Tài liệu an investigation into teachers and students attitudes towards using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes at hue university college of foreign languages

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an investigation into teachers and students attitudes towards using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes at hue university college of foreign languages
MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING HUE UNIVERSITY OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES MAI THI PHUONG AN INVESTIGATION INTO TEACHERS’ AND STUDENTS’ ATTITUDES TOWARDS USING SHORT STORIES AS SUPPLEMENTARY MATERIALS FOR READING CLASSES AT HUE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF FOREIGN LANGUAGES MA THESIS IN THEORY AND METHODOLOGY OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING CODE: SUPERVISOR: …………………. HUE, 2015 1 BỘ GIÁO DỤC VÀ ĐÀO TẠO ĐẠI HỌC HUẾ TRƯỜNG ĐẠI HỌC NGOẠI NGỮ MAI THỊ PHƯƠNG MỘT NGHIÊN CỨU VỀ NHỮNGTHÁI ĐỘ CỦA GIÁO VIÊN VÀ SINH VIÊN ĐỐI VỚI VIỆC SỬ DỤNG TRUYỆN NGẮN NHƯ NHỮNG TÀI LIỆU BỔ SUNG CHO CÁC LỚP HỌC ĐỌC TẠI TRƯỜNG ĐẠI HỌC NGOẠI NGỮ HUẾ LUẬN VĂN THẠC SĨ LÝ LUẬN VÀ PHƯƠNG PHÁP DẠY HỌC BỘ MÔN TIẾNG ANH MÃ SỐ: NGƯỜI HƯỚNG DẪN KHOA HỌC: HUE, 2015 2 STATEMENT OF AUTHORSHIP I hereby acknowledge that this study is mine. The data and findings discussed in the thesis are true and have not been published elsewhere. Author Mai Thị Phương 3 ABSTRACT This research paper examined students’ and teachers’ attitudes towards using short stories as supplementary materials for reading at Hue University College of Foreign Languages (HUCFL). It also addressed the advantages and disadvantages of using short stories as supplementary materials. Besides, the study investigated teachers’ suggestions to teach to make students use short stories for reading classes better. The data collection tools consisted of questionnaire and interview. Quantitative and qualitative methods were applied to the data analysis. The results from quantitative and qualitative data indicated that most students acknowledged the importance of using short stories to improve reading sub skills, create a relaxing learning atmosphere, and enriching students’ knowledge. More importantly, the study showed the suggestions teachers make to improve reading skill through short stories. The interviews with some English teachers also reveal the advantages and disadvantages of using short stories to develop reading skill. Based on their ideas, the research also comes up with solutions to problems that teachers may encounter when using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes. 4 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my gratitude to people who supported me during the process of doing this research. Without their guidance and helps, I would have not completed this study. First, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to my great supervisor who has supported me throughout my thesis with his patience and acknowledge. Actually, her guidance and feedback helped me during the time of the study and writing of this thesis. She gives me useful advices and guidance so that I can get good result in my thesis. Besides my great supervisor, my sincere thanks also to the teachers, especially Ms Nguyen Thi Lai who is very helpful and the third year English students at HUCFL who took part in this research. They are enthusiastic to help me collect the data. My thesis would not have come to a completion without the help from my close friends for their generosity in time, advice, support and encouragement. Last but not least, I would like to thank my husband as well as my sons who always stand by me, help me overcome difficulties in the process of doing the research. They bring me strength, self- confidence, and braveness to pursue my study. 5 TABLE OF CONTENTS 6 LIST OF CHARTS 7 CONTENTS OF THESIS Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION 1.1 Background Nowadays, English has become an international language and many countries use it as a lingua franca to communicate. English has a special or an official status in many countries and is spoken as a first language by millions of people. It is also the most commonly used language among foreign language speakers. It is obviously that in our country the spread of English is very rapid and significant, from cities to remote areas. English has been used in many fields of life: science, technology, education, etc.. Apparently, the important role of English in the world has been not denied. Learning English helps people acquire useful knowledge in order to discover new horizons. It also gives them more opportunities to get a good job and high position in societies. Learning English really can change life. Therefore, more and more people have learnt English to get a better life. Reading, listening, writing and speaking are four basic skills in the process of learning English.To master English means mastering four above skills. Reading is an important skill in the development of language learning because it is an useful way of gaining information in language learning. According to Ofodu (2009), reading is one of the most fundamental media for acquiring and promoting knowledge at all levels of education. Reading is a language skill that aims at facilitating the acquisition and development of literacy skills needed for effective communication in different contexts.Thanks to reading, learners can develop other language skills (writing, speaking and listening skill). It can promote other language areas such as vocabulary and grammar because in the process of reading, learners are exposed to a huge amount of vocabulary, so they can enrich their resource of vocabulary. They also realize how to use structures or grammar points through reading texts. Many linguistics and researchers believed that reading is an essential skill that needs to be developed among learners and it is often considered as ‘the foundational 8 capability in the acquisition of literacy’ (Andrews, 2001). It is obvious that reading accompanies a myriad of educational benefits. It is not at all surprising to realize that good readers have an increased stock of vocabulary and several researchers highlight that reading books can advance a person’s comprehension by learning new lexis (Stansberry, 2009; Isaac, 2007; Sofsian, 2006).They further note that along with vocabulary enrichment, reading also helps to improve the accuracy of spellings. This is because readers often look up new words which they encounter while reading. Similarly, researchers contend that reading boosts concentration since it requires remembering details of what is being read: it refines the reader’s memory (Stansberry, 2009; Isaac, 2007; Sofsian, 2006). When learners are able to retain and recall what they read, they will be able to use the information more creatively in the future. In addition, there is another very important reason why learners need to develop their reading skills: there is a strong correlation between reading and academic success. According to Pretorius (2000), Research findings in applied linguistics and reading research consistently show a strong correlation between reading proficiency and academic success at all ages, from the primary school right through to university level: students who read a lot and who understand what they read usually attain good grades.(Pretorius, 2000, p.1) She also further emphasized that students who read extensively and comprehend what they read usually attain better grades. In other words, a student who is a good reader is more likely to do well in school and pass exams than a student who is a weak reader. One of the main goals of reading for language learners is to acquire knowledge of different fields through translating its literature into their mother tongue. As Richard and Rodgers stated, “[t]he goal of foreign language study was to learn a language to read its literature or to benefit from the mental discipline and intellectual development that result from foreign language study.” Students would translate literary texts from the second/foreign language to their native language and 9 they face lots of problem in this process. Therefore, improving reading is very essential for learners. In order to improve reading as an important skill, many researchers and educators have also made efforts to find more efficient ways of enabling the learners to become more proficient readers and one of the ways is to use literature. Povey (1979) is among those who believe in the effectiveness of the implementation of literature in the language class. Literature has been discovered as a valuable and interesting material for improving students’ language ability (Premawardhena, 2005). It has been found that if appropriate literary texts are chosen it would be an effective tool for stimulating and achieving language learning and equipping learners with relevant linguistic and socio-cultural competences (Sell, 2005). Acording to McKay (2001), in reading comprehension tasks literary texts can stimulate interest and closer reading of the texts, as well as integrating the four skills during reading practice. Short stories, like other literary texts, can stimulate language and linguistic competence. Short stories also arouse motivation. Short stories are believed to help learners improve all four skills. According to Erkaya (2005), reading literary text can lead students to be critical thinkers. He pointed out that when students read, they interact with the text and interpret what they read and this analysis makes them more creative and critical. Nowadays, teachers have made efforts to find out different ways to enhance students' reading ability. Using short stories as supplementary materials is one of their choices. Teachers’ and learners’ attitudes towards this method are one of the main factors that determine their success in their language learning as well as language teaching as Candlin and Mercer (2001) stated that attitudes towards the target language, its speakers and the learning context may all play some part in explaining their success or failure . 1.2 Rationale I choose this topic for my research: “An investigation into teachers’ and students’ attitudes towards using short stories as supplementary materials for 10 reading classes at Hue University College of Foreign Languages” for the following reasons: First of all, reading skill plays an important role in learning English. However, students in general and Hue College of Foreign Language students in particular have many problems in mastering the skill. Secondly, there are many methods to teach reading effectively. Therefore, teachers try their best to find out suitable ways which help students promote reading skill. Using short stories as supplementary materials is chosen by many teachers. There have been a lot of researches on the problems emerging from teaching reading. In his article “About the common problems and effective solutions in reading”, which is based on authors like Davies and Beare, Minmin (2010) reported that most students with problems in reading usually read word for word and sentence for sentence, which is considered as a slow and non-effective process of reading because learners cannot acquire the main idea of the whole text. As a student at Hue University College of Foreign Languages, I myself recognized that the majority of students have same troubles when they read. I noticed that many students read without any particular strategies for making use of the clues in the texts or recognize the topics sentences. Although they are taught some important skills to read effectively, such as scanning, skimming, they have difficulties in applying what they have learnt to read successfully. Therefore, they do not comprehend the gist of what they are reading. As a result, they get little information and they are bored with the reading texts. I also noticed that reading textbooks are dull and boring. They are cover with emotionless languages. Students do not find textbooks interesting and humorous. There are too many heavy tasks in text books students must do. Doing reading tasks is actually stressful and monotonous. Using short stories is considered carefully by many teachers in their process of teaching. Teachers always expect that their students can improve language ability, so choosing suitable methods to teach a foreign language effectively has attracted teachers’ concern .Each teacher has his or her own attitudes towards using short 11 stories as supplementary materials for reading classes. Different attitudes of them have different reasons. The reasons explain why using short stories as supplementary materials is suitable or not. Similarly, in the process of learning, students are learnt with different methods of teaching. They may be like or dislike using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes. I would like to investigate teachers’ attitudes as well as students’ attitudes so that I can know that they have positive or negative attitudes towards using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes. I would like to specify reasons which lead to the attitudes in order to understand more about advantages and disadvantages of using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes. Moreover, I also would like to specify sub-skills of reading which are promoted when teacher use short stories as supplementary for reading classes. 1.3 Research aims The purpose of this study is to focus on the teachers’ and students’ attitudes towards using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes at Hue University College of Foreign Languages. Simultaneously, this study also aims at finding out the reasons why they have those attitudes in order to have suitable solutions. 1.4 Research scope The research focuses on investigating the teachers’ and students’ attitudes towards using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes at Hue University College of Foreign Language. 1.5 Structure of the research The research includes fiver chapters Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW Chapter 3: METHODOLOGY Chapter 4: FINDING AND DISCUSSION Chapter 5: IMPLICATION AND CONCLUSION 1.6. Research questions 12 This research aims to answer the following questions: 1. What are Hue University English Language teachers’ attitudes towards using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes? 2. What are students’ attitudes towards using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes? 3. What are teachers’ and students’ difficulties in using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes? 4. What can be done to solve problems? 13 Chapter 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1 Reading and its importance 2.1.1 What is reading? Reading is an essential skill in learning a foreign language. It can be considered as one of the key factors which help learners get good results in the process of learning. There are as multiple ways of defining reading as there are scholars who research on it. Holden (2004) stated “Reading is an important gateway to personal developments, to social, economic and civic life.” Similarly, Anderson (1994) believed that reading is the most important instrument for academic settings. Meanwhile, Pang et al (2003) provided a more elaborated definition: Reading is about understanding written texts. It is a complex activity that involves both perception and thought. Reading consists of two related processes: word recognition and comprehension. Word recognition refers to the process of perceiving how written symbols correspond to one’s spoken language. Comprehension is the process of making sense of words, sentences and connected text. (Pang et al, 2003, p.6) In other words, reading is viewed as a sophisticated process. It requires learners to have word –recognition and comprehension ability. These two abilities will support learners to think and perceive in their process of reading. Holden (2004) also defined reading as follow: To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries. The path of a reader is not a runway but more a hack through a forest, with individual twists and turns, entanglements and moments of surprise (Holden, 2004, p.1) All the while, Chastain (1988) considered reading as a receptive skill in that reader is receiving a message from a writer. The reading goal is to read for meaning or to recreate the writer’s meaning. According to this view, reading to improve 14 pronunciation, practice grammatical forms, and study vocabulary does not constitute reading at all because reading involves comprehension. When readers do not comprehend, they are not reading (217). Alptekin (2006) concurred with this when he defined reading “as an interaction of the reader’s text-based and knowledge-based processes.” He elaborated, In processing texts, readers combine literal comprehension, based on lowerlevel cognitive processes of reading such as lexical access and syntactic parsing, with inferential comprehension, based on higher-level cognitive processes such as the text base of comprehension (to understand what the text says) and the situation model of interpretation (to understand what it is about) (Alptekin, 2006, p. 494). For the purpose of this study, I find the definition of Chastain (1988) the most applicable. As he mentioned, the goal of reading is about understanding the written texts. This is very important because it helps learners to grasp the meanings of texts which authors would like to convey. Thanks to reading, readers can promote their vocabulary, structures or grammar points, pronunciation as well as enhance comprehension abilities. As far as I am concerned, reading is an essential skill that learners need to master in the process of learning a foreign language. 2.1.2 Why is reading important? Reading is very important in life in general. Feldman (2002) drew a conclusion about the importance of reading when he argued that, “In the process of learning as well as in daily life, in order to succeed, people must be able to read” (5). It means that reading a key helping people get success in their life. Moreover, reading is very necessary for societies. Bhardwa j (1997) claims that, Reading is important not only to the individual; it possesses also great social significance. Man’s cultural and social heritage is transmitted from generation to generation and is communicated readily by means of permanent printed records (Bhardwaj,1997, p. 2). In other words, by reading people can get access to the knowledge of different generations. It is very useful for developing societies. 15 Reading plays an important role in the language acquisition process in particular. If students are good at reading, they will be able to improve other language skills such as writing, listening and speaking. In fact, by reading, learners can acquire vocabulary, knowledge, sentence structures, and organization of a paragraph or an essay. Therefore, learners can promote other skills. Reading is a fundamental practice. Anderson (1994) highlights the importance of reading when he writes, “effective reading is essential factor of success in learning another language. Reading is the most important instrument for academic settings” (177). In the same line of thought, Celce-Murcia et al (1995) added that the ability to read is the prerequisite for autonomous learning. Krashen (2004) concurred with the idea that reading is important in learning English. He pointed out reading is the only way to “become a good readers, develop a good writing style, an adequate vocabulary, and advance grammar.” Reyes Gomez, meanwhile, provides a more detailed account of the benefits of the skill (2010): Reading helps the proficiency and development of language, improves written and oral expression and enhances the fluency of the language. [It] improves writing and increases the vocabulary level (Reyes Gomez, 2010, p.1). As discussed above, reading is essential in developing learners’ language competence. Its important significance is undeniable. More importantly, Pang et al (2003) added that: Reading is a skill that will empower everyone who learns it. They will be able to benefit from the store of knowledge in printed materials and, ultimately, to contribute to that knowledge.Good teaching enables students to learn to read and read to learn (Pang et al, 2003, p.1). The above discussion on the importance of reading also mentions “good teaching” as a useful way which allows students to learn how to read. Although teachers have troubles in teaching reading, they always make efforts to teach it effectively. Teachers are asked to select the correct approach or approaches to teach students how to read successfully. A research showed that the teaching of reading is 16 multifaceted and a combined approach, including all reading components, is most successful (Moats, 1999). Mohammad (2012) recommended that: The view towards teaching reading has dramatically changed in the past decades. In 1960’s where environmentalist ideas was dominated decoding skills were emphasized, and learners’ reading skills were only limited to making sense of printed words. With the emergence of Chomskyan theories which explain language learning on a cognitive basis, reading skills were not limited to the decoding skills. Readers are not treated as passive one, but they are cognitively engaged in processing the author’s intended meaning. Therefore, teachers must consider lots of factors in teaching reading.Teachers must be aware of the progress that students are making and adjust instruction to the changing abilities of students. It is also important to remember that the goal of reading is to understand the texts and to be able to learn from them (Pang et al, 2003). 2.2 The Use of Literature in Teaching Reading 2.2.1 Reasons for Using Literary Texts in Foreign Language Classes In recent years, the role of literature as a basic component and source of authentic texts of the language curriculum rather than an ultimate aim of English instruction has been gaining momentum. Among language educators, there has been a hot debate as to how, when,where, and why literature should be incorporated in curriculum. Many teachers consider the use of literature in language teaching as an interesting and worthy concern (Sage, 1987,p.1) In Mac Fadden’s (1978) words: I should say, then, that literature is a canon which consists of those works in language by which a community defines itself through the course of its history. It includes works primarily artistic and also those whose aesthetic qualities are only secondary. The self-defining activity of the community is conducted in the light of the works, as its members have come to read them (or concretize them) (Mac Fadden, 1978, p.49). 17 Many teachers use literature widely in language classes because of its benefits which have been studied and proved by various scholars. Parkinson and Reid Thomas (2000, cited in Sell, 2005) came up with ten reasons for using literature in the language classroom: 1. Cultural enrichment 2. Linguistic model 3. Mental training 4. Extension of linguistic competence 5. Authenticity 6. Memorability 7. Rhythmic resource 8. Motivating material 9. Open to interpretation 10. Convenience Meanwhile, Littlewood (2000) emphasized the importance of the use of literature in EFL classes by arguing that [t]he major problem of language teaching in the classroom is the creation of an authentic situation for language. All language classrooms, especially those outside the community of native speakers, are isolated from the context of events and situations which produce natural language. Literature can overcome this problem because, in literary works, language creates its own context. The actual situation of the reader becomes immaterial as he or she looks on the events created by language. These events create, in turn, a context of situation for the language of the book and enable it to transcend the artificial classroom situation (Littlewood, 2000, p. 179). With the aforementioned discussion, it is obvious that literature can provide students with a lot of benefits in developing their language skills because literature can create a comfortable environment and authentic situations to produce natural language. Furthermore, literature helps students get access to the diversity of culture, history, social aspects of different parts of the world. 18 2.2.2 Benefits of Using Short Stories According to Singer (2000), a short story is, in some ways, like a photographa captured moment of time that is crystalline, though sometimes mysterious, arresting, though perhaps delicate. But while a photo may or may not suggest consequences, a short story always does. In the story's moment of time something important, something irrevocable has occurred. The change may be subtle or obvious, but it is definite and definitive. Short story is a genre of literature. Obviously, it has the benefits like other genres of literature. Moreover, short stories also have specific benefits which allow teachers to teach the four skills to all levels of language proficiency. Short stories can raise cultural awareness, linguistic awareness, and motivation. Murdoch (2002) indicates that “short stories can, if selected and exploited appropriately, provide quality text content which will greatly enhance ELT courses for learners at intermediate levels of proficiency” (9). According to him, short stories could be very beneficial materials in ELT reinforcement by using them in learning activities such as discussion, writing and acting out dialogues. When a short story is chosen based on the students' level of English proficiency, it can offer them adequate linguistic, intellectual, and emotional involvement and enrich their learning experience. Sage (1987) stated that short fiction is a supreme resource for observing not only language but life itself. In short fiction, characters act out all the real and symbolic acts people carry out in daily lives,and do so in a variety of registers and tones. The world of short fiction both mirrors and illuminates human lives. Sage (1987) also concluded that the use of a short story seems to be a very helpful technique in today’s foreign language classes. As it is short, it makes the students’ reading task and the teacher’s coverage easier. Also, she maintained that: An important feature of short fiction is its being universal. To put it differently, students all over the world have experienced stories and can relate to them. Moreover, short fiction, like all other types of literature, makes contribution to the development of cognitive analytical abilities by bringing the whole self to bear on a compressed account of a situation in a single place and moment (Sage, 1987, p.1). 19 Wright (2003), another supporter of the use of short-stories, argues that “in using stories in language teaching, we are using something much bigger and more important than language teaching it” (7). In support of this position, Bretz (1990) added that stories help improve communicative competence Meanwhile, according to Lazar (1993), the use of short-stories in ELT classroom offers teaching and learning with motivating, authentic and great educational value material. Stories help students understand another culture and work as a stimulus for language acquisition. They also develop students’ interpretative abilities and help expand their language awareness. Stories also encourage students to express their opinions and feelings and make language learning fun by bringing excitement to a classroom which can work as a change of routine and a new recipe. In short, using short stories as supplementary materials for reading classes is a good way to promote students’ motivation in the process of studying. Stories can also create a joyful and relaxing atmosphere. It is very useful for learning. Students sometimes feel bored and stressful under the pressure of reading tasks. Short stories can reduce the pressure and help students take their reading tasks easily. 2.2.3 Criteria for choosing short stories It is very important to select suitable short stories and various activities to use in classes. Choosing suitable short stories decides the success of lessons. Hill (1994) pointed out three basic criteria of choosing the text: the needs and abilities of the students; the linguistic and stylistic level of the text; the amount of background information required for a true appreciation of the material. According to Ur (1996), “…in using stories in language teaching, we are using something much bigger and more important than language teaching itself.” (7) Therefore, the use of simplified text with less proficient readers is highly suggested for the sake of suiting the texts with the level of students. Spack (1985) suggested the aspect of interest to be considered. According to him, it is important for the teacher to choose stories that would interest students that he/she most likes to read and teach, and that have been made into film to provide visual interpretation. 20
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