Author: Caroline Scott
Most schools with early-stage learners of English will have some form of guided reading record. This record supports the learner, parents and teacher in acknowledging and monitoring progress and in rewarding good reading habits. Schools use this system because they know the profound influence that reading has on progress in literacy (Krashen, 2004).
Have you considered the possible impact of a similar record for EAL learners, based on flashcard activities?
Research evidence supporting the strategic use of flashcards to learn vocabulary and language structures, alongside a communicative approach to language learning, is strong.
Nation and Warring point out: “There is a very large number of studies showing the effectiveness of such learning in terms of amount and speed of learning…”
They contrast this with learning solely ‘from context’: “Research on learning from context shows that [effective] learning does occur, but … it requires learners to engage in large amounts of reading and listening because the learning is small and cumulative.”
Nation notes that this should not be seen as an argument that learning from context is not worthwhile. “learning from context … is by far the most important vocabulary-learning programme. For fast vocabulary expansion, however, it is not sufficient by itself. There is no research that shows that learning from context provides better results than learning from word cards [flashcards].”
For further discussion, see Nagy, Herman and Anderson (1985); Nagy (1997); Paivio and Desrochers (1981); and Pressley et al (1982).
So why not track the strategic use of flashcards in the same way we track reading? This can be achieved via an EAL learning record, which can be downloaded by clicking on the buttons at the top and bottom of the page.
At Across Cultures, we produce flashcards for all lessons on the Learning Village, as well as special numbered cards, which lessens the need to print individual sets for every subject.The strategic use of flashcards is also integral to the book Teaching English as an Additional Language 5-11: A Whole School Resource. Most schools have a bank of such cards readily available – and, of course, there is no reason why learners can’t make their own as well.
Nation, P & Waring, R (1997) Vocabulary size, text coverage and word lists in Schmitt & McCarthy (1997) Vocabulary, Description, Acquisition and Pedagogy, Cambridge
Krashen, S (2004) The Power of Reading, Insights from the Research, Heinemann, Porstmouth