Fill-in-the-Blank or Write an Original Sentence : A Comparison of Practice Materials for Vocabulary Retention
Abstract: Despite extensive research, a “best method” for teaching vocabulary has not been identified. The present study investigates the efficacy of two different practice materials for vocabulary retention, a fill-in-the-blank exercise and an original sentence writing exercise, from the hypothesis that a fill-in-the-blank exercise will be superior in terms of vocabulary retention on an immediate posttest. By testing this hypothesis, the study aims to contribute to the understanding of what is best practice in vocabulary teaching. The participants were 20 adult EFL learners studying at Basic Adult Education level. A controlled experiment using a Presentation, Practice, Production (PPP) structure was used. The cartoon public service announcement Dumb Ways to Die was used as the medium for presentation of twelve level and frequency scanned target nouns, followed by 10 minutes of practice time with either a fill-in-the-blank exercise or an original sentence writing exercise. Finally, an immediate posttest ensued. The result shows that the participants who practised using the fill-in-the-blank exercise performed better on the posttest, albeit not significantly better. In addition, further analysis indicates that some items of target vocabulary may have been previously known by the participants or easier to guess the meaning of. The pedagogical implications point towards using fill-in-the-blank exercises in the initial stages of vocabulary learning, after target vocabulary has been presented, while original sentence writing exercises appear better suited in later stages when more aspects of word knowledge have been acquired.
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