Investigate a graphic journal

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The aim of this study is to investigate if a graphic journal - created by the students themselves - in this case a group of primary Year Five students, can serve to enable students to develop a stronger interest in learning English through the combination of drawing and writing to achieve better writing performance, and to apply their artistic skills in supplementing their writing by their own simple illustrations.

Such an approach differs from graphic organizers


Artistic approaches where students create their own small books is an integral part of the Steiner pedagogy used in Waldorf schools worldwide. { READ WHAT IS HERE A BIT     ON Waldorf pedagogy:  }

Recently, an online site called Storybird ( ) has begun to pout illustrated short stories by artists online, open access, free. These are often 10-15 pages. They also welcome students to contribute their own.

Writing, as part of our daily necessity, is used every day. Writing is an unconscious process and a complicated task. Writing is also a very complex skill which most students are least proficient in. Writing is a kind of interaction between writers and readers. Writing is one of the four fundamental skills essential in acquiring a language and it is also a tested parameter in the education system in Malaysia. Therefore, writing is one of the teachers' emphases in the ESL classroom.

However, more often, students, especially young learners, tend to perceive writing as a difficult task and also an uninteresting and burdening exercise. But, as teachers, what approaches or choices are we offering our students in an attempt to make students enjoy writing in English? Should we stick to the traditional practice of teaching writing using structured models, formats and rules? Or should we be lmore experimental in diversifying our method of teaching writing?

Spack & Sadow (1983) stress that students should be made aware that writing is an act of discovery. Requiring students to write in an outline-imitate-write order is an unrealistic assignment. New approaches in ESL classroom should be able to stimulate greater interest in learning and the end result is often felt to be some kind of achievement. Ur (1996: 169) reminds us that "most people feel pride in their work and want it to be read."

Merilyn(1993) suggests that one of the best ways to help to nurture and stimulate creativity in children is to provide them with creative materials and one such approach encourages children to be exposed to cartoons and comics to enhance their literacy and learning. I repeatedly observed my students actively engage with reading and drawing comics. Evidence of their interest usually appeared in the workbook and small drawing books they kept in their drawers or school bags. They simply love reading comics and drawing on their own.

Frey & Fisher (2004) emphasize the use of popular culture such as graphic novels, animé/manga and the internet as a vehicle for developing students' writing skills. Using popular culture builds on students' multiple literacies and engages students in authentic writing, enhancing their creation of an illustrated story.

In order to cultivate interest and promote creativity in writing, I believe that engaging students to learn English by keeping a graphic journal to involve students with writing and drawing about their very own life experiences or events is worth exploring in the classroom. It could be a more effective and fascinating way of teaching writing, which may help to generate young learners' critical and creative thinking.


In accordance with Malaysian national education policy, English is taught as a second language in all-government-assisted schools in the country at both the primary and secondary levels of schooling (KPM, 1995: 1). The English language syllabus for the primary schools aims to equip pupils with the basic skills and knowledge of the English language so as to enable them to communicate, both orally and in writing, in and out of the school. Besides oracy skills, by the end of primary school pupils should be able to write for different purposes and in different forms using simple language. However, there are a number of pupils still facing difficulties in learning the language so as to be able to do simple writing even after six years of ELT in the primary school.

As examination results are regarded as a key performance indicator, to improve performance in the Primary School Assessment Test or Ujian Penilaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) is the main target of all primary schools. According to Mohd Sofi Ali (2003), the maintenance of educational standards has always been associated with the examination results. Therefore, effective English language teaching in the primary school was always judged by the level of attainment in the examination results. As a result, the concerns over examinations in the primary school has inevitably led to 'teaching to the tests' (Norris, 1993; Nutall, 1995a, cited in Ali, 2003).

The examination-oriented syllabus has inevitably led to the teaching and learning for the examination instead of learning for improving student insight and proficiency in given skills, and student motivation to be life-long learners. Such teaching and learning approaches have diverted from Malaysia ELT policy and practice, where learning English should be implemented using pupil-centered methodology. It is not surprising that teachers are often busy hastily covering the syllabus and textbooks in class, whether or not the children can read or really understand what is being taught. As a result, children seldom draw, write or create anything in their English classes, and in most schools therefore, no student work is on shown on the walls in the classrooms or in the resource centres (Lyall, xxxx).

Above and beyond, according to MOE guidelines in teaching writing, teachers are required to pay attention to the writing process. However, the teaching of writing to ESL students has given the greatest importance to producing error-free writing of different genres (Chitravelu, Sithamparam & Teh, 1995). The 'product approach' way of teaching has neglected the process of writing and the focus is on obtaining a sample of the target product. This was merely considered as providing a context for practicing grammar. As a result, our pupils lose their opportunity for self-expression and are molded to write in a rigid way. Obviously, this standard tailored kind of writing is de-motivating and boring to the pupils, especially as a novice writer at the primary level of schooling.

In my opinion, there is much room for an enjoyable and fascinating approach to teaching writing. As teachers, we ought to be familiar with and to make use of the concurrent popular culture among pupils such as comics and graphic novels. They shouldn't be prohibited but rather can be utilized as useful educational tools. The new syllabus approved by the Ministry of Education for 2010 includes three graphic novels and other graphic material (REFERENCE NECESSARY). So the door is now officially opened to experimenting with comic drawing and text in the ELT classroom and formal syllabus. Graphic novels can be a great attraction to intrigue, motivate and challenge pupils to read and enjoy learning by producing their own graphic journal, which engages them to learn to write in a more pleasurable way.


Most of the students enjoy drawing but show little particular interest in writing especially learning in a structured and boring way. Hence, most are unable to write well or with pleasure in English, and dislike the activity. This is my own observation in teaching, and is corroborated by talking with other teachers in an informal way. For most students in Malaysia, the main instructional language of the school is not English, and the students have only limited English periods where they could use and converse in English. As writing is considered the least activity that the students actually do outside the school, the students are not given much chance to improve their writing. But many like to draw, and some actually do draw a kind of 'doodling,' even while sitting in the English class.

Therefore, it is crucial to search out new ways to arouse students' interest in ESL classroom so as to motivate learning English by reading and writing in a more encouraging manner that is enjoyable and attuned to student interests. The dull routine which includes teaching, reading the model sample of writing and mountainous writing tasks and tests, is certainly not appropriate in today's more multimodal trends in teaching. Teachers of the new era should dare to experiment with new ideas in the classroom. The teacher must take bold action to combat widespread student apathy.

Britton (1982) wrote to understand the relationship between play and fantasy and children's uses of writing and literature as according to Winnicott (1971); play provides children the potential to bring fantasies and desires into consciousness and language. This study explores several magnitude of graphics-supported writing instruction in the ESL classroom.


In many instructional settings, students lack interest in and commitment to teacher-initiated topics with models and rules. Hence, the need for teachers to diversify their method of teaching writing is well-recognized, and crucial in order to help the students to learn to write creatively. Students nowadays are surrounded by visual culture. The power of images and pictures should be incorporated in multimodal approaches in the ELT classroom and other subjects (REFERENCE NECESSARY HERE). Comics and graphic novels are among the most popular of young learners' reading materials. Through observations in my class and conversations with my own students, I have seen that love reading and drawing cartoons or comics. They enjoy and are willing to spend time on reading and drawing a series of pictures. Many teachers realize the current unfruitful way of teaching writing, but are also at a loss to make the writing task more enjoyable and encouraging. The present research will seek to examine the effectiveness of a new approach utilizing a graphic journal by comparing and contrasting students in an experimental and control group. To my knowledge, no such research has been conducted to date in Malaysia.


1. To examine whether the use of graphic journal could benefit students by improving their writing performance.

2. To examine whether student interest and motivation in learning English is affected by utilizing such an approach.

3. To create reading materials, student-composed graphic journals, that could be an interesting and creative piece of work to be used in reading class.

4. To improve literacy through multimodality, i.e. graphic supplementation.


This research attempts to answer two main questions:

1. Do students develop a stronger interest in learning English and enjoy writing more by keeping a graphic journal which engages them to both draw and write?

2. Does the use of a graphic journal improve students' writing performance?


Going multimodal and graphic are trendy catch phrases among educators throughout the globe in recent years. Graphic supplementation is very much discussed in promoting literacy on language teaching in Western nations. In addition, the central interest of the now-famous Dartmounth Conference in Canada focuses on the relationship of education and learning to texts popular with children and texts produced by children to reflect their strong topical interests and styles [ GIVE REFERENCE HERE]. Given the importance of graphic supplementation and self-produced texts in language learning, and the fact of scant research on this in ELT in Malaysia, it is useful to conduct the current study. The current study is considered as one among several attempts in the field of using multimodality in getting students to write in Malaysian context. [ GIVE SOME REFERENCE IF YOU KNOW OF OTHER ATTEMPTS] At the same time, this study helps teachers and language practitioners to explore and plan new teaching strategies and provide a practical, easily resourced approach to improve students' writing and promote greater interest in learning English.


This study will involve 60 Year Five students from a primary school in Petaling Jaya. They will be divided into two groups [HOW???] [ You must expand here. Also indicate something about the amount of time and what they will be doing]


One limitation of this study is the duration of implementation of the teaching approach. The current study will be conducted in a limited period of time (five weeks). Such a time frame will not be sufficient to show significant improvement of the students' writing, especially amonbg the weaker students who need more scaffolding in order to show positive results. But it will give a clear indication. The limited scope of only 60 subjects involved is also a limitation for this study. The sample group represents a small group of primary school English students. The findings of the study may only apply to a small group of students and not resemble all primary school English students throughout the state or nation.

Further additional longitudinal research is needed to ascertain the permanence of the observed early gains attained by the new teaching approach. Does their writing performance improve and remained sustained over the longer run? Will any increase in interest in learning English be maintained? Can such a study yield differing findings if conducted with students in secondary schools?