English Reading Comprehension of 9th Grade Students in Iceland

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This study examines English reading comprehension among students at the 9th grade primary school level in Iceland Specifically the study examines how reading comprehension in the English language has evolved in Iceland from 1983 to present Initially my interest in this subject matter was sparked when I started my BA


H sk li slands,Hugv sindasvi,Enskukennsla,English Reading Comprehension of 9th. Grade Students in Iceland,Ritger til M A pr fs,l f Hildur Egilsd ttir. Kt 060261 2109,Lei beinandi Birna Arnbj rnsd ttir, This thesis is submitted as a fulfillment of the degree of M A in English. Teaching within the Faculty of Foreign Language Literature and Linguistics School. of Humanities University of Iceland, It is a 30 credit thesis and is written under the supervision of Birna. Arnbj rnsd ttir Professor of Second Language Acquisition and Pedagogy Faculty. of Foreign Language Literature and Linguistics School of Humanities University of. I am grateful to the students who willingfully participated in the study and. for their teachers who so graciously allowed me to come in to their classrooms and. take valuable time away from their already busy schedules. My thanks go to Sigurgr mur Sk lason Examination Supervisor at. N msmatsstofnun for his help in providing test materials and especially for his. patient explanations, My sincerest thanks go to Birna Arnbj rnsd ttir for her invaluable.
Last but certainly not least I want to thank my husband P tur Tryggvi. J nsson for his endless encouragement and support through this journey. Markmi ranns knarinnar var a sko a hvernig lesskilningur ensku hj. grunnsk lab rnum hefur breyst fr rinu 1983 Fengnir voru 146 9 bekkingar r. fj rum grunnsk lum Reykjav k og lesskilningshluti samr mdra pr fa fr runum. 1983 1997 og 2008 lag ur fyrir au Ni urst urnar voru svo bornar saman vi. upphaflegar ni urst ur s mu pr fa Ranns knin s ndi a 2012 rgangurinn st sig. gn betur en 1983 rgangurinn verr en 1997 rgangurinn og enn verr en 2008. rgangurinn Ni urst urnar s na v a lesskilningur slenskra barna ensku fer. versnandi og er a samr mi vi tilg tur ranns knarinnar Einnig eru merki ess a. eftir v sem textinn er lengri og v meiri akadem skur or afor i er til sta ar eim. mun lakari eru ni urst urnar, This study focuses on how reading comprehension in English has evolved. among primary school students in Iceland from the years 1983 146 9th grade students. in 4 primary schools in Reykjavik Iceland retook standardized reading comprehension. examinations from the years 1983 1997 and 2008 and their results were analysed. compared and correlated with the original test taker s results The 2012 test takers. performed marginally higher in the 1983 standardized examination than the original test. takers but scored lower than the original 1997 test takers and scored even lower on the. 2008 examination The results showed that reading comprehension is on the decline. which did support the tentative hypothesis proposed in the study Test results correlated. with text length and difficulty in the examinations The longer and more academic the. text the worse the performance of the test takers,1 Introduction 1. 2 Literative review 5,2 1 Elements of reading 5,2 1 2 Decoding 7. 2 1 3 Fluency 8,2 1 4 Vocabulary 9,2 1 5 Text comprehension 10. 2 1 6 When reading breaks down 11,2 2 Reading comprehension 12.
2 2 1 Selection of contextually appropriate word meaning 13. 2 2 2 Parsing of sentences 14,2 2 3 Metacognition and reading strategies 15. 2 2 4 Memory 16,2 2 5 Purpose in reading 18,2 2 6 Textual awareness 18. 2 3 Characteristics of good and poor reader 19,2 3 1 The Matthew Effect 22. 2 4 The difference between spoken and written language 24. 2 5 First vs Second language reading 25,2 6 English in Iceland 29. 2 6 1 English education 31,2 6 2 English in everyday life 34.
2 7 Vocabulary readability 37,3 Methodology 40,3 1 The subjects 40. 3 2 The data 41,3 2 1 The tests 42,3 2 2 Data collection 45. 3 2 3 Analysis 45,4 Results 47,5 Discussion 51,6 Conclusions 59. References 62, Figure 1 Average performance of students in the 9th grade during the year 2012 in the. reading comprehension portion of three older standardized tests of English comparison. based on average performance in Reykjavik for each year listed 49. Table 1 Averages and standard deviations for student performance in the sample on. standardized tests from 1983 1997 and 2008 47, Table 2 Averages and standard deviations for studentperformance in the class year.
inReykjavik on standardized tests for each year that was used in the study 48. Table 3 Averages and standard deviations for mean standard value of students in the. sample on standardized tests from 1983 1997 and 2008 48. Table 4 Results of analysis of variance of mean standard value for student sample the. year2012 50, Table 5 Results of follow up correlation with the Tukey method 50. 1 Introduction, This study examines English reading comprehension among students at the 9th. grade primary school level in Iceland Specifically the study examines how reading. comprehension in the English language has evolved in Iceland from 1983 to present. Initially my interest in this subject matter was sparked when I started my BA. studies in English at the University of Iceland back in 2007 What struck me as odd. right from the beginning was how unwilling my fellow students were to communicate in. English with the teachers I remember feeling awkward as only I and a handful of other. students were willing to actively participate in any discussions in class As I began to. get to know my fellow students better I came to the realization that the reason that they. were not willing participants was because they simply did not have the language. proficiency to do so at the academic level that was required in the University classroom. This small discovery planted a seed in my mind and I began taking notice of the way. people around me spoke English It turns out that the English I was used to hearing from. my fellow Icelanders all around me was quite informal and context embedded language. where people stayed on safe topics which they were quite familiar with From that. moment forward I have been very interested in the subject of English in Iceland and. especially how we can prepare our students from grammar school forward to. successfully take on the challenges of University studies. A recent study has shown that 90 of textbooks at university level in Iceland. are written in English Birna Arnbj rnsd ttir 2009 These staggering numbers imply. that a high proficiency in English is necessary in preparation for a professional career. regardless of what field of study is chosen, Sam el Lefever conducted a study in five urban schools in Iceland on 8 year old. children who had not yet started formal English education in school He looked at the. reading listening and communications skills in English of these Icelandic children The. results of his study point out that there is a strong indication that children are beginning. to develop early literacy skills in English without formal instruction Lefever 2010 p. 15 This would seem to indicate that if Icelandic children begin formal English. education in grade 4 with a good foundation of literacy skills that they have been able to. develop on their own that by the time they reach University they should not be. experiencing the communication problems I observed with my fellow classmates. Being able to use a foreign language such as English is more than just speaking. the language Reading and reading comprehension also plays a large part Students who. continue their education must be able to cope with textbooks and scholarly articles in. English Icelandic students perceive themselves to be good English speakers but the. fact that they struggle with academic language in their English suggests that the key. word in this sentence is perceive Icelanders are exposed to conversational English and. receptive language but are increasingly called upon to use academic and work related. English Birna Arnbj rnsd ttir 2011 reports on studies of exposure to English in. Iceland that about 86 of respondents hear English every day and 65 listen to. English more than one hour a day p 5 This passive exposure is mostly through. radio television and increasingly through computers with the younger generation The. danger of this type of passive exposure is that one develops receptive skills or. understanding of language without having an active command of it Additionally the. type of passive exposure common in Iceland tends to be of a colloquial nature. English does play a predominant part in the lives of Icelanders today As in all. of the Nordic countries there is wide exposure to English in Iceland and there is. increased pressure to use English in all walks of life including education and business. even amongst speakers for whom English is not a native language Birna. Arnbj rnsd ttir 2011 p 2 Another facet to Iceland s exposure to English is the. increase in immigration to Iceland Iceland is not only reaching out to the world it. seems that the world is also reaching out to Iceland Statistics Iceland i Hagstofa tells. us that foreign nationals were 7 6 of the total population of Iceland in 2009 Iceland. became a part of the European Economic Area in 1994 which opened opportunities for. foreign nationals to move to Iceland Employment is a prerequisite for a foreign national. to obtain a resident s permit to live in Iceland therefore there has been an increase in. non Icelandic speaking foreign nationals on the work force in Iceland The immigrating. laborers come from all over Europe and English is the language that they along with the. Icelandic workers have in common, Based on the discussion above it was important to examine whether and if so. how the increased exposure to conversational English and the fact that English. instruction begins earlier than before affects literacy skills in English especially. reading comprehension When looking at difficulties students are having with English. literacy skills Hafd s Ingvarsd ttir and Birna Arnbj rnsd ttir 2010 state that 58 of. students sometimes have problems at University when working with English text in an. otherwise Icelandic learning environment p 9 Anna Jeeves 2008 in her study came. to the conclusion that because of their exposure to conversational English students. knowledge of formal language was not sufficient This resulted in poor or limited. vocabulary knowledge It was therefore important to provide empirical evidence for this. apparent lack of formal language knowledge by examining the development of English. literacy skills by Icelandic students over time The only available data was from. standardized tests, The research question is Is there a difference over time from 1983 to 2008 in.
students performance in reading comprehension on standardized exams in Iceland My. hypothesis is that because of the increase over the years of colloquial English in Iceland. the bulk of input Icelandic children receive is passive conversational English leading to. a decline in reading comprehension scores for 9th grade students of English in Iceland. The thesis consists of six chapters Chapter 1 discusses the importance of. reading comprehension and explores the background and aims of the study Chapter 2. provides the theoretical foundation for the study through the elements of reading. reading comprehension first language and foreign language reading as well as the status. of English in Iceland today Chapter 3 discusses the method of the study as well as the. subjects the data the tests data collection and data analysis Chapter 4 shows the. results of the study Chapter 5 further discusses the results of the study Chapter 6. provides conclusions of the study with some suggestions for further studies. 2 Literative review, In the last chapter I discussed the purpose of the study In this chapter the. theoretical foundation for the study is reviewed I will begin by looking at the nature of. reading from decoding sounds to word recognition reading comprehension at the text. level metacognition and reading strategies Then I will move on to the characteristics of. good and poor readers and describe differences between spoken and written language. and first vs second language reading Finally I will discuss the role of English in. Iceland in education and everyday life,2 1 Elements of reading. Reading comprehension is an integral part of learning a foreign language. Although it can be said that it is possible to learn a language by listening and speaking. without reading comprehension the language learner has limited hope of learning new. vocabulary and stagnates with what linguistic oral productive knowledge he has. obtained To speak and understand oral language is to have only partial language. proficiency Functional language proficiciency in the foreign language learner is. required as well Literacy is the foundation for being a participant in the information. age The information age among other things has brought about major structural. change in countries in regard to international trade Individuals and societies are both. shaping and having to adapt to the rapid advances in technology As technology. advances there is a growth of economic interdependency among countries and firms. through increased trade stressing furthermore the importance of high levels of literacy. skills in foreign language learners and users The focus of the research in this paper is to. examine English reading comprehension of 9th grade students in Iceland but before I. look specifically at reading comprehension I would like to begin by defining the. principal components of the reading process, A combination of various processes occur in reading At a basic level a reader. has to be able to recognize and use individual sounds to create words Secondly the. reader has to have the ability to decode what he is reading to have the ability to. recognize written representations of words Adams 1990 Another important. characteristic of reading is that the individual develop the skills to read a text accurately. and quickly to develop fluency and this includes learning the meaning of words and. developing a certain amount and type of vocabulary In addition to learning vocabulary. the reader needs to integrate new material into their existing knowledge base to. construct new understanding and adapt existing conceptions and beliefs as needed The. existing conceptions that a reader relies on to comprehend is the reader s background. knowledge Grabe 2004 states It is well documented that readers comprehend texts. better when texts are culturally familiar or when they relate to well developed. disciplinary knowledge of a reader p 51 The text itself does not carry meaning the. people reading the text do, 2 1 1 Recognizing and using individual sounds to create words. The first principal components of the reading process is recognizing and using. individual sounds to create words the reader s phonemic awareness This is not actually. a part of reading itself but it is one of the essential building blocks leading up to being. able to read Once the prospective reader understands that words are made up of sounds. which can be assembled in different ways to make different words the child can begin. the process of decoding This phonemic awareness is not a part of a child s natural. maturation like the development of spoken language but it is a skill that must be. learned Through the process of learning to talk the child needs to be taught to hear. sounds in words and that words are made up of smallest parts of sounds or phonemes. Once a child has gained phonemic awareness he has obtained a key to the. understanding of written language he can learn how to decode Adams 1990. 2 1 2 Decoding, After a child has gained phonemic awareness and after an individual learns to talk.
and is able to hear the different sounds that make up a word he or she needs to be made. aware of the relationships between written letters and spoken sounds or phonics This is. the process of decoding When a person learns to read they master the system by which. print encodes oral language Adams 1990 Once a reader realizes the relationship. between letters and sounds they begin to recognize familar words accurately and. automatically When a person strings together the spoken sounds of the letters a mental. representation of the word occurs in the readers mind the reader decodes the written. text Decoding is a fundamental necessity in reading and distinguishes reading most. clearly from spoken language processes Perfetti Van Dyke Hart 2001 p 127 As. far as written language is concerned children must come to readily identify words and. encode their relevant meaning into the mental representation that they are constructing. in order to be able to read Perfetti Landi Oakhill 2005 p 229 Research has shown. that an early grasp of the relationship between written letters and spoken sounds can. have a positive academic outcome for the child later on in life The increased reading. experiences of children who crack the spelling to sound code early thus have important. positive feedback effects Such feedback effects appear to be potent sources of. individual differences in academic achievement Stanovich 1986 p 364.

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