A Study of the Effects of Reading Short Stories on Iranian Efl Learners' Vocabulary Learning

By Salimi, Fatemeh; Bonyadi, Alireza | Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods, November 1, 2016 | Go to article overview

A Study of the Effects of Reading Short Stories on Iranian Efl Learners' Vocabulary Learning


Salimi, Fatemeh, Bonyadi, Alireza, Modern Journal of Language Teaching Methods


1.Introduction

According to Graves (2000), short stories are among the most effective reading texts for the teaching of different linguistic items including vocabulary items and grammatical structures. As he noted, since short stories are more directly related to the language learners' lives, they are more interesting for the learners as reading tasks and as free reading texts. As Stahl (1999) noted, among different reading text genres, the short story has not received enough attention in research studies. As he explained, in addition to the research studies, most of the curriculum designers have neglected short stories in the language teaching materials in both the second and foreign language contexts.

A review of the literature regarding the use of short stories in language classrooms shows that these stories have been mostly employed in order to investigate the learners' general comprehension. That is, most of the research studies have investigated their effectiveness for the learners' general understanding (Carrel & Grabe, 2002). However, few studies have investigated their effect on the students' language learning (Grabe & Stoller, 2001). Finally, there is not any research study which has compared the effectiveness of short stories for the language learners' vocabulary learning. Therefore, it can be argued that, there is a gap in the literature regarding the role of short stories as a teaching instrument in second and foreign language contexts. Based on the lack of information regarding this aspect of second language acquisition, there is a need for a research study that tries to deal with this gap in a foreign language context such as the EFL context of Iran.

The present study tried to provide more illuminating information about the reading skill in the EFL context of Iran. Based on this aim, the study focused on the use of short story as one of the most important reading text genres in the field of second language acquisition. More specifically, the present study investigated the effect of reading short stories on intermediate male and female Iranian EFL learners' vocabulary learning, and by doing so tried to provide more information about: a) the effectiveness of the short story as a teaching instrument in the EFL context of Iran; b) the role of short stories in the language learners' grammar learning which has been neglected in the related literature; and c) the comparison between the effects of short stories on the EFL learners' vocabulary and grammar learning.

2.Review of the Related Literature

2.1. The Definition of Reading

The reading skill has been differently conceived and defined by second language researchers. Richards and Schmidt (2010, p. 483) stated that:

Reading can be defined as the process by which the meaning of a written text is understood. When this is done silently, it is known as silent reading. The understanding that results is called reading comprehension. Reading employs many different cognitive skills, including letter and word recognition, knowledge of syntax, and recognition of text types and text structure. Comprehension that is based on clues in the text is referred to as bottom-up processing, and comprehension that makes use of information outside of the text is known as top-down processing.

Similarly, Goodman (1967, p. 127) noted that:

Reading is a selective process. It involves partial available minimal language cues selected from perceptual input on the basis of the reader's expectations. Efficient reading does not result from precise perception and identification of all elements, but from skill in selecting the fewest, most productive cues necessary to produce guesses that are right the first time".

2.2. Short Story as an Important Genre of Reading Tasks

According to Nagy and Anderson (1984), short stories are regarded to be one of the most important reading text genres because they take a short time to finish, do not create any difficulty for the learners' comprehension, and are very attractive for both the language teachers and students because of their subject matter. …

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