Luận văn A Study on some possible effective pre-Reading activities to improve reading skills for the 2nd -year English Majors at the Military Science Academy

Considering the need to learn reading at the MSA, the importance role of reading in the students’ future job and its practical purposes, More Reading Power appears to be one of the most suitable and productive textbook for second year students. Many students have a conceptualization of reading which is interferes with their reading in English. More Reading Power aims to help students acquire an accurate understanding of what it means to read in English. Student awareness of reading and thinking process is further encouraged in many parts of the book by exercises which require them to work in pairs or small groups. In discussion with others, students need to formulate and articulate their ideas more precisely, and so they also acquire new ways of talking and thinking about a text. Students are also required to write and then read each other’s work so they can experience the connections between reading and writing. This book is different from other reading books. More Reading Power is divided into four parts so the learners can practice in four different kinds of reading skills.

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for bridging the gap between the text’s content and the reader’s schemata”. Focusing on L1 reading instruction, Taglieber, Johnson and Yarbough (1988: 456) point out the motivational aspect of Pre-reading activities. According to these writers, pre-reading activities activate or develop prior knowledge, provide knowledge of the text structure and also establish a reason for reading. It can not be denied that Pre-reading activities play a crucial important role in motivating the students through the reading lesson. The aim of using Pre-reading activities is to activate the reader’s background knowledge, to prevent failure, and to support the reader’s interpretation of the text. Employing Pre-reading activities in the first stage of the reading lesson can promote interaction between the reader and the text. Ur (1996) emphasises that the aim of Pre-reading activities is to provide anticipation and activate reader in the next stages of the reading process. The purpose of using these activities is to develop a better self-awareness of the relationship between the reader’s meaning and the author’s meaning; and to help readers understand the teacher’s expectations and views. 1.5. Summary In this chapter, the relevant literature which has helped from the theoretical background and conceptual framework for the study is presented. First, definitions of reading and reading comprehension have been given. Second, some kinds of reading suggested by different theorists have been presented and taken into consideration. What is more, concepts and ideas about motivation in general and in second language learning in particular have been mentioned. In addition, the importance of motivation and the factors affecting the students’ motivation in learning reading skill as well as definitions and the importance of Pre-reading activities have also been reviewed. The next chapter will display the methodology and findings of the research in the light of the theories mentioned above. Chapter 2 THE STUDY 2.1. Introduction In this chapter, the author attempts to outline two parts of the study. The first part focuses on the current situation of teaching and learning reading skill at the MSA, in which the description of the subjects as well as settings for the study and instruments are discussed. The second part is an analysis on the data collected from the survey questionnaires and the class observation. 2.2. Situation analysis 2.2.1. Aims of the study Being a teacher of English at the English Department, MSA for over ten years, I have decided to carry out a survey on pre-reading activities conducted by the teachers and students at the MSA in order to find out whether the assumption above is true or not. Finally, I will come up with a suggestion of some possible pre-reading activities with the hope to motivate students in reading lessons as well as to improve their reading skills in general. 2.2.2. The setting of the study This study was conducted at the MSA, where the author is teaching. The Academy has been in operation for more than fifty years. It is the unique Military College of the Ministry of Defense that train teachers, translators, interpreters and others who need foreign languages in their jobs. English is only one of many other languages taught such as French, Chinese, Russian, Thai, etc. The students have to go through a four-year course learning both background and specialized knowledge. Like other languages, in the English Department, English is taught in a formal setting known as a classroom. The teaching is divided into two stages. During the first stage, students spend the first two years studying general English and the four macro language skills such as speaking, reading, listening and writing under the guidance of the teachers. Usually, three or four teachers are in charge of a class, each of them is responsible for teaching one or two language skills using certain textbooks selected by the staff of the Department and additional materials chosen by the teachers themselves. At the second stage, the students have to spend time on studying other subjects like grammar, phonetic, lexicology, country study, translations, methodology English and American literature, etc. The students have English classes almost every working day. However, class time spent for reading skill might not be sufficient enough; particularly at an intermediate level because there are only two periods of reading per week (each period lasts for 45 minutes). Furthermore, the students learn English in the Vietnamese context and do not have any chance to be in contact with the native speakers, thus, they are only learn English in a foreign language setting. This is another obstacle that prevents them from mastering English in general and the reading skill in particular. 2.2.3. Subjects This study was carried out with the participation of 30/45 full-time teachers aged from 25 to 45 (half of them have been in Great Britain, Australia, America and India for further training) and 80/110 second-year students and they are learning text book More Reading Power. (*) Of the 30 teachers, they all have Diploma Degree in English while twenty of them have M.A. Degree in Education, Linguistics, or International Relations and another one has Ph.D. Degree in Linguistics. Most of them have at least three years of teaching, therefore, with no doubt, they are experienced and enthusiastic teachers, they are always willing to help their students overcome the difficulties and make progress in learning English. These teachers are now teaching English to the students of different courses at the MSA: full time, short time courses (These courses last for about two years and they are used for Army Officers who have Diploma Degree in other foreign languages and now are serving in different branches of the Army belonging to the Ministry of Defense). (*) The 80 students under investigation are in the second term of the second year at the English Department of the MSA (both cadet and civilian students, male and female). These students’ ages are between 20 and 22 years old. They are supposed to have quite an equal knowledge of English before entering the MSA since most of them have learnt English for at least 7 years (from grade 6 to grade 12 at school). Moreover, they all passed a very challenging entrance exam. Some of them come from Hanoi, the rest come from different provinces around the country. These students were chosen from 110 second year students during the school year of 2006-2007. They have completed their first three terms of the four-year course. Of course it was very difficult to select a sample of individuals since the students had already assigned to four different classes. 2.2.4. Reading materials 2.2.4.1. An overview of the textbook More Reading Power English has been made compulsory in the curriculum of our Academy. It is mainly taught to those who work for the Ministry of Defense and most of them are army officers-to-be. When they enter the academy, they continue to study English for at least four years. During this time, they are divided into two stages: The first stage is for pre-intermediate and intermediate levels. The second one is for upper-intermediate and advanced levels. The students have to work very hard to gain knowledge of English to support for their jobs when graduating since they use English as main tool in their work. For the last several years, English teaching methodology has been improved much and course-books have been changed yearly to meet the demand of the students at the MSA. The text book More Reading Power is chosen as a core text book for teaching reading to the second year students at our Academy. They have only 30 periods of reading for each term, which counts for 60 periods for the whole second year, so the teacher who teaches reading has to select only some typical reading lessons in the textbook More Reading Power for teaching, but not all the lessons included in the book. Other texts have been read by the students themselves at home as homework or reference materials. 2.2.4.2. Structure of the textbook More Reading Power Considering the need to learn reading at the MSA, the importance role of reading in the students’ future job and its practical purposes, More Reading Power appears to be one of the most suitable and productive textbook for second year students. Many students have a conceptualization of reading which is interferes with their reading in English. More Reading Power aims to help students acquire an accurate understanding of what it means to read in English. Student awareness of reading and thinking process is further encouraged in many parts of the book by exercises which require them to work in pairs or small groups. In discussion with others, students need to formulate and articulate their ideas more precisely, and so they also acquire new ways of talking and thinking about a text. Students are also required to write and then read each other’s work so they can experience the connections between reading and writing. This book is different from other reading books. More Reading Power is divided into four parts so the learners can practice in four different kinds of reading skills. Part one: Reading for Pleasure Many students have never learned to enjoy reading for pleasure (reading extensively) in English. We all know that in order to be a good reader, it is necessary to read a lot. Students must understand the importance of reading extensively, and then they must be encouraged to develop the habit of reading regularly for pleasure. In this part, students are instructed to select books to read for pleasure or individual basic. These books should be neither too easy nor difficult. They should not be books that are required in other courses that students have already read in translation. Most important, students should be encouraged to choose any books they want such as: fiction, nonfiction, literature, or popular culture. What concerns most is that the book is of interest to the individual student and that the student actually wants to read it. Part two: Reading comprehension Skills Reading is a very complex task involving many different skills. In this part of the book, students will practice some important reading comprehension skills. Each new comprehension skill is introduced with a rationale and practiced in a series of exercises sequenced from simple to more difficult ones in order to build up the students’ mastery of the skill. The skills covered include both “top-down” (concept-driven) and “bottom-up” (text-driven) models of reasoning and comprehending. Through which they will learn to think in new ways about what they are reading. And they may find that their reading comprehension in their native language will also be improved. There are ten Units in this Part: Unit 1: Scanning. Unit 2: Previewing and Predicting Unit 3: Vocabulary Knowledge for Effective Reading Unit 4: Topics Unit 5: Topics of Paragraphs Unit 6: Main ideas Unit 7: Patterns of Organization Unit 8: Skimming Unit 9: Making inferences Unit 10: Summarizing The exercises in this part are grouped under headings which refer to the following specific skills and areas: * Scanning: Speed is essential skill that mainly discussed in unit one of this part, students are encouraged to scan different sources of materials under pressure of time. They are also given an opportunity to practice asking and writing questions which helps them learn to ask themselves questions as they read. * Previewing and Predicting: Before reading a passage, the students usually ask themselves what they know about the subject matter. Previewing and Predicting make easier to see what information they already know about what they read the passage Previewing and Predicting are considered to be essential skills for a good reader that help students predict or make some educated guesses about what is in the passage. These reading skills also encourage students to get some ideas about what they will read process the information more quickly and will also be able to follow the writer’s ideas better. * Dealing with unfamiliar words: As we all know that, in the process of language learning in general, learning of a foreign language in particular, vocabulary plays a crucial important role. This part tries to convince the students that it is not always necessary to look up the words in the dictionaries. It also mentioned some advantages to guessing meaning and points out that there are multiple clues to meaning such as: guessing unknown vocabulary, guessing meaning from context in sentences, using grammar to guess word meaning and recognizing words that connect ideas. * Understanding the topics: When the students read for the meaning, they should begin by looking for the topic. This helps them connect what they read to what they already know. Through the exercises provided in these units, students are required to choose topic of a group of words, or identify the topics from the words and paragraphs given, etc. * Extracting main ideas: Sometimes it is difficult to see what the main ideas of a passage are, or to distinguishing between important and unimportant information. The exercises in unit six of this part encourage students to read for the general sense rather than for the meaning of every single word. * Understanding text organization patterns: Students may have trouble in seeing how a passage is organized. The exercises in unit 7 of this part give practice in recognizing how sentences are joined together to make paragraphs form the passage, and how this organization is signaled. Besides, the students are also work with four of the most common patterns of organization such as: Listing, Sequence, Comparison/ Contrast and Cause-Effect * Writing summaries: Summarizing is usually viewed as a writing skill, but it is also a very useful reading skill, since it requires the reader to monitor comprehension. In order to summarize the reader must understand thoroughly the main idea and the main points of a text. Therefore, most of exercises in unit ten involve the students in actively writing summaries. In summarizing, the students must try to condense and paraphrase the ideas in the text. These skills often do not come easily to students, but they are essential for many kinds of writing. Part three: Thinking skill Learning to read well in English means learning to think in English, however, many students are used to translating as they read and have great difficulty thinking in another language. If the students want to read well in English, they must think in English when they read. If they think in another language and translate form the English, they will always have difficulty with comprehension. Understanding the words and grammar is not enough; they need to be able to follow the ideas in English. The exercises in this part are designed to help students develop their ability to follow ideas and thinking in English. Part four: Reading faster Learning to read faster must be a key part of any reading improvement program. There are two basic reasons for this. First, students in most academic settings are faced with an enormous quantity of reading in English. Many ESL/EFL students take three to four times longer than native-language students to complete reading texts, which means that they have little time left to assimilate what they have read. The other reason for learning to read faster is that it leads to a better comprehension. When reading faster, the eyes cannot focus on every word; they must focus on group of words together. This makes it much easier for the brain to reconstruct meaning. Furthermore, since reading faster forces the reader to skip unknown or nonessential words, the brain can concentrate better on the general meaning of the text. Generally speaking, the book More Reading Power provides students with a wide range of different reading tasks that help them improve their reading techniques such as: Scanning, Skimming, Predicting and Previewing, Identifying Topics, etc. Besides, the reading texts in More Reading Power are of the students’ interests, for example, in unit one they have chance to get to know more about Marie Curie and Satellites. In other units, they can read about Elephants, Basketball in the United States, the Effects of Weather, and Climate, or about different subjects such as Automobiles- Problems and Solutions, Sources of Disease, Oil spill, etc. However, there are some reading texts containing many new and difficult words. Take an example of unit four-Topics, in some exercises, they can not work out what is the topic or topics for the group of words since they have to encounter many unknown words in the same group, or they are unable to figure out the word that odd one out from the whole group of words. Besides, their lack or poor of general background knowledge is also another drawback that prevents them from reading effectively. Therefore, it is the teacher’s task to select and apply suitable techniques and activities that can activate students’ basic knowledge and increase their interests in the reading lesson, especially before they read the texts. 2.3. Sample and sampling The sample was drawn from two sources: from 45 full-time teachers of English aged from 25 to 45 and 110 second-year students and they are learning the text book More Reading Power. The researcher invited 30 teachers (about 67% of the population), they all have Diploma Degree in English and twenty of them have M.A. Degree in Education, Linguistics, or International Relations and another one has Ph.D. Degree in Linguistics. The reason for choosing them was that all of them were teaching at the English Department of the MSA. Most of them have at least three years of teaching, therefore, with no doubt, they are experienced and enthusiastic teachers, they are always willing to help their students overcome the difficulties and make progress in learning English. The students under investigation are in the second term of the second year at the English Department of the MSA (both cadet and civilian students, male and female, aged from 19 to 25). They are divided into four groups and are supposed to have quite an equal knowledge of English before entering the MSA since most of them have learnt English for at least 7 years (from grade 6 to grade 12 at school). Moreover, they all passed a very challenging entrance exam in order to become a student at our academy. These students were chosen from 110 second year students during the school year of 2006-2007. They have completed their first three terms of the four-year course. Of course it was very difficult to select a random sample of individuals since the students had already assigned to four different classes. The solution to this case is that instead of randomly selecting the individuals, the researcher chooses classes for investigation. This method has two advantages: First of all, it is convenient for the researcher to observe the participants completing the questionnaire in their class; secondly, these classes have students with quite different knowledge of English (The cadets seem to be better at English than the civilian ones). Three classes chosen are 16A (cadets), 5AD1 and 5AD2 (civilians), which include 80 students (about 73% of the second year students). Hopefully these students could be representative for the rest of the students. 2.4. Instruments for collecting the data 2.4.1. Survey questionnaires Using questionnaire allows the researcher to collect the data needed in quantitative form. Besides, the researcher finds it quite easy to summarize, analyze, and report the collected data because all informants answer the same questions. Moreover, the informants are provided with an opportunity to express their attitudes towards teaching and learning reading skills openly. 2.4.1.1. The questionnaires for the students The questionnaire consists of 8 questions, which are divided into three parts. Part one (includes questions 1, 2 and 3) aims at exploring the students’ attitudes towards pre-reading techniques. In part two, by answering questions 4, 5, 6, and 7, students have chance to express their preferences for Pre-reading techniques. The final part of the questionnaire (question 8) was made to find out the students’ comment on the Pre-reading activities in the text book More Reading Power. Hopefully, it can help the researcher give suggestions for providing the students with some more Pre-reading activities. 2.4.1.2. The questionnaires for the teachers There are 8 questions in the questionnaire for the teachers and they were designed with three main purposes. Firstly, through the answers to the first 4 questions, the researcher will evaluate the teachers’ attitudes towards the role of Pre-reading activities in a reading lesson. Then the current situation of using pre-reading activities in a reading lesson will be surveyed with a view to seeing whether all teachers do the same thing in every reading lesson, which Pre-reading activities the teachers often employ and their difficulties when dealing with these activities. Question 7 is aimed at investigating the teachers’ comments on Pre-reading activities available in the book More Reading Power. The purpose of the last question (question 8) is to find out some suggestions used by other teachers in order to make pre-reading stage of the reading lesson more interesting. 2.4.2. Class observation The author of the study randomly chose 2 classes (16A & 5AD4) to observe. She watched and followed all the procedures and activities the teachers and the students were performing in the real classroom settings, which enabled the researcher to elicit reliable data. In other words, it is a means to check the reliability of the data collected for other sources - the questionnaires, informal interviews, and discussions. The observation was carried out two times at two different units and with different teachers in these classes. Each lesson lasted 40 minutes; the researcher has set a checklist for her observation including the students’ attitudes towards the teachers’ activities, their involvement in the activity and their interaction with each other while completing the tasks. She also observed the students’ reactions to Pre-reading activities employed in the lesson as well as their preferences for these techniques. Two reading lessons chosen to be observed belong to Part Four (Unit1, & 3). The reading texts in Unit 1 are all about the Hawaiian Islands such as Water Sports in Hawaii, Hawaiian Traditions, and Natural Disasters in Hawaii. The students read about different topic in Unit 3, the reading texts mainly focus on the Global Issues such as the Global Warming, Population Explosion, and the Disappearance of some Species. The purpose of choosing these units is that the researcher would like to observe how the teacher deal with long reading texts and what techniques the teachers used at the pre-reading stage to motivate students in reading these texts. 2.5. Data analysis. This part of the thesis is the treatment of all data collected from the survey questionnaires conducted on 80 second year students and 30 teachers of English at the MSA as well as from the author’s observation in three classes. The analysis of the data is presented in 2 parts. The first part is the results based on the questionnaires for the students and the teachers. The second part is the results of the class observation. 2.5.1. Data analysis of the students’ survey questionnaires. 2.5.1.1. Students’ attitudes towards Pre-reading activities. Table 1 provides the answer to the question 1 (What do you think about the texts in the textbook More Reading Power?) and question 3 (How do you find the role of Pre- reading activities in a reading lesson?). Option Question A B C D 1 45% 10% 15% 30% 3 35% 50% 10% 5% Table1: Students’ attitude towards the reading texts and the role of Pre-reading activities For the first question, when asked about the attitude towards the reading texts in More Reading Power, a great number of students, which accounts for 45%, agree that they are interesting and 30% of them think that they are suitable for the students while 10% of them say that they are boring. It is obviously seen that most of the students have positive attitude towards reading comprehension skill. By learning reading, particularly learning More Reading Power the students are able to enrich the background knowledge, improve their reading skill, widen their source of vocabulary, grammar structures, and get pleasure and information as well. Only a small number of students find the text boring because the topic of some reading texts is unfamiliar to them, this also affects the lesson. The rest portion which accounts for 15% of the students

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