Young Beginners

English in 4th grade in Iceland. Motivation and Vocabulary Knowledge at the Onset of Formal English Instruction.

Ásrún Jóhannsdóttir, PhD Candidate at the University of Iceland. Department of foreign languages, literature and linguistics.

    This study examines the effect increased exposure to English has on English proficiency levels, and children’s motivation for learning English at the beginning of formal instruction.

    The motivational survey and vocabulary testing took place in September to November of 2010. Results were extracted from data from 386 participants (192 girls and 194 boys) in 4th grade. Participants came from 12 schools from all corners of the country and represented students who began learning English at school in 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th grade, as well as two class groups yet to receive formal instruction in English.

    • Students perceive that their need to use English will shift from  TV/music and Computer media use to a more Educational and Need (travel, work) based use.
    • The increase in vocabulary size is very slight from earlier start of school instruction until between 3rd and 4th grade start.
    • There is a stronger relationship between current media use and students test scores than there is between student’s onset of instruction and test scores, which is very little. This suggests that the vocabulary is more strongly connected to other factors, such as media use, than the Educational environment and onset of formal instruction.
    • The results demonstrate that early starting age of students’ instructed learning does not necessarily predict how well they score on tests in grade 4, nor does it affect their predominantly positive attitude towards the language.

    Want to know more?

    • Ásrún Jóhannsdóttir. (2010). English in the 4th grade in Iceland: Exploring exposure and measuring vocabulary size of 4th grade students. Ráðstefnurit Netlu – Menntakviku 2010.
    • Ásrún Jóhannsdóttir (2009). Which way to go? A study of incidental and intentional vocabulary acquisition. Málfríður, 25(2), 16-19.
    • Ásrún Jóhannsdóttir (forthcoming), External Motivational Factors and Perceived Lexical Knowledge of 4th Graders at the Beginning of Formal English Instruction.
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