Luận văn Integrating short stories and poems in developing the reading skills for 2nd year students in haiphong university - Nguyễn Thúy Hương

Nowadays, in this industrial world, a person who wants to be successful needs to have a profound knowledge. Thus, much time is spent on learning to widen and deepen the understanding about culture, science, technology as well as social skills. It is not easy if he just stays at home and fills himself up with thousands of books as they are only theory, in order to get practical experiences he has to communicate, in other words, he has to know others and make himself known by others. This can be done only if he speaks the language that they can understand. The solution is he has to learn English.

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Chapter I: Introduction I.1.Rationale Nowadays, in this industrial world, a person who wants to be successful needs to have a profound knowledge. Thus, much time is spent on learning to widen and deepen the understanding about culture, science, technology as well as social skills. It is not easy if he just stays at home and fills himself up with thousands of books as they are only theory, in order to get practical experiences he has to communicate, in other words, he has to know others and make himself known by others. This can be done only if he speaks the language that they can understand. The solution is he has to learn English. People learn English in different ways, they try their best to master the language skills and as teachers, we try our best to help them attain their goals. Many teachers have spent much time on finding the ways to improve listening skills while the others focus their research on developing students’ speaking skills, etc. Being teachers of English we do want to take part in the teaching method improvement process. The fact in Hai Phong University is that the students have to cope with many difficulties when learning the language especially reading. Most of them think that reading well means they have to know every word in the text and do the exercises correctly, so they spend most of the time looking up new words and doing exercises. However, it is proved that effective reading means there is an interaction between the reader and the text. More specifically, the students not only have to understand the text but also response to it, thus they can get to the bottom of what they read. Fortunately, we had a chance to take part in a course called “Literature in Language Teaching” delivered by Mr. Brad Baurain- an English teacher and researcher. He helps us a lot to realize the values of using literary texts in language teaching. After the course the superficial thoughts about literature disappeared and we know that literary texts are now considered the valuable authentic material, which plays a very important part in students’ cultural enrichment, language enrichment as well as personal involvement. The author, therefore, decides to carry out a study on the integration of literary text in language teaching in order to improve students’ reading comprehension skills. I.2.Aims The focus of this study is on the specific use of literature in language teaching, it aims at: Studying the values of literature in language teaching. Integrating short stories and poems in teaching reading comprehension. Introducing techniques to integrate literary texts reading comprehension class. I.3.Scope Literature field is large, it covers different genres: novels; short/long stories; non fiction; poetry and drama. In this minor study, we just focus on the use of short stories and narrative poems in improving the reading comprehension skills. The short stories are of 3 to 5 page long while the narrative poems are only of 1 to 2 pages long, they are at upper-intermediate level with topic various according to students’ likes such as love, friendship, family etc. I.4.Objects Though literature has certain positive effects on the beginners as it helps students relax while learning the language, however, due to its difficult language and style, literature will work best with students from intermediate and upper-intermediate levels up. Thus, we choose the second year students who are learning at English Department of Hai Phong University as the subjects of this study. I.5.Method. The method applied in this study is quantitative method. All data is collected from questionnaires. Two questionnaires are conducted of which one investigates the students’ attitude toward different genres of literature while the other aims at collecting students’ feedbacks after learning literary text using certain techniques. The former is carried out at the beginning of the study whose result is the base for the author to choose the types of literary texts to teach in class whereas the later is conducted at the end of each lesson using short stories and poems in reading class. The data collected then is analyzed and based on the findings, techniques in teaching reading comprehension integrating short stories and poems would be recommended. I.6.Design of the study. This study is divided into five chapters: Chapter I: Introduction: briefly presents the reasons for doing the study, its aims, scope, subjects as well as the research methodology. Chapter II: Literature Review: presents an overview of what is literature, its values in language teaching and how literature relates to reading. Chapter III: Methodology: studies the reason for choosing research methodology and the description of the setting, subject and instrument for collecting data. Chapter IV: Data analysis and Results: provides data description and analysis with findings. Chapter V: Conclusion and Recommendation: suggests teaching techniques and conclusion. Chapter II: Literature Review The emphasis of this chapter is mainly on exploring some of the issues relevant to the use of literature in language teaching in general and introducing the advantages of short story and poem in ESL classroom in particular. The links between literature and reading are also mentioned. However, as there are many different theories explain literature and the use of it in classroom, the ideas generated in this chapter will not help to pinpoint an only right or correct way to understand what literature is and its roles in improving language acquisition. II.1. Literature II.1.1. Definition Defining literature is not an easy task; different people approach it in their own ways. There are some definitions made by a group of teachers from all over the world. These definitions are introduced by Lazar, 1993: Literature is ‘feelings’ and ‘thoughts’ in black and white. Literature is the use of language to evoke a personal response in the reader or listener. Literature is the world of fantasy, horror, feelings, visions…put into words Literature means …to meet a lot of people, to know other different points of view, ideas, thoughts, minds…to know ourselves better. These definitions seem not scientific enough so the following is three of many definitions defined scientifically by researchers: “Literature could be said to be a sort of disciplined technique for arousing certain emotion”- Iris Murdoch, 1978. “Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree” – Ezra Pound, 1981. “Literature is a special use of language which achieves its distinctness by deviating from and distorting ‘practical language’”- Selden, 1989. As far as I understand it, literature is a mean of transferring both entertainment and lesson to the reader. Literature readers can enjoy the language (read, share and response) and learn something from it at the same time as well. II.1.2. Genres Generally, there are three main genres of literature, which are poetry, story and drama. People define them differently and the definitions introduced here, which seem very interesting, are introduced by Baurain (2005). Poetry: “still picture”, showing a meaning. Story: “moving picture”, discovering meanings in actions. Drama: “living picture”, finding meanings in performance and dialogue. II.1.3.What makes literature distinctive from other texts? Literature surely enough involves a special, or unusual use of language. Its language has certain features that you cannot find in any other types of language. Metaphor and simile: a connection made between things which are usually considered to be unlike each other. Eg: I think the idea is to bring Meg in as a new broom – you know, to revitalize the department and get everything going again. Assonance: repetition of vowel sound. Eg: Three grey geese in a field grazing; Alliteration: repetition of consonants Eg: Grey were the geese and green was the grazing. Repetition of word or phrase Eg: A breeze blew through the room, blew curtains in at one end and out the other. Unusual syntactic patterns (e.g. reversing the order of subject and verb) Eg: Grey were the geese and green was the grazing Double or multiple meaning of a word Eg: Just because we’re deaf, it doesn’t mean we’ve nothing between our ears. Poeticism: poetic lexis Eg: His breast of chicken with tarragon and girolles goes back to the classic French … Mixing of styles/registers Eg: I had expected the usual insertion in the papers: “I, formerly known, called, addressed as…” II.1.4. Literature and language teaching II.1.4.1. Why use literature in language classroom. The use of literature in language teaching had been ignored since people treated it as a mean of relaxation, they just read for fun. The main goal of ESL teachers is to teach the grammar of the language, literature, due to its structural complexity and its unique use of language, does very little to contribute to this goal. However, recently there was a strong reawakening of interest in literature and language teaching. Literary texts are now considered the valuable authentic material, which plays a very important part in students’ cultural enrichment, language enrichment as well as personal involvement. Literature – valuable authentic material Literature on the one hand provides texts of different genres like novels, short stories, poems and plays, which mainly say something about human life. On the other hand, it offers culture and life styles all around the world and more than that it “transcends the time and culture to speak directly to a reader of a different country at a different period of time” (Collie & Slater, 1987). More importantly, while the other texts seem losing their relevance with the passing of time, hardly does literature. Till now, most British like Shakespeare’s plays as much as Vietnamese like Truyen Kieu by Nguyen Du though none of the authors are alive and all the events happened a long time ago. Literature is not written for a specific purpose of teaching. It means that, when reading literary texts the learners are not supposed to learn grammar rules but the way to response to what they read. As literature is often written for the native speakers, there are many different linguistic uses as well as forms that used in their daily life, furthermore, many authentic samples of language such as cartoons, advertisements or articles from magazine, etc are included. Thus, the learners, through the language of literature can be exposed to a kind of genuine language, which is the aim of any language teacher. Literature- cultural and language enrichment It is said that learning a foreign language is to learn a new culture; however, the best way to deepen the knowledge about the culture of the language you are learning is to take a visit or a long stay in the country where the language is spoken. It seems to be impossible for those who cannot afford it, so what is the solution for the problem? The key lies in literature reading because “literary texts can serve as open windows to the target culture” (Sage, 1987). As you read literary texts you can find out much about cultural background information like life styles, customs and beliefs as well. You will know about what people think, feel, believe, fear, like… and how they behave inside doors. Literature is considered as the best complimentary material that helps to increase the learners’ knowledge about the other country. Besides, with rich context that makes vocabulary more memorable, literature plays an important part in the contribution to the learners’ language enrichment. In literary texts there always are different ways of expressing an idea with variety of possible structures, which can improve the learners’ speaking skills. Writing skills are also broadened as literary texts provide various ways of connecting ideas. Many stories and poems have interesting contents, which is very useful for developing intensive reading. More than that, if literature is appropriately introduced and taught it can be used to promote the students’ creativity from lower level to advanced level. So, using literature in language teaching, the teacher can easily find out a new path way to language improvement and make the lessons more interesting. Literature – personal involvement Personal involvement is perhaps the strongest effect that literature has on the language learners. When reading a literary text, the readers are said to live with the characters they like. They response to what characters says and do and keep sharing their emotion from the beginning to the end. Collie & Slater (1987) pointed out that at this time “what individual words or phrases may mean becomes less important than pursuing the development of the story”. In other words, they are absorbed into the book and eager to find out what happens next. It is true that people are really curious, thus if the students are well motivated they’ll be willing to take part in the journey of exploring the unknown language territory. Obviously, this will create the very positive effects on the process of language learning. II.1.4.2. Literature in the ESL classroom Due to a long period using Translation Teaching Method in language classroom, there was negative attitude toward the teaching of literature in foreign language classroom as it was considered far removed from everyday communication and it does not contribute to ESL students’ practical goal of achieving linguistic proficiency. However, it is proved that the interaction of language and literature can lead to numerous advantages in language teaching and learning. It helps increase all language skills, it is the link toward the culture, it gives one awareness and human insight and guides students toward their own creativity. Thus, it obviously is an effective tool in learning a foreign language. II.1.4.2.1. Poetry in the ESL classroom Whenever the word poetry is mentioned there appears a hesitation on the face of both teachers and learners as: The language in the poem is quite difficult (metaphoric and complex). “Beauty is harder to analyze than truth”; “the whole poem or story says something that none of its words say or can say”; “what a lyric poem ‘states’ cannot be found in any of its sentences”; “a lyric tells its story primarily in terms of a single emotional experiences” (J.Adler & Doren,1972). So in order to understand a poem fully and be able to interpret its inner meanings, students need a good knowledge of language and a fine experience of life. However: “the entry into a poem, under the guidance of appropriate teaching, brings about the kind of participation that almost no other text can produce” (Hess, 2003). For her, when we read, understand and interpret a poem we learn language through the expansion of our experience with a larger human reality. Poem can arouse the students’ strong feeling and provoke their positive reaction to what they read. The whole poem is a picture made of words, so if the teacher exploits it appropriately he/she could involve the students into many activities such as reading, as well as active listening tasks and communicative activities intended to make learning fun and memorable. According to Nilsen, 2004: “poetry can contribute so much to making any language class enjoyable, but it has even more to offer the ESL classroom in terms of poetry – centered language activities”. For him, those activities are student – centered and allow students to explore the language in enjoyable ways. Besides, teachers can apply them normally as they often do with prose texts if he/she realizes the values poetry offers and wants to take advantage of that. The learners, as a result, have a relaxed learning environment in the classroom. II.1.4.2.2. Short story and its advantages in language classroom “Short stories are particularly well suited to current instructional trends in ESL classrooms” (Harper, 1993). Most traditional short stories have a plot, it involves a chronological ordering of events and there is a relationship of cause and effect between these events. It provides authentic samples of language use, where the focus is on meaning and not on language form. According to many researchers the reading of short stories, especially the unsimplified ones, in the second language helps to develop vocabulary and cultural knowledge, as well as greater proficiency in critical reading and creative writing skills. Harper (1990) noted that the “original version of a short story evoked more elaborate responses from adult ESL readers”. Besides, the language in a short story is somehow different from other forms of discourse that it sometimes breaks the language norms, so through reading students will have a chance to approach the language outside the classroom, which not only increases the students’ reading skills but also helps solving the problem that a student though learns the grammar rules very well still gets confused when talking to the native speakers. It is said that “short stories are an ideal vehicle for developing automaticity in processing written language through independent, sustained silent reading and for developing critical reading through individual and teacher – directed group interaction with texts” (Harper,1993). II.2. Reading comprehension II.2.1. Reading comprehension and its roles in language learning. Goodman (1971) defined reading as “a psycholinguistic process by which the reader, reconstructs, as best as he can, a message which has been encoded by a writer as a graphic display” In the teaching and learning of reading it is proved that reading comprehension plays a key role as it enhances the students’ skills in extracting the required information from a written text as efficiently as possible. According to Swam (1975) “a student is good at comprehension when he can read accurately and efficiently so as to get the maximum information of a text”. In addition, Richard and Thomas (1987) noted “reading comprehension is best described as an understanding between the author and the reader”. It means that reading comprehension is the process that the readers, as they read, can not only figure out the “graphic display” of the text but also understand the hidden meaning implied by the writer. II.2.2.The reader and the text The reading process is currently seen as an interaction between the reader and the text. The reading of a text is not just to get the information but also to response to what is written. But it was implied that the meaning of a text can never be fixed or frozen because different readers of the same text make sense of it in their own way and there is no correct routine. It depends much on the historical period in which the reader is living, his social position and religious beliefs. For Rosenblatt (1987), the interaction between the readers and the text is “an event in time involving a specific reader and a specific text at a specific time and place, if any of these are changed, there is a different event”. Thus, having an appropriate relationship with the text depends much on the reader’s language proficiency, motivation and interest, the cohesive and the structural qualities of the text; and the readers’ understanding about the topic. The readers have to base on their background knowledge, the clues given by the author and the situational context to work out the meaning hidden behind the text. So, the more knowledge of the world the readers have the more accurate are their inferences and judgments; and naturally the closer they get to the text. II.2.3. Students’ difficulties with reading Students probably have far more difficulties with reading than most teaching staff are aware of. Within the limitation of the study the author just focuses on the difficulties with cultural and background knowledge, which relates to the use of literature in read
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