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90 Seiten, Note: Excellent (A)
LIST OF ABBRIVATIONS
1.1. Background of the Study
1.2. Statement of the Problem
1.3. Objectives of the Study
1.4. Research Questions of the Study
1.5. Scope and Delimitation of the Study
1.6. Significance of the Study
1.7. Limitations of the study
2. REVIEW OF RELATED LITERATURE
2.1. Reading Comprehension and its Importance
2.2. Definition of Reading Comprehension Practice
2.3. Reading Comprehension Practice as a Process Activity
2.4. Reading Comprehension Strategies
2.5. Phases of Reading Activities in Comprehension practice
2.6. Essential Components of Effective Reading Instructions English Language Teachers Use in Reading Comprehension Practice
2.6. The Importance of Reading Comprehension practice on English language Learners
3. RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.1. Research Design
3.2. Participants of the Study
3.3. Sampling Technique of the Study
3.4. Instruments for Data Collection
3.5. Procedures of Data Gathering
3.6. Procedures of Data Analysis
3.7. General Framework of the Study
4. DATA ANALYSIS AND DISCUSSION
4.2. Teachers ’ Instructional Practices and Decisions in Reading Comprehension Practice in an English Language Classroom
4.3. Factors that Impede Students ’ Reading Comprehension Practice
4.4. Reading Texts Presented on Grade Nine Students ’ English Textbook
4.5. Observed Actual Classroom Activities of grade 9 students ’ reading comprehension practice in the Secondary School
4.6. Efforts Made by Teachers and Students to Deal with Text Related problems
5. SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
This Thesis is dedicated to the memory of all of my bests who played enormous roles for my success and achievement.
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
The author, Henos Ejigu, was born in Merawi Town, West Gojjam Zone of Amhara Regional State in 1987. He attended his elementary and junior school education at Rim Elementary and Junior School. In addition, he attended his high school and preparatory school education at Merawi Secondary and Preparatory School. He then joined Gondar University in 2008, from where he graduated with Bachelor of Degree in English Language and Literature in 2010. Soon after, in September 2011, he joined Haramaya University to attend his MA Degree in TEFL in the regular program.
Firstly, I would like to express my polite and respectful gratitude to my advisors, Jeylan W. Hussein (Associate Professor) and Adinew T. Degago (Assistant Professor) for their unreserved help, continuous, rigorous and constructive comments, detailed advice, and professional guidance throughout the study. Without their continuous follow-up and encouragement, the completion of this thesis would have been inconceivable.
Secondly, I would like to acknowledge the contribution of English language teachers and students in the analyzed Secondary School who responded to the interview and written reflection questions of this thesis and the teachers and students I observed in their reading comprehension classes in particular.
I would also like to acknowledge all EFL teachers at Haramaya University who taught me very well all the MA courses. I have learned very important things and gained different knowledge and skills from them.
I am also grateful to my beloved parents who played great roles for the part of my present existence.
Finally, I am also grateful to Ministry of Education of Ethiopia for the fund it offered me to conduct this study.
In this study, an attempt was made to examine text related factors that impeded students’ reading comprehension practice in English language classroom in a Secondary School grade nine in focus. To attain this objective, qualitative research design was employed. The required data for the study were collected using semi-structured interview, written reflection questions, textbook analysis, and classroom observation. Six grade 9 English teachers were interviewed, and asked for reflection the written questions. To cross check the information given by teachers, a similar tool, semi-structured interview and written reflection questions, were administered to 30 students and all responded to the items fully. The reading texts of all reading comprehension sections of the textbook were analyzed using a checklist. Among the 21 classes, six classes were observed (each two times) to see how students actually practiced the reading comprehension activities and what key text related factors impeded the reading practice. Inductive approach was applied in data analysis in coding categories in searching for recurring patterns and identification of themes. The findings of the study therefore revealed that vocabulary of the texts, sentence complexity, text cohesion and coherence, elaboration of texts, length of the text and text structure were the main factors that impeded students’ reading comprehension practice. Moreover, the study depicted that English language teachers’ reading comprehension instructional practices and decisions were affected by text related factors. Findings of the study also showed that teachers and students dealt with text related factors by using different strategies and techniques of reading comprehension in each reading comprehension phases. Finally, based on the research findings, recommendations were provided towards the decrements of text related problems in the students’ reading comprehension practice.
This part of the inquiry is focused on background of the study, statement of the problem, research questions, objectives of the study, scope and delimitation of the study, significance of the study, and limitations of the study.
Based on the education policy of 1994 of Ethiopia, the government demonstrated that students must interact communicatively with the text they read to practice reading comprehension in the written texts and in the teaching-learning process, so that they can enhance their social skills and academic learning achievements. With the basis of this, the new grade nine English textbook was designed for students by the curriculum designers. Due to this, the curriculum designers at the Ministry of Education in Ethiopia have recognized the crucial factor of reading comprehension practice on students’ language performances, cognitive developments and social understandings; therefore, they gave much emphasis and attention to it, reading comprehension practice.
English language syllabus for grade nine of Ethiopia has been revised recently. On the basis of the syllabus, a new textbook with communicative orientation has been prepared and it is now in use across the nation, and the practice of reading comprehension through this textbook is likely to be generally applicable by the students and teachers throughout the country. The writers of this new text book claimed that "every opportunity has been taken to involve the students in meaningful and realistic communicative activities through the practice of reading comprehension” (Grade 9 students’ Textbook, 2010/11:1). Similarly, Negash Getachew (2008) maintains that the new textbook for grade nine students is more student-oriented and communicatively designed than the former grade nine English textbook (GNET) series. In grade nine textbook therefore, reading comprehension practice is one of the main communicative activity that students should meaningfully interact in the written text and in the teaching-learning process in the actual classroom in order to extract and construct meanings.
Throughout grade nine English textbook of Ethiopia, there are different lessons which are working together to provide learners with access to the highest quality practices and resources in reading comprehension activities and language arts instruction (Berhanu, 1999). Numerous lessons are available to help students in practicing reading comprehension activities effectively. These lessons are important in making students aware of how to use and apply specific reading strategies and in helping them to become successful in the practice of reading comprehension. Moreover, the lessons provide to the students a model, practice, and awareness of reading comprehension. Therefore, instructional designers in Ethiopia perform a task analysis in reading comprehension lessons in order to determine the instructional goals and objectives of reading comprehension practice, and they have to define and describe in detail the lessons that the students will perform, specify the knowledge type (declarative, structural, and procedural knowledge) that characterize a task, select learning outcomes that are appropriate for instructional development of students, prioritize and sequence tasks, determine instructional activities and strategies in relation to the reading texts that foster students’ comprehension in reading and learning, select appropriate texts and contexts, and construct performance assessments and evaluation in the lessons. From these explanations, it is possible to understand that recent developments in language skills have highlighted the need for reading comprehension practice, and it can be a crucial factor for the development of students’ understanding of reading texts and developing language performances; therefore, it is getting more emphasis in the language curriculum.
Because research has suggested that the practice of reading comprehension is very crucial for the development of students’ language performance (Gebremedhin, 1993), the researcher believed that it was necessary to examine text related factors that impede this practice. Some related studies were conducted that investigate the factors that impeded students’ reading ability. For instance, Ayalew (2011) in his study “Contextual Factors that Impede the Development of Students’ Redding Skill and Competence at Alage ATVET College” and Berhe (1989) in his work "A Study of Readability Levels of Grade Ten Textbook and the Comprehension Ability of Students Using Them" tried to find out the general contextual factors, which is broad, that impeded the development of students’ reading skill and competence, and the factors that are readability levels of the textbook on the students’ comprehension ability, respectively. These two works however did not study deeply and did not give more emphasis to the text related factors that impede the practice of students’ reading comprehension in the textbook and in the actual classroom teaching- learning process. Moreover, the above two works did not examine and assess the ways in which those factors impede learners’ practice of reading comprehension which in turn affects students’ general language performance and development, and also they did not focus on the practice of reading comprehension. So the present study was different from the above two works in that it tried to examine intensely text related factors that impeded the practice of grade nine in a Secondary School students’ reading comprehension [which, if any of them might apply in the context of this school.]
The role of language in learning and teaching is not only as a tool for receiving and giving the existing information on the text but also for forming and dealing with new concepts and meanings with the text (Marland, 1977). To learn a concept means to gather data about it, to organize that data in a way its nature allows, to question the concept, and finally to be able to understand and transmit it to others (Cain & Oakhil, 2007). Reading comprehension practice plays a profound role in enabling this process go; thus it has a close relationship with making and receiving meaning in reading comprehension practice.
Reading comprehension practice benefits both teachers and students in that student learning outcomes may improve because they must also understand the whole text and its meaning and then practice the reading comprehension in the text and in the actual classroom learning- teaching process, thus, strengthening their knowledge in getting the information they seek and practice reading comprehension activities well (Intratat, 2004).
However, although much research findings pointed out the benefits of reading comprehension practice on students’ academic achievements, social behaviors and cognitive developments (Mohan and Naerssen, 1997), many high school students in Ethiopia still find difficulty in practicing reading comprehension in the textbook and in the actual classroom teaching-learning process due to the impediments of different text related factors (Berhe, 1989). These might be numerous and include issues with various language items, lack of authenticity or natural use of language in text, words used in the text (like idioms, metaphors, irony and jargons), unfamiliar or over familiar topics, abstract or obscured information on the text because of its style of writing, texts with lack of exercises on inferences, the structure of sentences in the text, the vocabulary use of the text, the organization of the text, and the design of the overall materials and lessons of the text. With the base of these, the researcher was inspired to propose a study to examine and analyze these and other text related factors that impeded the students’ reading comprehension practice in Ethiopia. In addition to these, contemporary reading comprehension practice in Ethiopia, unlike the traditional materials, involves three-phase procedures of comprehension activities: pre- (before), while- (during), and post- (after) reading activities. So the practice of reading comprehension is facilitated by these stages explicitly introducing the knowledge through pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading activities (Abraham, 2002). Thus the pre-reading activities help students in activating the relevant schema, while-reading activities develop their ability in tackling texts by developing their linguistics and schematic knowledge, and post-reading activities enhance learning reading comprehension through practices like matching exercises, cloze exercises, cut-up sentences, and comprehension questions.
However, in the context of the analyzed Senior and Secondary School, these procedures or stages of reading comprehension activities were not practiced well because of the impediments of text related factors as it is mentioned in the above expressions. The contents of the internal textbook, the syllabus list of the main topics of concept of the text, the focus of the curricula in the text, the lessons used throughout the text and pedagogic nature of the text might also be some factors that impeded students’ reading comprehension practice in this school.
Reading comprehension is a part of the communication practice of getting the thoughts that were in the authors mind in to the readers mind and it plays a crucial factor for the development of students’ language performances, social understandings and cognitive developments.
The main objective of this study was to examine text related factors that impeded grade nine students’ reading comprehension practice in a Secondary School in English language reading comprehension classroom.
The specific objectives of the study were;
- To explain the key text related factors that impeded students’ reading comprehension practice.
- To identify reading comprehension strategies teachers and students used to overcome text related factors that impeded students’ reading comprehension practice.
- To explore the key text related factors that affected teachers’ instructional practices and decisions.
- To describe how students and teachers were dealing with text related problems that impeded students’ reading comprehension practices.
To achieve the above objectives, the present study attempted to answer the following research questions:
1. What were the key text related factors that impeded students’ RCP in the secondary school?
2. What reading comprehension strategies did teachers and students use to overcome text related factors that impeded students’ RCP?
3. What were the key text related factors that affected teachers’ instructional practices & decisions in the practice of students’ reading comprehension?
4. How were students and teachers dealing with text related problems that impede students’ reading comprehension practice?
The study focused on examining text related factors such as vocabulary of the texts, sentence structure of the texts, text structure, cohesion and coherence of the text, elaboration of the text, length of the text and interestingness of the texts that impeded students’ reading comprehension practice at school. It was delimited to the factors that learners face in the practice of reading comprehension activities in EFL classroom in relation to academic texts and teaching-learning process. The subject of the study was restricted to English language teachers and students of grade nine.
This study might create awareness for students on being able to understand text related factors that impede their practice of reading comprehension. It was hoped that the study might also propose guidelines for EFL teachers who wish to find out problems that impede their learners’ reading comprehension practice to gain the central information and to enhance the teaching-learning process of English language. It could also give valuable information for syllabus designers and material developers in the area of reading comprehension practice while they design the textbook. It was also believed that, it will help MOE and regional education administrators to revise their English language materials and textbooks, which have to be clear and readable for the students and teachers for meaningful learning and teaching process of English language, and to make modifications where necessary. Furthermore, the study would lay a basis for researchers who are interested on the same topic.
The research was limited to study only text related factors that impede students’ reading comprehension practice in a Secondary School. The study was limited to only one secondary school. This was because of time and financial constraints, i.e., there was no sufficient time and money to incorporate more schools. But the study would have been more comprehensive and generalizable if more schools had been included from other areas. Besides this, there was shortage of resource materials.
With regard to the impediments of different types of factors on the students’ reading comprehension practice, a number of related studies are cited in the literature. The literatures which have done before mainly focused on the importance of reading in general and comprehension in particular and also focused on what kinds of factors impede the comprehension process, development, and practice of students in particular and readers in general. On the bases of these review, therefore, this part of the study was focused on what reading comprehension is and its importance, reading comprehension practice, reading comprehension practice as a process activity, strategies of reading comprehension activities, phases of reading activities in comprehension, essential components of effective reading comprehension instructions English language teachers use, and finally presents the importance of reading comprehension practice on English language learners both in the English textbook and in the actual classroom teaching-learning process; these have been done so far in the area of the current study in order to fill the gap which has not covered yet in the past study.
Reading comprehension is a required component of all school language arts curriculum. School students should have adequate decoding and comprehension skills by the time they reach middle and high schools. Reading comprehension skills are necessary for success in all academic subjects in middle schools and beyond (Davice, 2004). In the 1900s the act of reading comprehension was defined as: Expressive, articulate oral renditions of texts including memorization and recitation. This definition of reading comprehension was in place until 1917 when Edward L. Thorndike reported his experiment, “Reading as Reasoning: A study of Mistakes in Paragraph Reading” (Davis, 1944). Frederick B. Davis conducted a factor analytic study in which he discovered that reading comprehension could be conceived of as a collection of discrete measurable skills in which students involve in practicing the reading comprehension in the written text as well as in the actual classroom of teaching-learning process. This finding influenced the definition of reading comprehension for many decades. Jeyilan and Dereje (2005) also showed that reading is thinking under the stimulus of printed words in the text whether it is in L1 or L2. This means that reading is very crucial for both the students those who are studying second language and those who are studying first language, and the final goal of both these groups is to comprehend the text they are involving in reading. In 1944, Davis found the following skills associated with reading comprehension: Word meaning knowledge (vocabulary), ability to select the appropriate word meaning for a word in context (words with multiple meanings), ability to follow the organization of a passage (text structure), ability to select the main idea, ability to answer questions directly answered in the passage (right there), ability to answer questions where the words in the passage are not a direct answer to the question (think and search), ability to make inferences, ability to recognize literary devices in text (metaphors, similes, foreshadowing…), and ability to determine a writer’s purpose, point of view (critical reading). These are almost text related factors that students should know for their comprehension of texts in reading.
However, in the early to mid-1970s, researchers in cognitive sciences and information processing began to define reading comprehension in terms of how language is processed in the mind. Anderson and Pearson (2003) authored a classic work, “A schema-theoretic view of the basic processes in reading comprehension” in which schemas or packages of background knowledge were represented in a series of models called interactive models of reading comprehension. This means that interaction occurred when meaning was constructed by the reader through practice and an interaction with a text. Similarly, reading comprehension can be described as the interpretation and evaluation of a written text in order to ascertain the message of the writer (Bond et al, 1989); and facility in it has long been recognized as an essential skill which second language learners need to acquire and practice if they are to attain mastery of the language that they are learning. Thus, reading comprehension is the process of constructing meaning from a text and it is more important for English learners if they construct it through comprehension practices. For Gared, (2004), the goal of all reading instructions is ultimately targeted at helping a reader practice and then comprehends texts. Carrell & Eskey (1988) also stated that reading comprehension activity involves at least two people: the reader and the writer. The process of comprehending involves decoding the writer's words in the text and then using background knowledge to construct an approximate understanding of the writer's message. Therefore, reading comprehension practice is very crucial for students in enabling them to be effective in language teaching, and this in turn plays an important role for the overall developments of students’ language performance and cognitive development (Abdu, 1993).
Surveys such as conducted by Orasanu (1986) showed that reading comprehension can be seen as an “interactive” process between a reader and a text which leads to automaticity or (reading fluency). Since reading is a complex process and practice, Grabe argued that “many researchers attempted to understand and explain the fluent reading comprehension by analyzing the process into a set of component skills” (1991:79), and in reading comprehension practices; consequently researchers proposed at least six general component skills and knowledge areas: automatic recognition skills, vocabulary and structural knowledge, formal discourse structural knowledge, content or world background knowledge, synthesis and evaluation skills or strategies, and metagognitive knowledge and skills monitoring. This definition shows that, the main thing that students should be able to understand in the reading comprehension practices is the reading component skills and related knowledge areas (they are mainly text related factors) which in turn help them to understand the reading materials effectively and to facilitate the comprehension practice well. “Everything we do with reading practice improves our comprehension of what we read in the written texts and in the actual teaching-learning process” (Alexander, 2000:109). This idea illustrates that, if the students practice reading comprehension effectively into the text they read, they can understand the text and catch the information easily in addition to be competent in language achievements. Therefore, comprehension a text is the ultimate goal of reading practices. Because reading comprehension is more interesting and text information is more understandable and recalled better, it follows that creating purpose in the classroom reading situation will enhance readers' interest and performance in practicing reading comprehension.
The most traditional textbook comprehension exercises provide students with the practice of reading a text for specific information. Yet traditional comprehension questions generally address all information in the text in an undifferentiated manner. This kind of even, comprehensive coverage is well intentioned but unfortunately results in a leveling of content, as if all ideas or aspects of the text were equally important; in short, there is no reading comprehension perspective. An alternative to comprehension questions that often accompany textbook dialogues, passages or cultural texts is to have students write a list based on the text. Depending on content, this could be a list of places, events, or even facts the students find interesting. For example, a classroom reading practice might involve students drawing a picture based on a written text, reconstruct a text that has been cut up into paragraphs, or, in pairs, reading slightly different versions of the same story and discovering differences through speech alone. These practices, while not real world, are still communicative; but the focus should be on understanding a text as a whole to get something has done.
Everyone agrees that reading comprehension practice is not a simple matter of recognizing individual words, or even of understanding each individual word as our eyes pass over it. Reading comprehension is to be an interesting and simple way of practice for learners to establish their literacy competence in the textbook and in the teaching-learning process in the classroom. In addition to this, during the practice of reading comprehension, students not only have chance to have language input but also extend their scope about the world (Hailemichael, 1984).
Despite of practicing reading comprehension has significant importance to the students of English language however; there are a number of text related factors as mentioned above which impede this practice. This was happening in the context of the Secondary School, Ethiopia.
According to Block (2001), effective readers understand the processes involved in reading comprehension and consciously control them, and successful comprehension enables readers to acquire information, to experience and be aware of other worlds (including fictional ones), to communicate successfully, and to achieve academic success. This idea explains that, good reading comprehension process involves reading the words on the page, accessing their meanings, computing the sense of each sentence and much else as well. Therefore, reading comprehension is an activity of continuous interactive process that goes on between the reader and the text, resulting in comprehension. The text presents letters, words, sentences, and paragraphs that encode meaning. The reader uses knowledge, skills, and strategies to determine what that meaning is and this continuous until the students understand and comprehend the reading text well through continuous practice.
As McDonough (1995) stated that reader knowledge, skills, and strategies in the process include: Linguistic competence: the ability to recognize the elements of the writing system; knowledge of vocabulary; knowledge of how words are structured into sentences, Discourse competence: knowledge of discourse markers and how they connect parts of the text to one another, Sociolinguistic competence: knowledge about different types of texts and their usual structure and content, and Strategic competence: the ability to use top-down strategies, as well as knowledge of the language (a bottom-up strategy). All these knowledge help the students to practice effectively the reading comprehension. Thus, reading comprehension practice is a process activity in which students involve in reading comprehension and doing the practice well until they will became effective in understanding the text they are engaging in.
Comprehension strategies are conscious plans and sets of steps that students and teachers use in the practice of reading comprehension to make sense of written texts (Nuttall, 2005). Since reading is an interactive process that is dynamic and constantly changing, each new practice or assignment will alter the learning process, and challenge the reader to be active in their approach to the text. Developing readers are often challenged with the changing nature of reading comprehension practices. They may also lack some of the strategies that skilled readers employ as they read. Because of this, students should be encouraged to take an active role in their learning process. Likewise, teachers play an important role in preparing students for the practice and can help them to become more aware of the reading characteristics they bring to the practice. Samuels (1988) suggested that teaching of reading comprehension activities should consist of two stages: the first one should focus on learning and mastering the basic abilities of word understanding; the second one, which has to do with strategy, should focus on the construction and integration of the text’s significance in the reader’s memory. Therefore, comprehension strategy instruction helps students become purposeful, active readers who are in control of their own reading comprehension and to be effective in the practice of reading comprehension. Girma (1994) stated that, there are seven strategies used to help students in practicing and improving their written text comprehension.
Students who are good at monitoring their comprehension knows when they understand what they read and when they do not. They have strategies to "fix" problems in their understanding as the problems arise. Research shows that instruction, even in the early grades, can help students become better at monitoring their comprehension in their reading practice. Comprehension monitoring strategy teaches students to be aware of what they do understand, identify what they do not understand and use appropriate strategies to resolve problems in comprehension practice (Lee, 1999). Therefore, this type of comprehension strategy helps students to practice reading comprehension effectively and help to know the main factors that hider in practicing reading comprehension.
Metacognition can be defined as "thinking about something." Good readers use metacognitive strategies to think about and have control over their reading comprehension practice. Before practicing reading, they might clarify their purpose for reading and preview the text. During reading, they might monitor their understanding, adjusting their reading speed to fit the difficulty of the text and "fixing" any comprehension problems they have (Susser and Robb, 1990). After reading, they check their understanding of what they read. Students may use several comprehension monitoring strategies. These may include identify where the difficulty occurs, identify what the difficulty is, restate the difficult sentence or passage in their own words, look back through the text, and look forward in the text for information that might help them to resolve the difficulty in the practice.
Graphic organizers illustrate concepts and relationships between concepts in a text or using diagrams. Graphic organizers are known by different names, such as maps, webs, graphs, charts, frames, or clusters. Regardless of the label, graphic organizers can help readers focus on concepts and how they are related to other concepts. They again help students read and understand textbooks and picture books. In addition, Graphic organizers can help students focus on text structure "differences between fiction and nonfiction" as they read, provide students with tools they can use to examine and show relationships in a text and help students write well-organized summaries of a text from what they comprehend (Grellet, 1981).
The Question-Answer Relationship strategy (QAR) encourages students to learn how to answer questions better in their practice of reading comprehension. Students are asked to indicate whether the information they used to answer questions about the text was textually explicit information (information that was directly stated in the text), textually implicit information (information that was implied in the text), or information entirely from the student's own background knowledge. Questions can be effective because they give students a purpose for reading, focus students' attention on what they are to learn, help students to think actively as they read, encourage students to monitor their comprehension practice, and help students to review content and relate what they have learned to what they already know.
There are four different types of questions. The first one is "Right There" Questions found right in the text that ask students to find the one right answer located in one place as a word or a sentence in the passage. The second one is "Think and Search" Questions based on the recall of facts that can be found directly in the text. The third one is "Author and You" Questions require students to use what they already know, with what they have learned from reading comprehension practice of the text. Student's must understand the text and relate it to their prior knowledge before answering the question. And the final one is "On Your Own" Questions are answered based on a students’ prior knowledge and experiences about the text. Reading the text may not be helpful to them when answering this type of question.
By generating questions, students become aware of whether they can answer the questions and if they understand what they are reading. Students learn to ask themselves questions that require them to combine information from different segments of text. For example, students can be taught to ask main idea questions that relate to important information in a text.
In story structure instruction, students learn to identify the categories of content (characters, setting, events, problem, and resolution). Often, students learn to recognize story structure through the use of story maps. Instructions in story structure improve students’ comprehension skill and help them to practice it effectively.
Summarizing requires students to determine what is important in what they are practicing in reading comprehension and to put it into their own words and understandings. Instruction in summarizing helps students to identify or generate main ideas, connect the main or central ideas, find out different text related features, eliminate unnecessary information, and remember what they read, and this in turn helps them practicing reading comprehension well.
Generally, effective comprehension strategy instruction is explicit research (Williams, 1986). It shows that explicit teaching techniques are particularly effective for comprehension strategy instruction. In explicit instruction, teachers tell readers why and when they should use strategies, what strategies to use, and how to apply them in reading comprehension practices. The teacher helps students practice the strategy until they can apply it independently. Effective comprehension strategy instruction can be accomplished through cooperative learning, which involves students working together as partners or in small groups on clearly defined tasks. Students work together to understand texts, helping each other learns and apply comprehension strategies. Teachers’ help students learn to work in groups in addition to provide modeling of the comprehension strategies to the students.
White (1981) and Williams (1984) say that there are three phases of reading activities in which students should practice in the activities of reading comprehension in the textbook and in the teaching-learning process to develop their comprehension skills of written texts.
Activities which encourage students to identify in some way with what they are about to read can both motivate them in the reading and help them engage any prior knowledge or experience that might help them understand what they are about to read. Before reading processes also help students learn to set a purpose for reading the story and expose them to many different purposes for reading (Nuttall, 1982). The purpose that is set before reading is to be kept in mind during reading practices. Students will also be asked to consider that purpose in responding to the selection after reading.
Most learning theories clearly recognize that learning occurs as you understand new things in terms of what you already know. Activities encouraging students to identify with what is to be read also encourages them to draw on what is already known about the topic and the text (Hedge, 2000). Therefore, drawing on what they already know can encourage them to expect and practice reading comprehension to build on and enhance this personal background of experience.
If the reading experience is about something unfamiliar to the student, it is important to build some background to bridge that gap before reading practice. An informal field trip or reading something informative related to the story is ways to build background and identification. Telling a family story or a personal experience of your own can also help the students to predict more accurately and respond to unfamiliar content and this facilitates practicing students’ reading comprehension. Even in very early reading practice and assignments, students can learn to have a purpose in mind for reading. Comprehension is encouraged by asking students to keep this purpose in mind during reading and respond to it after reading. Examples of reading purposes might be to enjoy finding out what happens to a character, to predict what the language features will be, to discover how a character feels or reacts, to find patterns or illustrations as they learn about print, to find information, to learn how to do something, and to discover answers to questions.
As Sroinam (2005) stated, during reading activities are strategies to help students actively think about the content of the selection as they read and practice a mental picture which is constructed by the students during the reading practice of the text. A key concern during reading is to recognize what to do when the mental picture breaks down. The goal for a mature reader is to recognize there is a problem, diagnose it, and use decoding and comprehension strategies to correct it. In this monitoring during reading, students should have strategies to help them when they encounter decoding or comprehension practice problems. Research and literature on the teaching of reading often refer to these as “fix-up strategies.” It is important that students learn fix-up strategies that include things to do to help themselves and knowing when and how to ask for help when helping themselves isn’t working. Examples of appropriate times to ask for help from another student or the teacher can be discussed (such as when they cannot decode a word, or when they do not understand a vocabulary word or a portion of text even after trying some strategies independently).
For students just beginning to read, attending to decoding the text and to comprehending it at the same time can be difficult. Reading to the student, shared reading, and rereading are strategies in this program that encourage students to practice in monitoring reading comprehension. Both teacher modeling and student responses can be oral, with written monitoring encouraged as literacy skill develops. As they develop independence, students can begin to independently practice reading they do not understand or write down vocabulary for which they need the meaning explained (Atkins et al., 1995). With these strategies, they can gradually be encouraged to work on their own, developing confidence in their ability to “take care of themselves” as independent readers and finally understand the text they read.
As mentioned, most learning theories acknowledge that we understand new things in terms of what we already know. While before reading practices focus on what is already known, after reading activities encourage the new understanding (Hedge, 2000). To encourage comprehension, students need to actively respond to what they have read in addition to what their teachers have taught. Reading provides something new to consider, and students need time and opportunity to practice it well and to reflect on it correctly. This opportunity should allow them to personalize learning, integrating any new understanding into what they know.
The kind of questions asked after reading influence whether or not such integration takes place. It is not enough to ask literal questions that can be answered by simply searching the text to retrieve factual details. Rather, after reading activities should invite students to question on their own, to reflect, and to gain new understanding about the language features of the text (Williams, 1984). It is in so doing that we encourage students to creatively apply their knowledge, doing their reading comprehension well, improve their experiences towards texts, and know their gifts in growing toward their future.
In order to teach students to practice the reading activity accurately, rapidly, and with comprehension, EFL teachers must use effective instructions in the actual classroom reading comprehension practice.
As different researchers such as Dolores Durkin (1979) and Pearson (1991) clearly show, effective reading instructions address the following critical areas in order to practice and comprehend a given text effectively.
Learning to read is a different process because it involves learning about a symbolic system (writing) used to represent speech. Before learners begin to learn to associate the written form with speech, they need to learn the vocabulary, grammar and sound system of the oral language. Research has shown that there is a close connection between oral vocabulary and early reading ability. The ability to attend to the individual sounds within words (phonological and phonemic awareness) is also an oral skill that is closely associated with reading ability.
Teachers can provide opportunities for the students to develop their oral language through story-telling and show-and-tell activities. Students therefore should be encouraged to use oral language to express themselves while practicing text reading comprehension in school. Class dictated stories make use of students’ oral language in structured reading activities with the help of the teacher. First, the students tell a story in their own words. The teacher writes this down on the blackboard for the children, and then reads their story back to them. Students take turns practicing reading the story as well. For students practicing reading comprehension in a second or foreign language, developing proficiency in the target language is very important. This means having opportunities to speak and use the language extensively.
Phonological awareness refers to the ability to attend to the sounds of language as distinct from its meaning. Studies of both alphabetic and non-alphabetic languages show that phonological awareness is highly correlated with reading ability. For alphabetic languages, phonemic awareness is especially important because the letters of the alphabet map onto individual sound units (phonemes). Students who are able to attend to the individual phonemes in alphabetic languages are much more likely to learn the alphabetic principle (how letters map onto phonemes) and, therefore, learn to recognize printed words quickly and accurately this in turn helps them to practice reading comprehension effectively.
For alphabetic languages, many studies have shown that phonemic awareness is closely associated with reading comprehension ability in the early and later years of schooling. Furthermore, reading instruction and phonological awareness mutually reinforce each other. Phonological awareness helps students to discover the alphabetic principle while they are practicing reading comprehension. At the same time, learning to read alphabetic script also develops phonological and phonemic awareness. Therefore, teachers should teach students to identify phonemes with or without the use of letters in the classroom and encourage them to practice at home. Teachers also can develop students’ phonological skills through a wide variety of activities. Rhymes (words ending with the same sound), alliteration (worsds which start with the same sounds) and poetry can be used to draw children’s attention to individual sounds in the language. Teachers can focus on individual syllables and sounds in language in the context of book reading. It does not have to be taught in total separation from other reading activities.
Fluency is important because it is closely related to comprehension, and fluency in reading comprehension means being able to read texts accurately, quickly and with expression. Fluent readers can do this because they do not have problems with word recognition. As a result, they can focus on the meaning of a text and they can easily comprehend a text. Recent research shows that fluency also depends on the ability to group words appropriately during reading. This means fluent students recognize words quickly in reading, but also know where to place emphasis or pause during reading. Word recognition is necessary but not sufficient for fluent reading. The students therefore must construct meaning from the recognized words. They can also do both tasks at the same time. They can do this because of efficient word recognition and oral language skills. Guided practice in reading generally increases fluency.
To increase fluency, teachers need to listen to their students reading aloud. They should provide feedback to the students about their reading. They also need to determine how much is understood. Then the reading of texts with high frequency words will encourage fluency if the texts are interesting and meaningful to the reader. Teachers also encourage their students to read repeatedly and pair through practice.
Many studies have shown that good readers have good vocabulary knowledge. In order to understand a text effectively, students need to know the meanings of individual words. They construct an understanding of the text by assembling and making sense of the words in context. However, vocabulary knowledge is difficult to measure. It is, however, very important in practicing reading comprehension and in future reading development. Words that are recognized in print have to match a reader’s oral vocabulary in order to be understood. This is important for students who are developing oral proficiency English language. In later reading development, when students read to learn, they need to learn new vocabulary in order to gain new knowledge of specific subject matter.
Vocabulary should be taught. Thus, English language teachers should teach their students directly and indirectly. Direct instruction includes giving word definitions and pre-teaching of vocabulary before reading a text. Indirect methods refer to incidental vocabulary learning, e.g. mentioning, extensive reading and exposure to language-rich contexts. Repetition and multiple exposures to vocabulary items (e.g. through speaking, listening and writing) are important. This should ideally be done in connection with authentic learning tasks. Word definitions in texts also aid vocabulary development. Multiple methods, not dependence on a single method, will result in better vocabulary learning.
Having more prior knowledge generally aids comprehension. There are many aspects to prior knowledge, including knowledge of the world, cultural knowledge, subject-matter knowledge and linguistic knowledge. A reader’s interest in a subject matter will also influence the level of prior knowledge. All of these factors are important to different degrees, depending on the reading task. A reader’s knowledge of the world depends on lived experience. This is different in different countries, regions and cultures. Reading tasks and reading instruction should be sensitive to the types of prior knowledge that are needed for the reader to understand a text.
In the classroom therefore, teachers should focus on words and concepts that may be unfamiliar. Discussing new words and concepts with students before reading a text is generally helpful, it helps to activate prior knowledge and improve comprehension. Asking students to tell everything they know about a topic is a useful way to begin to get students to activate their prior knowledge. They should then begin to think about what they don’t know. After reading, they should summarize what they have learned about the topic.
Comprehension is the process of deriving meaning from connected text. It involves word knowledge (vocabulary) as well as thinking and reasoning. Therefore, comprehension is not a passive process, but an active one. The reader actively engages with the text to construct meaning. This active engagement includes making use of prior knowledge. It involves drawing inferences from the words and expressions that a writer uses to communicate information, ideas and viewpoints. Recent studies have focused on how readers use their knowledge and reasoning to understand texts. Good readers are aware of how well they understand a text while practicing reading and they also take active steps to overcome difficulties in comprehension. Students can be instructed in strategies to improve text comprehension and information use.
Instruction can improve comprehension by focusing on concepts and the vocabulary used to express them. Comprehension can also be enhanced by building on students’ background knowledge, e.g. by having a group discussion before reading. Teachers can guide students by modeling the actions they can take to improve comprehension. These actions include: asking questions about a text while reading; defining different words; practicing sentence structures and phrases, realizing cohesion and coherence; identifying main ideas; using prior knowledge to make predictions. Teaching a combination of different strategies is better than focusing on one. Different methods have been found to be effective in teaching text comprehension. Teachers can use combinations of co-operative or group learning; graphic organizers (e.g. flow charts, word webs); asking and answering questions; story structure; summarizing; focusing on vocabulary.
Texts of the right reading level are neither too easy nor too hard for a particular reader. Choosing texts of the right difficulty and interest levels will encourage children to read and to enjoy what they are reading. Vocabulary, word length, grammatical complexity and sentence length are traditionally used to indicate the difficulty level of a text. The subject matter of a book is also an important factor. For instance, readers with substantial prior knowledge of a subject will be able to use their knowledge to read more difficult texts.
For students, it is important to use authentic texts in comprehending texts. This means materials written with readers in mind, and texts constructed to illustrate specific vocabulary or word forms. It is also important to use a variety of authentic texts, including both information texts and narrative or story texts. Students often have an easier time reading information texts when they can use their knowledge of the topic. Teachers therefore introduce reading materials of different types (genres) and topics. A lack of variety of materials leads to a limited reading and language experience.
It is well established that good readers read with ease, accuracy and understanding. Good readers also read more, and by reading more, they increase their vocabulary and knowledge. This in turn helps them to make further gains in reading and comprehension. Once students can recognize written words in their language with relative ease, they need to develop fluency in reading. Fluency develops with both oral language development and print exposure. The more students read, the more vocabulary and knowledge they acquire, and the more fluent they become in reading.
Teachers should enforce students as sustained silent reading programmes can be used to promote their reading comprehension practice. Encourage students to read independently and extensively, encourage students to read different types of texts, teach students how to choose books of the appropriate reading level, develop students’ interest in reading by connecting reading with their interests, hobbies and life goals.
Reading is important skill at all levels. Its instrumental use is particularly important at the secondary school stage and in tertiary education, even in this technological age; books are an essential tool of learning. 'Learning to read and reading to learn' is not an ancient slogan (Berhanu, 1999:2). The need for developing the reading comprehension skill is all the more urgent because of the ever-increasing amount of reading our students are called upon to do. The problem is more acute as one goes higher up the education ladder; because most reference books in secondary schools are in English (Mark & Clarke, 1980).
Revell & Sweeney (1993) pointed out that, there are three reasons for ensuring that reading has a prominent position in the design of a foreign language teaching program in line with other language skills, and this concern reading techniques, language acquisition and motivation. Learners of a foreign language, especially at secondary and intermediate levels, are rarely efficient readers in the foreign language. This has to do not only with deficiencies in linguistic knowledge, but also with the strategies employed in reading and text related factors. Furthermore, efficient reading in the native language is rarely an accurate indicator of how the reader tackles reading in the foreign language. Therefore, reading techniques in which teachers and students use in the actual classroom and text related factors in which students should consider, play prominent role in reading comprehension practices.
Secondly, Krashen’s theory of the Natural Approach, based on building competence through exposure to comprehensible input, indicates the value of reading comprehension practices for students. Krashen is in little doubt that reading comprehension practices make useful contribution to developing language acquisition, benefiting both learners’ confidence and competence. He states that:
Reading practices may contribute significantly to competence in a second language. There is good reason; in fact, to hypothesize that reading comprehension practices make contribution to overall competence, to all four skills (1983:131).
Thirdly, reading should be enjoyable and learners will feel motivated to practice more if they feel they read well. If the reading texts are carefully selected and therefore contribute to motivation, the activities of language learning will be greatly helped and practices of reading comprehension will be highly facilitated and understood. Language is best taught when it is being used to transmit messages, not when it is explicitly taught for conscious learning (Anderson, 2003). Hedge (2003) stated that any reading component of an English language course may include a set of learning goals for: the ability to read a wide range of texts in English and the ability to practice reading comprehension. This is the long-range goal most teachers seek to develop through independent readers outside EFL/ESL classroom, building knowledge of language which will facilitate reading ability, building schematic knowledge, the ability to adapt the reading style according to reading purpose (i.e. skimming, scanning), developing an awareness of the structure of written texts in English, and taking a critical stance to the contents of the texts.
A reading comprehension approach conveys to students the value of fluent and efficient reading, because reading practices for a specific purpose means reading texts in different ways at different speeds and become effective in using information, depending on the information needed and the practice to be carried out. Another advantage of practices is that students can work with authentic texts from the start. A complex, unedited text can be made accessible by adjusting the level of difficulty of the reading comprehension. The same text can be used at different points during a semester, each time with a different purpose. In rereading the same text with a different purpose, students derive a sense of accomplishment from their progressively greater comprehension and more extended use of the text.
Recent reading comprehension research also points to the benefits of reading comprehension practices and working with texts for the purpose of drawing students' attention to formal features of written language as well (Dumessa, 2002). A communicative approach can and should be combined with analysis of text structure and linguistic features of text; however, most specialists agree that teachers should focus on textual messages first. If an individual student cannot perform a reading comprehension practice successfully due to misreading of a text and other text related factors, he/she will need to reread problematic segments and attend more closely to the text structure and attend the class effectively in the activities of reading comprehension process. If many students in a class experience difficulty with certain syntactical structures or forms of text organization, the teacher may choose and give appropriate tasks to conduct a reading lesson that targets those areas.
Generally, from the above explanations, it is possible to understand that reading comprehension practice, both in the textbook and in the classroom teaching-learning process, is very crucial for students in developing their academic success in and outside the classroom in addition to develop their cognitive skill. Therefore, the researcher tried to find out the key text related factors that affected students’ reading comprehension practice and the strategies and techniques teachers and students applied for minimize the problems.
This chapter focuses on research design and methodology employed during the course of the study. As a result, participants of the study, sampling techniques, instruments for data collection, methods of gathered data, and data analyzed are included.
In this study, qualitative research design was employed in order to help the researcher to have a valid data for the study, to gain a better, more substantial picture of the reality and to gain a good understanding of the issue on the research questions and its objectives in a natural way (Denzin& Lincon, 2000). The researcher generated new grounded theory from the data collected during fieldwork in order to achieve the fact of the information at a particular point in time and in a particular context from the participants’ viewpoint. In qualitative methods, researchers had found very useful ways of understanding human behavior, feeling and exploring houseful data for the problem of their research. Therefore, qualitative research design was used in the study to understand human behaviors, feelings, and views, to get rich, new and real information in the area of the present study from the respondents.
This study was conducted at government secondary school in general and on grade 9 students in particular. Therefore, the study was focused on six English language teachers from nine of them and 30 grade nine secondary school students from the general population of 2011/2012 academic year in this school . The school was selected purposively since it is closer to the researcher’s current living place in addition to the homogeneity of the student population. The site of the research study also enabled him to be in the school to make a thorough study and the rationale behind choosing the grade level was researcher’s consideration of text related factors while he was being student of grade nine, and was facing the same problem, and he also had some discussions with grade nine teachers about what kind of factors impeded students’ reading comprehension practice and how it impeded them. So grade 9 English language teachers and students were the target population of this study.
The sample size in qualitative research studies is typically small (Lindolf, 1995: 16). In fact, the sample size in this study is a single case. The purpose in selecting a single case was to develop a deeper understanding of the phenomena being studied over a long period of time. Particularly, in purposeful sampling the goal is to select cases that are likely to be “information-rich in the area of the study” with respect to the presented study. Thus, from nine English teachers of grade nine six teachers as well as 30 students form the whole student population in the grade level were selected purposively as a sample for this study. From 21 classes of grade nine, six classes were observed. Therefore, for the purpose of in-depth understanding of the subjects, purposive sampling was selected for the presented inquiry.
In order to collect data from the samples of the target population, semi-structured interview, textbook analysis, written reflection questions and classroom observation were employed as instruments.
Under this data gathering tool, the researcher used one-to-one interview questions to get first hand and genuine information from the respondents. Therefore, the researcher designed semi-structured interview questions for students to examine, identify and describe what and how text related factors affect their reading comprehension practice, and for the teachers to explore what main text related factors impede their students’ reading comprehension practice and understanding, how those factors affect their instructional practices and decisions in the activities of reading comprehension in English language classroom. According to Kumar (1996), semi- structured interview is extremely useful for “seeking opinions, attitudes, views and perceptions.” So, by using this technique, the researcher sought the key text related factors that impede students’ reading comprehension practice by asking both teachers and students about their doings to overcome the problems, and to elicit information on their techniques in dealing with classroom situations and what factors affect them in using these techniques. Tape recorder was used to record the responses given by interviewees in addition to taking short notes.
The researcher used written reflection questions for students and teachers because they would become established as a key component of reflective practice. It might show the students’ difficulties in practicing reading comprehension in the text and in the actual classroom teaching-learning process and allowed the teachers to share and reflect their lived experiences with high elaboration or explanation towards the problem. They were used because written reflection questions could help the researcher to look at a set of experiences from multiple perspectives and also help him to know which type of text related factors were impeded more on students’ reading comprehension practice. The main purpose of using written reflection questions was to identify the overall problems of text related factors and its impediments on the students’ comprehension practice. The questions were appropriate to assess students’ understanding of text related factors on their reading comprehension practice. In the written reflection, teachers also gave their impressions about the impediments of text related factors, what factors affect their instructional practices in the reading comprehension practice and also what they were doing together with students in overcoming those factors.
This instrument was used to get the data gathered through grade nine textbook reading text analyses. Textbooks are important sources of data for qualitative research ( Best and Kahan, 1989). Especially for this study the textbook was very crucial for the researcher as the main target of the study was to examine text related factors that impede students’ reading comprehension practices mainly in the textbook. In most instances, learners are dictated by the textbook in their English classes. The researcher analyzed and examined grade 9 students’ English textbook thoroughly to check whether the written texts are easy to read or not, to understand the types of its writing, to analyze the overall structure and organization of the text and other features of written texts which were impeded students’ reading comprehension practice. Self-designed checklists were used for the analysis (Appendix 3).
Classroom observation gives the firsthand account of situations under study; and when combined with other data collecting tools, it allows the researcher for a holistic interpretation of the situations which are being studied. The purpose of classroom observation here in this study was to enrich the data collected through semi-structured interview, written reflection questions and textbook analysis. Thus, non-participant classroom observation was conducted to see students’ practice of reading comprehension in their natural settings and what kind of text related factors highly impede their practice in the actual English language classroom teaching-learning process in six classes while students were engaging in the reading comprehension practice lesson. The researcher designed checklists to observe what factors affected and how the factors affected learners in practicing reading comprehension. Similarly, this tool was used to observe the problems from the natural environments and the context in which the behavior occurred. Cooperation was preferred in order to avoid bias that may result from one observer, the researcher. Therefore, co-observers were important at the time of data gathering process through this instrument. The co-observers were expected to have a good knowledge on the theories of reading comprehension practices to observe its activities and factors, and how to write the needed data informed by the researcher, and cooperated in observing the classes.
In this study, qualitative data collection methods were employed. The researcher did not administer all instruments at the same time rather he used them one after the other in order to triangulate and organize the data well. Therefore, partial data analysis (for example, semi-structured interview) was employed before another data gathering instruments. On the basis of the insights obtained from the partial analysis of semi-structured interview, the researcher administered another instrument such as, written reflection questions, textbook analysis and classroom observation one by one. The data collected through semi-structured interview, written reflection questions, textbook analysis and classroom observation were analyzed using thematic and inductive analysis.
Qualitative data analysis methods were employed in this study. Different methods such as organizing and coding were employed while analyzing and interpreting the data. The analysis procedure took its own themes and sub themes based on the research questions, objectives, and data generated through each data gathering tools from each group of respondents. First, the data obtained from teachers and students through semi-structured interview were first tape recorded and written in the form of notes without losing the main points and categorized based on the emergent themes and sub themes and coded according to the responses from each respondent. Subsequently, it was analyzed qualitatively based on the principles of typological analysis and the researcher’s own scholastic analysis. Then, the data gathered through written reflection questions were coded and sorted based on the explanations and elaborations given by the teachers and the students to arrive at problems, and they had analyzed and interpreted qualitatively based on the reflections that teachers and students were given. Thirdly, the data gathered through textbook analysis were categorized under the same topics based on the checklists. And they were analyzed and interpreted hermeneutically using words, sentences and themes. This helped the researcher make sense as part of a text. Fourthly, the data obtained through observation, were analyzed qualitatively by categorizing themes and sub themes based on the observation checklists (Appendix 4).
Then, the results of the data sources were analyzed and interpreted thematically according to the issues raised under each research question to hypothesize what text related factors impeded learners’ reading comprehension practice. To make the analysis objective and reduce the researcher’s bias, different techniques were employed such as triangulation with the data sources and proof-reading by friends to make some comments and then interpretation was given after each analyzed items. Finally, conclusions were drawn inductively and recommendations were made critically based on the research questions and objectives.
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This chapter aims at discussing, interpreting and analyzing the data found with the employment of appropriate qualitative data gathering methods. For the study, four data gathering instruments were used. These were semi-structured interview, written reflection questions, textbook analysis and classroom observations. The responses which have been collected through these instruments are organized and summarized thematically and inductively based on their similarity and the focus of the inquiry. For example, the data obtained through students' and teachers' semi-structured interview and written reflection questions are discussed together thematically in order to show their discrepancies and similarities. Then data obtained through textbook analysis and classroom observations are discussed respectively in order to triangulate and enrich the data results.
Attempts were also made to relate the results of the study to objectives of the study. Findings and their implications are elaborated in light of the appropriate theoretical as well as empirical literature. Following are, therefore, the data analysis and interpretation.
The researcher wanted to know the strategies that teachers use to teach their students reading comprehension practice effectively. For this purpose, he engaged both teachers and students in semi structured interview and written reflection questions. In the school, teachers and students found using different strategies of reading comprehension in English language class. As the responses showed, they were using and applying different strategies in each reading phases. Regarding this, one of the interviewed teachers pointed out that he was using strategies like prediction, text structure and monitoring comprehension. Similarly, another teacher explained that he was using strategies of answering questions, generating questions, and summarizing strategies. Both of them explained that they were using these strategies in order to practice reading comprehension activities and tasks effectively in the actual reading classroom teaching-learning process. Regarding these strategies, different scholars also claimed that teachers should keep in mind three dominant questions about how to organize and how to teach reading comprehension activities for their students. These questions are, "What strategies should I teach?" “Which strategies are more important in different reading phases in helping students to practice reading comprehension activities effectively” and "How should I teach reading comprehension through these strategies effectively?” (Hunt, 1992). However, in the application of these strategies of reading comprehension, as teachers and students thought and the researcher observed, there were somehow difficult to practice in a classroom because of the difficulty of the strategies by themselves and the students incapability of understanding a text due to different text related factors, lack of student’ prior knowledge, and teachers instructional difficulties in the practice of reading comprehension activities. There were many ways to think about reading comprehension practice and many factors that affected this practice. The majority of the problems that affected this practice however are text related factors.
In this case, the most straightforward way of applying reading comprehension strategies in was to think about strategies that students and teachers were using at the time of before, during and after reading activities. Therefore, during semi-structured interview and written reflection questions, both English teachers and participant students were asked about the practice of reading comprehension strategies and phases that they were using. Accordingly, the participants’ response about the application of reading comprehension strategies in each phase are discussed and summarized in the following ways.
In this stage teachers were using the strategies that could help their students preview headings, creating a pre-reading outline, creating questions for the students that might need to be answered, enforced readers in making predictions that need to be confirmed. Teachers were also asking their learners about what the topic is all about using surveying pictures, charts, lists, tables, and reading introductions. After doing these, teachers were being passive till students practice and comprehend the text independently. This means that some teachers believed that being passive in the activities of before reading might help students to think about and do the questions and tasks by themselves and this in turn encouraged them to comprehend the text easily during reading activities.
Regarding this application of reading strategies, two of the teachers pointed out the following idea. Teacher A and teacher B revealed that they introduced the text in brief to the students before reading and engaged them in pair/group discussion on pre-reading questions. They also set purposes for each reading assignment and training the students to vary their reading speed accordingly in order to draw the student’s attention to the text’s title, subtitles, or other visual support in or around the text and to enable the students predict the content of the passage in advance. Teacher C stressed that “pre-reading comprehension strategies are enabled the students to read the passage quickly for the main idea of a text and to locate specific information in a text.” Therefore, from this explanation, the researcher understood that these strategies might help the students to get an idea of what the author might be trying to say, how the information might be useful, and to create a mental set that might be useful for taking in and storing information before reading a given text (Williams, 1984).
During interview and written reflection questions, some teachers argued that they practiced this phase until the students became confident to read, comprehend and practice the reading comprehension activities independently. For example, teacher D said “I encourage students to discuss about the topic of the text in pair and if they do not understand what the topic is about, I give them different contextual meanings of the topic till they understand it well.” On the other side, other teachers explained that with activities of before reading stages, they were found practicing the while reading phases even if they complained about shortage of time in applying completely, and students’ inability and inefficiency to apply those strategies because of text related factors of the students in practicing comprehension of the given text.
On their part, most of the interviewed and asked students revealed that they could not understand pre-reading questions due to complex sentence structures, vocabularies listed from the texts and unfamiliarity of the topic of the texts. They replied that when a teacher introduced a reading text to them, helped the students get ready to read through the use of advance organizers, or created pre-reading outlines, and they were ensuring content learning by compensating for the fact that students have not developed good before-reading strategies. Student 1 said that “teachers are continued to lead us in these types of before-reading activities to ensure content area learning occurs until we have been taught about different language focuses to comprehend reading texts well.” As the responses implied, in this stage of reading comprehension activities, students were also asking themselves self-questioning to broad their mind towards the topic of the text in order to understand the text during reading. However, four of the interviewed students indicated that topics of the text were unfamiliar to them and in turn impeded them to practice reading comprehension activities. Therefore, the researcher understood that difficult vocabularies and unfamiliar topic of the texts were the main text related factors that impeded students’ reading comprehension practice in the time of before reading activities.
The researcher also wanted to know what teachers and students said about strategies applying during reading activities. To get their views, the researcher required them to express and share their views in interview and written reflection questions. At this place, the researcher analyzed and interpreted their views. Many teachers during interview responded that at the time of during reading activities they read the text orally and explained the ideas of the text to the students and asked them to do the comprehension questions. Regarding this, teacher E said that:
I encourage my students to guess the meanings of new words in the text from contextual clues in the passage and the meanings of unfamiliar words in the passage using their prior knowledge of word-building or word-formation process.
Therefore, the researcher understood that these strategies might help the students focus on how to determine what the author is actually trying to say and to match the information with what the student already knows (Hedge, 2000). Five of the interviewed students also illustrated that their teachers drew their attention to the relationship between different parts of the passage and engaged them to work through the passage paragraph by paragraph to enable them comprehend the contents of a text and made them read the passages once, twice or three times to comprehend the text depending up on the time. Similarly, some teachers support this idea as they drew the students’ attention to some vocabulary items such as words in bold face and other grammatical items that can cause comprehension difficulties, and encouraged the students to identify a logical organization of a text focusing on references and cohesive devices. Teacher A and teacher B stated that in this stage, they asked their students to keep in mind the previews outlines, questions, predictions that were generated before reading and then using this information to digest and comprehend what they are reading. Some interviewed teachers explained that most during reading strategies that helped the students to practice reading comprehension were including questioning, predicting, visualizing, paraphrasing, elaborating (i.e., comparing what is read to what is known), changing reading rate and rereading. In question technique, students were asked by the teachers about what are the sentence structures of the text, what are the literal meanings of the bold words in the passage, and the general message of the text, according to some teachers stated.
On their part, student 1, student 2 and student 3 revealed that in the time of during reading, they were involving in group activates both in pair and group as promoting them for interaction and therefore decrease the problem and anxiety created by text related factors many students faced in the practice of reading comprehension activities. Student 4 and student 5 also stated that at during reading activities, teachers were encouraged their students to make groups to understand the reading texts in the classroom because organizing groups helped them to practice and discuss about the issue of the text with each other and can solve the problem created by text related factors. They expanded their view that they also practiced self-questioning, paragraph summarization and section summarization. Therefore, these strategies might help students to overcome text related factors in reading comprehension practice. Student 6 said “When a teacher develop reading guides and outline the need that to be completed during reading, required students are asked and answered questions, created summaries while they read.” On similar issue, student 7 and student 8 stated that they were asked to paraphrase the text by using their pre reading knowledge, elaborating what the ideas are, relating ideas with the pictures, organizing them based on the themes of the message, and practicing again and again till comprehension comes. Moreover, student 9 and student 10 argued that in during reading stage, they could not be effective in using these strategies and did not practice the reading comprehension activities effectively because of elaboration of the text, vocabulary knowledge of the students and sentence complexity of the text. In similar way, student 11, student 12 and student 13 also added “during reading strategies are very important for effective practice of reading comprehension activities but difficult to apply and practice because of organization of the text, length of the text, and illegibility of the text.” The different performance level of students towards the language focus like grammar, punctuation and spelling was also noted to be another problem as the students themselves argued.
Both students and teachers revealed and reflected during interview and written reflection questions as they were using different after reading comprehension strategies in facilitating the reading comprehension practice. Teacher A and teacher B reflected that in after reading stage, after reading the whole passages once again, they gave for the students the chance to answer the comprehension questions which are extracting from the passage and summarizing the main ideas of the passage. As they illustrated, these strategies were used by the students and teachers to follow up and confirm what was learned from the use of before and during reading strategies (e.g., the students were answering questions and confirming predictions). Interviewed teacher C and teacher D also explained that they gave general instruction for their students about the nature of the reading comprehension activity and told their students to make group for practicing the reading comprehension activities. They demonstrated that after making a group, they provided the students advice only when necessary and encouraged them to decide on the answers of the comprehension questions in their groups. In addition to this, they stated that they asked the students to express their group decision on the comprehension questions as students finished their group activity for whole class discussion turn by turn. After finishing the group activities, teachers engaged the students in some follow-up activities such as completing tables, diagrams, and writing compositions based on the written texts, and allowed the students to express their views on the ideas reflected in the passage either supporting or opposing. Finally, teachers assigned the students to summarize and comment on the points of the text.
Similarly, most interviewed and asked students also reflected that they were applying self-questioning and reading summarization after reading comprehension practice. Student 1 argued that “our teacher evaluate our performance on the basis of the above strategies of reading activities.” He elaborated that this phase helped them in reflecting the text read, giving text features for reading comprehension, checking one’s experience, knowledge and interest, and viewing the information read in the text and problems that faced the students. The researcher therefore understood that these strategies are used to help the students "look back"(consider their background knowledge) and think about the message of the text and determine the intended or possible meanings that might be important (Rivas 1999).
Yet, most teachers noted that many students did not actively practice in the stage of after reading activities due to text related factors attributed to students’ engagement. Remembering of new vocabulary items, cohesion and coherence of the text difficulty and length of the text itself were among these factors. Furthermore, most students argued that the practice of after reading comprehension stage is the crucial activity that students must practice because this strategy might help them to focus on determining what the big, critical, or overall idea of the author's message was and how it might be used in its structure of language use before moving on to performance tasks or other learning tasks. It is also the stage of generalizing the reading text whether the students comprehend it or not. But as the researcher understood and the students and teachers stated, this reading phase was not applying well due to the above mentioned factors.
One of the objectives of the current research was to explore what text related factors affect teachers’ instructional practices and decisions in reading comprehension practice. To get the views and experiences of teachers on this issue, the researcher engaged them in semi structured interview and written reflection questions. Regarding this, most of the teachers underlined that they were found applying different instructions and decisions in reading comprehension practice and there are ample text related factors that impaired their instructional practices and decisions in the reading activities. Teacher A and teacher B for example outlined that they practiced and gave vocabulary, oral language, text, fluency, comprehension, and phonological awareness instructions, and made different decisions in the time of before, during and after reading comprehension activities. They elaborated their ideas that they told the students what the strategy is and why it is useful before going to give instructions and use strategies. They also reflected that after telling the strategies, they modeled the strategy and helped students learn how, when, and where to use the strategy by demonstrating or thinking aloud about how to use the strategy to better understanding of the text. Teacher D stated that:
Before going to practice the reading texts, I select and choose an appropriate piece of text from the students’ reading textbook and I tell the students to focus on language features. After selecting the text I go to determine a strategy that is relevant to the understanding of that text. Then I give a clear explanation for the students to practice the reading comprehension activities effectively.
Teacher E and teacher F elaborated this idea that they supported the students to practice the reading comprehension activities, worked with students to help them figure out how and when to use the strategy themselves and engage them in discussion about how they are applying the strategy; as necessary, provide corrective feedback. Teacher A said that “I use vocabulary instructions for helping students to focus on the key words used in the text and encourage them to study, understand and translate words in context.” As the researcher understood, before going to use instructions, teachers previewed the text, even when using text that has pre-selected vocabulary words. Read the passage and identify vocabulary words they thought students would find unfamiliar. They selected words that were important to understanding the text and listed words teachers predicted would be challenging for their students. As two of the interviewed teachers stated, they might not be able to teach all of these words. It is useful to provide direct instruction in some words. This includes pre-teaching key vocabulary prior to reading a selection. Research supports teaching only a few words before reading and determines which words are adequately defined in the text. Some may be defined by direct definition and others through context (Orasanu, 1986). Teacher A and teacher B revealed that they expanded on different words after reading, rather than directly teaching them before reading and identified words students may know based on their prefixes, suffixes and base or root words. If structural elements helped students determine words’ meaning, they would not teach students directly. Words taught before students read the text include: words that will be frequently encountered in other texts and content areas, words that is important to understanding the main ideas, words that are not a part of the student’ prior knowledge, and words unlikely to be learned independently through the use of context and/or structural analysis. Regarding vocabulary instruction, teacher F argued that:
Teachers should take advantage of opportunities to develop students’ interest in words, the subtle meanings of words, how to have fun with words, and how words and concepts are related across different contexts. Students benefit from hearing language that incorporates the vocabulary and syntax (sentence structures) in high-quality written English.
From this explanation, one can induce that students’ reading comprehension ability will increase if teachers encourage their students to know the meaning of words in the text contextually. Students also develop their reading comprehension skill by practicing and focusing on the language items of the text. Some of the interviewed teachers also explained that they provided the students clear explanations and examples of the meanings of these words in various contexts, and with opportunities to discuss, analyze, and use the words. They encouraged their students rewrite definitions in their own words, provide examples of situations where the word could be used, supply synonyms and antonyms when possible and shaped sentences using the words that clearly show the meaning. Sometimes it is useful to have students use more than one new word in a single sentence because it forces them to look for relations among words (Grellet, 1981). Teacher B and teacher C reflected that this kind of direct vocabulary instruction was particularly important for poor students because they could include teaching the multiple meanings of some words, different word associations such as antonyms and synonyms, and word concepts such as related concept words and categories of words.
As the researcher understood from teachers’ semi-structured interview and written reflection questions response, there were various text related factors which affected their instructional practices and decisions in the practice of reading comprehension activities and tasks. The main problem that affected teachers’ instructional practices and decisions was the elaboration of the text. Teachers were applying different instructions and decisions in the students’ reading comprehension practice. However, due to many explanations the texts had and presented, it was so difficult to apply instructions and decisions properly within a given period of time. This leads to difficulty for their students to practice reading comprehension activities and tasks in the classroom. Another main problem that affected teachers’ instructional decisions and practices was the length of the texts. Teacher C explained that “very vast reading texts and comprehension questions are the main problems that impede my instructional practices because too vast texts are difficult to cover within a given period of time.”
The other problem which affected teachers’ instructional practices and decisions was vocabulary knowledge of their students. As some teachers responded in the interview session, they asked questions before students read the text to give purpose for reading, to discover answers they really want to know. But the students did not give any purpose for reading and did not discover answers what teachers really want as they had shortage of vocabulary knowledge. Another problem that affected teachers’ instructional practices and decisions was sentence structure of the texts. Regarding this, teacher D revealed that:
I ask my students questions during reading to clarify meanings, to probe for understanding, to be metacognitively aware about the text, and to gain new insights. However, students do not clarify meanings, probe for understanding and be metacognitively aware about the text they practice because of the knowledge they lack about sentence structure and complexity.
Therefore, the researcher understood from these explanations that teachers asked their students questions after reading to review, to reflect on the significance of what they have learned, and to generate new thinking to be effective in reading comprehension practice. But the organizations and cohesion of the texts were more complex which did not match with the students’ performance. And these were text related factors which indirectly affected their instructional practices and decisions. Three of the interviewed teachers also stated that lack of their prior knowledge towards the text’s topic was one factor which impeded them in practicing their instruction and decision appropriately in the classroom reading comprehension practice. Teacher D and teacher F argued that if topic of the text could be familiar with them and with the students’ prior knowledge like tourism, football, art and music, it was easy to practice instructions and decisions for the students in their reading comprehension practice. This in turn encourages their students’ reading comprehension practice effectively in the actual classroom and in the textbook tasks and activities.
The researcher’s main intention was to know and analyze the major text related factors that impede students’ reading comprehension practice. According to the responses obtained from interviewed and asked teachers and students, there were different text related factors that were found impeding students reading comprehension practice. These factors were mainly notified as related with vocabulary, sentence structure, text length, elaboration, coherence and unity, text structure, familiarity of content, background knowledge required, audience appropriateness, quality and verve of the writing and interestingness. In all these considerable ten factors, the researcher divided into two groups. In the first group are six factors that are fairly and strongly defined, fairly and strongly identified, and largely intrinsic in the text itself. Of course, since reading is an interactive process that involves both the reader and the text, no text factors are fully independent of the reader. In the second group are four factors that are less easily defined, less easily identified, and very definitely involve both the reader and the text.
Assessment of text related factors that impede students’ reading comprehension practice is the main purpose of the current research. Accordingly, the researcher engaged teachers and students in reflections of their views and experiences and evaluated the textbook to get insight about the problem. On the basis of the data, the researcher divided the factors in to six categories. These factors are vocabulary of the texts, sentence structure, length of the text, elaboration of the text, coherence and unity of the text, and text structure. All the factors are worth considering, and some of them for example, familiarity of content and background knowledge required are also important. Therefore, these factors are organized and analyzed in the following sub sections.
The researcher lists vocabulary as the first matter of difficulty to be considered for the students’ reading comprehension practice because it is one of the most easily identifiable characteristic suggesting text difficulty and because it is a very influential text related factor. In considering vocabulary, the responses obtained from semi-structured interview and written reflection questions, both from teachers and students, portrayed that reading texts that are presented to read in the textbook contained a lot of difficult words that caused impediments for the students not to practice reading comprehension activities effectively. One of the causes outlined by the teacher is that the words used in the texts were not easy and understandable for the students in the practice of reading comprehension activities and not conveyed the intended meaning precisely that the students wanted to intend. For example, teacher A explained that “the intended meaning of words in the given text is terrified and beyond the students understanding level and this makes them to become immobilized and could not react to the reading comprehension practice.” This idea indicates that word knowledge is crucial to reading comprehension and determines how well students will be able to comprehend the texts they read in middle and high school (Hedge, 2000). On similar issue, teacher B blamed that the words presented in the practice of reading texts for comprehension were very difficult for the students because they are mostly jargons, idioms, and metaphors which are beyond the students’ level of understanding. Students could not understand what the text is about because words used in the text are bearing different meanings which intended beyond what the students expected and understood and this in turn impeded their reading comprehension practice. Teacher C said “students do not understand the text’s general idea because the words in the passage are very difficult for comprehending.” Therefore, the researcher recognized that if the students do not know the meanings of sufficient proportion of the words in the text, comprehension is impossible. In fact, research has shown that it takes a substantial proportion of difficult words to affect students’ comprehension (Anderson, 1983). Another teacher responded that “if students read only texts in which all the words are familiar, they will be denied a major opportunity for enlarging their vocabularies” (Teacher C). Teacher E and teacher F suggested that wide reading in texts that include varied and novel words is in fact the main route to vocabulary growth so that in the practice of reading comprehension activities students as well as teachers should consider this as the main factor. On the other one, teacher D said "add substance to the hypothesis that word difficulty is correlative but not causative factors in comprehension and performance even if the students had lower abilities when texts contained difficult vocabularies, and in half of these cases the effect was significant." This idea indicates that automatic recognition of a large vocabulary, or a large sight vocabulary, or the other hand, would free students’ cognitive resources for making sense of the unfamiliar or slightly familiar vocabulary and interpreting the global meaning of the text. And it took a high proportion of difficult vocabulary for the students to produce reliable decrements in comprehension practice.
On their part, most students stressed that a few difficult words were likely to pose serious barriers to comprehend texts. For example, student 1 and student 2 stated that they had difficulty at vocabulary level in practicing comprehension activities because they did not know the formation of words in relation with affixes. Student 3 said “pre-fixes and suffixes are the main problem that faced my reading comprehension practice.” Words which contain complex prefixes and suffixes were the main factors that impeded students’ understanding of word meanings in the text they practiced for comprehension. Most students claimed that by far the greatest lexical factor in good reading comprehension was the number of words in the reading texts. In this regard, student 4 and student 5 argued that there were a number of words in a given text that they could not understand whether the words are using for names of individuals, things or places. For example, in the textbook there are confusion words like xia-xia, dampen, aurum and others which made students confused in comprehending and practicing the reading activities. Other students also illustrated that they did not have more knowledge towards the formation of words, and they faced difficulty in reading comprehension practice. As student 6 and student 7 explained, teachers did not include pre-teaching key vocabularies prior to practice reading a text. For example, student 8 said that “I do not realize as I can use my knowledge about how to divide words into parts to figure out word meanings in the practice this in turn impedes my practice of reading comprehension activities.” Therefore, as the researcher understood from the responses gained, there were vocabulary difficulties in the time of reading comprehension practice. To sum up their views and experiences, both teachers and students agreed that the texts presented for reading comprehension practice were difficult words used in definitions (e.g. too many abstract words, definitions which are too broad rather than narrowly related to the meaning in context, words which had difficult affixes), idiomatic expressions (difficult to infer the meaning from constituent vocabulary), homonyms (especially problematic where they occur in a high density), synonyms (words which seem similar in meaning but different that created confusion and difficulty), and specialized vocabulary from 'imported text'. The students’ response also showed that the technical words found in some informational writing can also cause difficulties for them to practice reading comprehension, especially when those words are used infrequently and are not well-explained. To these, they could also add factors which make a word hard or difficult to process that factors which go some way beyond the length of the word or the number of syllables it contains. Many students also stated that the words frequently used in the text do not mean quite the same thing what they thought and do not fit the context quite as well. Therefore, as teachers and students stated, the most significant handicap for grade nine students’ reading comprehension practice was not mainly a lack of reading strategies but insufficient vocabulary knowledge in English. The high correlation in the research literature of word knowledge with reading comprehension indicates that if students do not adequately and steadily grow their vocabulary knowledge, reading comprehension will be affected, and it will be difficult (Wasson, 1989). Therefore, as some teachers argued in their responses, there has to be a tremendous need for more vocabulary instruction at all grade levels by all teachers.
On the other extreme, some teachers as well as students believed that the reading comprehension practice was difficult because of very long, very complex, and certainly very complicated sentences. The basic problem according to their view was that some sentence structures made reading texts more difficult to read and comprehend, and blocked them to practice the reading comprehension tasks and activities. According to the interviewed teachers, sentence structure did not have nearly as strong an effect as vocabulary. However, they said, some sentences in a text are complex enough to impede students’ reading comprehension practice in relation with conveying the meaning of the text. Regarding this, teacher A explained through example as follows:
If the intended meaning is something like “Ted failed to win the award because neither his test scores nor his grades were high enough,” breaking that sentence up into something like “Ted failed to win the award. His test scores were not high enough. His grades were not high enough” is going to result in more comprehensible a given text and becomes not difficult for students’ reading comprehension practice than the long one.
This idea indicates that short sentences are more good for comprehending a given text because students are able to understand what the text intends to say. Teacher A and B also stated that texts that lack logical connectives required students to infer relationships that could have been stated explicitly, and inferring relationships can cause problems for some students. Teacher A pointed out that:
It may seem surprising that counts of the simple variables of sentence length which are not sufficient to make relatively good predictions of reading comprehension. No argument that they cause ease or difficulty is intended: they are merely good indicator of difficulty. Consequently, altering sentence lengths, of themselves, can provide no assurance of improving reading comprehension. How to achieve more reading text writing is another and much more complex endeavor.
On similar issue, teacher B said that "It is almost certain that sentence (or clause) length can cause comprehension problem because it is correlated with more fundamental problem of syntactic complexity such as nesting, transformational complexity, and others.” Both group of teachers stated that it might also be true that learners from different L1 backgrounds find different structures more or less difficult; transforming nominalizations, adjectivalizations and passives to their active verb transforms impeded students’ comprehensibility of texts in the practice of reading passages. They explained more in which if it was indeed true that certain structures did cause more difficulty than others in students reading comprehension practice, what they would not like to know was which they were and why they caused difficulty. The researcher summarized teachers’ ideas that under normal conditions reading comprehension practice is little dependent on a structure analysis of the text’s sentences, it follows that second language reading comprehension is impossible without mastery of the second language’ structure. Usually the students’ conceptual knowledge would compensate for the lack of knowledge about linguistic contrasts between L1 and L2. In addition, learners with relatively low English proficiency tended to have poorer recall ability on the structurally more complex structures and this in turn affected students’ reading comprehension practice. To elaborate this idea, teacher C added that:
Our instructional problem with trying to simplify texts structurally to facilitate students’ reading comprehension practice, it is difficult to change a text on one level without changing it on another. And unnatural sentences structures are difficult to read and the relationships and meanings revealed by the formation of complex sentences are apparently lost.
On their part, students stated that some long sentences were clearly difficult for them. One of the interviewed students stated that texts that contained a very large amount of complex sentences were likely to present difficulties for them in practicing reading comprehension tasks and activities. In contrary, student 1 argued that at the same time, texts that employ artificially short sentences do not have the sound of real language and this made them to be impeded in comprehending a given text. Over time, students who were exposed to a variety of text types with increasing complexity of sentences also created difficulty of how text features differ by genre, and they gained in pealing back the layers of complexity for a deeper understanding of what is read. Another student underlined that, texts that have short and simple sentence could, nevertheless, be challenging to read/comprehend when it contained abstract ideas, concepts that were unfamiliar, or required a greater level of interpretation to unlock the intended meaning. They illustrated that texts have several sentences per paragraph, with sentences of moderate length and generally simple sentence structure and becoming more elaborate and complex, including some use of passive voice, abstract or descriptive languages. They expanded that it is hard and surprising that sentence length correlated with difficulty in reading comprehension. Student 2 argued “Apart from memory considerations, longer sentences are likely to contain more complex structures such as coordination and subordination and these create difficulty in practicing reading comprehension tasks and activities.” In the responses gained, the researcher recognized that what teachers and students had in common was the true grammatical relations which hold among the words in a sentence that were not expressed directly in its surface structure, the syntactic structure associated with a particular word was at variance with a general pattern in the language, a conflict exists between two of the potential sentence structures associated with a particular verb and restrictions on a grammatical operation applied under certain limited conditions only. Therefore, students did not indeed seem to benefit from the texts’ information in regarding of their reading comprehension practice that is revealed by complex sentences. The genres involved were often far different from much of what the students have previously been exposed to either in their own language or in the texts which have been used in their previous language learning activities. These genres are often characterized by nominalization of processes and the use of complex noun phrases and it may be the case that any structure device to set more propositional content into fewer words (e.g. nominalization, use of verbal nouns) which contributed in reading comprehension practice difficulties.
Respondents indicated that if the intent of a reading assignment was to have students retain key information, then short texts specifically designed to convey the key information might be more effective than longer, less focused texts. Concerning this, teacher A and B stated that how much material and what parts of the material they asked students to read was usually directly over their control as teachers due to the texts’ length. Similarly, teacher C explained that an obvious but sometimes overlooked factor which influenced their students’ reading comprehension practice, and the likelihood that a less devoted students would make a real attempt at finishing it, was its length of the texts. Particularly for those students who did not read fluently, length alone could be a very formidable obstacle for comprehending a given text. In favor of this idea, research has shown that in some case shorter texts, summaries or much reduced versions of complete texts can actually produce better comprehension and memory than longer ones (Carroll, 1990). This means that texts that are short enough were good for comprehension because they created on students’ interest and curiosity. On their part, student 1, student 2 and student 3 explained, texts which are very long in ideas were very difficult to comprehend and practice because they created bored on them to finish in a given period of time and did not motivate students to practice with pleasure. They illustrated that texts which are long were likely to be difficult because they contained long and complex sentences, and difficult phrase and clause structures. In addition, student 5 and student 6 explained that longer texts were not always better. In making a point, giving verbal illustrations and examples was not often useful that most teachers were not used because giving illustrations and examples increased the length of texts. As they illustrated, most of the time they are confused while they practiced long reading passages.
The majority of reading texts grade nine students encountered in this Secondary School in reading comprehension practice could be categorized as belonging to one of the two broad categories of text structure, narratives or exposition, and these two types of texts were organized very differently. Most textbook passages the researcher analyzed were narratives. According to the participants’ response, although there were certainly easier and more difficult narratives and ones that did not follow the prototypical structure, students generally did fairly well with narratives. As the responses gained through written reflection questions and semi-structured interview indicated, the texts employed in grade nine students textbook were expository. For example, regarding the text’s structure, teacher A said “Expository texts, for example, descriptions, temporal sequences, explanations, compare/contrast, definition/examples, and problem/solution as typical organizational patterns are mostly presented in the texts.” Similarly, teacher B revealed that authors of the texts frequently employed weak rhetorical patterns such as lists or simply presented material without any obvious pattern or structure. Therefore, there was no single prototypic structure for exposition narratives that did not provide the clues to the structure of upcoming expositions and narratives. Teacher C and teacher D argued that paragraphs are violating the coherence and topicalization conventions yield longer reading times, poorer recall, and distortion of apparent themes. They added that their students were not sensitive to the structure of a story as they read and practice it and they were not able to distinguish high and low level propositions. They expanded their view that the more organized types of discourse such as comparison and causation facilitated comprehension and memory. In addition, they illustrated that there appear to be complex relationships among particular types of text structures and given groups of subjects, and students could not assume what the results would be if different types of text structures and/or different groups of subjects were investigated and this created difficulty on learners reading comprehension practice. They further explained that students could not understand texts that have characters, a setting, a theme, and a plot or story line made up of events that comprise what has been called a “story grammar” because of their grade level abilities and difficulty of the text itself, and they were not be able to identify story grammar elements and use this information to visualize settings or characters, to make predictions about what might happen as the story unfolds, to draw conclusions based on the series of events in the story line and to comprehend the general message of the texts. It was also stated that there were text structure problems for students because it was often read non-linearly, out of order, selectively; and at a pace that varies from place to place in the text.
On their part, students claimed that the structure of the text had a greater impact on their practice of reading comprehension tasks and activities. It was clear that there were lower levels of organization from the paragraph level down to relations between individual sentences and clauses. And, not surprisingly, clear structure on these levels was also not facilitated comprehension practice. Student 20 and 21 stated that some variations in discourse type influenced the amount of information recalled from prose as they had not any prior knowledge. They illustrated and suggested that the more highly organized types of texts were generally more facilitative of recall than the less organized collection of descriptions.
According to participants’ response, text coherence and unity had greater impediments on the students’ reading comprehension practice. Most teachers stated that the deletion of connectives and clauses that explain how the parts of a topic fit together and the deletion of such material were likely to make a text less coherent and this impeded students’ reading comprehension practice. Regarding this, one of the interviewed teachers stated:
After reading a text, the students are not be able to summarize the content of the text and explain its purpose fairly and briefly because the text is not deal with a myriad of topics and texts that take up too many ideas, or contain concise of irrelevant materials that are difficult to read, to summarize, and to remember.
Another teacher argued that the integration of ideas, to how each topic and sub-topic of the text is defined and to how the parts of each paragraph in a text is related to each other are the main factor that impeded students’ reading comprehension practice. This means that students might not understand the parts of each paragraph’s idea of the text because they may perceive that the idea is different from one paragraph to another. To this point, teacher A and B revealed that students have difficulty in arranging text events in temporal order, making implicit goals explicit, and repairing coherence breaks caused by inadequate explanations, multiple causality, or distant causal relationships. Therefore, it is clear that understanding a text involves understanding the explicit and implicit relations that bind the text together to comprehend easily and good texts are directed toward particular topics, particular points, particular themes, and particular concepts (Anderson 1984). Teacher C also explained that permanent causal relationships are more likely to be understood than reversible ones for the students to practice reading comprehension activities well. He said “causally related texts in narratives are understood better than events that are not causally related.”
On their part, most of the interviewed students stated that the difficulty of text coherence and unity on their practice of reading comprehension activities in that the ratio of conjunctions per number of sentences was difficult to understand and impeded them to practice the reading comprehension. Student 27, student 28 student, 29 and student 30 revealed that there were problems in coherence and unity of texts in the practice because relations are signaled by other devices than conjunctions such as lexis and repetition of words and clauses per sentences. Some students also stated that they did not know how to use the clauses, sentences and paragraphs to establish the rhetorical framework of the text. Student 26 said “texts are difficult to comprehend well because I am not more familiar with how they are connected with each other ideally and developed logically.” This means that students could not comprehend reading texts because texts were repeating a linking word from the previous sentence, using the same terms for the same concepts, and constructing sentences in keeping with the given new format. In the given new format, information that has already been given in the text comes first in a sentence and information to be added to that given information comes later and at this time they were being confused in comprehending the texts. The researcher perceived from this point that students are more likely to comprehend a causal relationship when it was stated explicitly and this seems to indicate a way in which the language of textbooks might be made more comprehensible. Student 23 and student 24 supported this idea that understanding conjunctions as marking the focus of topical relations between sentences is our difficult level to comprehend the reading text. Therefore, if this was the case, it might be possible to identify texts too rich in relations the students have not acquired for them to be readable (a process teachers already do on an intuitive basis). Student 25 elaborated that there was a parallel syntactical function between the pronoun and the referent (pronouns and referent which were grammatical subjects were easier to process) in the text students read which were the most problems that they faced. That means, pronouns that referred to the agent rather than the patient of the preceding sentence were difficult to process in a text, regardless of their syntactic position. Student 13 sad that: “I am impeded by vocabulary effects or the inability to establish the semantic relations that obtain in the text.”
The most difficulty of cohesive ties may not be the links themselves but simply the reduction they afford the students’ repeating antecedents in full (some of which may be long noun phrases or even a concept outlined in a whole paragraph or more in the case of anaphoric nouns) would render the text so awkward as to be uninterruptable, placing demand on memory which might become intolerable. In addition to these, grammatical cohesion achieved by anaphoric reference (e.g. locative reference.), substitution and ellipsis did appear to present much difficulty to the students reading comprehension practice. So it is possible to present reference, substitution and ellipsis as major factors contributing to text cohesion difficulty and what remains, conjunction having been dealt with under clause relations was lexical cohesion and a vocabulary effect on students’ reading comprehension practice.
As the response gained through semi-structured interview and written reflection questions, text elaboration was one of the text related factor that impeded the practice of students’ reading comprehension tasks and activities. Texts can be written so that they present concepts without much explanation, or so that they present concepts along with a good deal of explanatory material in examples, analogies, and linkages of various sorts. Towards this, teacher A and teacher B stated that shorter texts sometimes produce better comprehension and memory than longer ones. Interviewed teachers were responded that elaboration texts did not help the students and hindered them in practicing reading comprehension tasks and activities because they did explain more information which made the text more complicated and created confusion for the students not to understand what the text was about. The idea that elaborations facilitate comprehension and recall makes good sense, and the facilitative effects of elaborated text have been empirically documented (Bransford & Johnson, 1982). This indicates, elaboration of a text makes information more meaningful and understandable, and information that is more understandable is more memorable. However, teacher A said that “elaborated texts are very difficult to remember and are not very interesting to practice and comprehend because elaborated texts make students not to give concentration for comprehension a text.” Another teacher stated that texts which contained more elaboration information of the topic created other text related factor like vocabulary, sentence structure, length of the text and cohesion and coherence as it increases its content of information. In addition to these, student 10, student 11 and student 12 suggested that shorter texts might be more effective if the goal is simply to remember materials of the texts and understand the information. Therefore, elaboration, as the researcher examined and the participants’ responses indicated, had much bearing on text difficulty. So the researcher could probably examine this text feature as major factor contributed to text difficulty for the students’ reading comprehension practice in reading tasks and activities.
The factors considered here are familiarity of content, background knowledge required, audience appropriateness, the verve and quality of the writing, and interestingness of the text. As we have already noted, each of these factors definitely involved both the reader and the text; for example, one reader may find the content of a particular text quite familiar while another might find it largely unfamiliar. Additionally, it needs to be recognized that assessing texts along these dimensions is very much a subjective task.
As the response indicated, the content of the stories that students’ practiced for reading comprehension were partly unfamiliar to them. Of course, students read a great deal besides experience stories, but as teacher A and teacher B indicated, much of the texts students read and practice contained unfamiliar contents and these in turn impeded them in practicing reading comprehension tasks and activities. For example, teacher A said “a descriptive piece about a zoo for example may not contain a good deal of content that familiar to students who have not visited zoos.” Similarly, teacher B stated “a narrative set in a suburban community and focusing on the adventures and misadventures of a Cub Scout may not also contain a lot of material familiar to a Cub Scout from the suburbs” (unit two text three). These two explanations pointed out that students could not be able to understand and practice a given text which contains the contents that students have not any experience towards the topic of these contents. In addition, teacher D said “still, as texts are placed in unfamiliar settings, narratives cannot likely to contain familiar themes and our students cannot understand what the text is about and this in turn impedes them in practicing reading comprehension.” In support of this idea, teacher E and teacher F explained that most students were interested in historical places, sports especially football game, arts and music, national zoos of Ethiopia and the like; but as they explained most texts are far from these contents. These unfamiliar contents of the texts in turn had grate impediments on students’ reading comprehension practice.
On their part, students revealed that they have peers with whom they play, fight, and engage in a host of other pleasant and unpleasant human interactions and they go to school, shop at the store and sleep at night. These commonalities result in a good deal of familiar content in most texts and this intern helped them to comprehend the texts and practice them well. But as they elaborated, texts are far from these commonalties of content areas and impeded their reading comprehension activities to practice effectively. Regarding this, student 1 and student 2 reported that not only must they have some familiarity with the contents of a text; they must also have the background knowledge assumed by the author. In some cases however in the context of this Secondary School, the general knowledge that students picked up from day-to-day living experience was not sufficient for practicing and understanding the texts. Reading a comprehension on a topic for which the students have little familiarity was the major difficult that impaired them to practice the reading activities. Reading for comprehension on a topic that is totally unfamiliar to students is simply impossible (Adams & Bruce, 1982). It is for this reason that the language experience approaches in which students dictate their own stories and then read those offers some real advantages. This, as it is noted, is not true of many texts of the textbook. In other cases, much more specific knowledge was not enough and required to the students to understand the text. Some texts that students practiced also required extensive background knowledge for comprehension and thus posed problems for some students. On the other part, student 8 and student 9 indicated, in some cases there are texts which contain a myriad of facts, concepts, and relationships that they could understand and practice them well. Besides, they said that some texts are interested and initiates them to practice the reading comprehension activities well. Few teachers also supported that contents that are described in some texts are very interested, and students are very motivated to comprehend them well and this in turn makes both teachers and students to do the reading comprehension activities better.
In addition to the factors that have been presented thus far, teacher A and teacher B revealed that the quality of the writing, the style of the writing, the particular blend of topic, organization, and style that makes one piece of writing intriguing and memorable and another piece routine were another text related factor that impeded their students’ reading comprehension practice. Although voice is only part of what we mean by quality and variety, it is certainly an important part of it. Modifying textbook passages by giving them "voice" are significantly increased the students’ comprehension of the passages (Oakhill, 2007). However, in revising the passages to give them voice, the researcher here attempted to examine text situations and their difficulties in the students’ reading comprehension practice. As the responses gained from the participants and as the researcher analyzed the text book, texts were not more dynamic, make the language more conversational, and highlight connections between the reader and the text. One of the interviewed teachers stated as follows:
Of course quality and verve is not the only aspect of difficulty to consider, the texts I ask my students to read and practice is more difficult for understanding and students are impeded by these factors.
Exposing students to the power and beauty of the language ought to be one of our aims in teaching and practicing texts. However, according to teacher A “texts which are written in italic style are very difficult to read and even to see and identify each language elements which in turn impeded students in practicing and comprehending reading tasks and activities.” Therefore, the style of the written texts students practiced should be visible for them in order to comprehend it easily and effectively. In support of this idea, student 14 and student 15 argued that they could not be able to read, comprehend and practice a given text because of the style of the writing of the text which is unattractive to read and practice.
One of the issues the researcher wanted to assess was the teachers’ and students’ view regarding for the quality of the text to attract students to read and comprehend. To know teachers’ and students’ view therefore the researcher engaged both of them in the interview. Regarding this, teacher A stated “interesting material on students’ comprehension is mixed. Some are interesting for reading comprehension practice and others are boring for the students.” That means, some students have shown positive effects for interesting material that they read and others have failed to show such effects and have even found that interesting story in textbooks could sometimes focus students’ attention away from more important parts of a selection. Teacher B and teacher C also stated that passages mentioned in the textbook were not very interesting because they did not contain more familiar topics for the students and were difficult in coherence and unity. They illustrated that the narrative was very likely to capture students’ interest, but students were not much interested because of other text related factors which are mentioned so far, and teachers’ attention could be focused on solving the problem by making the students group to help each other and not on the information about subways and this in turn affected reading comprehension practice. A poorly written piece on something is likely to be of great interest to a student who loves that thing, while even a very well written article on the topic will not capture the interest of a child who does not care much about things (Wilson & Fielding, 1987).
On their part, some students stated that it appeared that texts with material they find interesting as an integral part of their makeup are likely to facilitate comprehension practice, while texts in which the interesting material is an add on are likely to impede comprehension practice. Student 1 and student 2 explained that texts which presented about familiar topics of information like football game, music, art and tourism are more interested to read and comprehend a given text well unless topics of information which are far from our background knowledge are impossible to practice the reading comprehension effectively and they impeding their reading comprehension activities. Therefore, from the participants’ suggestion, it is possible to say that trying to choose writing that makes the subject matter itself is interesting rather than writing that relies on irrelevant asides to gain its readers interest, and alert students to the presence of irrelevant details in some texts, their learning to deal with such matters is part of their becoming actually important in reading a text for comprehension.
In order to obtain information whether the designed texts helped students to practice the different reading comprehension sub-skills or not, it was mandatory to analyze the students’ textbook. Therefore, referring to the students’ textbook and the nature of the reading comprehension texts, activities and tasks, an attempt was made to analyze and describe the sub-skills that each text and exercise enabled students practice reading comprehension tasks and activities effectively. In this section, in order to triangulate the data gained through semi structured interview and written reflection questions, a brief analysis of the texts in the text book, in relation to the sub-skills, was made as follows.
Grade 9 English text book of Ethiopia consists of 12 units in which each unit is divided in to 5 sections namely listening, reading, language focus (vocabulary, grammar, and oral work), speaking and writing respectively. There are 41 reading texts in the text book. The exercises, which might involve the students to practice reading comprehension activities in the time of before, during and after reading a text, are in the student’s textbook. The objectives of the reading comprehension practice in the tasks are also stated for each sub-section. Regarding the text types, 27 of them are static (description of things), 7 of them are dynamic (stories), 5 of them are dialogic texts and 2 of them are abstracts which might encourage students in expressing their opinions. Therefore, there are proportional treatment of the different input sources and text types. An intention was also made to assess topics of reading passages and types of reading activities included in the textbook. As to the type of tasks, almost half (17 out of 37 tasks) focus on completing notes or paragraphs, 7 comprehension questions, 4 ordering ideas and the rest: labeling a diagram, retelling a story and listing steps were treated one time each. Thus, much emphasis is given to completion and comprehension tasks and this shows that the tasks in the text book might dominantly enable students to practice extracting specific points from a given text. Additionally, the texts employed few effective functional devices to aid the students’ comprehension. There are some expository texts that are clearly organized and that might make the organization obvious to the students, but it appeared that many of the expository texts used in that textbook failed to meet the students’ level of understanding and this might make the comprehension practice difficult for them. The exercises in the textbook were also examined to see if they were designed in such a way that they could enable students to practice the various reading comprehension sub-skills.
Reading texts that contain informational writing contributes to vocabulary growth, sentence construction abilities and builds knowledge. For example a topic entitled as “A successful enterprise Success in fashion world” contained informational writing that are organized by means of text headings and subheadings, and contained extensive graphics, such as tables, charts, diagrams, and illustrations. Texts also contained hypertext that afford students immediate access to definitions of difficult words, to sources of additional information about a topic, and to a vast array of reference materials such as maps, videos of historical events, interviews. The topic which is entitled as “Places to visit ” for example contained hypertext that might help students to understand texts effectively through referencing these graphic materials with experts in a field. However, even if grade nine English textbook contains different input sources and text types that might contribute to practice reading comprehension activities and tasks, and to build knowledge, students at the school might be faced by different text related factors to engage in and to understand the texts. These factors are discussed and summarized as follows.
As the researcher analyzed grade nine textbook texts, students might be hindered by text related factors in practicing reading comprehension tasks and activities at word level, sentence level and conceptual and topic levels of the texts. As analysis of the textbook has shown, word bank might have less accurate sound and/or spelling forms. The student might have difficulty in blending sounds to form a word, sounding out words into sounds (segmenting), identifying letters and/or letter clusters, takes longer to recall names and sounds of letters, letter clusters and words, using letter cluster knowledge used in one word to assist reading another word with a similar cluster pattern, analogy (e.g. in unit 4 reading text two: Reads went, should be able to read sent, want). Unit 10 text three, doesn’t recognize letter clusters (e.g. sp-ent) or digraphs (e.g. oa / th) in words, inconsistent with letter identification, and learning the visual code of the text. The students might also had difficulty in oral language at word level, learning how words are pronounced for example ('crinimal' for 'criminal' ) unit 9 text one, less aware of sounds in words, remembering names of items, difficulty building a word bank (receptive vocabulary), smaller expressive vocabulary, difficulty learning word meanings, a less developed network of word meanings (e.g. antonyms, synonyms). For instance, in the first unit of the textbook, the topic entitled as “which country”, there are text related factors which might not be clear for the students to practice reading tasks and activities. One of the factors is the new vocabulary the text used like “xai xai, luisa, daming and ohhniu”. The students might be relied heavily on these reading strategies; predicts words on the basis of an individual letter and/or a letter cluster, converts each letter to a sound and blends sounds and overuses picture cues to read an unknown word segments words into letters or inappropriate clusters (e.g. wi-nd-ow, unit four text two).
It was also possible to analyze the texts in textbook which might make students difficulty at the sentence level of the texts. Understanding complex grammatical forms in oral comprehension might be difficult for the students in practicing reading comprehension activities. The students at this level might have a problem of restricted, immature in grammar, demonstrates limited use of punctuation to gain sequence of meaning, is less likely to use rehearsal and/or chunking strategies, limited recall of a story just read, does not re-read sentences to assist comprehension, does not paraphrase text read, difficulty in generating questions about the text and difficulty in visualizing information from text reads word-by-word, with uneven flow, and in monotone. Texts also might be difficult for the students at conceptual level because it may be difficult for them to know how ideas are linked into themes at topic or theme level, how a theme is communicated in a narrative text and description at the pragmatic or dispositional level, of the social context affects how ideas are communicated. In unit two the topic entitled “Places to Visit” there is a text which is written by different people who come from different countries. In the text there is a sentence which says: “I come from Trenton, which is in the mountains the north of the Italy, and 14 years old and live with my parents and my grandparents who is 30 years younger than me in a flat.” Look at this sentence, it might be difficult for the students to understand what the relative pronoun Who is referred to, it might also create confusion for the students whether the pronoun referred his/her parents or grandparents and whether a flat referred me or the grandparents.
Another problem in the textbook’s reading texts might be organized in episodes with contextual links rather than in a networked format. The students at this stage might not make limited use of prior knowledge to assist reading new texts, limited use of title & pictures as part of story orientation, and unable to link ideas occurring early in a text to ideas that occur later in the same text and does not demonstrate knowledge of genre type, does not elaborate, infer, predict and/or summaries while reading. Another text related factor that the researcher examined was the style of the writing. From 41 texts, seven of them are written in italic style of writing. The Style of writing might make one piece of text interesting and memorable and another piece of text ordinary. However, in grade nine English textbook for example, there was the text which is entitled as “A letter to a newspaper”. This text is written in italics style which might be difficult for the students to comprehend effectively and even might be difficult to see and read the text for comprehension activities. That means the type font and size of the writing might be factors of a text that could influence a students’ interaction in the reading comprehension practice. In the context of grade nine English textbook, authors were chosen reading materials that do not utilize students’ local context. For instance, texts about what students enjoy doing would not be a good starting point. It does not include information texts that contain topics with which the students are more familiar. This was not allowing them to use their prior knowledge, to learn more about the topic and to practice reading comprehension well. It does not also introduce reading materials of different types (genres) and topics only focusing on narratives and expository in prose like. These lead students a limited reading comprehension and language experience.
Generally, how well the text is written, whether it follows the conventions of its genre or structure, and the language or dialect it is written in, the content of a specific text, the difficulty or readability of it, the type font and size of the texts, collectively are referred to as “surface features,” and the quality of the text at the surface level is important for readers to be able to make meaning effectively (Tracey & Morrow, 2002). What is important and necessary in grade 9 textbook were the various techniques that are applied for reading comprehension practices (e.g., grammar presentation, examples, charts & graphs, maps & drawings, integration, repetition, objects & pictures, and dialogues). These techniques might help students to practice reading comprehension activities effectively.
The teachers’ and students’ application of strategies of reading comprehension and their activities in the three stages of reading comprehension in English language classroom teaching-learning process were discussed and analyzed in the preceding section. In this section however the researcher analyzed the results obtained through the actual class room observations in order to assure and enrich the results obtained through semi-structured interview, written reflection questions and textbook analyzes. In this study, classroom observation was employed as a major tool to examine what actually happened in the reading classroom. Before the observation began, the researcher contacted the director of the schools and English department heads to ask permission. Then he received the list of grade nine classes from English department heads to select sample of classes for the observation. Accordingly, out of 21 classes, six classes were purposively selected and observed. Each class was observed two times during reading comprehension activities as the main focus of the researcher was on the practice of reading comprehension and what the key text related factors affected students and teachers practice. The observation was conducted on three reading lessons that teachers and students were practicing in the teaching-learning process in the classroom for three continuous weeks.
During observation, the observer used a checklist comprising pre, while and post reading activities (Appendix 4). It was prepared based on the research objectives and questions. The focus of the checklist was on actual classroom practices of students and teachers (i.e. the classroom procedures and techniques that teachers employ in teaching and learning reading comprehension skills) and factors affected this practice. It contained 14 items, which were designed based on review of related literature. The items were originally presented in a ‘Yes /No’ category. The non-participant observation was carried out after semi-structured interview and written reflection questions were distributed to students and teachers, and textbook analysis was done so that the possible data contamination might be minimized although not avoided completely. Therefore, two continuous classroom observations were conducted in each selected class of grade nine English periods particularly in the periods when reading lessons were carried out. Accordingly, the researcher analyzed the observed behaviors as follows.
Firstly the teachers introduced the passage in brief to the students before reading and they engaged them in pair/group discussion on pre-reading questions. Some teachers set purposes for each reading assignment and trained the students to vary their speed accordingly and drew the students’ attention to the text’s title, subtitles, or other visual support in or round the text for predicting the content before they read. Some teachers were giving the students the purpose of the comprehension activity and proper feedback and guidance on the students’ comprehension activities. Then the teacher made the students read the passage quickly for the gist or main idea of the text and the students read the text quickly to locate specific information in the passage and engaged the students in reading the text silently and independently and asked the students questions that follow. Teacher A, teacher B teacher C and teacher D for example moved from group to group and ensure that the students’ discussions were going on in English in an orderly way. They were encouraging the students to identify a logical organization of the text such as references, cohesive devices, to engage in writing task to respond to comprehension questions, completing tables, diagrams, and writing compositions. They let the students express their views and opinions on the ideas reflected in the passage either supporting or opposing and asked them to summarize and comment on the main points of the text.
In another class, before going to deep reading, the students guessed the meanings of new words using contextual clues. From the observed classes, in two of them the teachers were drawing the students’ attention to some vocabulary items such as words in bold and other grammatical items that can cause comprehension difficulties. In addition to this, in three classes teachers encouraged their students guess the meanings of unfamiliar words in the passage using their prior knowledge of word building or word formation process. In this case, some teachers motivated the students infer the meanings of unfamiliar words using structural clues and drew the students’ attention to the relationship between different parts of the passage by using the organization patterns in the passage and using references and connectives. In most of the classes the teachers helped the students to grasp the content of the text by working through the text paragraph by paragraph and to enable them comprehends the content of the text, identifying the main and supporting details of the paragraph and focusing the students’ attention on some vocabulary and grammatical items in the passage. They were also encouraging their students to focus on the sentence structures of the text. Teacher A in one class for example was making the students engaged in pair/group discussions to compare and contrast their answers on comprehension questions after practicing reading comprehension in the text. Finally, students were assigned to read the passage at their homes and did the comprehension practice questions on their exercise books. What the observed classes had in common was, teachers encouraged students to use their existing knowledge and to focus on language features to facilitate their understanding of new ideas encountered in reading the texts. Students understood new things in terms of what they already knew after reading the text. Teachers were also using vocabulary instruction and summarization in teaching students to summarize what they read is another way to improve their overall comprehension of text. In the actual classroom observation, the researcher examined and observed different text related factors that impeded students reading comprehension practice. Students had the problems of identifying and taking advantage of text structure, which means they were not able to familiarize patterns that establish the interrelations among the ideas of the text. As narrative writing is usually found in texts that have characters, a setting, a theme, and a plot or story line made up of events that comprise what has been called a “story grammar”, they were not able to identify story grammar elements and use this information to visualize settings or characters, to make predictions about what might happen as the story unfolds, and to draw conclusions based on the series of events in the text and these in turn blocked them to practice the reading comprehension activities.
As the researcher critically observed, technical words found in some informational writing could also cause difficulties for students, especially when those words are used infrequently and are not well-explained. The level of difficulty of a text’s vocabulary, for example, was a powerful problem of that text’s comprehension practice. The same was true for syntax. Complex sentences (i.e., those having several embedded ideas) and poorly structured sentences (i.e., sentences that are excessively wordy, rambling, or ambiguous) could cause comprehension practice problems by requiring students to spend too much time puzzling out the meanings of the sentences. In addition to these, the average length of sentences in a text, the number of new words a text contains, and the grammatical complexity of the language used in the text were the main text related factors that the researcher observed in the actual reading comprehension activities. Because of syntactic simplicity might decrease text cohesion, students were affecting in practicing the reading comprehension. As the observed behavior has shown, some texts that students were practicing in the classroom were “inconsiderate” of the students. That was, the texts did not provide enough background information nor did they make sufficient connections among ideas they are intended to convey. Another text related problem the researcher observed was unclear or poorly written texts that had great impact on students’ confidence and lead them not to improve attitudes toward reading comprehension practice. In addition to these, in the observed classrooms, teachers were also affected by text related factors. Because of text length and elaboration of texts, it was very difficult for all teachers to give full instructions and make good decisions within a given time as it was difficult to cover the elaborated texts and long texts within the given time.
In the forgoing discussion, the researcher indicated the key challenges of text related factors on students’ reading comprehension practice. In addition, he wanted to check what teachers and students are doing to improve the situation. To get the experiences of teachers and students on this issue, the researcher involved them in the semi structured interview and written reflection questions, and triangulated their experiences through classroom observations. Some of the efforts teachers and students dealt with to this regard were discussed as follows.
In the teaching-learning process, while teachers teach and students practice reading comprehension tasks and activities, they were using different types of techniques that helped them to facilitate students’ reading comprehension practice and reduce the problem of text related factors on students’ reading comprehension practice. Some teachers were using different methods that had been found to be effective in teaching text comprehension. These methods were using combinations of co-operative or group learning, graphic organizers (e.g. flow charts, word webs), asking and answering questions, instruct sentence structure of the texts, summarizing and focusing on vocabulary. Teachers guided students by modeling the actions they could take to improve text comprehension practice. Teacher A said “I ask students various questions about a text while reading; identifying main ideas; using prior knowledge to make predictions before reading to develop their reading comprehension ability.” This is because as teacher B elaborated certain text features especially language focuses made some texts more easily comprehensible, they helped their students to understand those features, so students could comprehend the texts and practice them effectively. Teachers were teaching text structures, model appropriate text selection before going to the actual reading activities, and provided regular independent reading time for their students. Teacher C and teacher D also stated that they taught students how to read texts for comprehension by showing them what language features to be considered. In this approach, readers were looking for texts that are not too hard or too easy, but just right. Just-right texts are those that look interesting, have mostly decodable words, have been read aloud previously, are written by a familiar author, or will be read with a support person nearby (McDonough, 1995). Teachers were also making sure that they provided students with time to read independently every ten or fifteen minutes because they understood that reading becomes better with practice, and comprehension becomes better with more reading practice so students read repeatedly to comprehend a given text well. As the researcher observed, most teachers were using programs such as drop everything and read sustained silent reading to ensure that students read independently every time in a given period.
As the data have shown, most of the students were also using strategies to support increase their understanding and practicing of texts. In that time teachers were helping students become good readers by teaching them how to use the strategies of monitoring, predicting, inferring, questioning, connecting, summarizing, visualizing, and organizing texts. Student 1 and student 2 revealed that teachers were explicit and direct in explaining to them what these strategies are and why students use them. They illustrated that their teachers were modeling them the strategies (often by thinking aloud) and providing them with numerous opportunities to practice and apply the strategies. For example, student 13 said “my teacher was using texts that were easily maintained for teaching, practicing and applying independently.” On the other side, some teachers stated that they were helping students think metacognitively about strategies, considering when and where to apply each strategy, how to use it, and the impact it can have on reading comprehension practice. Similarly, teachers occasionally were providing students with difficult texts to know the main text related factors of the learners. If students encountered only texts that they can read easily, there would be no reason to practice and apply strategies. It was when readers encountered challenging texts that they put strategies to use.
In the practice of reading comprehension in English classroom, students were applying the appropriate strategy to repair meaning in knowing what was understood and not understood in the time of pre, while and after reading. Some students were monitoring while reading to see if things make sense, and they use strategies in repairing the meaning when things stopped making sense. While some studies support that monitoring is important (Perfetti, 1985), other studies indicate that readers often miss monitor (Cain, 2007). The same was applying in the context of the Secondary School. Most students had been found to both over and underestimate their comprehension of texts. So, while monitoring was important and most students seemed to monitor successfully, some effective teachers realized that miss monitoring could be affecting meaning for less able students, and they were providing additional support as needed so that most students were practicing text comprehension successfully. Teacher E stated that:
In order to understand and practice a text, students are needed to know the meanings of individual words and constructing an understanding of the text by assembling and making sense of the words in context and this helps them to comprehend the text easily. But it is very difficult to know each and every word in the text for the students. In this case, I help my students to know vocabulary by teaching them directly and indirectly.
Direct instruction was including giving the students word definitions and pre-teaching of vocabulary before reading a given text. Indirect methods of teaching were including incidental vocabulary learning, e.g. mentioning, extensive reading and exposure to language-rich contexts. Students were engaging in repetition and multiple exposures to vocabulary items (e.g. through speaking, listening and writing). This was ideally being done in connection with authentic learning tasks. In vocabulary learning, students were involving active engagement in tasks, e.g. learning new vocabulary by doing a class project. Student 17 and student 18 expressed that their teachers were encouraging them to use dictionary for word definitions in texts in order to develop their vocabulary knowledge. When assessing the difficulty level of a text, it was important to consider the language used, as well as its subject matter, interest level and assumed cultural knowledge apart from text difficulty, choose books that were well-written in terms of style and language that teachers were doing so.
Moreover, teachers tried to ask their students higher-level questions that require them to make inferences and think beyond the text, make connections between the texts they read and their personal lives and experiences, provide students with practice reading materials at an appropriate level of difficulty and they were monitoring progress in reading comprehension by administering informal assessments. As the researcher understood from participants’ responses, most teachers prepared to use a variety of instructional strategies and materials selectively, appropriately, and flexibly. Except few, most teachers were focusing on teaching their students the pronunciation of difficult words, the meaning of critical, unknown vocabulary words, any necessary background knowledge and how to preview the text. Teacher E and teacher F revealed that they were teaching their students how to organize ideas in a text, how elaborated texts are important to give explanations, and give different texts to practice them again and again. In addition, some teachers explained that by reading texts carefully and making discussion with groups in order to share experiences, they minimized text related factors in students’ reading comprehension practice. This means, teachers were adapting reading texts to catch more general ideas and tried to understand the meaning of the texts through identifying synonyms and antonyms, and using general contexts. On their part, student 20 and 21 revealed that before going to practice the reading comprehension tasks and activities, they learned different grammatical aspects of language like sentence construction, passive and active voice, clause and their types, formation of words, and other language focuses and this helped them to practice reading comprehension effectively. They reported that after learning these features, they practiced reading comprehension tasks and activities and the practice of comprehension would be effective. Some teachers suggested that students’ reading comprehension practice would be enhanced if students could read the words in a passage accurately and fluently. As they stated, students should preview the texts, discover what content would be covered or what the text would be about, learn what information would be emphasized, see how the information is organized, activate background knowledge that will assist in comprehension and become more interested in the passage.
This section presents the summary of the study, conclusions reached and the recommendations made based on the findings of the study.
In the study an attempt was made to examine and assess text related factors that impeded students’ reading comprehension practice in EFL classroom. To achieve this target, four research questions were formulated. So the data required to answer these questions was collected using semi-structured interview, written reflection questions, textbook analysis and classroom observation. The data gained through these instruments were qualitatively analyzed and discussed based on the research objectives and literature review. In the study, the empirical results indicated that the basic text related factors have influenced the practice of reading comprehension tasks and activities. The findings showed that appropriate application of the reading comprehension strategies and phases have been practiced in the actual classroom teaching-learning process and on the students’ textbook activities. In all, the researcher has listed ten text related factors that influenced reading comprehension practice. Six of the factors, vocabulary, sentence structure, length, elaboration, coherence and unity, and text structure are largely intrinsic in the text itself in which the researcher realized them as the key text related factors. Four factors, familiarity of content and background knowledge required, audience appropriateness, the quality and verve of the writing, and interestingness of the texts definitely involved both the reader and the text so less attention was paid on these factors.
The researcher has been so far analyzing and interpreting the data gathered through semi-structured interview, written reflection questions, textbook analysis and classroom observations. As the research findings revealed that students were impeded in different text related factors in the practice of reading comprehension activities. Based on what has been found out as result of the research study and the summary stated above, the researcher has arrived at the following conclusions.
1. As the findings revealed, in the practice of pre, while and post reading activities, students faced different text related problems. They had lack of vocabulary knowledge and they did not know how words are formed. New and jargon words, ironical expressions of words were also the main text related factors for the students.
2. The research findings also indicated that sentence structure (i.e., complex sentences those having several embedded ideas) and poorly structured sentences (i.e., sentences that are unduly wordy, rambling, or ambiguous) impeded students’ reading comprehension practices and these required them to spend too much time puzzling out the meanings of the sentences in the texts. Students did not understand the difference between simple, compound and complex sentences, which can result in confusion in understanding the author's intended meaning. This is certainly the case in most texts where authors who write these texts use complex and compound-complex sentences routinely to communicate more detailed information and to elaborate ideas more. The construction of this particular sentence could quickly overload a student's working memory capacity and syntactical understanding.
3. The findings also indicated that most of the students consider doing reading activities in groups as relevant to them. However, some texts including the content area textbooks that students read for comprehension are “inconsiderate” of readers. That was, the texts do not provide enough background information nor did they make sufficient connections among ideas they are intended to convey. This means, students’ comprehension problems were sometimes the result of unclear or poorly written text that did not increase students’ confidence and did not encourage them to improve their attitudes toward reading comprehension practice.
4. The findings revealed that text structure by itself had a great problem for the students’ reading comprehension practice. Some texts violated the coherence and topicalization conventions yield longer reading times, poorer recall, and distortion of apparent theme. So students were not being sensitive to the structure of a story as they read and practice it and they did not distinguish high and low level propositions of the text.
5. As the study showed, texts in the textbook were not more dynamic, make the language more conversational, and highlight connections between the reader and the text. Students were not being able to comprehend the text because of its length. The quality of the writing, the style of the writing, the particular blend of topic, organization, and style that were not made one piece of writing intriguing and memorable and another piece routine . Texts which are long were likely to be difficult for the students because they contained long and complex sentences, and difficult phrase and clause structures. Elaborated texts were very difficult to remember and not very interesting to practice and comprehend.
6. The findings indicated that text length and elaboration were the two key text related factors that impeded teachers’ instructional practices and decisions because of time limitations to cover long and elaborated texts within a given period of time.
7. Finally, as the study revealed, both students and teachers were dealing with text related factors to minimize, reduce and improve the situation that the problems influenced on reading comprehension practice. They were using strategies like previewing texts, answering and generating questions, recognizing story structure, graphic, charts and semantic organizers, and monitoring comprehension practices in the time of pre, during and after reading activities.
Based on the study and the above conclusions, the researcher would like to forward the following recommendations:
1. The teachers should recognize the main text related factors that impede his/her students’ reading comprehension practice problems in order to help their students in practicing the reading activities. Recognition of text related factors may help the teachers to focus on, give attention and arrive at the main problems.
2. The teachers should teach their students about the language features of the text before go to practice reading comprehension activities and tasks. This in turn facilitates reading comprehension practice in the classroom teaching-learning process.
3. Teachers should help students to become good readers for comprehension practice by teaching them how to use the strategies of monitoring, predicting, inferring, questioning, connecting, summarizing, visualizing, and organizing.
4. Textbook writers should consider the language features used in the reading texts as well as its subject matter, interest level and assumed cultural knowledge of the students.
5. The teachers should make sure that they provide students with time to read independently and extensively every day because reading becomes better with practice and comprehending becomes better with more reading practice.
6. With text structure instructions teachers should help students understand basic story grammar, including the literary elements that are common across narrative pieces, such as plot, characters, and setting.
7. Textbooks should have a varied and mixed set of structures, and teachers should address specific features and demands of reading text so that students are more likely to engage in reading text with a repertoire of strategies and schema to help them construct meaning.
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Semi-Structured Interview Questions
These questions were set for the students and teachers in order to find out the possible data of text related factors which impede students’ reading comprehension practice at grade nine Secondary School in English classroom reading activities and tasks. The required information was collected from each of the participants in the inquiry.
I. Interview Questions for Teachers
1. How many times do you teach reading comprehension in the classroom in a week?
2. How do you teach your students all reading passages in the text to comprehend them?
3. How important do you think is reading comprehension practice for learners?
4. How do you see students’ reading ability?
5. How many different genres (passage types) are available to students reading practices in the textbook and how students read across genres?
6. What text related factors impede students’ reading comprehension practices? Why?
7. In what way do text related factors affect your instructional practices & decisions in reading comprehension practice?
8. What solutions or strategies do you use when you face problems in teaching the reading comprehension and to deal with text related factors that impede students’ reading comprehension practice?
9. What do you do if students are complaining about text related factors that impede their reading comprehension and to do reading assignments that you give?
10. What do you suggest about text related factors that impede students’ reading comprehension practice and about your students’ reading competence
II. Interview Questions for the Students
a) Yes no questions
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Written Reflection Questions
These questions were also set for teachers and students in order to get the information needed strengthen the data obtained through semi-structured interview about text related factors which impede students’ reading comprehension practice.
A. Written Reflection Questions for Teachers
Dear Teachers, You are kindly requested to read each item carefully and give your genuine responses. Concerning the information you give me, I would like to assure you that all would be kept confidential and used only for the research purpose. Thus, your responses will have much contribution to the success of the intended research. You are not required to write your name.
1. Describe the key text related factors that impede students’ reading comprehension practices that you recognize.
2. Describe your general feelings toward the practice of students’ reading comprehension
3. Describe how you and your students deal with text related factors and assess the effectiveness of the strategies.
4. What do you comment topics of reading materials to be used in reading lessons in order to promote students’ comprehension skill without text related problems?
5. Describe how you familiarize students with the language features of the target language
6. What do you consider the reasons that lead to students’ difficulties to understand a text are?
7. What text related factors do impede your instructional practices and decisions
8. What activities do you design to help your students achieve reading comprehension?
If any other thing:
B. Written Reflection questions for the Students
Dear students, In these questions, you are kindly requested to give your answers. The information you give in response to the items in the questions contribute valuable rewards to the researcher. The researcher assures you that the information you provide will be used only for the purpose of academic research. Please respond to each item.
1. What are the common and specific problems that impede your reading comprehension practice?
2. What are the key text related factors that impede your reading comprehension practice?
3. How far the reading comprehension tasks in the textbook challenge you?
4. What strategies do you and your teacher use to overcome text related factors that impede your rereading comprehension practice and how?
5. How does your teacher teach the reading comprehension in your classroom?
6. What are your strengths and weakness while you read for comprehension?
7. How do you deal with (overcome) text related factors in your reading comprehension practice?
8. What instructional approaches does your teacher use in your classroom?
If any other:
Textbook Analysis Checklists
1. The Main Reading Texts of Grade Nine Students’ English Textbook
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2. Textbook Analysis Checklist Questions
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At present, I am doing an investigation of the actual classroom reading comprehension practices in Grade 9 in relation to the reading sections included in the new course book. The following checklist questions are designed to collect relevant data for the study.
Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten
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