The study was designed to investigate the effect of games on Junior Secondary School Students’ achievement and motivation in English language vocabulary. Five research questions and five null hypotheses guided the study. The study employed a pre-test posttest quasi-experimental design. A sample of 203 JSSII students, drawn by both purposive and simple random sampling techniques from two co-educational schools in Enugu Education Zone was used for the study. The two schools were assigned to treatment and control groups respectively. Two intact classes in each school – (one as experimental and the other as control group) were randomly selected. The experimental group was taught the topics- antonyms, synonyms, words associated with banking and words associated with animals using games which include fly swatter, Go fishing, Animal Riddle and Hot Seat while the control group was taught the same topics using the direct/explicit method of vocabulary instruction. Three instruments- Pre-VAT, Post-VAT and the Motivation for English Vocabulary learning Questionnaire(MELVQ) were developed, dully validated and the reliability established as 0.87 and 0.84 for the pre-VAT and the Post-VAT respectively and 0.87 for the MELVQ. The research questions were answered using mean and standard deviation while the hypotheses were tested at (P< 0.05) using analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). The result of the analysis showed that the students taught with games performed better than those taught with the conventional method, the students taught with games were also found to be more motivated than those taught without games. On gender, no significant difference was found in the achievement of male and female students taught with games but the male students taught with games were found to be more motivated than their female counterparts. Also, no interaction effect was found between method and gender. Consequently, it was recommended that the use of games as an instructional technique should be included in the special method curriculum of English language in teacher training institutions, workshops and seminars should be organized to train teachers in the use of games in teaching English. Also, curriculum planners and textbook writers are encouraged to give games a strategic place in the planning and design of the curriculum and textbooks.
Background of the Study.
Language is at the heart of human activities. Any activity carried out by human employs the use of language. One of the most encompassing definition of language is Sapir’s (cited in Ngonebu,2008) which states that language is a purely human and nOon-instinctive method of communicating ideas, emotions and desires by means of voluntarily produced symbols. Language in any society serves diverse functions such as a tool for socialization, a means of cultural identity a means of preservation of culture and a whole lot of other functions. But the most important of these functions is the role of language as a medium of communication (Pelt, 2005), and this role is given such a central place as a result of the natural inclination of humans to pass information. This natural desire to share feelings, ideas and thoughts in a highly multilingual nation like Nigeria creates a dire need for a language of inter ethnic and cross cultural communication, a language of unification and a language of national and inter ethnic communication.
As a result of the role of English as a language of international communication and the multilingual nature of the Nigerian society, English language was voluntarily adopted for official and inter-ethnic communication in the country (Akabogu, 2006). English Language since then has come to serve various vital functions in the life of the nation. For instance, it is the language of education, commerce and industry, government, international communication, the media, of law and legal drafting, science and technology and the language of social interaction. Of all these functions however, it’s role as the language of education is paramount since education gives life and essence to all other spheres of human endeavour (Obanya, 2002) .This function is given greater vigour as a result of the position given to it by the National Policy on Education (2004) which makes English language mandatory in secondary and tertiary education in Nigeria. It is also the language of evaluation in schools as it is used for assessing students after primary school for the First School Leaving Certificates, Junior Secondary School Certificate Examinations, Senior Secondary School Certificate Examinations (SSCE), Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB) and other professional examinations. The importance of English as a school subject can further be illustrated by the fact that a candidate must obtain a credit pass in it for admission into any Nigerian University to study any course (JAMB, 2005).
English language is a school subject and like every other school subject requires formal instruction. Instruction in English language involves instruction on the four basic language skills; listening, speaking, reading and writing. This is because acquiring a new language necessarily involves developing these four modalities in varying degrees and combinations (Tankersly, 2003). Tankersly also explains that these four skills include associated skills, such as knowledge of vocabulary, spelling, pronunciation, syntax, meaning, and usage. Of all these sub skills however, vocabulary occupies a central position in any language learning endeavour.
There is no single acceptable definition of vocabulary but Lehr, Osborn and Hiester (2006) broadly define vocabulary as knowledge of words and word meanings. Vocabulary consists of words that a student can attach appropriate meaning to, or define. In learning a language, vocabulary plays an important role. In the areas of reading and the language arts, vocabulary instruction is critical to the improvement of comprehension and written expression. It is an element that links the four skills of language; that is listening, speaking, reading and writing together. Without a sizable vocabulary, one cannot communicate effectively. This is well captured in the words of Hunt and Beglar (2005:2), who opine that, “The heart of language comprehension and use is the lexicon”. Other authors like Lewis (2000:8), have gone even further in arguing that, “The single most important task facing language learners is acquiring a sufficient large vocabulary”. So, a vital step in learning English is learning its vocabulary. This is because of the close relationship that exists between vocabulary development and the other aspects of language. In the content areas, including Mathematics and the Sciences, vocabulary instruction is central to the development of new concepts and understanding of increasingly more sophisticated ideas. In short, vocabulary is directly related to knowledge acquisition.
The symbiotic relationship between reading comprehension in particular and vocabulary development has however long been recognized. For instance, Carver (2003) argues that the relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension is so strong that they can produce perfect correlations. Vocabulary is much more associated with reading than any other language skill. This is mainly because while words are regarded as tools for comprehending text, it is equally clear that reading with comprehension also assists in developing one’s vocabulary. And in addition to affecting reading performance, vocabulary knowledge affects a student’s ability to participate fully in both social and academic classroom routines and most importantly in the world outside the classroom. Therefore, all students can benefit from vocabulary instruction especially if the instruction is tailored to meet individual strengths and needs. In the context of this study, vocabulary is defined as the amount of words which a person can understand and use correctly and meaningfully in communicative situations. Vocabulary instruction is used to refer to the teaching aimed at the development of students’ understanding of word meanings.