Comprehension is an ability to use prior knowledge and the context to help in reading and to make sense of what the reader have read. The comprehension of a text is based on the knowledge that which make the reading make sense, reader previous knowledge, the encoded information and the use of context to help recognise the words and meaning in the text.
While this process entails the understanding of text book assignment, the reading comprehension skills also effect the interpretation of direction in examinations, labs and even homework assignment.
According to Glazer and Searfoss (1988) as cited by Searfoss (2001:5):-
"Reading is receiving ideas, experiences, feelings, emotions, and concepts. It is an activity that permits one to gain vast knowledge. When reading, we can live and travel vicariously and become acquainted with people and events of the past that have shaped our worlds. Reading creates for us mental maps of events so that ideas can be transmitted from mind of one, the author, to the mind of another- the receiver/ reader".
Reading is an activity to comprehend or understand written texts. It is a complex activity that involves both perception and thought. It is an activity which involves two related process which is word recognition and comprehension. Making sense of words, sentences and connected text are the process of comprehension. Readers usually use background knowledge, vocabulary, grammatical knowledge, experience with text and certain strategies to help them in comprehending the text correctly. "Reading is used as a language tool for communication, purposefully and intentionally. As a process, it involves the reader in constructing literacy in classroom through interactions with others and interactions with and through texts". Santa Barbara Classroom discourse Group (1994) as cited by Searfoss et al. (2001:4)
It is crucial for students to have these comprehension skills. Students would only waste their precious time and effort if the information couldn't be transferred. There are plenty of strategies that can be used to assist the students in comprehending the text better. There are always needs for new strategies in teaching reading. It is to enhance the students' comprehension skills and to ensure their active participation in the classroom.
Comprehending a text or a passage is an ability to give respond to punctuation and finding the main ideas. The students should have the ability to note details, summarize and organizes the ideas in the text. The sequence of ideas is also important because it conveys meaning to others. Zelt (1970) as cited by Noormah (2002:20) states that the material chosen must motivate the learners to read critically so that they are able to comprehend the text well.
To enhance the students' comprehension skills, teacher can use the comic strip which is interesting and it may create a meaningful lesson and add up more colours into the lessons.
1.1 Background to the problem
Reading text is a common activity in school. It is a must. It is important to make the students read and understand the information in the text. Teacher teaches several strategies to help the students in extracting the information from the text. The information extracted then will be used in answering questions in exercises or in examinations and even in daily life which related to them. The problem started when the students are getting bored with typical plain text which is quite boring and there is no any visual to support their reading. These problems will make the students unable to understand or comprehend the text given to them. Students need some aids in helping them to relate what they have to read to the previous background knowledge or schemata. This is important in order to get the students interested and understand the underlying message that encoded in the text. According to Lapp et al (1999) as cited in Teaching Visual Literacy (2008:1):-
"As with reading comprehension, visually literate learners are able to make connections, determine importance, synthesize information, evaluate, and critique. Further, these visual literacies are interwoven with textual ones, so that their interaction forms the basis for a more complete understanding. The twenty-first-century learner must master this intermediality of images and text in order to interpret an increasingly digital world"
The visuals and the text work hand in hand to help the students understand and comprehend the reading materials. The problem is where there is no visual or picture to illustrate the meaning that encoded in the text to help the learner in decoding the meaning from the reading materials.
According to Searfoss (2001: 8) the problem of comprehension still happens because:-
"First, the prior knowledge and language skills the author uses to represent ideas in print are different from the prior knowledge and language skills of each reader. How different? Every one of us has a unique set of prior experiences and unique facility with language. These differences are a factor in reading situation. Second, authors vary in their ability to use language to convey a message in print for readers to comprehend. Some author simply do not have much success in making their meaning clear through print. That can be a real problem for readers who must try to figure out what is meant by an author who is in not present to clarify vocabulary, syntax, or meaning. Third, what readers construct depends on factors outside of cue systems found in print."
These shows that the author need to incorporate a visual which could help the students or reader to comprehend the text. It may help the students to relate the visual with his or her background knowledge which could increase the students' understanding and comprehension.
Students who are having problems in reading comprehension may be due to the lack of vocabulary. The students may be a 'word by word' reader. This mean he or she has insufficient sight of vocabulary. He or she must probably made phonetic errors with words which been seen by sight. The teacher must play their roles by selecting appropriate materials. The materials chosen must be up to the students' level of proficiency, knowledge and the ability to read.
For some students who face handicap in real reading might be due to lack of performance in reading such as eye movements. The weaker readers' eyes will stop to take in a word or go back to the previous word more frequently than the eyes of the fluent readers. This happens frequently if the text or passages is too difficult to comprehend.
Below are reason for lack of reading comprehension as stated by Twining(1991) as cited by Noormah(2000) :
- Failure to understand word
- Failure to understand sentence
- Failure to understand how sentences relate to one another
- Failure to understand how the information fits together in a meaningful way ( organization)
- Lack of interest or concentration.
1.2 Problem statement
Students find that reading plain text is very boring and tedious work. It is because the text contains only words without visual to aids to the students understanding. They need to read text line by line in order to get the information that needed to comprehend the text so that they will be able to use it in examinations or even everyday life situations. Students need something to relate something with their background knowledge when reading. "The student who, due to physiological, environmental, or cultural background, is unable to form pictures in his head while reading the printed word is not really reading. He is simply word-calling. The words give him no message, and they bring him no joy. He needs more". Teaching Visual Literacy (2008:33)
Teacher need to consider using comics strips because comic have been through a revolution in the last decade and a half. A lot of improvement in printing technology paired with direct sales system of marketing to specialist, have provided transformation in the way the comics produced. As a result, it has opened opportunity in creating more complex and imaginative stories and artwork than ever before. The common image of comic which is cheap, poor in quality is thrown away. Nowadays, the comic is produced using photographic quality paper and even fully painted artwork is a common thing even though for children. It covers a lot genre such as horror, fantasy, history, politic, and of course humour.
Adding visual may help the students to relate with their background knowledge thus may increase the students understanding towards the text. It is important to find out the students' perceptions towards using comic strips for comprehension. It is to see whether visual or comic can get the student motivate thus increasing their performance in test. The students' reaction towards using comic strip is also crucial to show their response whether they like it or not. "The reading of graphic novels promotes better reading skills, improves comprehension, and complements other areas of the curriculum". Teaching Visual Literacy (2008:33)
Purpose of the study
The purpose of study is to see the students' performance when using comic strip for comprehension and what are their responses towards using the comic strip. The result will show the students' perceptions towards using the comic strips in reading.
According to Teaching Visual Literacy (2008:33)
"The reduced amount of text and attention- grabbing graphics in graphic novels [@comic] help ESL students and struggling readers infer, predict, and reflect on what they read. Their skills improve as they read more, their improved skills lead to greater comprehension, and their enhanced creates a desire to read more. It's a happy circle story that has no ending".
Using comic strip may increase the students' performance in reading comprehension and furthermore increasing their motivation in reading more reading materials. The teacher began to slowly using comic strip in the classroom. Some may used it because they noticed the value of comic strip in teaching reading. This helps the students which are struggling in reading moreover to comprehend texts, to motivate reluctant students and even challenging the high level learners in the classroom. When the students learns to read, especially the ones with lack of experience in life and even language experience, comic strip is a good and fun way to make the image- word association. The clues from images or visuals can make the students have a positive experience in reading and feel motivated to read more in his or her life time. Students can get various comics from the internet which is useful in.
i. What are the students' results after using comic strips for comprehension?
ii. What are the students' responses towards using comic strips for comprehension?
1.3 Definition of terms
i. Perception: - It is a way of regarding, understanding or interpreting something.
ii. Comic strip: - it is a type of book which uses both visual and text with a story line.
iii. Comprehension: - it is an ability to understand something
1.4 Theoretical/ conceptual framework
1.4.1 The Schema Theory
This theory explains about knowledge, how the knowledge is represented on other ways, and about how the representation facilitates the use of knowledge in various ways and aspects. Based on this theory, knowledge is packed in to units called schemata and also embedded is information on how this all this knowledge is to be used.
The device in representing knowledge of a concept is the separate schema, along with specifications to relate it with an appropriate network of connections which hold all the components of that particular concept.
Through experience- both real and vicarious is how a person requires their schemata. When he or she gets more experience from learning or daily life, they reshape, refine, correct, and restructure their schemata. For the first grader, the schema for the word teacher is seldom the same as the adults. Through life experiences, the schema reshapes and corrected based on the person experiences. The unique thing is all the people hardly ever share the same schemata, which is also a problem when reading because the reader does not always have the schemata as the writer of the text.
1.4.2 Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences
It is developed by Howard Gardner in 1983. He was the Harvard psychologist. His theory is subsequently refined, this theory state that there are at least seven intelligences that people understand and perceive the world. The seven intelligences are Linguistic. It is the ability of a person to use spoken or written words. Second is Logical Mathematical which is the ability to think inductively and deductively and the reasoning abilities, logically, and as well as the recognition of abstract pattern and the use of numbers. Third is Body Kinaesthetic. It is the ability to control physical motion and the wisdom of body. Fourth is Musical - Rhythmic. It is an ability to identify sounds, to master music as well as rhythms, tones and beats. Fifth is Interpersonal. It is the ability to communicate effectively and able to develop and maintain relationships. Sixth is Intrapersonal. It is an ability to understand his or her emotions, motivations, inner states of being and reflections. The last intelligence is Visual spatial which is the ability to visualize objects and spatial dimensions mentally.
A visual spatial learner is the person who thinks in pictures or images rather in words. This type of intelligence uses different brain organization than auditory sequential learners. The students which included in this intelligence learn better visually. They do not learn from drills and repetitions. They are the whole part learners who have to see the big picture before they learn the details. This type of intelligence is non-sequential. This means that the students do not learn step by step manner in which most teacher teach.
Visual spatial learners are excellent observers and they are able to comprehend holistically. They tend to think in images which may cause them time to translate their ideas to words. it is problematic when unable to retrieve word in timed situations. They are having poor sense of time but very aware of space. These types of person have multi dimensional perception; whereas they can transform images in their mind and can see it from different perspectives.
1.5 Significance of the study
People that will be interested in this study are teachers and curriculum designer. It is because teacher will know the students' perception when using comic strips in ESL classroom.
According to Teaching Visual Literacy (2008:58):-
"There are no easy or simple answers as to why teachers may be reluctant to use comics and graphic novels in their classrooms. The answer may lie in a lack of knowledge of the existing research. It may due to the graphic novel's relatively recent emergence in the American consciousness. It may be the lack of testimonials from other teachers who have made use of comics and graphic novels. It may be tied into national or local policy issues. It is most likely a convergence of many of these factors and more. However, to examine comics and graphic novels' presence in the classroom as a policy issue at the classroom level is to empower teachers and give them and their students an opportunity for a more democratic, equitable education".
Teachers do not know the latest research about the usage of comic strip in teaching reading. Furthermore, it may be because of no cooperation among teachers in making this new method or material come to a realization.
As for curriculum designer, they will know the benefits of using comic strip in teaching reading and they must incorporate this method in the syllabus.
1.6 Limitation of the study
This study is carried out on form 1 students in Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan Methodist, Tanjung Malim which is located near to Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris. The research is conducted on 32 students from One Indigo.
The limitation of this research is the different level of proficiency among the students. Some of the students may unable to understand and furthermore, unable to answer the questions correctly. This study only focuses on 32 students and it may not resemble all the students in lower secondary.
As we all know, everyone of has their own reasons in reading in a text. First, reader read to get experience in literature. This is where the readers read to get more information in exploring human condition, to relate personal experience with narrative events and to see the relation between emotions, events and possibilities. Readers can indulge themselves with variety of literary reading material, for example short story, fables, poems, mysteries, and science fiction.
Second, the reader read to get or gain information. This type of reading is to obtain some general or specific information by reading informative passages. Reading to get information usually involves reading and interpretating supplementary aids such as charts, graphs, maps and even tables that provide supplemental data. Reading materials to get information are such as biographies, science articles, encyclopaedia entries, primary and secondary historical accounts and newspaper editorials.
Third, reader read in order to perform a task. It involves completing a specific task in hand by applying the information or directions after reading various types of materials. The purpose of the reader is beyond understanding the text which is accomplishing the activity given.
In reading activities, it is important for students to understand what they have read. There a lot of strategies introduced by the teacher to help the students to understand the text properly. Even though teachers try to help the students, the problems of comprehension are still happening. It is because of there is nothing for the students to relate with their previous knowledge when reading the text.
This happens when the prior knowledge of the reader is different from the author' prior knowledge in encoding the text. Learner somehow will misinterpret the meaning of the text which the author encoded in the text. Everyone have their own unique background knowledge and language skills. Furthermore, writers have different skills in writing and presenting their ideas in writing and some don't have adequate skills in presenting the idea in mind into the written text. It will be a problem for learners or readers in interpretation of the meaning or message that the writers want to deliver.
The art of mixing two elements which is texts and images (comic) is one of the great ways to foster comprehension and to enhance memory skills. Encoding texts visually helps the students to remember twice as many words as the students that encode verbally. There is an old saying "a picture is worth a thousand words". When it comes to comprehension, it can be changed to "a visual helps the students to understand, comprehend, organize and even remember some of the thousand words".
It is may be because of the popularity of comic books, the teacher began to slowly using it in the classroom. Some may used it because of the value in it. Teachers uses comic strips because it will enable students which is struggling in reading moreover to comprehend texts, to motivate reluctant students and even challenging the high level learners in the classroom. When the students learns to read, especially the ones with lack of experience in life and even language experience, comic strip is a good and fun way to make the image- word association. The clues from images or visuals can make the students have a positive experience in reading and feel motivated to read more in his or her life time.
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