The comparative effects of song, picture and the keyword method on L2 vocabulary recognition and production


1 Imam Khomeini International University, Islamic Republic of Iran

2 Islamic Azad University, Takestan Branch, Islamic Republic of Iran


The  present  study  investigated  the  effects  of  three  methods  of  vocabulary  presentation,  i.e.,
picture,  song,  and  the  keyword  method  on  Iranian  EFL  learners'  vocabulary  recognition  and
production.  The  participants  were  102  Iranian  lower-intermediate  EFL  learners  in  Zaban  Sara
English language institute in Kermanshah. To make sure that they had no previous knowledge of
the target words, a pretest was administered. Those words about which the participants had prior
knowledge were excluded from instruction. After administering the pretest, the participants were
divided  into  three  groups.  Each  group  was  instructed  through  a  specified  method  of  vocabulary
presentation  including  picture,  song,  and  the  keyword  method  for  a  whole  semester.  The
participants' receptive vocabulary knowledge  was tested through a  multiple-choice test and their
productive  vocabulary  knowledge  through  a  fill-in-the  blank  test.  The  collected  data  were
analyzed using two separate one-way ANOVA procedures. The results of both tests showed that
the  group  instructed  through  picture  had  the  best  performance,  followed  closely  by  the  group
instructed  through  the  keyword  method.  The  group  taught  through  the  song  method  performed
significantly worse than both the picture group and the keyword method group.


Main Subjects

Knowledge of vocabulary plays a significant
role  in  almost  all  domains  of  language
pedagogy  (Alavi  &  Akbarian,  2008).
Research justifies the fact that vocabulary is
a  sine  qua  non  of  reading  (Nassaji,  2003),
writing  (Laufer  &  Nation,  1995;  Lee,  2003;
Leki  &  Carson,  1994),  and  speaking  (Joe,
1998).  Thanks  to  decades  of  research  in  the

realm of vocabulary acquisition, even novice
teachers  are  well  aware  of  the  centrality  of
vocabulary  to  language  acquisition  process.
However,  most  of  the  teachers  act  as
vocabulary acquisition gardeners; they try to
grow the learners' vocabulary flower to such
an  extent  that  they  are  able  to  identify  the
meaning  of  words  in  a  multiple-choice  test.
They neglect to take a multi-faceted view of
vocabulary  knowledge.  As  Lee  (2003)
contends, word knowledge is formed along a
continuum,  from  reception  to  production,
consisting  of  the  following  stages:  "see  the
word,  hear  the  word,  understand  the  word,
say  the  word  and  use  the  word  in  the
context"  (p.  540).  In  terms  of    the  learner's
ability  to  recognize  or  produce  words
correctly  in  the  context,  there  exists  a
hierarchy  of  vocabulary  skills;  that  is,
learners have a  great difficulty in producing
words,  which  they  can  recognize  easily
(Laufer & Goldstein, 2004).  
According  to  Melka  (1997),  one's  approach
to  vocabulary  teaching  should  be  based  on
the  learners'  requirements  of  vocabulary
recognition  and  production.  Since  the
learners'  greatest  difficulty  is  in  producing
the words, a language teacher should choose
the  method  that  has  the  greatest  effect  on
vocabulary  production.  In  spite  of  its
significance,  the  issue  concerning  the  effect
of  methods  of  vocabulary  presentation  on
the learners' productive knowledge of words
has  not  received  rightfully  deserved
attention  in  research  areas.  Although  there
have  been  an  increasing  number  of  studies
on vocabulary recognition and production in
the  last  decade,  only  few  of  them  have
attempted  to  investigate  the  influence  of
methods  of  vocabulary  presentation  on  the
development  of  these  two  aspects  of
vocabulary  knowledge.  The  major  focus  of
most  of  these  studies  has  been  either
estimating  the  receptive  and  productive
vocabulary knowledge or determining which
one  precedes  the  other  in  the  process  of
vocabulary  acquisition  (Webb,  2005).  This
tells  us  about  the  discrepancy  between
receptive  and  productive  mastery  of  words,
but does not provide much help as to how to
decrease this distance. Our field now is in a
sore  need  of  studies  that  investigate  and
shed  some  light  on  the  ways  to  promote
learners'  partial  knowledge  of  words  to  the
higher  and  more  advanced  levels  of
vocabulary  production.  In  response  to  this
need,  the  present  study  aims  to  address  the
following research questions:
1.  Are  the  any  significant  differences
among  the  effects  of  song,  picture
and  the  Keyword  Method  on  Iranian
learners' vocabulary recognition?  
2.  Are  the  any  significant  differences
among  the  effects  of  song,  picture
and  the  Keyword  Method  on  Iranian
learners' vocabulary production?  
Review of the related literature
Since vocabulary has a tremendous effect on
students’  proficiency  and  their  production
and comprehension of language (Gathercole,
2006),  it  can  be  claimed  that  “learning  a
second  language  means  learning  its
vocabulary” (Gass, 1999, p. 325). Studies on
the  essential  issues  in  the  realm  of
vocabulary  take  into  account  the  learners,
the  words,  and  the  teacher  (Folse,  2006).
Research concerning the learners, focuses on
the  strategies  that  they  employ  in  learning
vocabulary  (Gu,  2003;  Kojic–Sabo  &
Lightbown, 1999; Nassaji, 2003); the way in
which  they  make  gains  in  knowledge  of
vocabulary  (Ellis,  1995;  Laufer,  1998;

Laufer  &  Paribakht,  1998);  and  their
differences  regarding  the  acquisition  of
second  language  vocabulary  (Bauer,
Goldfield, & Reznick, 2002; Speciale, Ellis,
&  Bywater,  2004).  There  are  also  studies
that  investigate  the  kind  of  words  that
second language learners have to know (Liu,
2003).  Furthermore,  studies  related  to
vocabulary teaching investigate the effect of
different types of exercise (e.g., Folse, 2006)
and  different  methods  of  vocabulary
presentation  on  the  vocabulary  learning
(Brown & Perry, 1991; Zimmerman, 1997).    
The  present  study  investigates  the  effect  of
methods  of  vocabulary  presentation  on
vocabulary  recognition  and  production  of
Iranian  EFL  learners.  For  setting  the  stage,
one  needs  to  know  how  recognition  and
production  of  a  word  are  defined  in  these
studies. Gu (2003) specifies two dimensions
of  knowing  a  word:  knowledge  dimension
and  skill  dimension.  The  knowledge
dimension is the learner’s ability within the
scope  of  recognition  and  knowing  its  form
and  meaning,  while  the  skill  dimension  is
related to the learner’s dexterity to use the
word  correctly  in  context,  in  terms  of  not
only  form,  but  also  meaning  and  usage.
Laufer and Paribakht (1998) make use of the
terms  'passive'  and  'active'  to  refer  to  the
recognition  and  production  aspects  of
vocabulary  knowledge,  respectively.
According  to  Oxford  and  Scarcella  (1994),
knowledge  of  L2  word  is  not  limited  to  its
recognition;  it  can  break  through  the  barrier
of  recognition,  take  wings  and  fly  to  the
higher  level  of  vocabulary  use  in  an
appropriate  context  with  the  aim  of
meaningful  negotiation.  According  to
Henriksen  (1999),  drawing  a  fine  line
between  receptive  and  productive
vocabulary  is  beyond  the  realm  of
possibility  because  these  two  aspects  of
vocabulary  knowledge  lie  along  a
continuum  rather  than  within  a  dichotomy.
He  contends  that  lexical  competence  has
three  dimensions:  the  first  dimension  is
partial  to  precise  knowledge.  The  second
dimension  is  depth  of  knowledge,  and  the
third  one  is  receptive  to  productive  use
ability.  In  terms  of  the  learner’s  ability  to
recognize  or  produce  words  correctly  in
context,  there  exist  a  hierarchy  of
vocabulary  skills  which  has  been  supported
in  a  study  conducted  by  Laufer  and
Goldstein  (2004).  The  results  of  their  study
showed that learners have great difficulty in
producing  words  that  they  can  recognize
easily.  In  another  study  carried  out  by
Laufer  (1988),  it  was  confirmed  that  the
extent  learners  make  gains  in  productive
knowledge  of  vocabulary  is  much  less  than
their  gains  in  receptive  knowledge.
Similarly,  Lee  (2003)  believes  that  the
ability  to  produce  vocabulary  in  context  is
much more complex and usually lags behind
receptive knowledge.  
The keyword method  
According  to  Shapiro  and  Waters  (2005),
one  of  the  mnemonic  techniques  that  can
facilitate  learning  foreign  vocabulary,  is  the
keyword  method  (KWM).  Keyword  is  a
native language word that is similar in sound
or appearance to the foreign language word;
it plays a key role as a retrieval cue (Hell &
Mahn,  1997).  Indeed,  the  keyword  must
have  two  major  features:  first,  it  should  be
familiar  to  the  students;  and  second,  it
should  be  selected  based  on  the  acoustic
resemblance  to  the  target  word  (Avila  &
Sadoski, 1996).  
The  keyword  method  has  two  stages:    The
first stage is called the acoustic link in which
the  learner  selects  an  appropriate  keyword
and  learns  how  to  create  an  association  or
acoustic  link  between  the  keyword  and  the
new  foreign  language  word.  The  second
stage is called the imagery link, in which the
learner develops an interactive image, which
involves  the  keyword  and  the  meaning  of
the foreign language word.  
As  noted  by  Richards  and  Schmidt  (2002),
working  memory  involves  two  systems  for
storing  information:  the  articulatory  loop,
responsible  for  storing  verbal  information
and  visuospatial  sketchpad,  responsible  for
storing  visual  information.  As  Shapiro  and
Waters (2005) contend, the keyword method
can render the visuospatial sketchpad (visual
memory)  strong  by  the  interactive  images,
which  associate  the  keyword  with  the
definition  of  the  foreign  language  word.
Indeed, the strength of the visual memory is
the  result  of  the  nature  of  visual  stimuli,
which  lead  to  a  better  retention  than  other
kinds  of  stimuli.  That  is  why  we  remember
concrete words much better than the abstract
words that cannot be imaged. To corroborate
this, Shapiro and Waters (2005) investigated
the effect of visual imagery on the retention
of  words  and  on  the  effectiveness  of  the
keyword  method.  Results  indicated  that  the
effectiveness  of  the  keyword  method  was
less  for  the  low-imagery  words  than  for  the
high-imagery  ones:  the  degree  of  retention
for  high-imagery  words  was  79%  and  only
14% for low-imagery ones. In another study
by  Hell and Mahn (1997), the degree of the
keyword method’s effectiveness for teaching
abstract  words  was  examined.  Results
indicated that participants were able to recall
concrete  words  much  better  and  faster  than
abstract  ones.  Lawson  and  Hogben  (1998)
investigated  the  effectiveness  of  the
keyword method for learning abstract nouns.
The  keyword  method  proved  to  be  more
effective for learning concrete words.  
The  keyword  method  is  an  efficient
technique  for  vocabulary  learning  (Wyra,
Lawson, & Hongi, 2007). For those learners
who  have  little  or  no  experience  in  learning
a  particular  foreign  language,  it  is  an
influential  and  effective  method  for  the
intentional  learning  of  vocabulary  (Lawson
&  Hogben,  1998).  In  a  study  conducted  by
Taguchi  (2006),  the  keyword  method  was
shown  to  be  beneficial  for  older  learners  in
their  endeavor  to  learn  foreign  language
vocabulary.  Avila  and  Sadoski  (1996)
reported  similar  results.  Richmond,
Cummings,  and  Klapp  (2008)  investigated
the  transferability  of  the  keyword  method
for  studying  new  and  familiar  content  in
comparison  to  other  mnemonic  techniques
(i.e., loci, pegword) and free study. Findings
showed  that  the  keyword  method  was  the
most  transferable  technique  for  studying
similar and dissimilar content.  
There  are  also  studies  showing  that  the
keyword  method  does  not  have  a  beneficial
effect  on  vocabulary  acquisition,  especially
on  vocabulary  production.  The  general
conclusion of the study by Carney and Levin
(1998)  is  that  the  long-term  effects  of  the
keyword  method  are  not  as  strong  as  the
immediate  effects.  As  Richards  (1976)
contends,  the  main  aim  of  the  keyword
method  is  the  retention  of  vocabulary.
However,  the  long-term  process  of
vocabulary  learning  is  beyond  the  retention
of  the  word.  In  fact,  it  also  includes  the
production of a word in a natural context, an
aim  that  will  not  be  achieved  through  the
keyword method.  

Picture  and  its  significance  in  vocabulary
recognition and production
For  setting  the  tone  for  our  discussion  of
picture and its significance in pedagogy, it is
necessary to know the meaning of the visual
literacy (VL). Visual literacy (VL) has been
defined  as  the  use  of  visible  or  mental
visuals  for  learning,  communication,
conveying  meaning,  and  having  aesthetic
effect  (Avgerinou  &  Ericson,  1997).  Based
on this definition, picture is included within
the  scope  of  visible  visuals.  According  to
Avgerinou  and  Ericson  (1997),  the  concept
of image decoding is of great significance in
visual  literacy.  There  is  a  positive
relationship  between  visual  and  verbal
learning.  According  to  Bush  (2007),  picture
is an easy way for simultaneous attention to
the  building  blocks  of  second  language
learning.  Using  picture  for  presenting  new
vocabulary has been a fundamental principle
in  many  methods  in  TEFL  or  TESL
(Richards  &  Rodgers,  2001).  For  example,
in  direct  method,  it  is  believed  that  there
should be a direct association between form
and  meaning.  According  to  Doff  (1988),
demonstration  is  direct,  interesting,  and
makes  an  impression  on  the  class.  As
Shapiro  and  Waters  (2005)  hold, “it is well
documented  within  the  cognitive  literature
that  visual  stimuli  create  very  strong
memories” (p. 131). Similarly, Richards and
Rodgers  (2001,  pp.  81-86)  believe  that  the
visual aids are associative mediators that can
show  the  relationships  between  form  and
meaning  and  contribute  to  learning  and
recall  of  new  words.  As  a  technique  of
second  language  vocabulary  acquisition,
word-picture  activities  can  form  a  mental
link  at  the  early  stages  of  second  language
learning,  especially  if  it  is  created  by  the
students  themselves  (Sokmen,  1997).  Lewis
and Hill (1985) also contend that presenting
new  vocabulary  by  visual  aids  both  clarify
the meaning of the word and fix the word in
the learners’ mind.  
In an action research carried out by Hopkins
and  Bean  (1999),  the  effect  of  verbal-visual
word  association  strategy  on  vocabulary
learning  was  investigated.  Results  showed
that  this  strategy  could  contribute  to  the
conceptualization  of  vocabulary  knowledge
in  an  observable  form.  In  another  study
conducted by Tonzar, Lotto, and Job (2009),
the  effect  of  picture-learning  and  word-mediated  learning  on  the  students'
vocabulary development was examined. The
results  indicated  that  picture-learning
method  was  more  effective  than  word-mediated method.
Poetry  and  its  significance  in  vocabulary
recognition and production
Poems  and  songs  have  pedagogic  value  in
language  teaching.  As  Richards  (1969)
contends, singing a song can be pleasing for
children  because  it  changes  the  pace  of  the
classroom  and  renders  the  experience  of
language  learning  enjoyable.  Since  music
helps learners to unlock their imagination, it
can  change  their  mood  as  well.  In  addition,
when students repeat the lines of a poem in a
choral mode, their anxiety will lower (Mora,
2000).  According  to  Moradan  (2006),
because of the musical rhythm and rhyme of
the  poem,  it  has  an  auditory  effect.
Widdowson  (2003)  mentions  another
pedagogic  property  of  music,  that  is,
repetition;  a  purposeful  repetition  can
guarantee  successful  learning.  According  to
Medina  (1990),  music  and  memory  are
interwoven  and  that  the  recall  of  the
meaningful information is stronger than that

of  less  meaningful  information  and  even
stronger  for  verbal  information  learned
through  song  and  music.  Hess  (2003)
considers  vocabulary  acquisition  through
music  to  be  a  four-step  process:
understanding  the  word,  learning  how  to
pronounce the word, learning how to spell it,
and  learning  how  to  use  vocabulary  in
sentences.  Hanauer  (2001)  offers  a  coding
system  that  describes  the  kinds  of  response
which  are  elicited  when  reading  a  poem.
Based  on  the  coding  system,  initially  the
reader’s  attention  is  on  the  linguistic  data
and  their  interpretation  according  to  which
he  can  construct  meaning,  and  then  on  the
cultural  issues  (cultural  awareness).  Song
can  be  considered  as  a  means  of  incidental
learning of vocabulary, the features of which
are  the  same  as  the  features  of  oral  story.
The result of the study conducted by Medina
(1990)  showed  that  the  amount  of
vocabulary  acquisition  through  either  song
or  picture  is  higher  than  the  usual  practices
and  the  highest  when  these  two  are
As Webb (2005) contends, little research has
been  conducted  to  investigate  both
productive  and  receptive  knowledge  in  a
single study.  It is the purpose of the present
study,  therefore,  to  investigate  the  effect  of
three  techniques  of  vocabulary  presentation
on both productive and receptive knowledge
of vocabulary.  
The sample of the present study consisted of
102 Iranian lower-intermediate EFL learners
in  Zaban  sara  English  language  institute  of
Kermanshah.  77  participants  were  male  and
25  were  female.  They  had  learnt  English
within  the  same  established  framework,  in
the  same  context,  had  studied  the  same
course books, and had been assessed against
the same measurement standards. Therefore,
all of the participants were the same in terms
of  educational  and  language  background.
They  were  divided  into  three  groups  in
which  new  words  were  presented  through
songs, pictures, and the keyword method.  
The  following  data  collection  instruments
were utilized in the present study:
A.  Pretest:      To  make  sure  that  the
participants  had  no  previous  knowledge  of
the  words  to  be  taught,  and  based  on  the
assumption  that  they  might  know  the
meaning of some words prior to instruction,
a  pretest  was  administered.  It  included  all
the words to be taught during the instruction.
Participants were given the words in context
and were required to write the L1 translation
of each word. It had 70 items.
B.  Receptive  word  knowledge  (R)  test:  to
measure  the  participants'  vocabulary
recognition,  a  40-item  multiple-choice  test
was  used  in  which  the  students  were
required  to  choose  the  best  choice  that
completed  each  sentence.    The  test  was
assumed to be valid since the content of the
test  corresponded  to  the  content  of  the
materials  which  had  been  covered  in
instructional  sessions.  The  reliability  of  the
test  was  estimated  through  KR-21  method,
which turned out to be .78.
C.  Controlled  Productive  word  knowledge
(p)  test:  to  measure  students'  productive
knowledge  of  words  after  instruction,  a  4-item  fill-in-the  blank  test  was  devised  and

used,  which  prompted  the  participants  to
produce  the  target  words  and  complete  the
sentences.  In  addition,  the  definition  of
words or the initial letter of the target words
were provided which led students to the best
answer.  Like  the  recognition  test,  it  was
assumed that the test was content-valid. The
reliability of the test, estimated through KR-21 method, turned out to be .69.  
The following materials were also used:  
Popular  Songs  and  Nursery  rhymes:  In  this
study,  the  song  group  participants  were
presented with new words through 13 songs.
In  each  session,  one  song  with  musical
effect  was  used  by  the  teacher;  each  song
included  at  least  four  new  words  (appendix
Pictures:  The  Picture  group  participants
were  presented  with  new  words  through
pictures.  Attempt  was  made  to  choose  the
best and clearest pictures in which the focus
was on the new words only. For participants
to be familiar with the spelling of the words,
it  was  considered  appropriate  to  write  the
word on each picture (Appendix B).
Persian  keywords  and  visual  image:  The
keyword  group  participants  received  new
words  through  52  Persian  keywords  and
their  visual  representations,  drawn  by  the
researchers (Appendix C).
Having  selected  the  participants,  to
minimize the effect of the participants' prior
knowledge  of  the  target  words,  the  pretest
was administered. Those words about which
students had prior knowledge were excluded
from  the  posttests.  Each  group  of
participants  was  randomly  assigned  to  one
of  the  three  experimental  conditions:  In  one
group  (no.  30),  the  new  words  were
presented  through  songs:  in  thirteen
sessions,  thirteen  songs,  each  including  at
least  four  new  words  were  presented.  The
main  methodology  applied  for  teaching
songs was repetition. The song was repeated
several  times.  Initially,  the  teacher  sang  the
song and the participants just listened. Then,
the  participants  repeated  the  song  after  the
teacher.  Finally,  the  participants  sang  the
song  together,  and  then  individually.  In  the
second  group  (no.  25),  the  instruction  of
new words was through  pictures: in thirteen
sessions,  fifty  two  (52)  pictures  were
covered. In the third group (no. 47), the new
words  were  presented  through  the  keyword
method, during which the teacher wrote each
word  on  the  board,  wrote  its  Persian
keyword  in  front  of  it,  drew  participants'
attention  to  the  picture  including  the
keyword and the meaning of new words and
then repeated it several times. At the end of
the  instruction,  the  participants’  receptive
vocabulary  knowledge  was  tested  through  a
multiple-choice  test  and  their  productive
vocabulary  knowledge  through  a  fill-in-the
blank test.  
The first research question
The  first  research  question  sought  to
investigate  which  method  of  vocabulary
presentation  is  most  conducive  to  the
learners'  vocabulary  recognition.  To  this
end,  an  ANOVA  procedure  was  used.
Descriptive  and  test  statistics  for  the
ANOVA  on  vocabulary  recognition  is
presented in Table 1.

Based  on  the  results  in  Table  1,  the  group
instructed  through  picture  has  the  highest
mean,  followed  closely  by  the  group
instructed  through  keyword  method.  The
group instructed through song has the lowest
mean which is noticeably lower than that of
the other groups. Moreover, The F value and
the  significance  level  show  there  are
statistically  significant  differences  among
the  three  groups.  Therefore,  it  can  be
concluded  that  different  methods  of
vocabulary  presentation  have  a  significant
effect  on  the  learners'  vocabulary
recognition.  To  locate  the  differences,  a
post-hoc  comparison  (Scheffe'  test)  was
used, results of which appear in Table 2.

Table  2  indicates  that  although  the
difference between the keyword method and
picture groups is not statistically significant,
they  are  both  significantly  better  than  the
group instructed through song.
The second research question
The  second  research  question  sought  to
investigate  which  method  of  vocabulary
presentation  yields  better  results  in
improving  learners'  productive  knowledge.
To  his  end,  another  ANOVA  was  used,  the
results of which are presented in Table 3.

Based  on  the  results,  it  is  evident  that  the
differences  among  the  three  groups  are
statistically  significant.  To  locate  the
differences  between  the  means,  a  post–hoc
Scheffe' test was used. The results appear in
Table 4.

Table  4  shows  that  the  difference  between
the  keyword  method  and  picture  groups  is
not  statistically  significant.  However,  they
are  both  significantly  better  than  the  group
instructed through song.  
The results of the present study indicate that
the keyword method had a significant effect
on  both  vocabulary  recognition  and
production,  compared  with  song.  This
finding is in accordance with many previous
studies which compare the keyword method
with the usual vocabulary learning strategies
(such  as  Lawson  &  Hogben,  1998),  with
direct  translation  (such  as  Avila  &  Sadoski,
1996),  with  other  mnemonic  techniques,
including loci, pegword, etc. as well as with
free  study  (such  as  Richmond,  et.  al,  2008).
In  addition,  the  finding  is  in  line  with  the
study  conducted  by  Taguchi  (2006),  which
indicated  that  the  keyword  method  was
beneficial  for  the  productive  mode  of
On  the  contrary,  there  are  studies  which
show  that  the  productive  knowledge  of
words  cannot  be  achieved  through  the
keyword  method  (Carney  &  Levin,  1998;
Richard,  1976).  However,  as  it  was
mentioned,  the  result  of  the  present  study
indicates  the  beneficial  effect  of  the
keyword method on the subjects' productive
knowledge of words. Different factors seem
to have contributed to the high performance
of  the  participants.  From  the  psychological
and  cognitive  points  of  view,  the
effectiveness  of  the  keyword  method  is  a
function  of  providing  visual  imagery.
According  to  Shapiro  and  Waters  (2005),
through  providing  interactive  images,  the
keyword  method  provides  visual  stimuli
which lead to the better  retention than other
kinds of stimuli. Therefore, it is the nature of
the  visual  stimuli  that  enable  the  keyword
method  to  strengthen  the  visuo-spatial
Another  factor  is  a  kind  of  prerequisite  for
the  meaningful  learning  which  is  provided
by  the  creation  of  links  between  the  new
information  and  the  subjects'  schemata.
According  to  Lawson  (2005),  this  factor  is
one of the most beneficial factors which lead
to  the  success  of  the  keyword  method  in
vocabulary acquisition. In addition, from the
practical  point  of  view,  in  this  study  the
optimal  conditions  for  the  use  of  the
keyword  method  in  second  language
learning  were  met.  For  example,  using  the
keyword  method  for  teaching  concrete
words  (according  to  the  studies  conducted
by  Shapiro  &  Walters’s  (2005),  Hell  &
Mahn  (1997),  and    Lawson  &  Hogben
(1998)),   using  the  keyword  method  for
inexperienced  EFL  learners  (Hell  &  Mahn,
Another  finding  of  this  study  was  that  the
students  instructed  through  picture  had  the
best  performance  in  both  vocabulary
recognition  and  production.  This  is  in
accordance  with  such  studies  as  Bush
(2007),  Avgerinou  and  Ericson  (1997),  and
Hopkins  and  Bean  (1999).  The  results  are
also  in  line  with  studies  that  compared  the
effect  of  picture  on  the  students'  vocabulary
knowledge  with  explanation  and  translation
(Lewis  &  Hill,  1985)  and  with  word-mediated  learning  method  or  translation  of
the  new  words  in  L1  (Tonzar,  et  al.,  2009).
From  the  theoretical  and  psychological
points  of  view,  three  major  factors  seem  to
have  contributed  to  the  better  performance
of  the  participants  instructed  through

picture.  The  first  explanation  is  that  picture
provides  a  direct  association  between  form
and  meaning  and  acts  as  an  associative
mediator  (Richards  &  Rodgers,  2001).  As  a
second  explanation,  the  order  of  vocabulary
acquisition  through  picture  is  similar  to  that
of  one's  mother  tongue,  especially  if  the
picture  is  created  by  the  learner
himself/herself.  Another  factor  may  have
been the physical foci provided by the visual
image. Indeed, picture highlights a particular
word  through  associating  it  with  a
memorable image and therefore creates very
strong  memories  and  facilitates  student
recall (Doff, 1988; Shapiro & Waters, 2005;
Richards & Rodgers, 2001).  
The  present  study  also  showed  that  the
group who learned new words through song
had  a  considerably  lower  mean  than  the
picture and the keyword method groups. The
lower achievement of the learners instructed
through  song  may  be  attributed  to  cognitive
and  practical  factors.  From  the  cognitive
point  of  view,  when  listening  to  the  songs
and  nursery  rhymes,  one's  attention  may  be
directed  towards  the  whole  picture  rather
than  the  elements  that  comprise  that  whole.
Indeed, it could be the case of not seeing the
trees  for  the  forest,  in  which  you  get  the
main  idea  and  do  not  see  the  small  details,
such as the vocabulary. In addition, since the
language  of  song  is  conveyed  through  the
musical  devices  and  because  of  such
features  as  rhythm  and  rhyme,  such
purposes  as  vocabulary  learning  may  take  a
low priority. From the practical and cultural
points of view, songs are not widely used in
our  language  learning  classrooms  as  a
vocabulary  learning  instrument.  Therefore,
people  are  not  accustomed  to  listening  to
music  in  order  to  learn  vocabulary.  In
addition, English nursery rhymes may not be
culturally suitable for the Iranian context.
Based on the findings of the present study, it
can be concluded that of the three techniques
of  vocabulary  presentation,  the  ones  that
involve  the  simultaneous  presentation  of
verbal  and  visual  information  (picture  and
the  KWM)  are  superior  to  the  one  that
presents  verbal  information  in  a  rhythmic
manner  (song)  in  both  vocabulary
recognition and production. This finding can
have  both  theoretical  and  practical
implications  for  syllabus  designers  and
teachers.  Theoretically,  it  may  help  resolve
part of the controversy surrounding the issue
of  (the  extent  of)  the  use  of  the  mother
tongue  in  L2  teaching  since  the  KWM
involves  the  incorporation  of  the  L1  words
in L2 lexical learning. The finding may also
lend further support to the dual coded theory
wherein  it  is  claimed  that  receiving
information  through  more  than  one  channel
(here  verbal  and  visual)  facilitates  learning.  
With  regard  to  practice,  a  clearer
understanding  of  the  kind  and  nature  of  the
effect  of  each  of  the  three  techniques  on
vocabulary  recognition  and  production  can
help  teachers  and  syllabus  designers  make
more  informed  decisions  as  to  how  to  deal
with  words  at  the  level  of  course  book
development  as  well  as  classroom
presentation.  Syllabus  designers,  for
instance,  may  choose  to  allocate  a  greater
space  in  their  course  books  to  the  pictorial
presentation  of  the  lexical  items,  or  design
special  vocabulary  course  books  to  teach
vocabulary  to  learners  with  specific  L1
backgrounds,  thus  making  it  possible  to
associate  L2  lexical  items  with  L1  words.
This,  of  course,  entails  a  more  thorough

investigation  into  the  factors  under
consideration  here  as  well  as  others  factors
which  may  directly  or  indirectly  relate  to
those  studied  here.  For  instance,  the  age  of
the  learners,  their  proficiency  level,  the
learning styles and preferences as well as the
orientation (visual versus verbal orientation)
of  learners  may  all  prove  to  be  determining
factors  in  the  effectiveness  of  the  variables
investigated  here.  This  study  only  scratches
the surface of the issue, but hopes to arouse
enthusiasm  in  interested  researcher  to  carry
out further research in this area.

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