Learning through play - A study on the effectiveness of the Noplica playhouse game “Dancefloor".

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For various reasons, children can start elementary school with a setback in linguistic development. One main cause is when they or their parents originate from a different country, and therefore do not speak the language (yet). For these children, their educational journey is exceedingly difficult, since they need to learn the language in order to understand the curriculum. But teaching them language when they might not understand the instructions and explanations is a problem. One way to solve this issue, is to look at different methods of learning. When examining and combining the different factors that are shown to facilitate language learning, learning through play is found to be a very effective method. This paper reports a pilot study to investigate the effectiveness of the Noplica language playhouse, that was specifically designed to facilitate language learning through play. One game in particular is chosen: the Dancefloor game, since it combines and balances out most of the facilitating factors. It is designed to stimulate vocabulary learning. The experiment consists of a two-part vocabulary test, looking at both perceptive and productive vocabulary, and a series of play sessions. The test is administered both before and after a period of four weeks, within which the participating children were taken to the playhouse bi-weekly, for a total of eight play sessions, lasting fifteen minutes each. Half the children played the Dancefloor game, and the other half played a different game, in order to single out the effectiveness of the Dancefloor game while keeping all other factors as comparable as possible. The improvement scores on the vocabulary tests were calculated and compared between groups. Even though there was a large difference, due to individual variation and small group sizes this was found to be insignificant. The materials and procedures used require some adjustments, but the overall method worked quite well, and the large effect sizes found in the analysis provide hope that a future larger-scale study will yield a significant effect.
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