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KEYWORD METHOD IN READING


Keyword Method
a.          Definition of  Keyword Method
 Keyword method is a form of mnemonics.  In this technique, students are taught to associate the new word to a familiar keyword so they can easily recall the new word and remember its meaning whenever they come across it in their reading.  For example, when learning Spanish as a second language, a student may need to learn the word “playa,” which means “beach.” A good keyword for “playa“ would be “play.”   This helps the student create a mental picture of playing in the beach to recall the word ”playa.”
To help students develop a keyword, identify the new term and give the students its definition.  Find a keyword that relates to the new term using a visual image or a familiar phrase.  If possible, show the students a picture that makes as association between the keyword and the new word.  This will help cement the definition of the new word in their minds.  For example, when learning the word “rain day,” a specific term for a family of frogs, a good keyword would be “rain.” You could show students a picture of frogs dancing in the rain to help them remember.
Defined in broad terms, a mnemonic is a device, procedure, or operation that is used to improve memory. Defined in narrow terms — and what is usually meant by the word — a mnemonic is a specific reconstruction of target content intended to tie new information more closely to the learner's existing knowledge base and, therefore, facilitate retrieval.
There are a variety of mnemonic techniques, including keywords, peg words, acronyms, acrostics, loci methods, spelling mnemonics, phonetic mnemonics, number-sound mnemonics, and Japanese “Yodai” methods.
The keyword method Levin in McWhorter, (1992:141) is a mnemonic method at helps students to learn new information by associating it to interactive visual images for later recall.
Levin in McWhorter, (1992:143) states that learning new information using the keyword method is based on a process of recoding, relating, and retrieving.  First, students must recode, or transform, the unknown word to be learned into a more meaning full keyword that looks or sounds like the original.  An example might be the word potable which means suitable for drinking.  Potable is recoded to the familiar word, pot, which is then related to the original word by the use of an actual picture or a mental image of a pot of cool spring water sitting in front of you after you have crossed a hot desert.  With recoding and relating established, students are now able to use the keyword to retrieve the correct meaning when they encounter the new word.  In other words, on seeing the word potable students are reminded of the keyword pot.  This, in turn, leads them to think of the picture or an appropriate visual image which then leads them to the correct response of ”suitable for drinking.”
The effectiveness of the keyword method is also based upon adherence to there assumptions about picture strategies for learning.  First, pictures or images can facilitate learning because provide a means by which to learn difficult material.  Second, the more directly the pictures or images are to the content to be learned, the more effective the learning will be.
Finally, even given the previous two assumptions, research suggests that the pictures will not be helpful if they are not familiar enough to provide an organization frame work for understanding and retrieving the new information.  The keyword strategy meets that  this assumption and the two aforementioned assumptions by enabling students to the recode the new material to be learned into a concrete keyword and relate it within a visual image so it can be easily retrieved.
The keyword method was originally used to improve college students’ ability to learn a foreign language Atkinson in McWhorter, (1992:143). Since then, the use of method has expanded to help students, elementary through college, to learn vocabulary and content facts.
b.      The steps of Keyword Method
Konopak and Williams (1988) described how to use the Keyword method in the classroom employing the following steps:
1)      Teacher preparation
Using the passage, the teacher must decide what particular minerals are to be learned and where ach of them is used.  Next, a keyword must be assigned to each mineral.  Then, the visual image of the keyword interacting with its primary use is developed.  It is recommended that an actual illustration be used to demonstrate this image; however, an elaborate statement may be used it can easily create a mental image for the students. 
2)      Modeling.
Tell students that key will be using a study method to help them remember the names of minerals they need to learn and their use.  To demonstration the keyword method, use the example of amber.  Provide a short description o it and tell them it is used primarily in the home.  Exampling to them that a keyword, which either looks or sounds like amber, will help them learn the information they need to know.  Since hamburger sounds like the target word, it be comes the keyword for that mineral.  Next, students are shown a picture of a hamburger sitting on a chair in a living room.  They are informed that by thinking of the picture they will remember that amber (hamburger) is a mineral used primarily in the home (living room).  Other demonstrative example should follow until students’ understand the concept of the method.
3)      Guided practice
Distribute to the students a short passage about the first  the target mineral, rhodonite, which is used in the home,  and a illustration showing a road going through a living room.  The target word, rhodonite and the keyword, road, should be used as captions for the illustration.  The students are directed to read the passage and examine the accompanying picture for the purpose of recalling the mineral and its use.  The picture should be discussed as to how it helps them recall the information.
4)      Independent practice.
Break students into small groups of there or four members and have them read the rest of the rest of the text information about minerals. Provide them with keywords and have them develop their own mnemonics images, given the examples you previously prepared. These should be shared with the whole class.
1)      Transfer.
To initiate the successful transfer of this method from teacher provided keywords and illustrations to student-oriented mnemonics, provide additional text information about minerals without supplying a keyword. Students will then need to read the material and develop their own mnemonics to aid in the recall of the material. They will need to be reminded of the study technique and how effective they may have found it. Students will also need encouragement and feedback as they develop their own visual images. Again, these should be shared with the whole class for purposes of feedback.
  To further promote transfer, watch for other opportunities for students to use the keyword method in their other subject matter areas. They may need to be prompted by the teacher or other students until the method is fully learned.
The method will be considered using an example adapted from Konopak and Williams (1988, 685-687). It involves a fifth grade science unit on minerals in which students are asked to recall the names and primary use of various minerals.

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