ESL Action Research: Efficiency of “Warm-up” drills to the retention of Thai Students of Pholwittaya School

This action research is made to determine the efficiency of using  warm-up drills in the retention of grade 1, 2, and 3 Thai students of Pholwittaya School in Songkla Thailand.
Thailand, being a non-English speaking country already had a taste of the English language as early as 1567 during the reign of King Narai, Ayutthaya period from 1350 to 1767 (Education in Thailand:  Wikipedia). But diplomatic activities were all decreased to a minimal after King Narai’s death.
English education resumed during the reign of King Rama V from 1868 to 1910 as a Lingua Franca for the royalties and nobilities. In 1892, the Ministry of Education was established as a result of King Rama V’s experimental endeavors for administrative and political reforms.
English education took a full-swing during Thaksin Shinawatra’s administration.  There was a noted increase in the number of native-speakers teaching foreign Languages in both government and private schools.
I am working in a private school down south of Thailand – Pholwittaya School.  It is a Buddhist school.  They offer kindergarten, primary and secondary education to both departments – Bilingual and Regular school.  I teach the lower primaries – grades 1,2,3 of the regular school.  Each class is compose of 40 to 45 students. Each level has 4 to 5 sections for the English program alone.  Students in the English program receive 3 to 4 hours of English lesson per week.  This action research was conducted to the first section of each level – grades 1/1, 2/1, and 3/1.  Working and living here for 5 years now, i have gained quite a lot of insights on my student’s way of living, as well as their study habits.  Most of my students belong to the middle class.  They have TV cable and internet access at home.  They spent most of their after-class hours and weekends in tutorial centers studying Thai subjects and English conversation.  During semester and summer break, they are into English camps.   On the other side of the coin, the media which time immemorial has been proven to be influential in education are in Thai Language and/or translated to Thai.  Cartoon shows that kids love so much are also in Thai.  Even English movies  shown in theaters are translated in Thai.  Billboards and paper ads are almost all in Thai  ( show link here TBA).  At home 100% of the language used is Thai.  Practice and immersion are very important in acquiring a new Language.  In this case the former is limited, and the latter never at all.   So what is learned in 1 hour easily dissipate in thin air the moment they step out of the class.  With this, the acquisition is quite very slow.
Consequently, I have thought of increasing the number of times I use topic-related warm-up drills in my subject  (see subsequent post for my “own-made” chants and drills).  This action research solely aims to determine the efficiency of my drills on the retention of my students on particular topics.
To determine the efficiency of drills in the retention of Thai students in Pholwittaya school
grades 1,2, and 3 first section students of Pholwittaya School
A pre-test was given on a particular theme.  After which the lesson was delivered.  For every 50 minute-class in 4 consecutive meetings, the teacher allotted 5 minutes for the warm-up.  The warm-up was a teacher-made yells and clap combination drill to facilitate student’s memorization on certain words.  The words were “conservation, pollution, and electricity” for grades 1, 2, and 3 respectively.   A post-test was, then, given on the 5th or 6th meeting.  Average and percentage were used to describe the result.
Results and Discussion
The yells-and-claps combination drill was effective as far as single, short English words were concerned.  Seventy-five percent of all the three classes, grades 1/1, 2/1, and 3/1 was able to read and spell the words correctly.  About the same percentage was able to even define the words.  But only a few were able to remember further details about the concept.
Using the yells-and-claps combination drill, the teacher experimented further by using series of words like “baby, toddler, school-age child, adolescent, and adulthood” for the topic Human Physical Changes.  The students were able to memorize the words by heart.  They even chant the words during break time.  But, most students had a hard time reading the words when arranged randomly and without an accompanied picture.  They had the spelling and definitions all mixed up.  Their exposure to the words just probably was not enough.  It needs a longer period of exposure from all English subjects.
In conclusion, as far as this action research is concerned, yells-and-claps combination drill is effective in facilitating student’s retention in terms of spelling and definition.  But it is limited to single, short English words only, although it can also be used as reinforcement in explaining very simple and practical concepts.  It is not as effective for series of English words.  But, on the brighter side, given the time it needs it might be as effective considering that the drill breaks the monotony of the conventional classroom set-up. 
The researcher would like to make the following recommendations;
a.     ESL teachers may utilize this action research and make some modifications where it’s needed for the betterment of this ESL students.
b.   ESL teachers to go further using the drill for longer and/or series of English words
c.    ESL teachers to conduct an action research following the same concept as this action research to find out its efficiency in explaining concepts

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