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Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh Does group work help enhance or give more interest in teaching and learning reading comprehension? BACKGROUND TO THE TEACHING OF READING Reading comprehension is part of foreign language teaching. Reading comprehension skills increase the pleasure and effectiveness of reading. Strong reading comprehension skills help in all the other subjects and in personal and professional lives. The high stakes tests that control advancement through elementary, middle and high school and which determine entrance to college are in large part, a measure of reading comprehension skills. While there are test preparation courses which will provide a few short-cuts to improve test-taking strategies, these standardized tests tend to be very effective in measuring a reader’s reading comprehension skills. In short, building reading comprehension skills requires a long term strategy in which all the reading skills areas (phonics, fluency, and vocabulary) will contribute to success. Reading is a fluent process of readers combining information from a text and their own background knowledge to build meaning. The goal of reading is comprehension. Reading is an essential skill for learners of English. For most of these learners it is the most important skill to master in order to ensure success not only in learning English, but also in learning in any content class where reading in English is required. With strengthened reading skills, learners will make greater progress and development in all other areas of learning. According to Donald Martin (1991), reading comprehension requires motivation, mental frameworks for holding ideas, concentration and good techniques. Motivation and interest are created by previewing material, asking 1 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh questions, and discussing ideas with classmates. The stronger the learner’s interest is, the greater his or her comprehension becomes. THE TEACHING OF READING SKILLS AT HIGH SCHOOLS English is one of the compulsory subjects at high schools, and it has become more popular and helpful. More and more students show their interest in learning English, especially in speaking and writing. They often find it hard and uncomfortable to learn reading. Students feel uncomfortable and study reading comprehension ineffectively because of some reasons. This is a problem for teachers. To students at high schools, reading in English is what they have to do at schools. They have to deal with a large number of unknown words and complicated grammatical rules for coming examination. Reading is boring chores to do. At high schools, the textbook for each level is designed to include 16 reading passages, grammatical points, listening and speaking tasks. Students have to cover them all in a year. As a rule, teachers have to stick to the textbook, the only teaching materials that are at their disposal. Within a bottom-up approach to reading, the most typical classroom focus is on what we call intensive reading. Most of the reading passages in the textbooks are short and followed by textbook activities to develop comprehension or a particular reading skill. Most textbooks used to teach foreign language reading use an intensive reading approach. The students have no time for extensive reading (ER). From my teaching point of view, students should be encouraged to read more from other sources besides the textbook. Data collected from pre-experiment questionnaire showed that most of the students dislike English reading comprehension because of their poor vocabulary and the lack of suitable materials. 2 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh THE ROLE OF EXTENSIVE READING IN LANGUAGE LEARNING Although extensive reading can be contrasted with intensive reading, I tend to switch my students (students majoring in English) to extensive reading due to the role of extensive reading in language learning.  It can provide 'comprehensible input'. In his 1982 book, Krashen argues that extensive reading will lead to language acquisition, provided that certain preconditions are met. These include adequate exposure to the language, interesting material, and a relaxed, tension-free learning environment  It can enhance learners' general language competence. Grabe (1991:391) and Paran (1996:30) have emphasized the importance of extensive reading in providing learners with practice in automaticity of word recognition and decoding the symbols on the printed page (often called bottom-up processing).  It can increase knowledge of vocabulary. Nagy & Herman (1987) claimed that children between grades three and twelve (US grade levels) learn up to 3000 words a year. It is thought that only a small percentage of such learning is due to direct vocabulary instruction, the remainder being due to acquisition of words from reading. This suggests that traditional approaches to the teaching of vocabulary, in which the number of new words taught in each class was carefully controlled (words often being presented in related sets), is much less effective in promoting vocabulary growth than simply getting students to spend time on silent reading of interesting books.  It can motivate learners to read. Reading material selected for extensive reading programs should address students' needs, tastes and interests, so as to energize and motivate them to read the books. In the Yemen, this was achieved through the use of familiar material and popular titles reflecting the local culture (e.g.. Aladdin and His Lamp). Bell & 3 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh Campbell (1996, 1997) explore the issue in a South East Asian context, presenting various ways to motivate learners to read and explaining the role of extensive reading and regular use of libraries in advancing the reading habit .  It helps to build confidence with extended texts. Much classroom reading work has traditionally focused on the exploitation of shorts texts, either for presenting lexical and grammatical points or for providing students with limited practice in various reading skills and strategies. However, a large number of students in the EFL/ESL world require reading for academic purposes, and therefore need training in study skills and strategies for reading longer texts and books. Kembo (1993) points to the value of extensive reading in developing students confidence and ability in facing these longer texts.  It encourages the exploitation of textual redundancy. Insights from cognitive psychology have informed our understanding of the way the brain functions in reading. It is now generally understood that slow, word-by-word reading, which is common in classrooms, impedes comprehension by transferring an excess of visual signals to the brain. This leads to overload because only a fraction of these signals need to be processed for the reader to successfully interpret the message. Kalb (1986) refers to redundancy as an important means of processing, and to extensive reading as the means of recognizing and dealing with redundant elements in texts.  It facilitates the development of prediction skills. One of the currently accepted perspectives on the reading process is that it involves the exploitation of background knowledge. Such knowledge is seen as providing a platform for readers to predict the content of a text on the basis of a pre-existing schema. When students read, these schema are activated and help the reader to decode and interpret the message beyond 4 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh the printed words. These processes presuppose that readers predict, sample, hypothesize and reorganize their understanding of the message as it unfolds while reading (Nunan 1991: 65-66). WAYS OF ACTIVATING STUDENTS’ INTEREST AND MOTIVATION How to teach a reading comprehension lesson effectively has always been a difficult task for teachers, how to draw students’ interest may be a more important question. This will lead to the success of teachers’ teaching. Effective teaching and learning in the classroom involves negotiating among classroom factors. However, a factor essential to successful learning is the motivation of students. That is why teachers need to pay attention to the interests and needs of the students. In fact, attitudes of students are an important consideration. It is necessary for teachers to know the students’ attitude towards the lesson and the teaching approach. From my teaching experience, a student who is eager to learn English will do better than those who are force to study or have to study in an environment which is not suitable for them. As a teacher of over 20 years of teaching English, I have struggled to know how to implement reading theory in the reading classroom. Knowing how to integrate the theory of reading into appropriate classroom practice has been my challenge. I often organize a teaching system for reading based on some key elements of reading such as activating prior knowledge, cultivating vocabulary, teaching for comprehension … How to get students more involved in their own learning process? Some classroom techniques and tasks have been chosen in terms of pre-task, task, and follow-up. Pre-tasks have been made use of in order to create interest, help build students’ schema in relation to the topic, introduce key vocabulary … 5 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh A number of tasks can be used to activate language in the classroom. Some of the more popular task types in the communicative classroom include: roleplays, simulations, problem-solving, discussions, decision-making and information gaps. Information gap tasks in which two or more students have access to different information that they have to share in order to complete the task are popular because students can work well with one another at most levels of proficiency from post-beginner to advanced; all students have to take part and participate actively and they work well with mixed level groups. Group work is one pedagogical strategy that promotes participation and interaction. It fosters a deeper and more active learning process, and it also provides teachers with valuable demonstrations of the degree to which students understand particular topics or concepts. It allows students to work together in small teams, combining students with varying backgrounds, experience, technical and intellectual competencies towards the attainment of a specific objective. Working in groups, students are stimulated to think ‘outside the box’, thus acquiring increased levels of perception, awareness, reasoning and judgment abilities. Research has shown that groups frequently devise more and better solutions than the most advanced individual (Barkley et al., 2004; Cooper et al., 2003). Working together in groups also gives students the opportunity to learn from and teach each other. Classroom research has shown that students often learn better from each other than they do from a teacher (Barkley et al. 2005, 16–20). The students of a group can make more progress. As groups are often formed with students of varying abilities, excellent ones can help their less intelligent peers to keep up with the learning. Brilliant students can also benefit from group work as their understanding of lessons is reinforced. Most of the arising misconceptions are quickly dealt with and eliminated through discussions, precluding them being incorporated into the conceptual framework. In addition, 6 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh slow students can gain more confidence and motivation when working with intelligent ones. Furthermore, various social skills can be learned and honed during group work. Self-expression, decision-making, responsibility, conflict management, time management, listening, task allocation, sharing, emotion control and so on are practiced naturally and frequently when students working in a group. The skills gained in group work reduce the occurrence of academic and occupational trouble later in life. IMPLEMENTATION PROCESS The implementation was monitored at Luong The Vinh High school for the Gifted. This technique was applied to some of the reading passages in the text book for Grade 10 (Unit 3, Unit 6, Unit 7, Unit 11 and Unit 12). The students in the innovation are Grade 10 students who major in English. According to the curriculum for high school students, each class has 3 periods per week for English. On average, the teacher has 6 periods to cover the whole lesson. Each lesson includes such parts as reading, speaking, listening, writing and language focus. To achieve the implementation, the teacher had to be wellprepared for the plan. The tasks as well as the guidelines had to be assigned to the students so that they could work effectively at home and get their assignment beforehand. It is necessary for the teacher to design suitable tasks or activities and groups for the students. The types of tasks and groups designed are based on the features of the reading passages. The implementation can be carried out before or after the teaching of the reading passages in the text book. Prior to each reading passage, it is beneficial to engage students in an activity that gets them thinking about what they already know about the topic of reading. The reading passages in the text book are sometimes too short to provide students with necessary information. Unit 11 is used as an example for 7 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh this. In this case, the class should be divided into 3 groups randomly. Each group will be in charge of one national park mentioned in Unit 11. The students will work in groups outside the class with detailed guidelines from the teacher. Most of the tasks are often done at home because the time limited for each lesson at school is fixed. Students have to search for the information from various sources such as books, magazines, other materials or some websites on the Internet … This is a good chance for students to develop Extensive reading. They have to read many books or longer segments of text but they are free to choose the books, or the materials that can match their interest, ability and needs, which help foster students’ developing reading habits and interests. Then, all of the members of a group will work together to select the suitable information for the topic (location, some special features …) and prepare for the short presentation in class.  How to Form Groups Small groups or learning teams can be formed in four ways: randomly, teacherselected, by seat proximity, or student-selected. Random and teacher-selected group assignments avoid cliques and ensure that students interact with different classmates throughout the semester. The teacher also wants to consider using the students’ hobbies toward the topic as a mechanism to help create groups. Take a one-question survey before grouping the students. Suggested questions: Unit 7: Which of the following TV programs do you like to watch best? a. cartoons b. game shows c. films d. music e. newsreel d. classic e. jazz Unit 12: What sort of music do you often listen to? a. folk / country b. pop c. rock Those who choose (a) can be put into a group of their own. They can find it 8 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh interesting to work together because they have the same taste. Once they are really satisfied by group work, they will be eager to work.  Group Size and Duration Group size and the length of time that students work together can vary. It might be four, five or six people. If there are more people in a group, some members will stop participating. In large groups it is useful to assign roles within each group (examples: recorder, reporter to the class, timekeeper, monitor, or facilitator). If students are not used to working in groups, giving some guidelines with the class about respectful interaction before the first activity can foster positive and constructive communication. It is useful to arrange the students in groups before giving them instructions for the group activity, since the physical movement in group formation tends to be distracting.  The Structure of Group Work Successful group work activities require a highly structured task. The teacher should make this task clear to students by writing specific instructions on the board or on a worksheet. The instructions must be included: - The learning objectives - The specific task: Choose the TV channel you like. State the reasons for your choice. List all the programs included in the channel. Recommend some interesting programs to your friends. - The expected product: for example, reporting back to the class; handing in a sheet of paper. 9 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh - A time limit: depending on the topic or the questions (for example, 4 days or one week)  Fostering Group Interaction During group work, the teacher should circulate and listen to the students to check if they are on task or they are talking about something else. If the students have to work on the assignment at home, the teacher will try to keep in touch with the students by email to make sure that they understand the assignment. When the students have questions during their group work, it is important not to answer questions – at least not at first. Instead, the teacher will ask the other group members how they would approach the question. If no one in the group has an idea, the teacher can give the group either a start on how to answer it or a clue to the questions. On implementing group work for the first time in their section, the teacher will find that the students fall awkwardly silent when the teacher walks by or listens to their discussion. This is only temporary, and it should stop once the students are familiar with the teacher and the group-work format. Because unfamiliarity drives this reaction, it is good to implement group work very early in the semester and to use it often. IMPROVEMENTS There is a saying “More hands make light work”. Researchers report that, regardless of the subject matter, students working in groups tend to learn more of what is taught and retain it longer than when the same content is presented in other instructional formats. Teachers should make good use of group work to help students learn from each other, build community, and teach cooperation. 10 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh More people on a project or a topic lead to more points of view and ideas. In a group, students can bounce ideas off one another or generate new ideas, which in turn leads to creative ways to approach or solve a problem. More partners, more knowledge and opinions will help students fully understand the lessons. Working in groups reduces the overall workload since each student has a portion of the assignment to complete. This is even more beneficial if the assignment or the project requires different parts such as writing, designing a display or presenting the information. Each student can complete the task he / she is best suited for, which fosters the best expected product since each individual focuses on his strengths. Group work is seen as motivational because students recognize that their success or failure in the attainment of the specified goal is dependent on them being able to work together as a team. They thereby encourage each other to get the assigned tasks done properly and on time. CONCLUSION and RECOMMENDATIONS Group work, the classroom technique, exposed the students to more varied language input and output. The teacher attempted to provide the students with opportunities to listen, speak, write, read, see, and interact to learn English. We view learning as a process in which students construct their own knowledge and are responsible for their own learning. The activity, inquiryoriented, should develop students’ thinking skills and foster cooperative learning and, consequently, the role of the teacher will have to change from presenter of information or classroom authority to coach or facilitator to assist, direct, and guide the student (Miller, 2000) 11 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh Regular dependent reading time must be provided for the student to practice the strategies (Pardo, 2004). Pardo also stated that reading becomes better with practice and comprehending becomes better with more reading practice. According to Pardo, motivation to read can impact a reader’s persistence in reading. Students with higher amount of motivation are more likely to apply the use of comprehension strategies while reading. Although there are many motivational factors that are not within the teachers’ control, teachers are able to motivate students to read by providing interesting text, allowing choices to be made as levels of engagement increase, so does comprehension (Grimes, 2003). The implementation of this novel method, if successful, will be a major pedagogical breakthrough due to its enormous potential. Indisputably, groupwork produces an animated and enticing atmosphere conducive to acquisition of knowledge. To clarify, whereas an average reader can spend approximately one hour reading “genuinely” before saturation occurs, for group-work members, the amount of time devoted to actual reading is augmented. In addition, additional language skills can be integrated, specifically listening and speaking. There can be discussions relevant to the reading materials afterwards to consolidate contents’ comprehension and possible extension of the debated subject. It is worthwhile and entertaining; also it retains their attention and enthusiasm. Furthermore, this method is particularly ideal for pre-intermediate and intermediate students due to their inquisitive and interaction-demanding nature; advanced learners are not recommended on the grounds that they are generally capable of performing independently. The selection of materials is indispensable for the successful execution of this method. Therefore, it is advisable that the contents be comparatively straightforward, not super-perplexing or vocabulary-loaded; topics should be 12 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh interesting and stimulate individual participation and contribution. Besides, a competent leader should be appointed to control and navigate the group and group members favorably should consist of close friends or those having at least something in common in order to maintain a harmonious atmosphere and to avoid imminent conflicts. REFERENCES 13 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh - Barkley, E., et al. (2005). Collaborative Learning Techniques. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. - Bell, T., & Campbell, J. (1996). 'Promoting Good Reading Habits: The Debate.' Network 2/3 (pp 22-30). - Bell, T., & Campbell, J. (1997). 'Promoting Good Reading Habits Part 2: The Role of Libraries.' Network 2/4 (pp 26-35). - Grabe, W. (1991). 'Current developments in second language reading research.' TESOL Quarterly 25/3: 375-406. - Grimes, Sharon. “The Search for Meaning. How you can Boost Kids’s Reading Comprehension” in School Library Journal. May 2004. p48-52 - Kalb, G. (1986). 'Teaching of extensive reading in English instruction at the senior gymnasium level.' Die Neueren Sprachen, 85, (pp 420-430). - Kembo, J. (1993). 'Reading:Encouraging and Maintaining Individual Extensive Reading.' English Teaching Forum, 31/2, (pp 36-38). - Krashen, S. D. (1982). 'Principles and Practice in Second Language Acquisition.' New York: Prentice Hall. - Miller, L. (2000)” Using information technology to foster cultural knowledge and awareness: An interview with award-winning teacher Cheryl Cox.” Reading online, 4, 5. - Nagy, W., & Herman, P. (1987). 'Breadth and depth of vocabulary knowledge: Implications for acquisition and instruction.' In Mckeown, M., & Curtis, M. (eds), The nature of vocabulary acquisition. Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum. (pp 19-35). 14 Teaching and Learning Reading comprehension Giáo viên: Trương Mỹ Linh - Nunan, D. (1991). 'Language Teaching Methodology: A Textbook For Teachers.' London: Prentice Hall. - Paran, A. (1996). 'Reading in EFL: facts and fictions.' English Language Teaching Journal, 50/1, (pp 25-34). - Pardo, Laura S. “What Every Teacher Needs to Know About Comprehension” in The Reading Teacher. Nov. 2004 p. 272-281 Người thực hiện Trương Mỹ Linh 15
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