The Use of Consciousness-Raising Tasks in Learning and Teaching of Subject-Verb Agreement

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study investigates the use of two types of Consciousness-Raising (CR) tasks in learning Subject-Verb Agreement (SVA). The sample consisted of 28 Form 2 students who were divided into two groups. Group 1 was assigned with Grammaticality Judgment (GJ) tasks and Group 2 received Sentence Production (SP) tasks for eight weeks. Learners were given a pretest before the treatment and a posttest once they completed the tasks. They were also required to answer questionnaires and some were interviewed. The findings show the two CR tasks promote SVA learning among students but SP tasks are descriptively better than GJ tasks in terms of gain scores.

Keywords: Consciousness-Raising (CR) task, Subject-Verb Agreement (SVA), Sentence Production (SP), Grammaticality Judgment (GJ)

1. Introduction

1.1 Subject-Verb Agreement Problems among Malaysians

Grammar learning has been a persistent challenge to Malaysian students in mastering English. Maros et al. (2007) highlight that secondary school students have difficulties in mastering grammar rules despite the earlier exposure to the language in the primary school for six years. There are many grammar forms that are difficult for our students to learn. Nor Hashimah et al. (2008) identify subject verb agreement, affixes, adverbs, adjectives, plural forms, and copula as the most common mistakes made by students. MohdHilmi and Juliana (2010) discover that students cannot even differentiate simple present tense and past tense whereas Eng and Heng (2005) find that students have poor understanding of relative clauses. Wee (2009) states that Subject-Verb Agreement (SVA) poses the most difficulty for Malaysian students. These findings are corroborated by various studies (SitiHamin et al., 2010; Mahanita et al., 2010; Wee et al., 2010; Surina et al., 2009; Saadiyah et al., 2009; Nor Hashimah et al., 2008) done in Malaysia. In fact, grammar is a major problem area faced by students in writing (Mahanita et al., 2010).

Bautista and Gonzales (2006) state that the English spoken by Malaysians contains frequent types of error which are misinformation and omission. It results in "phrasal telegraphic speech", a toddler's speech rather than complete utterances. Some evident examples among Malaysians are "She sick", "Can", "It missing", etc. Subject and verbs are the two important elements in producing complete and correct sentence (SitiHamin et al. 2010;Surina&Kamaruzaman, 2009). They provide the very fundamental aspect of language production. This is why grammar particularly SVA needs to be emphasized in language learning.lt is important for the purpose of communication (Long et al., 1980; Savignon, 1991). In addition, SVA has been listed as a compulsory grammatical component to be taught in all forms in secondary school. It is stated in the syllabus for the Integrated Secondary School Curriculum for English language outlined by the Curriculum Development Center (Ministry of Education, 2000).

The Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia and Minister of Education, Tan Sri MuhyiddinYassin has asserted the importance of bringing back grammar teaching to the classroom. He states its significance as follow:

"Language learning should begin by making students excited and interested. Language is dynamic. Lt is alive and kicking. Great stories are told in beautifully crafted words. Wordsmiths are the geniuses of civilization. They make us love the language. We admire their works for that. To achieve that, they have to write well. Even if we can t be like them at least we can use language to communicate effectively or at least write simple sentences to express our thoughts and views. It all begins with grammar" (Johan, 2012, p. A5).

Ting (2007) states that 96 percent of teachers teaching English in Malaysian schools perceive that grammar should be taught to learners. In spite of the support for grammar teaching, our students are continuously struggling to master grammar. …