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Article: reading problems

JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 117AN INITIAL STUDY OF READING

PROBLEMS AND STRATEGIES:
A TEACHER’S PERSPECTIVE Sharmini

Ghanaguru
Ng Hee LiangNg Lee KitJabatan Bahasa InggerisInstitut

Perguruan Bahasa-Bahasa Antara bangsa

ABSTRACT


This study seeks to find out what one experienced teacher thinks

are the main
reading problems among her primary school pupils and

how she helps them
cope with their reading problems. It is an initial

study to find out whether the
in-service teacher is aware of the types

of reading strategies she can use to
resolve her pupils’ reading

problems and the reasons why she employs certain
approaches and

strategies to tackle the problems she has identified. There
appears to

be a link between one’s background (both academic and social)
and

the strategies employed to teach and handle reading in the

classroom.
The conclusion is based on one case study and it is

far-fetched to make any
generalizations about reading problems and

associated strategies for other
teachers. Nevertheless the initial

findings might still be useful for both teacher
trainers and curriculum

designers in order to maximize the potential of
teacher training for

ELT in teacher training institutions.
INTRODUCTION The work of the

teacher is context specific and constantly revolving (Shulman
1992).

Growing research on explaining teachers’ subject matter, knowledge

in
teaching and beliefs about learning and pedagogy helps reflect the

reality of
teaching.Several studies reveal that teachers’ beliefs about

control, management and
motivation consistently relate important

teacher behaviours such as lesson
presentation and classroom

management behaviours (Saklofske, Michayluk
JURNAL IPBA JILID

3: BIL. 1
18and Randhawa 1998). Teachers’ belief systems are

founded on the goals,
values and beliefs they hold in relation to the

content and process of teaching
and their understanding of the

systems in which they work and their roles in it
(Richards 1998: 51).

Their beliefs relate to the application of the four macro skills
of

language teaching: reading, writing, listening and speaking. How

a teacher
deals with the reading needs of her students is of particular

interest in
this study.How a teacher identifies the reading problems

of her students and the strategies
used provide a clear understanding

of what she needs to know about the
reading process and the

teaching of reading skills if she is to cope with
students’ reading

problems. How does the teacher cope with the reading class?
Does

her understanding and beliefs about the range of alternatives for

teaching
a particular skill to particular students influence his/her

behaviors and
decisions? The teacher plays an instrumental role in

determining the teaching
and learning outcomes. ESL teachers, in

particular, should serve as effective
language role models to their

students. To ensure a successful reading class,
the teacher must

play an effective role and be able to identify and solve
students’

reading problems.
PURPOSE OF THE STUDY This study aims to

explore a primary English language teacher’s perspective of
the

reading problems faced by young ESL learners and the strategies

she used
to overcome these problems. What is the teacher’s role in

teaching reading and
solving her students’ problems? Is there a

tendency to use certain strategies to
solve the reading problems

identified? The findings can help provide insights
into the types of

strategies the teacher used to solve what she perceives are

her
students’ reading problems.RESEARCH QUESTIONS This study

seeks to answer the following research questions:
1. What reading

problems does an in-service English language teacher
perceive her

students face in the classroom?
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 1192.

How does an in-service English Language teacher help her

student s
cope with reading problems?REVIEW OF RELATED

LITERATURE
Definition of Reading Reading cannot be regarded

simply as a set of mechanical skills to be learned
once and for all but

rather as a complex process of making meaning from text
for a

variety of purposes and in a wider range of contexts.
What research

tells us about the reading process is that sounding out words

is
necessary but not sufficient to the task. The reading process is

really meaning
driven. It is important to understand that unlocking

the code and reading words
is only a part of the complex process of

reading (Adams 1990). In other words,
there is a distinction between

reading aloud and reading for meaning.
Does learning to read mean

learning to pronounce words?
According to Weaver (1994), the first

definition of reading is being able to
pronounce the words. Phonemic

awareness is the ability to segment, delete,
and combine speech

sounds into abstract units. While students will be able to
hear

phonemes, they may not be able to conceptualize them as units.

Phonemic
awareness must be based upon a growing understanding

of the alphabetic
principle of English; there is sufficient evidence

that many children basically
understand this before they have

mastered the set of letter to sound
correspondences (Adams 1990).

This definition supports the bottom-up theory
of reading where the

reader decodes the text by referring to the smallest unit
(letters to

words to phrases and to sentences).
Studies examining how children

with training in phonemic awareness and
phonics knowledge fare in

comparison to children receiving “whole language”
instruction have

been conducted. Preliminary findings indicate a positive
impact on

decoding of training in phonemic awareness. However, children

in
“whole language ” classrooms fare better on comprehension

tests.
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 120The importance of the early

development of phonemic awareness is evident as
a number of

studies (Carnine and Grossen 1993; Juel 1991; Pearson

1993;
Stanovich, 1986) point to phonemic awareness as a predictor

of early reading
success. However, it is but one factor important to

the development of
effective reading strategies.Phonemic awareness

promotes learning to read in the initial stages, but it
cannot be used

as a tool or device once the reader is able to read. In other
words, a

reading approach using the phonemic based awareness is suitable

for
beginner or elementary readers.Does learning to read mean

learning to identify words and get their
meaning?The second

definition on reading by Weaver (1994) pertains to the ability

to
identify words and extract meanings from words. Knowledge of

phonics or
basic letter-sound relationship is necessary but not

sufficient when reading to
extract meaning from a text. Fundamental

questions remain about how much,
how, when, and under what

circumstances knowledge of phonics should be
included in

instruction. Just teaching the letter and the associated sound

does
not develop good readers. The teaching of phonics should be

contextualized
and the students’ learning ability needs to be taken

into consideration.
Does learning to read mean learning to bring

meaning to a text in order to
get meaning from it?The third

definition on reading as posited by Weaver (1994), supports

the
interactive model of reading. In the interactive reading model,

the reader
interacts with the text. The level of depth of text

processing depends on the
reader’s background knowledge, language

proficiency level, motivation,
strategy used and culturally shaped

beliefs about reading (Aebersold and Field
1997).The ultimate goal

of reading will be to enable the readers to understand what
they

have read. Good comprehenders have good vocabularies. They are

able to
understand and describe words. They use the word in the

text to unravel its
meaning. They ask questions, predict and extract

main ideas. They are also
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 121facile in

employing sentence structures within the text to enhance

their
comprehension.Therefore, one can conclude that the three

definitions of reading by Weaver
(1994) encompass three elements:

the ability to recognize and pronounce
words, the ability to extract

meaning and to interact with the text. The three
definitions of

reading by Weaver (1994) are illustrated in the

following
diagram:Figure 1: The Three Definitions of Reading by

Weaver (1994)
LEARNING TOPRONOUNCETHE WORDSLEARNING

TO
IDENTIFY WORDSAND GET THEIRMEANINGLEARNING

TO
BRINGMEANING TO ATEXT INORDER TO GETMEANINGFROM

IT
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 122Reading ProblemsA review of

literature on second language learning emphasizes motivation as
an

important affective variable. Collins (1996) identifies other causes

for
incomprehension besides poor motivation to a lack of experience

or inadequate
prior knowledge and a limited or subjective view of

what is read. Students
experience low motivation in reading when

they are unable to use the language
in meaningful situations. Only

widespread involvement in language can solve
the problem of poor

motivation. Communicative-based activities such as oral
and recorded

readings, asking questions, dictating stories and working in

small
groups will also facilitate learning as well as increase students’

motivation for
reading (Carr 1995). Commitment to read and invest

interest in reading is
crucial in order for instruction in learning

strategies to be effective.
Another reading problem is the lack of

prior knowledge to help students make
connections to text. As a

result, under confident students revert to lower level
reading

processes such as word level literal comprehension. Support

materials
such as television and films can help enlarge experience

and supply the
necessary vocabulary to aid comprehension. Many

struggling readers lack
confidence in their own ability to learn

unfamiliar words or phrases found in a
text. This can sometimes

impede the reading process when students assume
that the text is

far more difficult than it actually is. Moreover, if the reader
chooses

to disregard portions of a text deemed unimportant or make

irrelevant
associations, then the actual meaning of the text can be

misconstrued. To
eradicate this reading problem, the reader needs to

be exposed to other
viewpoints of the text. Reading and discussing

about the text will help
individual readers gain different perspectives

on issues in the text. Hence, this
will enable the reader to realize that

his interpretation of the text is limited by
his subjective

view.
According to the Centre for Teaching and Learning, University

of Alabama,
bad reading habits come in the form of vocalizing,

reading everything at the
same speed, regression and reading one

word at a time. Vocalizing impedes the
reading process as it slows

the reading rate. As a result, processing the
information in a text will

not be carried out efficiently. A good reader adjusts
the reading

speed according to the level of difficulty of the text. If the text

is
deemed difficult, the reading rate becomes slower. If one reads a

text at the
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 123same speed, there is a

tendency that pertinent information in the text will be
ignored or

unnecessary portions in the text be given more emphasis.
When

words in a text “are efficiently decoded into their spoken forms

without
comprehension of the passage taking place” (Stanovich

1986: 372) word
calling occurs. This idea of word callers has gained

popularity despite a lack
of evidence that applies “to an appreciable

number of poor readers” (Stanovich
1986: 372). On the other hand,

Stanovich defines “gap fillers” as readers with
low accuracy and high

comprehension. These readers are able to use
contextual clues to

decode the text. They are able to extract meaning from the
text

using their knowledge, experience and intellectual abilities. They are

not
text bound and are able to read beyond the words to achieve a

more global
understanding of the text.Reading StrategiesAccording

to Kellerman (1977), a strategy is a well-organized approach to

a
problem. Jordens (1977) asserts that strategies can only be applied

when
something is acknowledged as problematic. In terms of reading

Carrell (1993)
uses the term "strategies" deliberately rather than the

term "skills" because the
focus is on the actions that readers actively

select and control to achieve
desired goals or objectives, although

there are different claims in the literature
as to how much conscious

deliberation is involved in these actions. Paris,
Wasik and Turner

(1991: 611) define "strategies" and "skills" accordingly:
Skills refer to

information-processing techniques that are
automatic, whether at the

level of recognizing graphemephoneme
correspondence or

summarizing a story. Skills are
applied to a text unconsciously for

many reasons including
expertise, repeated practice, compliance with

directions, luck,
and naive use. In contrast strategies are actions

selected
deliberately to achieve particular goals. An emerging skill

can
become a strategy when it is used intentionally. Likewise,

a
strategy can "go underground" [in the sense used by

Vygotsky,
1978] and become a skill. Indeed strategies are more

efficient
and developmentally advanced when they become

generated
and applied automatically as skills. Thus, strategies are

"skills
under consideration."JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 124Therefore

one can say that reading strategies are applied in the reading
process

to attain comprehension as well as to overcome problems during

the
comprehension process.Each reader possesses individual reading

strategies. However, a good reader is
one who is able to achieve a

balance between comprehension (ends) and the
reading process

(means) via a vast repertoire of strategies. She understands

the
alphabetic system of English to identify printed words; have and

use
background knowledge and strategies to obtain meaning from

print and read
fluently (Snow, Burns and Griffin 1998 cited in Lee

2002: 39 - 40).
A weak or poor reader may need to adjust his

comprehension to the text. If the
reader decides to adjust his

reading only to the text, he is text bound (Carrell
1993). Within the

text, if the reader is faced with textual comprehension
problems, he

may be forced to adjust his reading by reducing comprehension
even

more than before. The reduction will lead to word by word

processing
and difficulties in sound-to-sound correspondence.A

range of strategies are necessary to develop students’ interest and

pleasure in
reading as well as their reading skills to help them

overcome the ir reading
problems. The English teacher should be

skilled and knowledgeable enough to
select those strategies most

appropriate to the needs of her students. This is
because ESL

learners need to efficiently recognise and at the same

time
understand the meaning of the words automatically (Lee 2002:

65).
Building Students’ Background or Prior KnowledgeReaders rely

on their prior knowledge and world knowledge to make sense

of
what they read. They need to be exposed to content to give them

the context
for understanding what they read. Working with students

before they begin
reading a text helps them to get more involved.

First, students learn
background information to activate useful

schemata (Johnson and Pearson
1982). They then recognize textual

landmarks as they meet them. Confident
students are more likely to

take risks in guessing word meanings and
anticipating text content.

They will be better strategy users while they read.
According to

Tierney and Pearson (1985 cited in Devine 1987:186), the
teacher ne

eds to be sure of the students’ prior knowledge of the topic and

the
genre of the text before actually implementing the reading

lesson. Intelligent
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 125selection and

preparation before reading can also make the students’ reading
more

efficient and enjoyable.
Activating relevant, prior knowledge before,

during and after reading texts
enhances comprehension. ESL reading

teachers can select or assist students
select texts that they are

interested in and familiar with and of a linguistic level
just beyond

their students’ current level of reading competence. Hence,

reading
materials used in the reading class should also possess

content matter that is
familiar so that students can relate and make

associations using their acquired
as well as new knowledge.De-

emphasizing Oral Reading
One major difference in the theory and

practice of first language (L1) and
second language (L2) reading

concerns reading aloud and the relationship of
pronunciation and

comprehension in the teaching of reading. The ability to
pronounce

words correctly often seem to be a pre-determinant in

assessing
students’ reading competency. Unless the L2 reader is

already orally proficient
in the target language, the ability to sound

out words correctly is not especially
helpful in the comprehension

process. For example, students asked to read
aloud during

introductory stages of a reading lesson concentrate on sounds to
the

detriment of meaning.
Brenhardt’s (1983) study indicates that

comprehension of passages read
silently is higher than that of

passage read aloud. Several other studies also
argue that students

taught to read using an audio- lingual, decoding-to-sound
method

do not outperform those who learn to read without active

oral
participation on their part.Hence, reading aloud can be

considered one of the reading skills that help
students read fluently

and gain confidence in the language. It cannot, however,
solely be

assumed as an indicator of reading success.
Using Cloze to Teach

Reading
Using cloze to teach reading gives students practice in the

essential skill of
guessing from context, congruous with Smith’s

(1978 in Barnett 1988)
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL.

1
26psycholinguistic theory of reading in which the development of

the ability to
guess meaning from context is seen as the key to

successful reading. This
context includes not only the words on the

page, but also the reader’s
knowledge of the language of the subject

matter of the text being read. By
deleting words from a passage on a


regular basis, cloze brings out into the open
students’ guessing

strategies, thus allowing learners, then teachers, and their
peers a

chance to help learners increase their guessing ability. This

increased
ability may lead to greater comprehension and also faster

reading speed as the
time needed to decode each word is reduced

and reading is more efficient.
Teaching the skill of contextual

guessing may improve reading comprehension
and speed (Van

Parreren and Schouten-Van Parreren 1981 cited in Barnett
1989).

However, this method may be effectively used by advanced

readers,
but not necessarily appropriate for beginning L2 readers

(Jarvis 1979 cited in
Barnett 1989).In L2 reading, readers are not

penalized for making errors. They are
encouraged to use contextual

clues and employ reading strategies that will
enable them to grasp

the meaning of a text without resorting to word by word
decoding.

This will help the readers to be more independent in their

reading
and to gain greater confidence in seeking information from

the text. They will
not be afraid of unfamiliar or difficult words and

use effective reading
strategies (guessing skills) to unravel the

meaning of the text.
Other strategies to help problem readers include

generating visual images of
what is read, getting them to react or

respond to the content of the text pictures
as well as text features

(e.g. headings) and text structures (e.g.

narrative).
METHODParticipantsThis is a qualitative based study

where responses from a participant is analysed
.The participant is in

service teacher. The respondent had taught in different
primary

schools mainly in rural areas for sixteen years. She taught for

two
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 127years at a lower primary level.

She enjoys teaching reading especially at lower
primary. However,

her preference is teaching listening and speaking skills
because she

can evaluate students in the two skills there and then. According

to
the respondent, her parents first started reading to her bedtime

stories both in
Bahasa Malaysia and English. They used pictures and

books to help her
recognize and/ or read the names of animals,

objects or colours when she was
four years old. She did not attend

kindergarten but at seven years, she was
learning to recognize words

in the newspapers and using the dictionary to look
up meanings of

difficult words.
At school, she had easy access to storybooks made

available by the English
language teacher. The emphasis was on

grammar rules and sentence
structures. Text length and word

difficulty increased with age and by Year 4,
she was more confident

and could read aloud fluently although she still made
mistakes in

answering comprehension questions.
It was her father’s wish for her

to be a teacher. After completing a three-year
basic certificate course

in English language teaching, the respondent taught
English for five

years in a primary school in Kelantan. Her students were
mostly the

children of farmers. Later, she taught in a FELDA school in
Pahang. It

was here that she initiated the first English language camp in

the
state. It was the “best school” compared to more urban schools

that she was to
teach in later (in Johore and Wilayah Persekutuan

Kuala Lumpur). Her
students, from different states, showed much

interest and cooperation.
The respondent attended a one-year

Diploma in TESL at the Universiti
Malaya. She also received training

in the Malaysian Trainer Development
Programme (MTDP) for three

weeks, and attended a three-day Newspaper In
Education workshop

and a two-week Big Book Project at state level. Other
related

experiences include her involvement in judging story telling and

public
speaking competitions at zonal level.InstrumentsA fact sheet

was used to obtain the respondents’ background

information,
training/involvement and experiences in reading. A

semi-structured interview
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 128consisting

of open ended questions were asked to enable the respondent

to
elaborate and clarify her explanations .Data AnalysisThe

semi-structured interviews aimed to capture the respondents’ ideas

and
concerns regarding young ESL readers’ problems as well as their

reflections on
the types of strategies employed to solve the

problems. The interviews were
audio-taped and the data obtained

transcribed to allow the researchers to offer
their insights

accordingly. The data were interpreted and categorized according
to

types of reading problems and strategies. These were then

discussed in an
analytical manner. The categories of problems and

strategies were not based on
a priori categories where a framework

with predetermined domains is used to
categorize the data. Rather

the analysis is based on the respondent’s account
and reflection as

there was no observation of actual classroom practice.
FINDINGS

AND DISCUSSIONS
Respondent’s Definition of ReadingThe

respondent identifies two different schools of thought on teaching

reading
– “read aloud the words, pronounce the words correctly”

(Interview, circa June
2002: line 347) and “meaning-making process”

(Interview, circa June 2002:
line 348). To the respondent, “Reading

is looking at words. OK and then
pronouncing it” (Interview, circa

June 2002: line 98). This definition affects
how the respondent

approaches and teaches young ESL learners reading.
Reading is

primarily about reading aloud as “… they pronounce their

words
correctly while reading something. The pronunciation is the

most important
thing, right? So I think we should stress more on

reading” (Interview, circa
June 2002: lines 28 – 30).Assessing

reading ability, to the respondent, means “reading aloud ...

Reading
and pronouncing the words” (Interview, circa June 2002:

line 351). However,
answering comprehension questions is perceived

as an exam-oriented goal
“...in terms of exams ... we teach them to

read to understand the text ... because
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL.

1
29they have to answer questions ...” (Interview, circa June 2002:

lines 351 –
352).Respondent’s Perspective of Her Students’ Reading

Problems
Various reading problems were identified. One is “of

course, the
pronunciation. Second is the stress, intonation and then

the exclamation marks,
the full stops, commas ... intonation and

everything” (Interview, circa June
2002: lines 446 – 447). Other

problems include linguistic deficiency, poor
reading aloud skills, lack

of prior knowledge and interest in reading.
Poor Reading Aloud

Skills
The respondent considers reading aloud of major importance in

the macro skill
of reading. Testing students’ reading ability seems to

be via “reading aloud …
Reading and pronouncing the words”

(Interview, circa June 2002: line 351). It
also includes stress and

intonation. To the respondent, not being able to read
means not

being able to read aloud. A text is considered difficult if, for
instance,

the students could not pronounce the words. However, in terms

of
exams, promotion becomes secondary, the respondent did not

indicate teaching
of phonics or pronunciation skills in her reading

lesson although instruction in
decoding “could be a useful


intervention” (Lee 2002: 130).
Linguistic DeficiencyStudents often do

not comprehend a text simply because of their linguistic
deficiency in

the target language. “… they have problems in understanding

...
Because they’ve what you call ... their knowledge of the language

is not good
enough” (Interview, circa June 2002: lines 37, 39).

According to the
respondent, students need to understand a passage

“in terms of exams”
(Interview, circa June 2002: line 351). Many

face vocabulary problems and
cannot understand what is told. When

they come across difficult words in a
passage, they “don’t

understand the meaning” (Interview, circa June 2002: line
47). The

ability to answer comprehension questions is particularly critical

in
Years 5 and 6 in view of the national examination – the Primary

School
Assessment Test or “Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah” (UPSR).

When asked
questions about a reading text, her students respond in

the mother tongue,
JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 130which in this

case is the Malay language. They also resort to the Malay
language if

they do not know the meanings of words. Some students in Years
4,

5 and 6 do not want to read because they actually “can’t read”.

They are
afraid to “expose their weaknesses” (Interview, circa June

2002: line 278) as
weak students are required to attend remedial

classes where different levels of
materials are used, such as “short

sentences” and filling in the blanks. “They
don’t really recognize the

word” (Interview, circa June 2002: line 283). For the
purpose of

answering comprehension questions, sub-skills such as scanning
and

skimming are given particular emphasis by the respondent as

students need
to look for main ideas and supporting details.Lack of

Prior Knowledge
The respondent finds that her students lack prior

knowledge especially in the
pre reading stage in understanding

interesting texts with foreign content. For
example, the lack of

background knowledge and information about the nature
and uses of

buildings in Indonesia such as the Borobudur can make

reading
difficult. In this case, the respondent created her own story

about the places she
went to and the things she saw there to explain

about the buildings.
Lack of Interest / Motivation in ReadingStudents

who lack interest in the reading lesson are also unwilling

or
uncooperative learners. These are mainly weak students who often

do not
voluntarily get involved or participate in classroom
activities.
Some are weak in reading. What prevents them from

attempting to read in
class is their lack of confidence and fear of

being embarrassed by other
students. These are the shy ones who

are quiet and afraid of making mistakes
should they be called upon

to read aloud. “You have to take them to the library
… guide them’

(Interview, circa June 2002: lines 487 – 488).
Respondent’s

Teaching of Reading Strategies
The process of learning to read

involves decoding and comprehension. The
respondent points out

that she helps to increase her students’ understanding of
JURNAL

IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 1
31meaning of words, phrases, sentences and

text mainly through explanation,
visuals, read-alouds, questions and

summary writing.
Explanation of Meaning and ContentThe

respondent usually explains difficult words or the meaning of a text

first
before directing the students to read the passage aloud. During

the pre-reading
stage, the respondent often explains unfamiliar

content to the students or tells a
story, real or otherwise, to arouse

interest and make reading easier. For
example, in a typical reading

lesson on “Goldilocks and the Three Bears”, the
respondent starts off

with a recording of the sounds of bears and a brief
explanation

about bears and difficult vocabulary, followed by questions
students

need to answer to show their understanding of the text. To make

the
reading lesson meaningful to her students, the respondent tries

to contextualise
with examples or illustrations and explanations of

difficult words: “I’ve to
relate the text in the way they can

understand it” (Interview, circa June 2002:
line 413).Students are

encouraged to use the dictionary to search for difficult words

that
they encounter in their reading. They copy down any difficult

words they come
across into a small note book and write down the

dictionary meanings.
Visual SupportThe respondent particularly liked

using texts with lots of visuals such as
pictures in Big Books and

video tapes. Her students find that pictures and
actions of characters

aid their understanding. She thinks “the most relevant
way of

teaching (certain topics in the syllabus) is through video tape.

These
young ESL learners tend to enjoy looking at pictures and at

the same time
listening to stories too. Pictures can also focus

students’ attention on important
information as they read. As the

respondent reads, the students follow the
storyline with the help of

pictures.
Based on the pictures, various questions could be asked to

help students think
aloud what they see and describe their reactions

to the picture(s). The pupils
also try to follow the words in the

sentences. Weaker students enjoy looking at
pictures and “are more

eager ... to see the actions” (Interview, circa June 2002:
JURNAL

IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 1
32line 392) on a video tape. The respondent

enjoys explaining about pictures and
a great deal on visuals to foster

students’ interest in a text and aid their
understanding. “It’s of a

more friendly … they feel that you’re near to them so,
in that way, I

think they’ll understand better than leaving them to do their work
on

their own” (Interview, circa June 2002: lines 83 – 86).
Read-

alouds
The importance accorded to reading aloud influences the

respondent’s
classroom practice, that of getting individual students to read aloud. Theemphasis is on stress, intonation and pronunciation. Hence the respondentconsiders it imperative to ensure correct pronunciation as she believes that “thepronunciation is the most important thing, right?” (Interview, circa June 2002:line 29). However, pronouncing it right does not warrant that all studentsunderstand the meaning of words.The respondent subscribes to the idea that making mistakes is part and parcelof the process of learning especially in reading aloud. One way to promotereading is to be always patient and tolerant of errors made by other students.She is relatively tolerant of errors amo ng her students as she subscribes to theidea that errors are part of parcel of the learning process.Use of QuestionsQuestions are regularly used to assist students’ understanding of a text. Therespondent notes that “… we get the main ideas from the question itself, right?So, in the question itself it’s stated where they’re supposed to find the answer…” (Interview, circa June 2002: lines 403 – 404). In this respect, focusing oncertain key words in a question is considered an important skill as “… the keyword from the question will be the answer” (Interview, circa June 2002: lines406 – 407). However, this is considered the “worst technique” (Interview, circaJune 2002: line 405) by the respondent. The use of questions is for the purposeof meaning- making and learning, though it is not regarded by the respondent asa skill of reading.JURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 133Summary writingA common task given by the respondent is summary writing. This is to gaugewhether students understand the books they select in the library. In this task,individual students get to share their summary by reading them aloud whenthey are back in the classroom. The respondent felt that getting her students tofind “words that they don’t really understand and look up for the meaning”(Interview, circa June 2002: lines 66 – 67) and to write down a shortsummary work because she will “know if they understand the story or not”(Interview, circa June 2002: line 69).CONCLUSIONThe types of problems and strategies identified by the respondent are based onher experience and understanding of reading and reading problems. Thisunderstanding in turn affects her approaches in teaching reading. In her sixteenyears of teaching, the respondent enjoyed teaching at the lower primary levelwhere she taught for two to three years. Her definition and understanding ofreading is centred mainly on reading aloud to develop fluency. She believesthat pronunciation is important and becomes secondary only “in terms ofexamination” (Interview, circa June 2002: line 356). So her usual classroompractice of teaching reading is to get individual students to read aloudparagraphs of a text and correct any mispronunciation. This may embarrassstudents who make mistakes or encourage others to read or think aboutsomething else while others are reading aloud. No doubt mouthing out wordshelps young readers correct pronunciation but the respondent does notdemonstrate how read-alouds could be made more meaningful and enjoyable.There is also no mention of how classroom instruction and activities candevelop phonological awareness. This seems to be the respondent’sinterpretation of the sub-skills of reading specified in the primary Englishlanguage syllabus (Ministry of Education 1995):3.2 Acquire word recognition and word attack skills· recognise words on sight3.4 Read aloud expressively and fluently· observe intonation, stress, rhythm, pauseJURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 134· in meaningful chunksAccording to the respondent ‘Reading is looking at words. OK and thenpronouncing it’ (Interview, circa June 2002: line 98). The focus is on wordlevel decoding and literal comprehension. However, reading is more thanfocusing on words, trying to say all the words. Silent reading also needs to beencouraged for faster reading and to facilitate comprehension. Improvingstudents’ comprehension abilities is essential to academic learning in allsubject areas as well. However, the goal of improving reading comprehension,to the respondent, seems to be preparing Years 5 and 6 students for UjianPenilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR). The concerns over examinations in theprimary schools have inevitably led to “teaching to the tests” (Nutall 1995).Hence, classroom practice focused on the attainment of examination results inUPSR as it reflected effective English language teaching in the primary school.The respondent mentions skimming and scanning for main ideas and details.Higher order reading skills, for example, making inferences are not mentioned.Perhaps, the respondent finds it more difficult to teach students to useinformation from various parts of a text to infer meanings that are notexplicitly stated. Other strategies used to monitor comprehension or meaningsuch as rereading or looking back to earlier parts of the text are also notmentioned by the respondent. Neither did she give explicit instructions on howto answer except for identifying the key word in a question which she thinks isthe worst technique. Student-generated questions could be encouraged to buildcomprehension as it requires readers to tie new information to priorknowledge. The quality of questions and feedback to reader response is alsocritical to good comprehension.To teach comprehension skills, students could paraphrase and summarizeworks. Summarizing requires readers to actively clarify meaning, condenseinformation, select what is important and combine selected ideas in a newform. The respondent does not elaborate how she teaches her students tointegrate ideas and generalize from information in the texts. There is nomention of structures for organising information that would make review,retelling or summary of a text read easier.Vocabulary plays a crucial role in reading. The respondent emphasizedunderstanding the meaning of difficult words in a passage and the use of aJURNAL IPBA JILID 3: BIL. 135pocket chart as a ‘good way of letting them to know the words because …knowing the meanings of the words then they’ll understand the story or thesentences’ (Interview, circa June 2002: lines 89 - 90). She thinks her studentsneed to know the meaning of individual words first before guiding them ‘topronounce the words’ (Interview, circa June 2002: lines 93 - 94). Difficultwords are considered a pre-requisite to the comprehension of the overallmeaning of a text. Teaching vocabulary is one of the sub-skills in the primaryEnglish language syllabus (Ministry of Education 1995):3.5 Acquire a wide range of vocabulary· synonymsMany ESL readers encounter vocabulary problems. Their one constantresource is the dictionary to help improve their understand ing of the meaningsof individual words. However, using the dictionary while reading makes fluentreading difficult. The use of contextual clues, vocabulary puzzles, mnemonictechniques and the teaching of spelling rules help readers to effectively guessthe meaning of unfamiliar vocabulary. However, the respondent believes herstudents should look up the dictionary for the meanings of difficult wordsperhaps because that was how she learnt difficult words under the guidance ofher father.The respondent also relies a lot on visual support to help aid comprehensionand motivate struggling or weak readers. She seems adept at using pictures tofoster students’ interest and response. For these readers with limitedknowledge of content, the respondent provides verbal explanation or createsstories which she sometimes makes up as she believes her students would notbe able to tell the difference. Instead of filling in blanks, the respondent couldgive her students story blanks to focus on important elements of a story andanticipate what might happen next. Moreover, she could use text features suchas headings and sub-headings to activate and build students’ prior knowledgeGraphic organizers such as story maps also help familiarize students with theuse of text structures, for example, a narrative or guidance in understandinghow a narrative text is structured to enable students to ask questions and makeconnections as they read

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