Tài liệu Skkn an action research on secondary students’ punctuation

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GIA LAI DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING HUNG VUONG GIFTED HIGH SCHOOL -------------------- ENGLISH GROUP AN ACTION RESEARCH ON SECONDARY STUDENTS’ PUNCTUATION By : ĐÀO NGUYỄN TIỂU QUYÊN Position: Secondary school teacher 1 PART A: INTRODUCTION I. Rationale Language is the most powerful weapon in communication. It makes human beings different from animals. It is the way through which we share our ideas and thoughts with others. In the four skills of learning English, writing, as one of the communicative activities, has been neglected by English learners. But in reality, writing is very important; writing and speaking help you express yourself. Writing is how much of the world communicates. Writing can be a great tool to help you know more about the way you think... writing can solidify ideas and thoughts, and allow you to reflect on them better than if the ideas remained evolving in your head. Writing is one of the ways that we translate our thoughts for other people. Punctuation is one of the most important aspects of written English, and yet it is one that is taken the most lightly. It is, in fact, this feature of writing that gives meaning to the written words… much like pauses and changes in tones of the voice when speaking. An error in punctuation can convey a completely different meaning to the one that is intended.For example, “ Don’t Stop.” means carry on, you are not required to stop. Rewriting the same words as ‘Don’t. Stop’ means stop what ever is being done with immediate effect. Definitely both sentences would be spoken in a different manner. Let us look at another example: “He was bitten by a dog which hurt him.” is completely different from “He was bitten by a dog, which hurt him.” The first sentence means the dog hurt him. The second sentence means the bite hurts him. It’s the comma after the dog that has completely changed the meaning of the sentence. 2 It’s very important to know all the punctuation marks, their meanings, and when to use them in order to produce a good piece of writing – and more importantly, to convey the correct message. Moreover, Good punctuation shows that a student or a writer has a good knowledge of grammatical structure. And to understand the latter, you should obviously grasp what is a simple sentence, a complex sentence and the meaning of each punctuation marks and where to use them. Good, correct use of punctuation is very important in your writing. Punctuation often plays the same role as variations in your voice do when you are speaking: full stops, colons, semi-colons and commas indicate various lengths of pauses; a question mark obviously indicates a question, whereas a rise or fall in your voice would do this. Lack of punctuation, therefore, or incorrect use of it, will result in your writing being difficult to follow, and your reader having to do unnecessary work. It could, in fact, be argued that correct punctuation is more important than correct grammar in making your writing easy to read. It is convenient for Vietnamese to learn punctuation in English because Vietnamese and English have the same language system. Their usage of punctuation is almost similar. That is the reason why the students use some common punctuation marks in the habit. Teaching punctuation at schools in general and high schools in particular is not mentioned much because in reality, this is not the curriculum. Moreover, in the high school graduation examination and the entrance university examination, students only have to do multiple-choice tests, which make them lazy to study punctuation. Thus, beginning with the recognition of the importance of punctuation in writing and the practical teaching, we choose “An Action Research on Secondary Students’ Punctuation” as the topic of my research. 3 II. Scope, objectives and research question of the research This research is aimed to investigate how and how much students at Hung Vuong Gifted High School in Gia Lai province use punctuation in writing. The data collection and data analysis therefore are based on the information provided by written tests and the journals written by the students of Hung Vuong Gifted High School during the first semester from August to December 2012. The subjects of the study are the students of class 12C1 of Hung Vuong Gifted High School. To be more specific, in realizing the study, the main objectives are: - To investigate how much the students use punctuation marks in writing. - To investigate how the students use punctuation marks in writing. - To give some pedagogical implications and suggestions for further development. With those objectives, my research questions with sub-questions are: 1. How much do students use correct punctuation marks? - Are the students eager to use punctuation in writing? 2. How accurately and purposefully do students use punctuations mark? - Do they use the correct punctuation marks? 3. What are the students’ attitudes towards the usage of punctuation marks? 4 PATR B: DEVELOPMENT CHAPTER 1: LITERATURE REVIEW I.1. The concepts of punctuation Up to now, there have been many officially published materials on punctuation by English. The best known book on this grammatical point in the English language is “Punctuation” by Robert Allen (2002). According to them, punctuation is the use of standard marks and signs in writing to separate words into sentences, clauses, and phrases in order to clarify meaning. The marks or signs are called punctuation marks. Punctuation marks are signals to readers. When you speak, you can pause, stop, or change your tone of voice to make your meaning clear. You cannot do this when you write. When writing, you must use punctuation marks such as commas and question marks to make your meaning clear. Punctuation marks are symbols that indicate the structure and organization of written language, as well as intonation and pauses to be observed when reading aloud. (Wikipedia) In the book entitled “The King's English: A Guide to Modern Usage,” Kingsley Amis states that punctuation is the system of signs given to a reader to show how the sentence is constructed and how it should be read. Sentences are the building blocks used to construct written accounts. They are complete statements. Punctuation shows how the sentence should be read and makes the meaning clear. I.2. The importance of punctuation According to Oxford dictionary, punctuation marks are essential when you are writing. They show the reader where sentences start and finish and if they are used properly they make your writing easy to 5 understand. This section gives practical guidance on how to use commas, semicolons, and other types of punctuation correctly, so that your writing will always be clear and effective. For example, "woman, without her man, is nothing" (emphasizing the importance of men) and "woman: without her, man is nothing" emphasizing the importance of women) have greatly different meanings. I.3. Types of punctuation marks 1. Period [.] (Full stop) - Use a period to show the end of a sentence. Hockey is a popular sport in Canada. The federal government is based in Ottawa. - Use a period after certain abbreviations. B.C. is the province located on the West Coast. Dr. Bethune was a Canadian who worked in China. The company is located at 888 Bay St. in Toronto. It is 4:00 p.m. in Halifax right now. 3.2. Question Mark [?] - Use a question mark at the end of a sentence to show a direct question. How many provinces are there in Canada? Note: do not use a question mark for indirect questions. The teacher asked the class a question. Do not ask me why. 3.3. Exclamation Mark [!] Use an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence to show surprise or excitement. We won the Stanley Cup! The forest is on fire! 3.4. Comma [,] - Use a comma to show a pause in a sentence. 6 Therefore, we should write a letter to the prime minister. - Use a comma with quotation marks to show what someone has said directly. "I can come today," she said, "but not tomorrow." - Use commas for listing three or more different things. Ontario, Quebec, and B.C. are the three biggest provinces. - Use commas around relative clauses that add extra information to a sentence. Emily Carr, who was born in 1871, was a great painter. 3.5. Apostrophe ['] - Use an apostrophe to show ownership of something. This is David's computer. These are the player's things. (things that belong to the player) Note: For nouns in plural form, put the apostrophe at the end of the noun. These are the players' things. (things that belong to the players) - Use an apostrophe to show letters that have been left out of a word. I don't know how to fix it. 3.6. Quotation Marks ["] Use quotation marks to show what someone has said directly. The prime minister said, "We will win the election." "I can come today," she said, "but not tomorrow." 3.7. Colon [:] - Use a colon to introduce a list of things. There are three positions in hockey: goalie, defence, and forward. - Use a colon to introduce a long quotation. The prime minister said: "We will fight. We will not give up. We will win the next election." 3.8. Semicolon [;] - Use a semicolon to join related sentences together. 7 The festival is very popular; people from all over the world visit each year. - Use a semicolon in lists that already have commas. The three biggest cities in Canada are Toronto, Ontario; Montreal, Quebec; and Vancouver, B.C. 3.9. Dash [-] - Use a dash before a phrase that summarizes the idea of a sentence. Mild, wet, and cloudy - these are the characteristics of weather in Vancouver. - Use a dash before and after a phrase or list that adds extra information in the middle of a sentence. The children - Pierre, Laura, and Ashley - went to the store. Most Canadians - but not all - voted in the last election. - Use a dash to show that someone has been interrupted when speaking. The woman said, "I want to ask - " when the earthquake began to shake the room. 3.10. Hyphen [-] - Use a hyphen to join two words that form one idea together. sweet-smelling fire-resistant - Use a hyphen to join prefixes to words. anti-Canadian non-contact - Use a hyphen when writing compound numbers. one-quarter twenty-three 8 I.4. Teaching Punctuation Converting spoken words into a written form is a critical process. If you fail to convey the exact intended meaning of what someone said, you are essentially conveying the message in a different form which may entail consequences. Thanks to the punctuation marks, a writer can put his/her feelings into the message and make it more interesting and attractive to the readers. So teaching punctuation is an on-going process in four-skill lessons. According to Janet Angelillo, here are some guides to teach punctuation: - Starting With What Students Know and Notice: The class focuses on the author’s intentions and on noticing how the author wanted to shape our reading of the text. Whole-class and small-group work suggestions show ways to meet students’ needs and extend student learning. - Building on Students’ Knowledge: extend students’experience with punctuation beyond examining texts, practicing in notebooks, and discussing with peers. By assessing your class’s needs, you may decide to plan additional punctuation study of an author, a genre, or deep study of one punctuation mark across content areas. - “Hearing” punctuation: how reading aloud to students holds such owner for teaching them punctuation. Through reading aloud, teacher teach students the way reading should “sound,” and we can model for them by thinking aloud about our decisions as readers when we see punctuation. Punctuation is therefore a “code” which must be understood in the same way that the combinations of letters that make up words must be understood. - Conferring With Children: conferring as a way to research and assess what students know about punctuation. Conferring is a powerful tool for gathering information, and teachers should use the information to inform 9 their teaching. Ideas for later lessons can come from conferring. It also includes groups of mini-lessons that grew from information gathered in conferences. - Reading and Writing by the Book: Studying authors, not grammar texts, is what will teach students that punctuation is a powerful and complex tool. Looking at authentic texts helps students learn punctuation and then holds them to a standard of punctuation use. - Passionate about punctuation: supporting students who become fascinated by punctuation. When students are treated as learners who can figure out most anything, they often take up the challenge and surprise everyone with their passion for any topic. You will read about mid- and end-of-year studies in punctuation that push students to deepen their knowledge and improve their facility. Independent study of punctuation and self- evaluation are also important pieces of a total punctuation immersion. This is what teachers can do when students want to know more about punctuation, and how to encourage them. - Losing the red pen: evaluating Written Conventions Teacher will face the difficult question of how to evaluate punctuation. Examining student writing while thinking about how the student has grown, what he or she is demonstrating about learning, or what he or she is attempting to do make evaluation of writing much richer and provides validation for students. I.5. Punctuation and intonation Punctuation, the use of special signs in writing to clarify how words are used; the term also refers to the signs themselves. In every language, besides the sounds of the words that are strung together there are other features, such as tone, accent, and pauses, that are equally significant. In English, stress, pausing, and tonal changes interlock in a set of patterns 10 often called intonations. Such features are represented by punctuation, indicated by signs inserted usually between words, and often following the feature they mark. The intonations of declaration are classified in three types, symbolized by the comma (,), used to separate words or phrases for clarity; the semicolon (;), used to mark separation between elements in a series of related phrases, generally in a long sentence; and the full stop, or period (.), used to mark the end of a sentence. Other intonations are shown by the exclamation point (!); the interrogation point, or question mark (?); the parenthesis [(  )], used to set off a word or phrase from a sentence that is complete without it; and the colon (:), typically used to introduce material that elaborates on what has already been said. Quotation marks ("  ") indicate direct quotation or some borrowing, and usually demand special intonation. The ellipsis (…) is used to indicate the place in a passage where material has been omitted or a thought has trailed off. The long dash (—) is especially used in handwriting for incomplete intonation patterns. CHAPTER 2: DEVELOPMENT OF THE RESEARCH I. Context I.1. Students and Teachers The Students The most significant feature of the students entering Hung Vuong Gifted High School is that most of them come from different secondary schools in the districts of the province and the Pleiku city in many of which traditional method of teaching English is popularly applied. Although their learning focused on the grammar, they hardly know how to use punctuation marks. Most of them find the high school learning completely different from that at their secondary schools and make the first steps to access to the 11 higher requirements in learning English in general and learning how to write effectively in particular. The teachers. In the English group of Hung Vuong Gifted High School, there are 12 teachers, who were all trained in universities in Viet Nam (Da Nang University of Foreign Languages and Qui Nhon University). They are from 30 to 50 years of age. 3 of them are experienced teachers who have devoted over 20 years of their life to the development of the School and the grownup of generations of teachers in the province; others are young teachers who are friendly, active, knowledgeable and full of inspiration for teaching. Every year, they are all sent to seminars or training courses held in Pleiku or other cities. I.2. School and class Improvements in teaching method are accompanied by improvements in the school’s infrastructure. Students are in small-sized class (from 30 to 35 students/class); each class has one private classroom to study. The rooms are especially designed for small classes with large windows, blackboards, fans, lights and especially projector and sound mixer which are very convenient for teaching. Besides, there is a language learning laboratory that helps teachers and students improve their English skills. I.3. Textbook Teaching English 12 (Advanced level) is distributed 4 periods (45 minutes/period) a week. English 12 (Advanced level), the book following the English 10 and 11 (Advanced level), consists of sixteen units whose themes are Home life, Cultural diversity, School Education System, Higher Education, Future Jobs, Economic Reformed, Youth, Future Life, Deserts, 12 Endangered species, Books, Water Sports, SEA Games, International Organizations, Women in Society and Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Each unit contains: - Reading - Listening - Speaking - Writing - Language Focus and is carried out for seven periods – two for Reading lesson, one for Listening lesson, one for Speaking lesson, one for Writing lesson and two for Language Focus lesson. So there is a writing lesson about every two weeks. And it is assessed as a part of on-going tests. II. Methodology of the study II.1. Subjects The action research is carried out in a 12-grade class of 32 literaturemajor students at the age of 18, eight boys and 23 girls one third live in the city center and the rest come from various districts in the province. Their level of proficiency in English can be roughly attributed to preintermediate, judging from the curriculum and requirements of the Education and Training Ministry. The students attended a hard entrance examination to become students of the gifted school. Some of them are considered as the best students in Literature in Gia lai after spending several examinations held by the Gia Lai Education and Training Department or Vietnam Education and Training Ministry to choose the best. This means most of them are good at Vietnamese and Literature. It is acknowledged that they know how to use correct punctuation marks in Vietnamese. 13 II.2. Problem diagnosis To clarify the problems, the researcher scored the first practice test, interviewed students, read the students’ journals to discover the reasons why they cannot use the correct punctuation marks:  Focusing on the content of an essay and forgetting the punctuation  Doing multiple-choice test makes them neglect punctuation  Not having opportunities to learn how to use the proper punctuation  Not having opportunities to "play” with punctuation II.3. Plan of action Stage Activities Time 1 Finding the problem through the students’ first August 2012 writing practice test (unit 1) 2 Finding the students’ need by their journals and August 2012 interviewing them 3 Searching literature September 2012 4 Collecting data by collecting the students’ September – writing texts November 2012 5 analyzing results November 2012 6 Writing drafts December 2012 7 Writing action research report January 2013 8 Submitting the report February 2013 14 II.4. Data collection The results of the study were developed on the basis of data collected via observation, practice tests and journals written by students. As motioned above, the stage of data collection has been carried out during the first semester of the school year 2012-2013. The first instrument for collecting data is observation schedules aiming to examine the students’ frequency of using proper punctuation marks in pre- and post- tests. The pre-observation has been carried out in the first practice test (unit 1: Home Life) and the post-observation is used to examine the students’ usage of punctuation in the last writing practice test of the first semester of school year 2012-2013. Besides, punctuation study must be embedded in authentic reading and writing experiences, and must become part of the classroom conversation all semester long. So another observation is fulfilled during the reading, listening and speaking lesson (sometimes through games of language) to emphasize how to read the punctuation marks. - the teacher asks students to read the reading passage, paying much the intonation because punctuation tells the reader where to pause, breathe, raise his voice, change his voice, etc. This activity is on-going in speaking and listening lessons. - The teacher organizes punctuations games such as filling, guessing the punctuation, etc. The second instruments are students’ journals written regularly every two week after the teacher correct score their writing practice tests in each unit to express their reflection on the usage of punctuation and also the practice of effective writing . The journals are aimed to collect data for the research, thus, they were structured to focus on the issues related to the research questions. The students were also informed that the journal are not marked, but they are just means by which the students feel totally free to reflect 15 their feelings, opinions of the lessons to help the teacher improve the teaching and learning. It is of great important that they will give reflection thoroughly and honestly. All this is done to make sure that the students’ journals will provide essential qualitative data for the research. After all the data have been collected, we move into quantitative and qualitative data analysis, which will be thoroughly presented in the next section. III. Data analysis III.1. Data analysis procedure In term of quantitative analysis, the data collected from the observations of pre and post-practice tests were used to discover the students’ frequency of using punctuation marks. In term of qualitative analysis, the data collected from the second observation and students’ journals are useful sources of data about the students’ accuracy of using punctuation marks in writing and speaking and their attitude towards the punctuation. III.2. Data analysis results Punctuation means making points. It means putting the right kind of points in the right place so as to mark the exact length and meaning of sentences. Proper punctuation is essential in written English to enable the reader to understand what it is you are trying to say. III.2.1. The results from observations The results from observations of the pre-practice test In unit 1 of English 12 (Advanced level), the topic of writing lesson is Family rules. The students were asked to write a letter to a friend about 16 their family rules in about 200 words. Here is the frequency of the students’ usage of punctuation marks. Table 1: The frequency of students’ using punctuation marks in the prepractice test Punctuation marks Number of Percentage of punctuation marks’ punctuation marks’ occurrence / necessary occurrence places Period 250 / 423 59% Question Mark [?] 8 / 15 53% Exclamation Mark [!] 2 /10 20% 289 / 524 55% Apostrophe ['] 18 / 55 33% Quotation Marks ["] 27 / 32 84% Colon [:] 30 / 32 94% 0 /8 0% 17 / 23 74% 5/8 62.5% Comma [,] Semicolon [;] Dash [-] Hyphen [-] As can be seen from the table 1, the students did not use the punctuation much. They seemed to neglect Exclamation Mark (20%) and semicolon (0%). When the teacher interviewed them, they said that they did not know how to use these punctuation marks in English and they focuses so much on the contents and the grammar structures that they did not pay attention to the punctuation. On the contrary, they used the colon most with 94% because they were familiar with it in Vietnamese. Here are some common mistakes and abuses of punctuation marks that the students made in the pre-practice test of writing 17 1. Neglect of Full stop Most of the students forgot the usage of full stop in the end of the last sentence in a paragraph or after certain abbreviations. - I love my family - We represent our family wherever we go, and my parents expect us to behave accordingly - Tell the truth 2. Punctuation outside Quotes: In English, punctuation should always be placed within quotation marks, even if it’s not part of the quotation itself. Look at what a student of mine write in their essays: “The amount of work that children contribute to the family is essential”, says my father The problem here is that when a comma separates two independent clauses, they must be joined by a conjunction. Without a conjunction, it becomes a comma splice. So the sentence must be corrected like this: The amount of work that children contribute to the family is essential,” says my father Another example: “I'm the one in power (ha-ha, you're not)”, “I'm an adult so I matter, you're a kid so you don't”, and “Just wait until you grow up. Then you can break all the rules you want”. must be written: “I'm the one in power (ha-ha, you're not),” “I'm an adult so I matter, you're a kid so you don't,” and “Just wait until you grow up. Then you can break all the rules you want.” 3. Missing Comma after introductory elements: Introductory elements of a sentence need a comma afterwards. Some of my students forgot that. So the sentence: 18 In my family my parents always set a rule. should be changed into: In my family, my parents always set a rule. 4. Misplaced Apostrophes: Most of the students were confused whether they use apostrophes for possessives and conjunctions where appropriate. Every home should have it’s own home rules. it’s in the sentence is completely wrong in term of grammar, its is correct. It's what anchors children's loyalty to their parents and brothers and sisters--and forges a lifelong bond to their parents' convictions of right and wrong. It empowers children's inner voice of conscience for life. The message that the student wanted to convey through these sentences is meaningful but it is not appreciated because of the mistake of using apostrophes. Here are the corrections children’s loyalty their parents’ convictions of right or wrong children’s inner voice 5. Incorrect use of Cemicolons: Semicolons are frequently used incorrectly. They connect two independent clauses that could be distinct, separate sentences. This is one of the most difficult punctuation marks to use that the students tended to forget or use comma instead. Wrong: We used to think that following family rules was hard however, we can now get it easy. Right: We used to think that following family rules was hard; however, we can now get it easy. 19 The sentence: Keep your rule list sparse, the fewer there are, the more power each rule will have. should be written: Keep your rule list sparse; the fewer there are, the more power each rule will have. 6. Incorrect use of Semicolons: Influenced by Vietnamese, the students sometimes put colon after “such as” Wrong: Set regular times for certain activities such as: meals, homework, cleanup and bedtime. Right: Set regular times for certain activities such as meals, homework, cleanup and bedtime. 7. Too many punctuation marks - Do you agree with me??? - I love my family!!! - Let me tell you all about my family riles….. The students think that when they use three punctuation marks instead of one, the question becomes deeper, more mysterious and more impressive. Too many punctuation marks distract the reader and make the text look sloppy. They also render a pushy, in-your-face, or desperate tone. The results from observations of the post-practice test For the post- practice test in unit 8 of English 12 (Advanced level), the students were asked to write a paragraph about life in the future in about 200 words. The requirement is to use as much punctuation as possible to make the paragraph more lively. Here is the frequency of the thirty-two students’ usage of punctuation marks. 20
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