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Assessing Young Learners’ Speaking Ability in the Fifth Grade of Three Elementary Schools in Padang Essay

CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION

A. Background of the Problem Communicative view development in English learning makes the focus on English teaching changed. What once became structurally focused, it now moves toward meaningful language-focused. Students are not asked to memorize structure-based dialogues without knowing the meaning anymore. There are no more grammatically controlled sentences for students’ meaningless repetition. Dialogues, if used, center around communicative functions and are not normally memorized (Richards & Rodgers, 1986). That makes the teaching of speaking becomes the core part of English teaching. Just like the adults, young learners today are also taught speaking meaningfully and communicatively.

However, young learners have distinctive characteristics compared with adult learners. One of them is children are still developing cognitively, linguistically, socially, emotionally, and physically (Teaching Knowledge Test Young Learners: Handbook for Teachers, 2010). In other words, in teaching speaking to them, teachers need to consider children’s development of skills in the native language first. Young learners also enjoy rhythmic and repetitive language more than adults do. They are more likely to play with language than adults are, and they can be more effectively engaged through stories and games (Peck, 2009).

The different techniques and approaches in teaching speaking to young learners lead to different ways in the speaking assessment. This is the problem faced by Indonesian young learners’ teachers nowadays. Most teachers do not know how they should assess their young learners’ speaking ability; some finally choose to skip the speaking assessment and focus on pencil-paper-tests. Thus, this research is conducted to discover and reveal ways of assessing young learners’ speaking ability.

B. Identification of the Problem Based on the background above, the speaking assessment techniques used for young learners should be different from the adult. It should be suited with their cognitive, linguistic, social, emotional, and physical development. As we looked upon Language Assessment: Principles and Classroom Practices by Brown (2010) and integrated it with curriculum standard in Indonesia, KTSP 2006, young learners will be better to be assessed in imitative and intensive speaking categories, such as imitating teachers’ saying, directed response tasks, read-aloud tasks, and dialogue completion tasks. Alternative assessments such as interviews and conferences can also be applied for them.

C. Limitation of the Problem In this research, the problem will be focused on the speaking assessment techniques in the fifth grade of three selected elementary schools in Padang.

D. Formulation of the Problem * What kind of speaking assessment technique used by elementary school English teachers? * Why do they use such techniques?

E. Purpose of the Research The purpose of this research is to discover and reveal the technique used by English teachers to assess elementary school students’ speaking ability.

F. Significance of the Research Theoretically, this research is aimed to give a description of how speaking assessment for young learners done in Indonesia. Practically, some techniques used by English teachers provided here can be a source of alternative speaking assessment.

CHAPTER 2 REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE

A. The Nature of Assessment There has been various explanation of what assessment is. Brindley (as stated in Linse, 2005) refers assessment as “collecting information and making judgments on a learner’s knowledge”. It means that in assessing students, we need to find out what students know about the subject being taught and how far that understanding has reached the learning indicator.

In the same line with Brindley but with an addition, Brown (2010) states assessment as “an ongoing process of collecting information about a given object of interest according to procedures that are systematic and substantively grounded.” In his statement above, Brown implies that the process of collecting and judging students’ understanding is not done orderly in one single time; it is done continuously.

Harris and McCann (1994) also give an essential note that in doing assessment teachers have to measure the performance of their students and the progress they make, as well as diagnose the problems they have and provide useful feedback. In other words, collecting and judging students’ intelligence is not enough; finding out what becomes students’ problem and giving advice to them to overcome the problems is also important to create a more successful learning process.

Based on the theories above, it can be seen that assessment involves collecting information about students’ knowledge and judging their understanding in order to diagnose the learning problems they have so that students can get useful feedback to be more-successful learners.

B. The Nature of Speaking As stated in the previous chapter, today’s English teaching focuses more on communicative purpose of language learning than in the past. It leads to the more important consideration of speaking skills than in previous time. Just like assessment, there is also various definition of speaking. One of them is from Lingua Links (1998) that defines speaking as productive skill in the oral mode that involves more than just pronouncing words. Referring to today’s communicative view, of course speaking cannot be thought as just pronouncing words; it needs to be meaningful, and communicative.

Furthermore, Noonan (2003) states that, if pronunciation included, speaking involves three areas: mechanics (pronunciation, grammar, and vocabulary), functions (transaction and interaction), and social cultural norms and rules (turn-taking, rate of speech, etc). All of them are connected to each other and prove that speaking is not only about what is uttered, but also the meaning and social purpose.

C. The Nature of Young Learners Young learner is a child who is in their first six year of formal education, from age 6 to 12 (Teaching Knowledge Test Young Learners: Handbook for Teachers, 2010). Many experts argue that it is beneficial to teach the children English since young age. TKT Young Learners (2010) notes one of the advantages that those children will have positive self-esteem toward English and it will help them to learn English more once they are adult. That is why teaching English to young learners considered important today. However, young learners have characteristics that make them different from the adults (Teaching Knowledge Test Young Learners: Handbook for Teachers, 2010).

First, they are still morally, cognitively, psychologically developed. Based on Piaget’s theory of cognitive development, children in age 6-12 years old are still in concrete operational thought stage, they already have the ability to do logical reasoning and understand reversibility with the help of concrete objects (Santrock, 1998). It means that explaining theory will not do for them, we need to make them move, do games, sing, etc. Second, young learners often have no obvious reason for learning English. Unlike adults who want to do it because of the career-related reasons or teenagers that do it to pass an exam, young learners do not have concrete reason why they must learn English. However, it does not mean they are not motivated to learn English; their goodwill, energy, and curiosity to learning overcome that.

Third, they may not always have well-developed literacy skills to support their learning of English. Many children in the age of 6-12 years old are just getting to know their first language. It means that as a teacher we need to not have too-high expectation and do more. Fourth, young learners often learn slowly and forget quickly. It is related to the first characteristic that young learners are still developed morally, socially, and cognitively. Their still-ongoing developments in those basic things make them forget easily and learn slowly. This is why songs, agmes, and chants do best for them. D. Principles of Assessing Young Learners

According to METU Open Course Ware (2006), principles of assessing children’s language learning are:

1. Assessment should be seen from a learning-centered perspective. It means that we cannot get a true assessment by testing kids what they can do alone. It has been stated by many experts that the goal of learning English is to be able to communicate meaningfully in English. Testing students, let alone young children, as a tool to get true assessment will not congruent with the real goal of English learning and it will just be wasting time.

2. Assessment should support learning and teaching. This is something that is not also becomes a problem with young learners, but also with the adult. Before performance-based assessment is introduced, teachers chose paper-and-pencil tests as their source of assessing (Puppin, 2006). It becomes a problematic then since students do not see the connection between the learning and the test they are doing, ; they see them as two different incongruent things. If the assessment done is congruent with the learning they did, children will feel that what they have learned is useful.

3. Children and parents should understand assessment issues. Their understanding will make the assessment process more meaningful since they can participate and supports greatly on behave of children’s English development. On the other hand, if they do not understand why the teacher does this and that, there will be no good communication between these three subjects to help children’s development.

E. Techniques of Speaking Assessment Brown (2010) states some techniques of speaking assessment based on students’ language development level: Imitative Speaking This kind of assessment is intended to see whether students can imitate saying in English correctly. Eventhough it focuses on the accuracy of repeating words, it does not mean that it cannot be communicative and meaningful. Besides, in recent years many experts have discovered that an overemphasis on fluency can sometimes lead to the decline of accuracy in speech.

Intensive Speaking There are four tasks in this kind of assessing: directed response task, oral questionnaire, and picture-cued task. In oral questionnaires, students are first given time to read the dialogue to get its main idea and to think about the appropriate lines to fill in. Then, as the tape, teacher produces one part orally; the students respond. In directed response task, students elicit a particular grammatical form of a transformation of a sentence. Such tasks are clearly mechanical and not communicative, but they do require minimal processing of meaning in order to produce the correct grammatical output.

Picture-cued task requires a description from the students. Pictures may be very simple, designed to elicit a word or a phrase, or composed of a series that tells a story or incident. This task is meaningful since sometime a little sense of humor is injected.

Responsive Speaking Assessment of responsive tasks involves brief interactions with an interlocutor, differing from intensive tasks in increased creativity given to the student and from interactive tasks by somewhat limited length of utterances. The kinds of this assessment are question and answer, giving instructions and directions, and paraphrasing. Questions and answers involve oral interaction with teacher.


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