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UNIVERSIDAD DE ANTIOQUIA

SECCIONAL ORIENTE
SCHOOL OF LANGUAGES



OSCAR ANDRS BEDOYA BEDOYA


FOSTERING ENGLISH READING COMPREHENSION THROUGH STRUCTURED
READING COMPREHENSION TASKS
RESEARCH REPORT


THESIS ADVISOR: J UAN DAVID GMEZ
RESEARCH ADVISOR: CLARA INS ARIAS TORO
TEACHING PRACTICUM ADVISOR: CARMEN ELISA MOLINA





DECEMBER 2009
EL CARMEN DE VIBORAL
Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 2



















Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 3
FOSTERING ENGLISH READING COMPREHENSION THROUGH STRUCTURED
READING COMPREHENSION TASKS
This paper is the result of an action research project carried out in the public co-
educational school Institucin Educativa San Antonio located in the municipality of
Rionegro. This project was a requirement to receive my Bachelor Education degree in
Foreign Languages.















Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 4
UNIVERSIDAD DE ANTIOQUIA
SECCIONAL ORIENTE
SCHOOL OF LANGUAGES



OSCAR ANDRS BEDOYA BEDOYA


FOSTERING ENGLISH READING COMPREHENSION THROUGH STRUCTURED
READING COMPREHENSION TASKS
RESEARCH REPORT

THESIS ADVISOR: J UAN DAVID GMEZ
RESEARCH ADVISOR: CLARA INS ARIAS TORO
TEACHING PRACTICUM ADVISOR: CARMEN ELISA MOLINA






DECEMBER 2009
EL CARMEN DE VIBORAL
Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 5
Acknowledgements
I would like to thank my advisors, my partners and teachers at the University of
Antioquia who shared their knowledge with me and contributed to my education during
my time in the University. I also thank my CT, the staff, and the students of the Institucin
Educativa San Antonio who allowed me to carry out my practicum and my research project
in their school. Finally, I would like to thank everyone who helped me to get my bachelor
degree in this prestigious University.













Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 6
Table of Contents
Preface 7
Context 8
Description of the issue 9
Theoretical background 10
General objective 11
Specific objectives 11
Research objective 11
Action plan 11
Development of Action 12
Data Analysis 13
Findings and interpretations 14
Conclusions and Suggestions 15
Reflection 16
References 17
Appendixes 18



Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 7
Abstract
This action research project explored how the use of reading strategies in structured
reading tasks helped to improve my seventh grade students English reading
comprehension skills at the Institucin Educativa San Antonio in the municipality of
Rionegro. The outcomes of the project showed that reading tasks with pre- while, and post-
reading activities and the use of prediction, skimming, and scanning helped my students to
improve their reading comprehension skills.
Key words: Structured tasks, pre- reading activities, while- reading activities and post
reading activities, reading comprehension, reading strategies
Preface
This paper is the result of an action research study that took place at the public
school Institucin Educativa San Antonio in the municipality of Rionegro-Antioquia from
February to November 2009. It was part of my teaching practicum and was a requirement
to obtain my undergraduate diploma in foreign language teaching at the School of
Languages of the University of Antioquia. The participants were 32 seventh graders and
their English teacher. I focused on improving my students English reading comprehension
skills through the use of reading strategies in structured reading comprehension tasks. In
this paper, I present my teaching and research actions, the data gathering plan, the data
analysis procedure, and the findings and conclusions of my main actions.




Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 8
Context
This action research project was carried out at Institucin Educativa San Antonio,
located in the municipality of Rionegro. The English program at this institution stresses the
importance of a communicative approach: the students work on the development of all
essential communicative skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing). The English class
in this institution should promote the relationship between the learnt topics at the school
and the students real life, and also connecting new information with previous.
The cooperating teacher (CT) has an undergraduate degree in foreign language
teaching from a public university in Medellin and has more than twenty years of teaching
experience in public and private institutions. In his classes, he encourages whole group
repetition and the learning of vocabulary through different activities. When working on
reading activities, he gives out a text and writes questions on the board. The students must
then write down and answer to the questions in their notebook by using the information
from the text. Furthermore, the students do not have access to new relevant vocabulary
about the topic prior to working on the activity. They have to use their own previous
knowledge to accomplish the reading task.
The students involved in my practicum were 32 seventh graders between the ages
of twelve and fifteen. They belong to the lower middle socioeconomic class. Their English
level was very low in all the essential skill areas and especially in reading comprehension
activities. Moreover, their misbehavior in class was usually an obstacle to work efficiently
in the English class.


Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 9
Description of the issue
The issue which stood out the most in my class in this high school was that the
students had difficulties when doing reading comprehension tasks and were not efficient
readers. This situation arose because the students did not use any reading strategy to work
on the reading comprehension tasks. They just tried to translate every single word of the
text in order to understand its main idea and look for the information to answer the
comprehension questions. It caused that they often got frustrated with the activity because
it was so difficult and time consuming for them.
In order to work on the previous issues, I taught the students some reading
comprehension strategies. I did this by using structured reading comprehension tasks with
pre, while and post activities. As a pre reading activity I checked the students vocabulary
knowledge about the specific topic by introducing and preparing words, the students had to
understand the title of the text, to then make predictions about the content of it. While the
activity the students had to scan the text to look for the information to answer the
comprehension questions of the reading task. And finally, in the post-reading I made a kind
of assessment to the students work and a discussion about the activity. In the designing of
the reading tasks, I presented the students the reading comprehension questions before the
text in order to give them previous information about the topic they were going to read.
Taking into account the above mentioned, the research questions that guided this
research project was: What happens with I.E. San Antonio 7
th
graders' English reading
comprehension skill when reading strategies are used in structured reading comprehension
tasks?


Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 10
Theoretical background
Nunan (1999) and Lucas (1990) say that giving students some comprehension
questions before reading is useful because they can get the gist of the text and are able to
identify what information to look for while reading the text. Ur (2001) also affirms that
these questions provide students with relevant vocabulary and information about the topic
and thereby make the text easier to understand.
Leane (2002) says that reading comprehension tasks should present pre, while and
post reading activities because they help students to understand easier a text and better
perform. In my project these tasks are mentioned as structured reading comprehension
tasks.
Once the students are ready to read the text, Coman and Heavers (1997) and
Mikulecky and J effries (1998) recommend that they should use skimming and scanning
which are two effective and frequently used reading strategies that increase both speed and
accuracy by allowing the reader to extract important information from the text in a short
period of time.
In my students case, they lack speed and accuracy when reading because too often,
they had to stop reading to use the dictionary. They used to read the text starting at the
beginning and going on towards the end trying to understand every single word. Luppescu
and Day (1993) and Anderson and Lynch (1994) affirm that students do not need to use the
dictionary to work out the meaning of a word because they can infer unknown vocabulary
based on the root of the words and the prior knowledge that they have about the context in
which the word appears.

Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 11
General objective
To get students to read short descriptive texts more efficiently through the use of
reading strategies
Specific objectives
-To get students to use skimming, scanning, guessing and prediction so that they can work
on reading tasks more efficiently.
-To get students to read short texts that appeal to their interests.
-To improve the students reading comprehension skills
-To teach the students how to use the dictionary more rationally and judiciously
Research objective
To determine the impact of using reading strategies on structured reading
comprehension tasks
Action plan
In order to improve my students reading comprehension skills, speed and accuracy
while reading I planned to teach them reading strategies such as guessing, prediction,
skimming and scanning. To achieve this, I planned to implement pre, while and post
reading activities. Pre-reading activities would include skimming the text to find out the
type of article, understanding the title of the article, predicting the content of the text and
thinking about the reading comprehension question. While-reading activities would include
scanning the text to look for the answers to the comprehension questions and getting to the
main idea of it. Post-reading activities would include a class discussion of the text and the
activity. I planned to consider the students English level, interest and needs, and the
school standards for the seventh grade when selecting the articles for the reading activities.
Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 12
In order to collect data about the two main actions of my research project I planned
to write a journal entry for each action. I also planned to receive feedback from the CT and
finally to look at ten sample students worksheets.
In order to analyze the data gathered I planned to do an inductive analysis (J ohnson,
2005), that is categorizing the information gathered from each source and describing each
category. Then I planned to triangulate the categories from the different sources to see if
there are recurrent themes found in the data
Development of Action
In order to help my students to improve their reading comprehension skills, speed
and accuracy while reading, I taught them some reading strategies through reading
comprehension tasks. These tasks were carried out taking into account the students
English level, interests and needs. Each task was divided into pre, while and post reading
activities. The pre-reading activities included skimming the text to find out the type of text,
understanding the title of the text, guessing its main idea and thinking about the
comprehension questions. While-reading activities included scanning the text to find the
answers to the comprehension questions. And post-reading activities included a class
discussion of the text and an assessment of the students work.
I applied these tasks several times but I just gathered data from two specific classes.
In these classes I requested that the students use the reading strategies previously learned in
order to work on the reading tasks. The students skimmed the text to find out what kind it
was, scanned the text to look for the answers to the comprehension questions, guessed its
main idea and finally there was a class discussion about the activity. The students worked
individually and there was a limited time of thirty minutes to do the reading
comprehension task. However, most of the students did the task in little time.
Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 13
In order to measure the effectiveness of my actions, during these two classes I
gathered data from three different sources, my journal, the CT's field notes, and ten sample
students worksheets.
In order to analyze the data gathered, I did an inductive analysis (J ohnson, 2005). In
this analysis I categorized the information gathered in every source and described each
category. Then I triangulated the categories from the different sources to identify the
recurrent themes found in the data. The sample students worksheets were analyzed in two
different ways. I first analyzed the students general performance then I analyzed their
individual performance.
Data Analysis
In order to analyze the data gathered during the two main actions, I analyzed
(J ohnson, 2005) my journal entries, the CTs field notes and ten students sample
worksheets. In this inductive analysis, I searched for useful information. Then I
categorized the information and described each category. In order to find connections
among the data, I triangulated the categories from the different sources and came to my
main findings. These findings were useful because they helped me to develop general
conclusions about the impact of my actions on my students' reading comprehension skills.
The sample students worksheets were analyzed in two different ways. I first analyzed the
students general performance and then their individual performance.




Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 14
Finding and Interpretations
The analysis of the data gathered during the two main actions showed that the
implementation of structured tasks in the reading comprehension exercises, the frequent
implementation of the reading comprehension exercises, the teachers accompaniment
during the activities, and the design of reading comprehension activities helped my
students to improve their reading comprehension skills.
According to the analysis, it seems that the implementation of structured
tasks (pre, while and post activities) in the reading comprehension exercises was helpful to
improve my 7
th
grade students reading comprehension skills (journals 17 and 31). Leane
(2002) says that reading comprehension tasks should present pre, while and post reading
activities because they help students to better understand the text. In the pre-reading
activities the students were able to skim the text, understand the title, predict the content
and think about the comprehension questions. In while reading activities they were able to
use scanning to find the answers to the comprehension questions. And in post-reading
activities they were able to get the main idea of the text. I observed that structured tasks
also allowed the students to employ the reading strategies previously learned in class
(journals 17 and 31). Mikulecky and J effries (1998) say that the use of reading strategies
(skimming and scanning) is useful to increase speed and accuracy when reading. It allows
the reader to extract important information from a text in a short period of time. Moreover,
my CT said that reading strategies were useful to the development of the reading activity
(CTs field notes August and October 27 2009).
The data analysis also showed that reading comprehension exercises have to be
implemented regularly in order to accustom students to working on this kind of activities.
It seems that the regularity helped students to better perform because they were prepared to
work on the activity and to use the reading strategies learned in previous classes. Students
Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 15
preparation was mainly observed during the final action where the students performed the
reading comprehension activity faster and the teachers indications were fewer (J ournals
17, 18 and 31).
My accompaniment also seemed to help the students to gain confidence in order to
positive perform the activity. I provided instructions and feedback on their job, and
clarified their doubts about the activity. According to this, my CT said: the teacher
prepares the students to the activity and asserts on clarifying their doubts regarding the
reading activity (CTs field notes August and October 27 2009).
When designing the reading comprehension activities and selecting the topics, it
was very important to take into account the students interests and level of English because
that helped me to motivate them to carry out the reading comprehension tasks. According
to this Ur (2001) affirms that texts in the reading comprehension tasks should be accessible
to the readers. It means that the contents must be according to their level of English in
order to motivate them to work. Throughout the activities, I also observed that the students
were more engaged with those readings which they had background knowledge because it
facilitated the predictions and guessing of the contents (journals 17 and 31). In
conclusions, the design and employment of structured tasks, the use of reading strategies,
the previous preparation for the readings, and the teachers accompaniment during the
activities was really helpful to obtain the positive outcomes from the students. It means
that they could improve their reading comprehension skills.
Conclusions and Suggestions
Pre, while and post activities are indispensable to carry out a successful reading
comprehension task.
Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 16
Skimming, scanning and prediction are effective reading strategies which help students to
understand the gist of text.
Teachers assessment during the reading activity and the feedback after the activity helps
students to perform well in the exercise
To the CT
To continue working on improving discipline in class because misbehavior is a
frequent obstacle to a successful class
To provide students with a constant assessment during all the class activities in
order to continue improving their level of English
To take into account the students likes and interests when creating lessons
To the students
I recommend that the students improve their behavior.
Reflection
During the practicum stage of my degree I was able to apply some of the teaching
strategies that I acquired in previous semesters. I also learned about the difficult reality of
public education in my region. The large number of students per classroom and the
students lack of motivation to learn English are some of the reasons of why teaching is
challenging. Although teaching in a public school was a hard and sometimes and stressful
job, it gave me the chance to improve my group management skills, to design and adapt
teaching materials and to do action research. Furthermore, during this stage I became a
more critical and skillful reader and writer, thanks to what I learned while writing my final
research report.
Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 17
In conclusion, the practicum provided me with useful knowledge and experiences
that I can use when I will be teaching.
References
Anderson, K. & Lynch, T. (1994). Principles, Resources and Options for the
Independent Learner of English. Profile. IALS, University of Edinburgh
Coman, M.J & Heavers, K.L (1997). Improving Reading Comprehension and Speed,
Skimming and Scanning, Reading for Pleasure. McGraw Hill Education: McGraw
Hill Contemporary.
Institucin Educativa San Antonio (2008).Proyecto Educativo Institucional.
Unpublished manuscript.
Institucin Educativa San Antonio (2008). Manual de Convivencia. Unpublished
manuscript.
J ohnson, A.P. (2005). A short guide to action research. NY: Pearson
Leane, Shirley (2002). The basics of teaching reading skills. Vol 3 No 1, 2. Okayama:
Notre Dame Seishin University Press
Lucas, M.A (J uly 1990). Four important factors in reading. English Teaching Forum. A
journal for the teacher of English outside the United States, 26-30.
Luppescu, S., & Day, R. R. (1993). Reading, dictionaries, and vocabulary learning.
language learning, 43, 263-287. London: Heinemann
Mikulecky, B. & J effries, L. (1998). Reading power. 2
nd
Ed. NY: Addison-Wesley
Longman
Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 18
Nunan, D. (1999). Reading. Second language teaching and learning. Pages 262-
266.Boston: Heinle & Heinle
Ur, P. (2001). A course in language teaching - Practice and theory. (pp 130-158).
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
Appendix A: Data Gathering Plans 2009
First Semester
Data Technique/
instruments
Participants Special things to
T. I. A
Dates
CONTEXT
- Institution:
- Philosophy
- Mission and Vision
statements.
- Syllabus
- Ss (students) and CT
(cooperating teacher).
Observations
(J ournals)

Institutional
Documents
(PEI, Manual de
convivencia,
Syllabus)
Informal Talks
(Field notes)
CT and Ss.


Institution



CT
During my stay in the
classroom

To be carried out
during the first month
in the institution



Three times per
week, from
February 16
th
until J une 11
th


March 02
sd
to
30
th

One or two per
week after and
before the
classes.
COURSE
- Seventh grade English class.
- Ss information about the class
and their lives
- CT methodology, personal
information
- Resources
- Environment
Observations
(J ournals)
Informal Talks
(field notes)
Questionnaire
Interview
(semi-structured)
CT and Ss

CT and Ss

Ss
CT
During my observation
and teaching sections.

Classroom/define the
questions
Teachers room/ define
the questions
Three times per
week, Since
February 16
th
until J une 12
th
.
One per week
before and after
the classes.

April 1
st
2
nd
or
3
rd





Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 19
Second Semester

WHAT DATA

TECHNIQUE/
INSTRUMENTS

WHO FROM
(PARTICIPANTS)
SPECIAL
THINGS TO
TAKE INTO
ACCOUNT

WHEN (dates)
The students use of
reading strategies during a
structured reading exercise.
The students reading
comprehension.
Opinion about the Ss
performance in reading
- participant
observations
(J ournals)
- field notes
- Key students
worksheets

Practicum teacher
CT
Students
The opinion
from the CT is
going to be
recorded using
field notes.
During the teaching
practice
August 20 and
September 29


Appendix B: Interview to the cooperating teacher (CT)
Universidad de Antioquia
Escuela de Idiomas
Seccional Oriente - 2009
1. Cmo describe usted la metodologa que utiliza en sus clases?
2. Qu habilidades comunicativas privilegia usted en sus clases? Y Por
qu?
3. Qu habilidades comunicativas no privilegia? Y Por qu?
4. Cul cree usted que es la mayor necesidad de sus estudiantes en ingls?
5. Qu tipo de actividades motivan ms a sus estudiantes?
6. Con cules actividades aprenden ms ingls sus estudiantes?
7. cunteme acerca de las desventajas de este tipo de actividades
8. Cmo ve usted el desarrollo de las habilidades de lectura, escritura,
escucha y habla en ingls de sus estudiantes del grado 7B?
9. Cmo evala usted estas habilidades?
10. Qu expectativas tiene usted de estos estudiantes para este ao?
11. Cmo cree usted que se pueden mejorar las dificultades actuales que
presenta este grupo con relacin a su aprendizaje?



Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 20
Appendix C: Questionnaire to the students
Universidad de Antioquia
Escuela de Idiomas
Seccional Oriente - 2009

Cuestionario para los estudiantes del grado 7B

1. Te gusta el ingls? Mucho____ Poco____ Nada____

2. Qu actividades te gustan de la clase de ingls? Por qu?

3. Cules no te gustan? Por qu?

4. Qu tipo de actividades trabajan ms en clase?

Lectura___ Escritura____ Escucha____ Habla___

5. Marca las siguientes habilidades de 1 a 4 en orden de preferencia, siendo 1
la que ms prefieres y 4 la que menos.

Lectura___ Escritura____ Escucha____ Habla___

6. Qu tanto te gustan las actividades de lectura realizadas en clase?

Mucho___ Ms o menos___ Poco___ Nada___

7. Aprendes de estas actividades?

Mucho___ Ms o menos___ Poco___ Nada___

8. Qu actividades quisieras que se trabajaran ms en clase?

De: Lectura___ Escritura____ Escucha____ Habla___

Gracias por tu colaboracin y compromiso.





Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 21
Appendix D: Reading Comprehension Activity Sample
Reading activity
Skim and Scan the news article below to find the answers to these questions.
Work Fast!

1. What is the name of the typhoon?

2. How many people died in the typhoon (storm)?

3. How many people were missing?

4. On what day did the typhoon hit the region?

5. What is the name of the island that was hit the worst?

6. How many people lost their homes (were homeless)?

THE NEW YORK TIMES
Philippines Sends Aid for Typhoon Damage
MANILA, Nov. 10 (AP) - The Philippines Air Force ferried medical teams and relief supplies
today to provinces ravaged by Typhoon Agnes. The authorities said 515 people had died in the
typhoon and more than 400 were missing.
An Air Force spokesman said more than 163 tons of food, medicine and clothing had been
sent to the Visayan region, 300 miles south of Manila, and more aid was on the way.
The typhoon hit the region Monday. The spokesman said helicopters were rescuing people
stranded by floods that remained chest-deep today in some areas of Panay Island, which appeared
to have been hit the worst. Most of the fatalities and missing were on the island, where 445,000
people were homeless.
The Philippine National Red Cross reported that 90 percent of the 86,000 houses in Capiz
Province on Panay were destroyed. Many of the dead were children who drowned as thirty foot
waves smashed into coastal villages.
En tus propias palabras dime de qu trata principalmente el artculo de
prensa.


Adapted by Andrs Bedoya



Fostering Reading Comprehension Through Structured Tasks 22
Appendix F: CTS filed notes format

Pre-reading
Desaciertos y aciertos del practicante y de los estudiantes


Reading
Comportamiento de los siguientes estudiantes durante la actividad
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*
*

Post-reading
Self-assessment (auto-evaluacin)