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
MA THESIS IN THEORY AND METHODOLOGY
OF ENGLISH LANGUAGE TEACHING
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: 60.14.01.11
NGƯỜI HƯỚNG DẪN KHOA HỌC:
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
Mai Thị Phương
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.
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.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
LIST OF CHARTS
CONTENTS OF THESIS
Chapter 1: INTRODUCTION
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
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
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
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 .
I choose this topic for my research: “An investigation into teachers’ and
students’ attitudes towards using short stories as supplementary materials for
reading classes at Hue University College of Foreign Languages” for the
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
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
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?
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
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.
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
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).
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
7. Rhythmic resource
8. Motivating material
9. Open to interpretation
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.
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).
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.