  seen  in  several  of  the  case  studies,  many teachers were unaware of how to provide their students with the structure and support they needed in order to be successful in their learning. Technically structure and support go hand in hand in order to make teaching successful. In many ways, B-Slim instructions can be referred as comprehensive teaching as its steps comprise planning & preparation>getting it>giving it>using it>proving it>assessment & evaluation.

  Focus  on  HOW  and  WHAT  to  prepare  (mixed  lower  intermediate  level  with intermediate, asked the students about their previous learning backgrounds…mostly low-lower-intermediate-; minimal speaking opportunity).   The  “Giving  it”  is  attracting  SS  attention.  This  step  focuses  on  the  uses  of vocabulary, sentence structure, prepositions, word order, pronunciation, grammar, culture etc.

 

Methodology

  1. Testing the 36 samples using Mor Kor Or 3

    1.1  Listening/speaking pre-tests of 10 – 15 minutes were given to each student.

    1.2  Used lesson plans based on Mor Kor Or 3

    1.3  Listening/speaking post – tests (same ones as pre – test) of 10 – 15 minutes were given to each student at the end of the semester.

    1.4  Applied  the  mean,  standard  deviation,  and  t-  test  to  compare  the  results between pre – tests and post – tests.

  1. Testing the 36 samples using the B-Slim model

    2.1  Listening/speaking pre – tests of 10-15 minutes were given to each student.

    2.2  Used lesson plans based on the B – Slim model.

    2.3  Listening/speaking post – tests (same ones as pre – test) of 10-15 minutes were given to each student at the end of the semester.

    2.4  Applied  the  mean,  standard  deviation,  and  independent  and  dependent   t – tests to compare the results between pre-tests and post-tests.

  1. Compared  both  results,  analyzed  and  differentiated  the  differences  for clarification and benefits derived from using the B – Slim model when compared to Mor Kor Or 3 moving forward.

  How the B – Slim model benefited the study:

  1. Planning and preparation based on the B-Slim instructions:

    1.1  Identified the levels of competency for both experimental (B – Slim) and control (Mor Kor Or 3) samples and mixed low competency with intermediate levels.

    1.2  Stressed the importance of the words which contain…sh, ch, th, fl, fr, dr, pl, v, z, th, k, s, sk ,d, t, st, te, ce, se, f, fe, ve,  x positioned at the beginning and at the end of the words (pre and post tests indicated that the majority of the students either didn’t know how to pronounce nor their meanings, which related to parts of speech as well as sentence structure/collocation). Additionally,  the  pronunciation  of  the  character  “h”,  which  many  often misunderstood that it was pronounced he:ch/hoch instead of e:ch/ech was the root of incorrect pronunciation of “how”.

  1. Giving it…Build on what leaners know: due to the fact that the students were familiar with anything related to what they had experienced, interacted and were interested in, teachers used the materials related to children such as pictures of animals in a zoo, pictures of things/objects  in  a  house,  describing  the  appearance  of  people,  cartoon  characters/super heroes; showed cartoon  animations  which contained the aforementioned words; students worked in small group of three  to pronounce words, make sentences and also listen, and try to capture the differences of the words that were difficult to pronounce such as rice/lice, right/light/like, with/wit, sheet/cheat, play/pray, rag/lag/lack, divorce/voice, zinc/sink, six/sick, food/foot/fruit/flute, those/dose , crap/crab/clap, full/fool, free/ fee/ flea etc.

 

  In addition, position and functions of words like: respond (v)/response (n), present (v/n/adj.)/presence  (n)  were  explained  and   each  group  was  asked  to  produce  sentences containing the emphasized words, for example…I always respond to you when you ask; his response was not appreciated., his presence (n) is being felt; he is present(adj.): I got a present (n)  from  my  father;  my  house  (n)  houses(v)  everybody  in  the  family;  Don’t  place(v)   the valuable things in that unsafe place(v); Tom is presenting a presentation etc.. Another key method used was selecting words that ended with …ture, ile, ire such as mature, file, require ; the majority of students struggled to pronounce correctly and commonly made mistakes since these contained characters R and L, Th, ones of many difficulties for Thais.  

In helping the cause and crosschecking their understanding, the students knew the differences  of  the  meanings  of  each  word  for  which  teacher  had  each  group  produce sentences containing the emphasized and difficult words. The teacher then praised, shared to other groups to disseminate the knowledge and/or provide useful suggestions and comments to correct errors. Though this should be done in a very cautious and constructive manner, as loosing face is one of the main factors that has potential to deteriorate students’ confidence, eagerness and self-esteem( Maslow’s hierarchy of needs Maslow), and consequently could lead to fear of responding and engaging full conversations.

  1. Getting it, using it and proving it.

  During  these  stages,  the  teacher  applied  the  following  steps  and  to  support  the continuity of the process and benefit the learners: 

    3.1  Using a few simple fill in the blanks exercises and quizzes: the teacher had students do the exercise individually from a Power Point exercise with pictures in which the students were instructed to fill in the commonly mistaken/wrongly used words and also put them in correct order in order to get points. With this, it was discovered that the majority of the students were more motivated when having to compete against one another. Hence, it did not hurt having them  compete  for  an  inexpensive prize/award to make the  session more challenging and more tempting. During this stage Word Formation (prefix) was added to the teaching and learning processes because when teaching prefixes, students were able to learn 2 words at the same time i.e. safe/unsafe, legal/illegal, patient/impatient, sexual/bisexual, write/rewrite, direct/indirect etc. It was discovered that knowing 2 words with opposite meanings helped the students in the area of word choices and having a higher vocabulary is useful when forming sentences. Each group selected a short and preferred Thai current news article/story/fairy  tale/comic  book  then  translated  it  into  English  using  Google Translate,  which  was widely  used  by  the  students. After  completion,  they  then  exchanged  and  compared  the translations; the teacher then made corrections, pinpointed the errors and provided solutions to each group. This activity also worked wonderfully and was fun as the students realized that Google Translate was unreliable due to the fact that it has tendency to translate everything word by word; often times the Thai words and English words are irrelevant. For example, when you type the name of a person…says Mr. Somsak with the Thai last name of พรมนุ่ม then the translation would  be  Soft  Carpet or  วิเศษสุด is equaled to  Driest  (แห้งสุด) etc. However, Google Translate does offer many strong points apart from just being a translation source, it offers synonyms and provides samples sentences in which parts of speech can be learned. Speaking further on the activity, it helped broaden the students’ knowledge and at the same time, changed their perceptions into exploring other dictionary sources or useful translated applications. With this, it enables teacher to evolve further by explaining and clarifying other key parts in the sentence such as differences in sentence structure between Thai and English and  important parts of speech, particularly prepositions as this is one of Thais’ weak points. This activity virtually allowed the teacher to emphasize the significance of words like…in, on, for, to, with; for example ผมแต่งงานกับคุณ = I am married to you (not with you), ผมอาศัยอยู่ที่กรุงเทพ = I live in Bangkok (not at Bangkok), ฉันชอบอ่านข่าวสารใน/ทาง Facebook = I like to read news on Facebook (not in or not by Facebook). 

    3.2  Commonly used, but often misunderstood, phrasal verbs were added when teaching, for example: I stand by you (doesn’t mean I am standing near next to you; I always look after you (doesn’t mean searching for); I could not catch up with him (doesn’t mean trying to catch someone); As the enemy advanced, we fell back (doesn’t mean fell down on the back); Would you like to go out with me (means asking someone out for a date not just go out and about) etc. In this step, students in groups were asked to make sentences with phrasal words and the teacher corrected and praised them.

    3.3  Proving it….this step is done primarily to crosscheck learners’ understanding and progression and entails written tests/quizzes as well as oral tests. The contents on the tests were designed to make certain that what learners had been taught was fully understood. The key parts of the written tests and oral tests were sampled and used as follows:

      3.3.1  Teacher shows the picture of a chaotic zoo below and has the students describe  what is  happening/happens  with correct sentence structure, parts  of speech and grammar, respectively. Each student then orally presents what has been written while the teacher checks  based  on  the  said  criteria.  Points  are  given  based  on  the  percentage  of correctness  and  appropriateness  of  the  formed  sentences,  pronunciation  and  sentence diversity (using adjectives, adverbs, mix of vocabulary).

 

Figure 1  Chaotic Zoo

 

      3.3.2  Teacher then questioned each student on what was written to cross-check if what was written was genuinely done. This was a win-win approach as it enabled the teacher  to  recognize  cheating  and  helped  overcoming  student’s  fear  and  shyness  when speaking. In this step, limited time on answering is enforced with an aim to improve students’ awareness  when  having  to  speak  in  real  situation.  Furthermore,  students  who  made  the highest marks were praised and recognized. From observations, high-marked students seemed very pleased as they felt they had achieved something worthy and equally important by being recognized.(Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,http://www.businessballs.com/maslow.htm).

Results

  The statistical results were divided into 4 parts as presented in the 4 following tables: Table  1:  Basic  statistical  application  based:  experimental  (using  B  –  Slim)  and  control   (using Mor Kor Or 3) population samples’ listening & speaking abilities (pre & post test results)

  •   Pre   listening & speaking abilities test scores                of the experimental samples were moderate,  while  the  control  samples  were  relatively  low.  However,  post-  tests  results indicated that listening & speaking abilities of the experimental samples had improved, while the control samples had only lightly improved.

 

Table 1  Basic statistical application based: experimental (using B – Slim) and control    (using Mor Kor Or 3) population samples’ listening & speaking abilities (pre & post test results)

 

 

  

  Table 2 t – test for independent samples analytical based: compared the difference of listening & speaking abilities test results (pre & posttests) from both categories using the   t – test for independent samples. The results indicated that the experimental samples had a higher statistical difference of 0.01   when compared to the control ones. 

 

Table 2  t – test for independent samples analytical based

 

Table 3  t – test for dependent samples analytical based using the B – Slim model


 

  Table  4  t  –  test  for  dependent  samples  analytical  based  using  Mor  Kor  Or  3: compared the differences of listening & speaking abilities test results (pre & posttests) of   the  control  samples  using  the  t  –  test  for  dependent  samples. The  pre-post  test  results indicated that the controlled samples had a higher statistical difference of 0.01, reflecting an improvement in listening & speaking abilities’.

 

Conclusion & Discussion

  According to the aforementioned 4-table results, it can be concluded that:

  • The differences of listening & speaking abilities test results (pre & posttests) from both categories using the t – test for independent samples. The results indicated that the experimental samples had a higher statistical difference of 0.01 when compared to the control ones. 
  •                  Applying  the B –Slim                model, the pre                -post test results indicated that the  experimental  samples  had  a  higher  statistical  difference  of  0.01,  reflecting  an improvement in listening & speaking abilities.
  •                  Using     Mor Kor Or 3, the pre-post test results indicated               that the controlled samples had a higher statistical difference of 0.01, reflecting an improvement of listening & speaking abilities.

 

Table 4  t – test for dependent samples analytical based using Mor Kor Or 3

 

  As indicated by the data, both instructions supported the sampled students’ listening &  speaking  abilities.  However,  overall  the  sampled  students  appeared  to  do  better  with   B – Slim instructions due chiefly to the suitability of materials used, diversity of applied techniques, and the B – Slim instructional sequences which periodically cross-check and reinforce the whole process and its progression. Regarding Mor Kor Or 3, which is text book based, the students appeared to have had less involvement and engagement when following the text book materials which focus on situational English, even though teaching plans were followed accordingly. In brief, learning situational English did not truly appeal to them as much; even though the lesson plans were useful and productive, they were not fully engaged when compared to the those in the of B-Slim model group. In contrast to Mor Kor Or 3,   B  –  Slim  was  more  detailed  and  each  step  of  the  instructions  was  corresponded  and sequenced: however, finding out the students’ weaknesses and strengths when preparing and planning are essential (done by using pre-tests of both oral, written, observation and take notes). Together with applying diverse and different techniques, design activities based on pre – test and questionnaires given at the beginning of the class can also help tremendously and result in improved scores on listening & speaking tests. Apart from focusing on B – Slim  as the core teaching model, STAD (Student Teams – Achievement Division) was also applied, as this method helped foster cooperative learning among the groups which coincided and emphasized  group/individual  learning  similar  to  the  B-Slim  model.  Realistically, it  is impractical to remember every technique, materials, activities and teaching guidelines in just one semester. However, based on the results, the B – Slim steps were demonstrated to serve as an ideal formula to follow. In order for the B – Slim model to be successful, continuous practice  and  opportunities  to  improve  English  are  required  for  non-native  speakers  to improve. 

 

Suggestions

  1. Regardless of how efficient and how useful the materials, curriculum, classroom environment/management, teaching techniques and plans are, an improvement for students is unlikely if the teacher/trainer is not capable, or possesses limited English communication capacities. Having strong capabilities in key aspects such as pronunciation, using proper/suitable vocabulary, forming correct sentences with suitable collocation and grammar, and correct parts of speech are the keys to successful learning. After all, how could one improve if one is taught by an incapable person? Similarly it is advised that learners find ways and opportunities to practice and engage in conversation and be willing to leave the comfort zone by not being afraid to make mistakes when speaking, as fear and anxiety can hinder your thought process.
  2. Regarding future research directions on improvement of Thais’ English language proficiency, it is recommended that the B-Slim model, as well as other useful and effective new methods of teaching i.e. Flip classroom, 21 st  century teaching/learning (teach less and use more  activities/more  practices  with student-centered approach) etc., be  factored into consideration. Moreover, the new one-standard-for-all method to assess the English-language proficiency of students, as well as foreign teachers, is a bid to raise the quality of English-language teaching and learning to weed out unqualified teachers based on Common European Framework of Reference for Language (CEFR). This would be put into use by the Ministry of Education in order to improve Thailand’s quality of education and should be followed closely when conducting future research(s).

 

References

Maslow, A. (1943). A Theory of Human Motivation. Psychological Review, 50 (4).

B-Slim: Getting it (2009). Retrieved June 3, 2016 from http://www.educ.ualberta.ca/staff/olenka.bilash/best%20of%20bilash/gettingit.html.

Gibbs  R.  Universal  Bright  Brain Academy,  Lampang, Thailand.  (2013)  Do  you  want  to improve your English Text book...Pronunciation & parts of speech teaching.

Glahan,  S.  (2016).  How  CEFR  Standards  Would  English  Teaching  in  Thailand  for Foreigners.  Retrieved  from  http://www.bangkokpost.com/opinion/opinion/1094953/english-plan-at-risk-before-it-even-begins. 

Harmer,  J.  (2007).  How  to Teach  English:  Pearson  Education  Limited,  Edinburgh  Gate Harlow, Essex, England.

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Mongkol S. (2010). Development of English Communicative Learning Using B-SLIM Model Academic  Resource  Center  Mahasarakam  University.  Retrived  http://www.library.msu.ac.th/webu/searching. 

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Murphy R. (2002). English Grammar in Use. Office of Academic Resources and Information Technology, Suan Dusit University, Cambridge University Press.

Nonghang A.  (2012)  The  Development  of  English  Reading  Comprehension  by  Using Supplementary  Books  for  Matthayomsuksa  3.,  A  Faculty  of  Education, Mahasarakam Rajabhat University’s Journal, 583.

Pechsuttitanasan N. (2013). English for Communication. (1st edition), Suan Dusit University Book Center, Semadhama Publishing House.

Ramat S. (2016). Using English Instructional Module by B-SLIM Model to Promote English Reading  Comprehension  of  High  School  Students.  International  Journal  of Information and Education Technology, 6 (6).

Richards J. and Bohlke D. (2012). Four Corners: Teacher’s Edition,  Cambridge University Press, p.143.

Scrivener  J.  (2005).  Leaning  Teaching,  a  Guide  Book  for  English  Language  Teachers. Macmillan Education, Towns Road, Oxford OX4 3PP, England.

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Key words: B-slim Model, listening and speaking abilities, research outcome
     
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