Academic journal article The English Teacher

The Use of Contextualized Storytelling to Enhance Malaysian Primary School Pupils' Reading Comprehension

Academic journal article The English Teacher

The Use of Contextualized Storytelling to Enhance Malaysian Primary School Pupils' Reading Comprehension

Article excerpt

Introduction

Reading short stories is a meaningful and fun activity among primary school pupils. However reading a short story in a second language context may prove challenging. Approaches that apply in a first language may not work with ESL learners who are not proficient in English as a second language.

Most learners comprehend the stories written in their mother tongue quite easily because they are used to the language system and the way linguistic items are combined and arranged. They are equipped with the knowledge of the lexical, syntactic and rhetorical devices that help the reader process a text effectively. The stories are also most likely set within a familiar cultural setting. For example, in the Malaysian context many kids grow up with the legendary mousedeer known as Sang Kancil. Stories about Sang Kancil happen in a tropical rainforest and carry moral values appreciated by Malaysians. For a Malaysian whose mother tongue is Bahasa Malaysia, reading a Sang Kancil story written in Bahasa Malaysia is understandably easier. Native speakers are able to use their knowledge acquired through their experience of learning and using their mother tongue to aid comprehension. In contrast, to the ESL learner, stories written in English not only have an unfamiliar language but also might contain strange creatures like badgers and beavers. A limited knowledge of both setting and language makes comprehension difficult.

Malaysian ESL students are still in the process of acquiring the knowledge and experience of the language which is privy to native speakers. Explicit training in guessing and using contextual and other clues to meaning seems necessary to make input more comprehensible. In addition teachers entrusted with the task of teaching reading comprehension and encouraging the reading of short stories among young ESL learners constantly have to find approaches that work in this specific context. Teachers may find that they cannot use only words to achieve reading comprehension. In fact, instruction can be incomprehensible even when pupils know all of the words. Effective reading instruction has to go beyond the choice of vocabulary to the presentation of background and context, explanation and rewording of unclear content, and the use of effective techniques such as using contextual or visual cues.

The challenges faced by young ESL learners in the comprehension of short stories have led to the introduction of many teaching approaches in this area. This paper reports part of a study to compare three approaches, namely, contextualized storytelling, using text with picture stimulus and using text only, in enhancing the reading comprehension of 11 year-old pupils.

The focus of this article is on answering the following two research questions and the accompanying hypothesis for the second research question.

RQ1 How do participants in each of the three groups using three different approaches perform in the reading comprehension tests?

RQ2 Are there any statistical significant differences between the reading comprehension test scores of the three groups using three different approaches?

The null hypothesis for RQ2 is: There are no significant differences between the reading comprehension test scores of the three groups using three different approaches.

Literature Review

Storytelling holds an appeal for the young as well as the old in diverse cultures in the world. For many, the word Storytelling evokes a picture of an enthralled audience drinking in every word and following every action of the storyteller as they are taken on a journey of fantasy and imagination. The engaged listeners sometimes reciprocate with words and actions, as invited by the storyteller. In the contemporary scene, storytellers such as Andrew Wright, based in Hungary, and Jan Blake who specialises in stories from Africa and the Caribbean, stand out.

There are many ways of looking at storytelling. …

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