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ENHANCING READING COMPREHENSION PERFORMANCE

THROUGH THE TEACHING OF VOCABULARY AMONG


SECONDARY SCHOOL STUDENTS

IRWAN HUZEN MATUSIN BIN AHMAD SAPAWI

UNIVERSITI TEKNOLOGI MARA

2010
i

ENHANCING READING COMPREHENSION PERFORMANCE THROUGH THE


TEACHING OF VOCABULARY AMONG SECONDARY
SCHOOL STUDENTS.

IRWAN HUZEN MATUSIN BIN AHMAD SAPAWI

ACADEMIC EXERCISE
SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
FOR THE DEGREE OF BACHELOR OF EDUCATION (TESL)

FACULTY OF EDUCATION
UIVERSITI TEKNOLOGI MARA
SHAH ALAM
2010
ii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

My highest and deepest gratitude to The Almighty, Allah S.W.T. for giving the strength,

wisdom and determination to complete this research. I would like to take this opportunity to

express my gratitude and appreciation to my supervisor, Miss Rose Patsy Tibok, English Lecturer

of Institut Perguruan Gaya Kota Kinabalu, for her guidance in completing this research paper for

my final semester. My deepest love and gratitude to my dearest parents , Mr. Ahmad Sapawi

Matusin, for his giving suggestions and tips and, Mdm. Rubina Nawing, for her constant

reminder and support. My special thanks to Miss Aimi Nadirah, my academic exercise partner,

for keeping me informed, sharing her insights and helping me monitor my progress. This also

goes to all my fellow B.ED TESL Cohort 3 Institut Perguruan Gaya Kota Kinabalu for sharing

their insights and emotional support. I would also like to thank the teachers and students of SMK

St. Francis Convent Kota Kinabalu for giving the opportunity to collect invaluable data necessary

for making this research possible. Finally, I would like to thank all those who have contributed

one way or another to the completion and success of this research. Thank you.
iii

ABSTRAK

“Tanpa tatabahasa hanya sedikit yang boleh disampaikan, tanpa kosa kata, tiada yang boleh
disampaikan”. Spada (2005) menyatakan bahawa kosa kata adalah fasa yang terawal dan paling
penting dalam pembelajaran suatu bahasa. Kajian ini menyelidik kesan pengajaran kosa kata
terhadap prestasi pemahaman dalam membaca di kalangan pelajar sekolah menengah. Kajian ini
dijalankan dalam sebuah sekolah menengah di sekitar Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu. Sampel kajian
terdiri daripada 40 orang pelajar Tingkatan 2 yang dipilih secara bertujuan (Purposive Sampling
Method). Data kajian dikumpul menggunakan sebuah borang soal selidik pra-ujian, pemerhatian
semasa mengajar, borang soal selidik pasca-ujian dan diikuti dengan menerumah beberapa pelajar
yang dipilih secara rawak. Menurut hasil kajian ini, didapati bahawa pengajaran kosa kata telah
dapat memberi pelajar panduan bagaimana untuk mendekati aktiviti pemahaman yang diberikan
oleh guru, di samping membantu meningkat pemahaman mereka terhadap teks bacaan yang
diberi. Kosa kata kunci dalam pengajaran boleh digunakan sebagai elemen pra-pengajaran untuk
aktiviti pemahaman yang seterusnya. Menurut data yang dikumpul dalam kaji selidik yang
dilakukan, para pelajar bersetuju bahawa pengajaran kosa kata tidak semestinya dilakukan
diperingkat awal aktiviti pengajaran dan pembelajaran tetapi seharusnya dilakukan secara
berterusan. Sebagai kesimpulan, pengajaran kosa kata di peringkat awal pengajaran dan
pembelajaran dapat meningkatkan tahap pemahaman dan keupayaan membaca teks dikalangan
pelajar. Akhir kata, hasil kajian ini diharap boleh dijadikan sumber maklumat yang berguna untuk
guru-guru sekolah dan juga sebagai sumber rujukan kepada kajian-kajian yang akan dilakukan
pada masa hadapan.
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ABSTRACT

“Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary, nothing can be conveyed”.
Spada (2005) suggests that vocabulary is the first and most important phase in learning a
language.This research investigates the effect of vocabulary teaching in students’ reading
comprehension performance. Accordingly, this research is carried out in one of the secondary
schools in Kota Kinabalu. It is conducted among selected Form 2 students and the research
employs a purposive sampling method, which the sample is purposely selected. Data is collected
through a pre-test questionnaire, teaching observations, post-test questionnaire and then followed
by interviews of selected students. It has been found out that in addition to increase
comprehension of texts and their reading ability, teaching vocabulary also provides the students
direction on how to approach the reading comprehension activity. Key vocabulary items in the
lesson can be used as a pre-instruction to later reading comprehension activities in the classroom.
It is also found out that the students agree that the teaching of vocabulary does not necessarily
take place in the beginning of a lesson but also throughout the entire lesson. In conclusion,
teaching vocabulary in the beginning of a lesson can improve the students reading ability and
their reading comprehension performance. It is hoped that this research can benefit school
teachers and be a reference for future researches.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS

TITLE i
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS ii
ABSTRAK iii
ABSTRACT iv
TABLE OF CONTENTS v
LIST OF TABLES AND ILLUSTRATIONS ix

CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
1.0 Introduction 1
1.1 Problem Statement 1
1.2 Research Objective 2
1.3 Research Questions 3
1.4 Scope of Study 3
1.5 Significance of Study 4
1.6 Limitations 5
1.6.1 Scope 5
1.6.2 Sampling 5
1.7 Summary 6
CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW
2.0 Introduction 7
2.1 How Important is Vocabulary? 7
2.2 What is Vocabulary Knowledge? 8
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2.3 What is Reading Comprehension? 11


2.4 Review of Past Studies: The Relationship Between Teaching 13
Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension Performance
2.4.1 Shereen Maher Salah, 2008
14
2.4.2 E.D. Hirsch, 2003
15
2.4.3 Steven A. Stahl, 1999
16
2.5 Summary
18
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
3.0 Introduction 20
3.1 Data Collection 20
3.2 The Subjects 21
3.3 Research Intruments 21
3.3.1 Teaching Observation Checklist 21
3.3.2 Student Response Interview 22
3.3.3 Questionnaires 22
3.4 Administration of Research Instruments 22
3.5 Methods of Data Analysis 23
3.5.1 Data Collection 23
3.5.2 Data Analysis 23
3.5.3 Presentation 24
3.6 Summary 24
CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS
4.0 Introduction 26
4.1 Pre-test Questionnaire 26
4.1.1 Student Vocabulary Knowledge 26
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4.2 Teacher Observation 30


4.2.1 Lesson 1: Robinson Crusoe, 24th July 2009 30
4.2.2 Lesson 2: Chapter 12: Our Natural Heritage, 3rd September 33
2009
34
4.2.3 Lesson 3: Chapter 13: Going Organic, 8th September 2009
36
4.3 Post-test Questionnaire
39
4.3.1 Table of Percentage
39
4.3.2 Table of Median, Min and Mod
42
4.4 Student Interview
42
4.4.1 The Teaching of Vocabulary Items in the Beginning of
Lesson 42

4.4.2 The Effect of Teaching Key Vocabulary on Reading


Prescribed Text
43
4.4.3 The Effect of Teaching Key Vocabulary on Reading
Comprehension Activity
44
4.5 Discussion of Findings
44
4.5.1 Pre-test Questionnaire
45
4.5.2 Teacher Classroom Observation
47
4.5.3 Post-lesson Questionnaire
48
4.5.4 Student Interview
49
4.6 Implications of Findings
49
4.6.1 Can Pre-teaching Vocabulary in the Early Stages of a Lesson
Enhance Students’ Reading Comprehension in Later
Activities?
50
4.6.2 Which Aspect of Vocabulary Had the Best Effect on
Students’ Reading Performance?
4.6.3 Can Students’ Reading Comprehension Performance Be 51
Effected Through Vocabulary-based Task and Activities?
51
4.7 Summary
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CHAPTER 5: RECOMMENDATION AND CONCLUSION 53


5.0 Introduction 53
5.1 Recommendations 53
5.1.1 Implementation of Vocabulary Instruction in Reading 53
Comprehension
54
5.1.2 Use of Semantic Mapping
50
5.2 Conclusion
56
Bibliography 57
Appendices 59

(1) APPENDIX A: Pre-Test Instrument

(2) APPENDIX B: Observation Checklist

(3) APPENDIX C: Post-Test Instrument

(4) APPENDIX D: Lesson Plans and reading materials.


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LIST OF TABLES AND ILLUSTRATIONS

Diagram 1.0 “Fibril” word knowledge 11


Diagram 2.0 Word Knowledge and Background Knowledge Relationship
18
Model (Calixto, 2002)
Table 4-1: Student response on the word “survival” 26
Table 4-2: Students’ meaning of the word “survival”
28
Table 4-3: Student response on the word “independent”
28
Table 4-4: Students’ meaning of the word “independent”
29
Table 4-5: Student response on the word “resourceful”

Table 4-6: Students’ meaning of the word “resourceful” 29

Table 4-7: Observation Checklist: Lesson 1 31

Table 4-8: Observation Checklist: Lesson 2 34

Table 4-9: Observation Checklist: Lesson 3 37


Table 4-10: Item 5,6,7,8 and 11: Table of Percentage
39
Table 4-11: Item 5,6,7,8 and 11: Table of Median, Mode, Min and Mean
41
Diagram 3: Semantic map of transportation (taken from 55
http://www.kidbibs.com/images/semantic.gif)
x
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CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION

1.0 Introduction

Reading comprehension is a complex aspect of reading that involves many levels

of processing. One of the most fundamental aspects of comprehension is the ability to deal

with unfamiliar words encountered in text. Readers who struggle with word-level tasks

use up valuable cognitive space that could be allotted to deeper levels of text analysis. It is

not enough to rely on context cues to predict the meaning of new words, since this

strategy often results in erroneous or superficial understandings of key terms, especially in

content-area reading (Paynter, Bodrova, & Doty, 2005). Skilled readers need to possess a

basic knowledge of words and their uses and a set of strategies for approaching new

words encountered for them to use in their reading comprehension activity.

1.1 Problem Statement

During my experience of teaching in my practicum, teaching reading

comprehension to lower secondary students (specifically Form 2 students) takes up

more time than expected. A portion of the time was spent on necessary logistics such

as preparing the class for the activity and setting up teaching aids. Once logistics are

out of the way, introducing texts and other reading materials also require a significant
2

amount of time. Most of the amount of time was spent on clarification of words

(rather than content) of the texts.

Teaching vocabulary takes up a lot of time, in my case. Vocabulary, according

to Stanovich (1986), poor reading comprehension performance has always been

associated with poor vocabulary. As a result, a study on the effects of teaching

vocabulary in enhancing reading comprehension performance is crucial in whether

extensive effects of vocabulary teaching is necessary in improving reading

comprehension among students. It is important study as teachers are often bound to

the time restraint and at times, students made minimal effort to take the lesson beyond

the classroom session. In the end, the study could help identify aspects of vocabulary

which the teacher could emphasize on for a more logistics-wise economic lesson.

1.2 Research Objectives

This study is conducted based on these objectives:

1. To investigate whether teaching vocabulary can enhance reading comprehension.

2. To investigate which aspect of vocabulary has the best effect on students’ reading

comprehension.

3. To investigate whether performance can be effected through vocabulary-based

task and activities.

1.3 Research Questions


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1 . Can pre-teaching vocabulary in the early stages of a lesson enhance students’

reading comprehension in later activities?

2 . Which aspect of vocabulary had the best effect on students’ reading performance?

3 . Can students’ reading comprehension performance be effected through

vocabulary-based task and activities?

1.4 Scope of Study

The study is conducted in a secondary school within the urban environment of

Kota Kinabalu. The school is known to be one of the oldest schools in the district. The

school receives students from various primary schools, especially a primary school with

the same name. There are a total 55 teachers teaching in the school, 14 classrooms and

approximately 1,364 students, to the date of study, in the school. The scope of the

research is limited to the responses of the students in the sample population and the

observation data of the researcher.

The study involves a sample population of 47 students in a selected classroom.

The students vary from intermediate to higher intermediate proficiency in the English

Language. The interview sample consists of 6 students taken from the sample

population. The researcher, or teacher, will observe the controlled teaching process,

provides questionnaires to record the students’ responses and conduct interview on a

few selected students.


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1.5 Significance of Study

This aspect is essential in obtaining valuable insights in how the aspect of

teaching vocabulary in an urban secondary school, as in the sample school, can impact

the reading comprehension performance in the English as a Second Language (ESL)

instruction. Through conducting this study, it is hoped that the data obtained from the

distribution of questionnaires, observations and interviews can prove to be valuable for

this study and any other related future studies. Other researchers may benefit from the

end results of the study, as a form of reflection or as a form reference (or both).

Furthermore, the end results are representations of the researcher’s data

collection, experience, sharing of opinion and personal experiences in addressing the

subject matter. Even more valuable, it includes responses gathered from the students

after the distribution of questionnaires and personal interviews. The collected data are

hoped to be an important piece of tool in understand the complex yet dynamic

relationship between vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension performances

among secondary school students. In the future, this study is able to provide teachers

with valuable insight in aiding them considering vocabulary teaching and developing

strategies to approach the reading comprehension aspect of ESL teaching.


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1.6 Limitations

In the course of conducting this study, there are a few limitations taken into

consideration:

(i) Scope

This study does not discuss certain particular demographical factor related to

gender, age, background, respondents’ location and their ethnicity. Their responses are

limited to interviews of selected students, observations based on the provided guidelines

and through the teacher’s personal experience in providing a viewpoint and perspective

in addressing the outcome of the study. The scope is only limited to only one classroom

of Form 2 students in the selected schools.

(ii) Sampling

Sample size consists of 48 students in a single classroom and 6 students in the

interview session, all in the same selected secondary school. Respondents of the

questionnaire, not the interview, are 48 students. The findings of the questionnaire,

interviews and observations are limited to the sample population as stated above, and

the end results are not applicable to be generalized to the general population.
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1.7 Summary

In this first chapter, it recognizes the concern on the effects of pre-teaching

vocabulary in enhancing students reading comprehension. The investigation will focus on

students in a local school who learns English as their second language, and how the teaching

of vocabulary affects their learning. The context is narrowed into the Malaysian context by

taking samples from a local school in an urban location. The objectives, hypotheses and

limitations of the study also help in narrowing the context. The findings will be significant to

the teaching community as it will help provide an insight in teaching and learning of English

as a Second Language.
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CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW

2.0 Introduction

This chapter reviews the existing literature related to the study topic.

2.1 How important is Vocabulary?

It is agreed that vocabulary is the first and most important phase in learning a language

(Spada, 1995). It is generally acknowledged that sounds are the basic building pieces to

any language but sounds alone could not convey meaning.

Thornbury (2002) mentioned how linguist David Wilkins view language learning:

“Without grammar very little can be conveyed, without vocabulary, nothing can be

conveyed”. His view provides both language learners and teachers about how important is

learning vocabulary. This is illustrated in situations where speakers of a foreign language

attempts to communicate with a native speaker using lexical items, and the native speaker

manages to decipher the intended message through contextual knowledge of how and

when the words are used (Hule, 2007)


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2.2 What is vocabulary knowledge?

A rhetoric by Thornbury (2002) asks “what does it mean to know a word”? Having

an extensive knowledge of words, or knowing a lot of words, is acknowledged to enable

comprehension in the language. However, it only concerns the number items known to the

learner. He uses the following passage to demonstrate what he means by “knowing a

word”:

“A deep rich red in color. Lush and soft aroma with plums and blackberries, the oak is

plentiful and adds vanilla to the mix, attractive black pepper undercurrents. The

mouthfeel is plush and comfortable like an old pair of slippers, boysenberry and spicy

plum fruit flavours with liquorice and well seasoned oak. The generous finish ends with

fine grained tannins and a grippy earthy aftertaste.”

(from www.ewinexchange.com, Thornbury (2002), Teaching Vocabulary)

Languages have various discourses. They have different contexts of use. The

meaning and functions of a word may greatly differ from one context to the other. The

above passage is an example Thornbury (2002) used to illustrate those differences. He

also used the passage to illustrate the meaning of “knowing a word”.

When observed carefully, the passage contains plenty familiar words to the highly

proficient to the adequately proficient. For example, words such as plush and comfortable
9

can be familiar to the learner. Other than that, there are words which can be possibly new

to the learner. Words such as tannins, mouthfeel and grippy. At first glance, the passage

seems to appear like a description of the authors experience in his present surroundings.

The proficient learner might hit close to home by guessing that it has something to do a

delicacy the author is enjoying. Thornbury (2002) points out that the passage is actually

an extract from a wine-tasting review.

For those who are not familiar with wine-tasting terminology, the passage might

have appeared like it was taken from a page in a story book. Therefore, in relation to the

example above, “knowing a word” involves knowing two things:

1. Its form.

2. Its meaning.

Knowing the form of words can give the learner some hints to what they mean and

when they are used. This can be illustrated using the word “fibril” as an example. A

scenario to illustrate the example is when a learner does not understand the word “fibril”.

The form of the word tells the learner little of what it means. Basically, “fibril” is

collection of sounds banded together to make a word which its meaning a learner is

unsure of. If the learner’s knowledge is adequate, he or she might be able to tell that the

word probably is in its root form – if it is English. A learner who has an ample vocabulary

set might recognize and compare “fibril” with fibre.

Even so, just knowing that the word is somehow related to the word fibre does not

mean the learner is able to confidently use it in writings or throw them into conversations.
10

“Fibril” does actually have something to do with fibre and it also means fibre, but there is

still a blank space on context. The literal meaning of “fibril” is “the fine filaments and

fibres which make up muscle tissue” (Longman Dictionary of English Language, 1984),

which refers to a medical context.

Therefore, “knowing a word” is the ability for the speaker of learner to recognize a

word beyond its dictionary meaning (commonly referred to as “literal meaning”). To

“know a word” most often means to know the nature of the word. The nature of a word

involves the nature of a word, as, its associations, its register and its connotations

(Thornbury, 2002). The below diagram, adapted from Thornbury’s (2002) model of word

knowledge, can be to represent the learner’s knowledge on the word “fibril” (see

Diagram 1.0).

To most English speakers and learners, some aspect of the word may not be known but

the model demonstrates the fact that building word knowledge occurs in incremental

stages and of course, takes time to develop. He refers to the stage as initial fuzziness. A

process that is inevitable to vocabulary learning in any language. Initial fuzziness, in

simpler terms, can be described as a stage where the learner (or speaker) knows a word,

not beyond its literal meaning. They are not clear of it’s a multiple uses, register and

meaning – resulting in the lack of confidence to use the vocabulary item in everyday

discourse.
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Frequency of use:

In medical related topics,


biology, science.

Meanings: small
Register: in formal
filament or fibre, fine
science terminology. Fibril
Used in spoken and thread-like nerve, fine
thread that makes up
written form
muscle tissues.

Derivations: fibrillate,
defibrillate, fibrilla,
fibra.

Diagram 1.0 “Fibril” word knowledge.

2.3 What is Reading Comprehension?

According to Leipzig (2001), reading is a “multifaceted process involving word

recognition, comprehension, fluency and motivation” and “it is how learners integrate the

facets to make meaning from prints”. He also states that reading requires learners to

perform the three tasks:

1. Identify words in print – a process called word recognition.

2. Construct an understanding from them – a process called comprehension.

3. Coordinate identifying words and making meaning so that reading is

automatic and accurate – an achievement called fluency.


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Reading involves there aspects: word recognition, comprehension and fluency.

Even more, all three aspects are known to be common in learning how to read (Leipzig,

2001). However, Leipzig did not mention which aspect should come first before the other.

From a grammarian point of view, Thornbury (2002) suggests that accuracy has higher

priority rather than fluency. This suggests that recognition and comprehension should be

placed first before achieving automaticity. The main reason for this is that to avoid

fossilization of inaccuracies in the language. Selinker (1986) describes fossilization as a

phenomenon when non-target forms become fixed in the interlanguage (Mason, 2002). In

simpler terms, fossilization occurs when a certain inaccuracy (or known as error) in the

language has become automatic in the learners language system. Automaticity, or fluency,

plays an important role in effective reading comprehension. Automaticity refers to “the

degree of aptitude displayed by an individual to perform common tasks without having to

use a great deal of concentration and effort, which may disrupt other processes” (Tatum,

2003).

Reading comprehension is an integral part in the process of language learning

since most of the materials used in teaching a language, such as English, are in printed

form. These materials can be taken from various sources, both authentic and non-

authentic – to suit the needs of various learners. But what is reading comprehension?

What does a reading comprehension activity entails?


13

Light & McNaughton (2002) describes the reading comprehension activities as

reading activities where “learners must be able to read the text and understand them”.

They also point out that reading comprehension requires the learner to perform one or

more of the following:

1. Decode or recognize by sight the words in the written text

2. Understand the meaning of the words / sentences

3. Relate the meaning of the sentence(s) to the rest of the text

4. Activate prior knowledge and experience about the topic

5. Use this prior knowledge to infer meaning and support understanding

6. Monitor understanding of the text continually.

Light & McNaughton (2002) also describes reading comprehension as an

elaborate process, based on the above. The above process clearly states that reading

comprehension is a cognitively active language process and where prior knowledge is an

important aspect in achieving the primary goal of reading. Goals such as comprehension

and responding to written texts.

2.4 Review of Past Studies: The Relationship Between Teaching Vocabulary and

Reading Comprehension Performance.

There have been a number of studies regarding the relationship vocabulary

knowledge and reading comprehension performance in learners. These studies are not
14

limited to the English Language but also to other languages. As mentioned in the previous

subchapter that reading comprehension is an important aspect of learning in any language,

especially those which will be used in daily interactions in both formal and informal

settings.

2.4.1 Shereen Maher Salah, 2008

A study done by Shereen Maher Salah (2008) of Brigham Young University

focuses on the relationship between the learners’ vocabulary knowledge and reading

comprehension of authentic texts in the Arabic language.

The study emphasizes that “when the readers increase their vocabulary size, their

use of language skills and their knowledge of the world becomes broader” (Huang, 1999).

What this means is by increasing the learner’s vocabulary size, his or her other language

skills can be greatly improved. Shereen (2008) noted that the relationship between

vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension is often complex and dynamic. It is

complex and dynamic because the relationship may take place in two major directions. It

could either be “the effect of vocabulary on reading comprehension or the effect of reading

comprehension in vocabulary growth” (Shereen Maher Salah, 2008).


15

2.4.2 E.D. Hirsch, 2003

Hirsch (2003) stated that one the important contributions of vocabulary in reading

comprehension is fluency. In the same publication, he also made it clear the “fluency” is

synonymous to the word “flowing”. The process of reading and comprehending text is

described to be automated. Hirsch states that effective reading comprehension depends on

how fast a learner can decode (or comprehend) a text and how well can they respond to it.

This could be the point where the concept of “knowing a word” (or vocabulary

knowledge) as discussed by Thornbury (2002) fits into place. As mentioned before in the

previous subchapters, it is established that “to know a word” means the ability of a

learner/speaker in recognizing a word beyond its dictionary meaning. It includes the many

forms and derivations of a word, its contextual meanings and uses, the frequency of it

being used and the register of which it is commonly known to be used (Thornbury, 2002).

In relation to the above definition, Hirsch describes “a person who reads fast has

automated many of the underlying processes in reading, there enabling them to focus on

textual meaning rather the process of reading itself”. This what Hirsch meant by fluency.

How vocabulary contributes to fluency can be seen from the term “automaticity”. Word

knowledge enhances fluency: word knowledge speeds up word recognition which, in

effect, speeds up the reading process. Even more, Hirsch (2003) included an aspect of

vocabulary which many have overlooked: world knowledge. World knowledge

complements word knowledge, as included in Thornbury’s (2002) Model of Word

Knowledge (or known as vocabulary knowledge).


16

World knowledge defines the contextual aspect of a learner’s word knowledge. It

“speeds up the comprehension of textual meaning by offering a foundation for making

inferences” (Hirsch, 2003). What this entails is that comprehensive knowledge of the

related elements to a word helps provide the schemata required to comprehend the

presented text through (1) extracting meaning based on existing knowledge and (2)

making guesses on the textual meaning of reading text by comparing existing knowledge

with the new unfamiliar context presented in the text.

2.4.3 Steven A. Stahl, (1999)

Furthermore, in another study done by Stahl (1999) discovers that domain

knowledge (or knowledge of context) is important “in enabling readers make sense of

word combinations and choose among multiple possible word meanings”. It takes an

ample amount of subject matter knowledge to what is presented in texts such as

newspaper. The learner must be familiar with the use in terminologies and contextual

clues which defines the subject matter. This further strengthen the notion that surface

knowledge of words (also referred to as “dictionary meaning”) is insufficient and one

must be familiar with words from all aspects – from register, context to all its

derivations.
17

Stahl made some suggestions in building the learners domain knowledge of

their vocabulary. He summarizes that in early stages, it is important to develop oral

comprehension: through teacher read-alouds. Texts selected based on catering their

interests, level and needs of instruction are read aloud before or with the learners. This

study also suggests so based on the notion that “before students can read and

comprehend substantive texts on their own, the contents of the texts are best conveyed

orally. In addition to reading aloud, the activity must be “followed by discussion and

lessons that builds the students understanding of ideas, words and topics in the texts,

which could stretch throughout various stages and different lessons”. This approach

can prove to be effective in teaching reading comprehension because: (1) the topic is

repeated so it can be retained in the learners’ schemata, (2) it strengthens understands

and their confidence in using new vocabulary items and (3) to promote economic

instruction practices (maximizing the use of a single reading material). However, such

practices are not always desirable in everyday language instruction as there are other

aspects of the language need to be taught and if the reading lessons are disjointed, it

would not retain well in the learners’ schemata. Chao & Nation (2000) describes the

relationship between the background knowledge, word knowledge and reading

comprehension using the following model:


18

Knowledge / Experience
Reading Comprehension

Word Knowledge / Vocabulary Knowledge

Diagram 2.0 Word Knowledge and Background Knowledge Relationship Model

(Calixto, 2002)

Hseud-Chao & Nation (2000) concludes that the learner must have the

background knowledge and experience to support reading comprehension in obtain as

much information the learner expect from the material. They added, “it is hard to

understand about a topic [astrophysics] if you know nothing about it”.

2.5 Summary

Based on the above, reading comprehension is an elaborate and cognitively involving

process. As stated by Hirsch (2003), the strength of vocabulary knowledge lies in the

learner’s prior knowledge of their known vocabulary – which extends beyond the

literal meaning of those words. It affects reading comprehension performance

because, according to Light & McNaughton (2002), reading comprehension involves

the activation of prior knowledge in making sense and responding to the given text.

This review also revealed several literature discussing on the relationship of


19

vocabulary and reading comprehension. Shereen Maher Salah (2008) have studied

the relationship between vocabulary and reading comprehension of authentic texts in

Arabic, which proves to be a significant study in the development of language

learners in their real-life linguistic competence.


20

CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

3.0 Introduction

This chapter describes the methodology of research for this study. This study

employs the descriptive method of data collection – which will be covered later in this

chapter. Other information included in this chapter are the background of the sampling

population, utilized methods for data collection, administration of the study methods, a

sample of the instrument and methods of data analysis.

3.1 Introduction

This study employs the purposive sampling method, which the sample population are

selected intentionally. The sample group and individuals (for interviews) are selected based

on the group the school has purposely designated to the researcher. The sample populations

consist of students within the same proficiency level and are all female, due to the nature and

policy of the sample school.

For data collection purposes, data will be collection from observation records,

responses on questionnaires and also interview of selected individuals. The students will

assume their role as respondents and their responses and performance will be recorded using
21

an observation scheme. The observations will focus on the students’ performance during the

reading comprehension activity and their feedback towards teacher talk.

3.2 The Subjects

The respondents for this study are selected based on homogenous sampling as

mentioned in the previous subchapters. The 6 students chosen for the interview are selected

randomly in the class of 47 subjects. The 47 students will be observed during teaching and

their behavior will be recorded on a checklist. These students vary from lower intermediate

to upper intermediate level. The gender of the sample population

3.3 The Research Instruments

The research instruments employed for this study are the following:

3.4.1 Teaching Observation Checklist

The observation checklist is present to enable the teacher to monitor student

performance during the teaching process and record their behaviour. The checklist

will cover the initial stage of the teaching process (during the introduction of new

words), the middle stage (during discussion of texts) and in the post stage (during

group activity and exercises). This instrument help keep track of events related to
22

teaching vocabulary and its tangible implications to the reading comprehension

activity.

3.4.2 Teaching Observation Checklist

The interview will be conducted on 6 selected students out of the 47 in the

sample population. The responses would be based on a set of structured questions on

the topic, or as a reflection to the lesson.

3.4.3 Questionnaires

The questionnaires are aimed to investigate the students’ prior knowledge

before the lesson and evaluate how much have they learned after the lesson. Students

will have to provide responses according to the scale of:

1- Strongly Disagree, 2- Disagree, 3 - Don’t Know, 4- Agree, 5- Strongly Agree.

3.4 Administration

The administration of the research instruments will be conducted according to the following

order:

(i) The first phase will be the interview of 6 selected students. The purpose of the

interview is to explain the purpose of the study as well as expressing appreciation

for their participation. Data will be collected based on the prepared set of questions.
23

(ii) The second phase will be the observations of specifically prepared lessons. The

teacher will prepare reading comprehension activities ranging from normal exercises

to group activities. Half of the prepared lesson will not include teaching of

vocabulary. The observation checklist will be used as a tool to monitor the students

responses and performance.

(iii) The third phase will evaluate the implications of teaching vocabulary to the 47

students in their reading comprehension performance. The student will answer a set

questions based on the provided scale.

3.5 Methods of Data Analysis

The data obtained from observations and questionnaire will be analyzed individually.

After the separate analysis, the researcher will make a comparative analysis on the students

responses and the observed performance and behaviour during the lessons.

3.5.1 Data Collection

The individual selected for the interview will remain confidential, as well as other

respondents. The data will be collected using instruments based on the research

questions stated in Chapter 1 of this paper.

3.5.2 Data Analysis

The analysis of the raw data emphasizes on the process of analyzing the students’

schemata prior to the lesson and after the lesson. The raw data from different
24

instruments will be analyzed separately first and then will be compared for

consistency. The correlational analysis is hoped to reveal new information and fill the

gap left by each individual instrument. Quantitative analysis is applied to the values

of raw data gathered from the questionnaire and the open-response data is analyzed

qualitatively based on the research questions stated in the Chapter 1.

The questionnaire is presented using a frequency table in order to summarize

the pattern of responses. The Likert Scale data from the questionnaire will be treated

as ordinal data, and it is presented in a table of median, min and mod. These tables

provide a base for qualitative analysis of the findings.

3.5.3 Presentation

The raw data will be analyzed and presents in the form of pie charts, tables and linear

forms. The questionnaires will require the use of Microsoft Excel for presenting data

on a spreadsheet.

3.6 Summary

This chapter presents the methods involved in data collection: sampling of populations,

the development of instruments and the administration of those instruments. The

instruments involved in the data collection; observations, interview guidelines and

questionnaires – are based on the research questions stated in Chapter 1. Finally, the
25

collected data will be analyzed and presented in various forms – and then followed with a

few recommendations made based on the results of the obtained.


26

CHAPTER 4: FINDINGS

4.0 Introduction

This chapter focuses on the presentation of results based on the study conducted in the

population school, in Kota Kinabalu, using the research instruments described in Chapter 3 of this

research. The results are presented according to the order the instruments are administered.

4.1 Pre-test Questionnaire

This instrument is administered before the observed lessons take place. It will be used to

find out if the students have ample knowledge of the following key words to the lesson and see if

they are prepared for the lesson.

4.1.1 Student Vocabulary Knowledge

This part of the questionnaire will be used to gauge how the extent of vocabulary

knowledge the students possess on the 3 key words to prior to the lessons.
27

(a) Item (2): “Survival”

Student Response

Question Yes No

Do you know what the words “survival” 100% 0%


means?
Table 4-1: Student response on the word “survival”

The response in item (2) shows that all of the participants know what the word

“survival” means. The following are a few selected subjective responses from the

students regarding the meaning of the word “survival”.

Student Meaning of “survival”

A “something which has survived from an earlier time”

B “dapat survive”

C “a person that can live or continue their life”

D “remain alive”

E “state of continuing to live or exist”

Table 4-2: Students’ meaning of the word “survival”

According to Macmillan English Dictionary: For Advanced Learners (2003),

“survival” is “the fact, or state, of continuing to live or exist”. Based on the

dictionary meaning of the word, student E and C has the closest response to its

meaning. The response from student D is acceptable but it is the meaning of its root

word, “survive”. Meanwhile, student A and B was the furthest from the dictionary
28

meaning. This shows that student A and B know the meaning of its root word,

“survive” but were unaware of its meaning when the word’s form is changed by

substituting final sound from “-e” to “-al”.

(b) Item (3): “independent”

Student Response

Question Yes No

Do you know what the words 91% 9%


“independent” means?
Table 4-3: Student response on the word “independent”

The response in item (3) shows that up to 91% of the participants know what the

word “dependent” means and only 9% did not know what it means. The following

are selected subjective responses from the participants regarding the meaning of

“independent”.

Student Meaning of “independent”

A “not controlled by another person”

B “does not depend on others”

C “someone who can do something by their own self”

D “not dependent on or controlled by (other person or things)”

E “working hard without any help from others”


29

Table 4-4: Students’ meaning of the word “independent”

As stated in Macmillan English Dictionary: For Advanced Learners (2003),

“independent” means “not depending on other people for money”. It also refers to

“one being able to stand on one’s own without support from others.

(C) Item (4): “resourceful”

Student Response

Question Yes No

Do you know what the words 64% 36%


“resourceful” means?
Table 4-5: Student response on the word “resourceful”

The response in item (4) shows that 64% of the participants know what the word

“resourceful” means and the remaining 36% did not know what it meant.

Student Meaning of “resourceful”

A “menggunakan balik dan mnjadikan lebih baik”

B “able to make something out of nothing”

C “banyak kegunaan”

D “good or quick at finding”

E “clever.”

Table 4-6: Students’ meaning of the word “resourceful”


30

4.2 Teacher Classroom Observation

The observation is done by the teacher during the selected lessons in Sekolah

Menengah A, Kota Kinabalu. The observation is guided by a checklist, as stated in

Chapter 3 and can be referred in Appendix (x).

4.2.1 Lesson 1: Robinson Crusoe, 24th July 2009 (refer to Appendix)

Title: Robinson Crusoe Class: Form 2 A

Date: 24th July 2009 Time: 5.05 – 5.45 pm

This lesson recaps on what students have read about Robinson Crusoe and the main

character of the story, Robinson Crusoe. Students are given passages taken from

the story. The teacher introduces 3 words: survival, independent and resourceful.

The students are then divided into groups. Their task: was to think of items which

could be useful for Robinson Crusoe when he was stranded on an island. The

product of their discussion will be presented by the end of the lesson.


31

No. Student Behaviour During Lesson Tick Where Comments


Applicable
1 At the beginning of the lesson: • Some students have not
finished reading the novel.
a) Students understood instructions Some time has to be set aside
given by the teacher. to give a brief run through the
novel.
b) Students demonstrate familiarity
with the text.

2 During reading and discussion: • There was no question asked


regarding text content.
a) Students ask questions regarding the
material given. • There was a number of words
need clarifying.
b) Students ask questions regarding
difficult words during the reading • Students provide examples for
activity. each introduced word based on
the passage.
c) Students ask for further clarification
of the material given.
d) Students are able to provide their
opinion on the reading materials
3 During student presentation: • Students presented several
vital items: mobile phone,
a) Students exhibit understanding of knife and food. Most of the
topic. students agreed that they
would prefer that he would
b) Students’ presentation product / have a mobile phone with him.
summary / answers demonstrate
their understanding of what is • The students mentioned how
required by the task. important the items in keeping
Robinson Crusoe alive.
c) Students are able to use the words
taught / students are able to elicit
words that are not included in the
lesson.
4 At the end of the lesson: • The students mentioned how
important the items in keeping
a) Students used to the words Robinson Crusoe alive.
introduced to summarize what they
learned.
b) Students summarize what they
learned using their own words.

Table 4-7: Observation Checklist: Lesson 1


32

During the presentation session of the lesson, the students presented

several items, which they thought necessary for Robinson Crusoe who is stranded

on an island. The items were: mobile phones, a knife, food and friends. The group

which chose mobile phones explained that it can be used to call for help or send

text messages to family, friends and loved ones. Groups which chose a knife as

something they hoped Robinson Crusoe would have explained that it is important

for self-defense and cutting things necessary for survival. Friends were chosen

because they believe it is necessary to have company on a deserted island. Finally,

a group chose food because food is a basic need to stay alive.

The product of their discussion is important in determining whether the

teaching or introduction of key vocabulary have any impact towards the outcome of

the class activity. Out of the three words, “survival” has been indicated as the

primary key vocabulary item which has contributed towards the outcome of the

students’ discussion. There was little or no mention of the other two words

introduced, “independent” and “resourceful”.


33

4.2.2 Lesson 2: Chapter 13: Our Natural Heritage, 3rd September 2009

(refer to Appendix)

Title: Chapter 13: Our Green Heritage Class: Form 2 A

Date: 3rd September 2009 Time: 4.00 – 5.05 pm

This lesson introduces 3 words: poisonous, venomous and toxic. The

students are given a passage titled “The World’s Most Poisonous Is Not a Snake,

Spider, Centipede, Jellyfish or Scorpion”. The teacher will go through and discuss

the passage with the students. In this lesson, the teacher places great emphasis on

the three words (poisonous, venomous and toxic). The key vocabulary items are

the main focus of the entire passage and the lesson. It is estimated that the teacher

spent 25 minutes to explain the three key items, including other words the students

need clarification in the passage (such as defibrillation and lethal).

Next, the students will have to answer a few reading comprehension

questions, as Activity 1. Then, teachers will discuss along with the students. After

completing activity, students will write a summary of the passage using the main

ideas discussed earlier in the lesson.


34

No. Student Behaviour During Lesson Tick Where Comments


Applicable
1 At the beginning of the lesson: • Students begin silent reading,
some students began asking
c) Students understood instructions questions on how to
given by the teacher. pronounce words such
defibrillation and lethal.
d) Students demonstrate familiarity
with the text. • The students were unfamiliar
of the topic of the passage.
2 During reading and discussion: • Students generally accept and
insist that toxic, poisonous and
e) Students ask questions regarding the venomous have the same
material given. meaning, (“…benda /
binatang beracun”).
f) Students ask questions regarding
difficult words during the reading • Teacher revealed the
activity. dictionary meaning, students
question on whether hairy
g) Students ask for further clarification caterpillars are venomous or
of the material given. poisonous.
h) Students are able to provide their
opinion on the reading materials
3 During exercise activity: • Students are eliciting answers
directly from the text.
d) Students exhibit understanding of
topic. • Students manage to
differentiate between
e) Students’ presentation product / poisonous and venomous, as
summary / answers demonstrate demonstrated in the discussion
their understanding of what is of Question 6 in Activity 1.
required by the task.
f) Students are able to use the words
taught / students are able to elicit
words that are not included in the
lesson.
4 At the end of the lesson: • Students were able to give
examples of poisonous and
c) Students used to the words venomous but the two words
introduced to summarize what they caused confusion when it
learned. asked about the word toxin.
d) Students summarize what they
learned using their own words.

Table 4-8: Observation Checklist: Lesson 2


35

In this lesson, the students learned a few words other than the intended vocabulary

items. This occurs because the text was taken from an authentic source. Those words

include “defibrillation”, “lethal”, “captivity” and “batrachotoxins”. During the silent

reading, three students inquired on how to pronounce the word “lethal” and

“defibrillation”.

During the while-teaching session, it is found out that most of the students agree

that venomous and poisonous have the same meaning, thus making both a synonym. The

teacher explains the distinction between the two. Then, the students asked a question: are

hairy caterpillars poisonous or venomous, in an attempt to clear their doubts between the

two.

The activity session involves a list of reading comprehension questions, labeled as

Activity 1, attached to the passage. The students answer the question based on the

passage, and then discussed the answers with the teacher. Student began to be able to

differentiate between “poisonous” and “venomous” based on Question 6 in Activity (Are

the frogs venomous?). However, by the end of the lesson, students were still confused

about the word “toxin” with the word “poison”. Post-lesson clarifications were made by

the teacher.
36

4.2.3 Lesson 3: Chapter: 12 Going Organic, 8th September 2009 (refer to

Appendix)

Title: Chapter 12: Going Organic Class: Form 2 A

Date: 8rd September 2009 Time: 3.00 – 4.00 pm

This lesson is based on a passage from the Form 2 English textbook. The

topic of the passage is Organic Farming. The teacher will have the students read

the passage silently. Then, teacher will discuss the passage along with the

students. The key vocabulary items introduced in this lesson is “organic, compost

and legumes”. After the discussion, the teacher will instruct the student s to form

groups and look for main ideas on “What is Organic Farming?” which will

include the three words mentioned. The student will draw a mind map and present

them in class.
37

No. Student Behaviour During Lesson Tick Where Comments


Applicable
1 At the beginning of the lesson: • Students begin silent reading,
some students began asking
e) Students understood instructions questions on how to
given by the teacher. pronounce the word legumes.
f) Students demonstrate familiarity • The students were familiar of
with the text. the topic of the passage.

2 During reading and discussion: • Students were able to guess


organic means (“...natural”),
i) Students ask questions regarding the compost was ambiguous and
material given. legumes was new to them.
j) Students ask questions regarding • Teacher revealed the
difficult words during the reading dictionary meaning, students
activity. were able to draw meaning of
compost, some confused it for
k) Students ask for further clarification compose.
of the material given.
l) Students are able to provide their
opinion on the reading materials
3 During discussion and presentation: • Students were able to extract
information from the passage
g) Students exhibit understanding of and present them in mind map
topic. form.
h) Students’ presentation product / • Based on the passage, the
summary / answers demonstrate students were able to relate the
their understanding of what is 2 out of 3 words (organic and
required by the task. compost) to organic farming.
i) Students are able to use the words
taught / students are able to elicit
words that are not included in the
lesson.
4 At the end of the lesson: • A majority of the students
were able to relate organic
e) Students used to the words and compost to organic
introduced to summarize what they farming.
learned.
f) Students summarize what they
learned using their own words.

Table 4-9: Observation Checklist: Lesson 3


38

This lesson is based on a passage found in the English Form 2 KBSM

textbook provided by the school. After the set induction, the teacher highlights 3

words in the passage (organic, compost, legume). The students were familiar with

the theme in the passage, because the topic is taught in other subjects such as

Science and Geography.

The students were familiar with the word “organic” and some of the

students who initially were not familiar were able to guess its meaning. The word

“compost” was confused with the word “compose” (as evident in a student’s

writing) but the difference was clarified later in the lesson. “Legumes” is found to

be a new word among the students.

The 3 words is introduced as input for their lesson activity. Students were instructed to

extract information from the passage (“Draw a mind-map to describe how to organic farming is

done”). The students were able to use two words as main ideas for the mind-map (“organic”,

“compost”). “Legumes” use was minimal because it was not an aspect of organic farming but

rather a product of organic farming.


39

4.3 Post-Lesson Questionnaire

4.3.1 Post-Lesson Questionnaire: Table of Percentage

Student Response

No Question Strongly Agree Don’t Disagree Strongly


Agree know Disagree

5 I knew the words in the lesson even before 25% 33% 42% 0% 0%
teacher taught me (10) (13)
(17) (0) (0)

6 I understood the passage/story 33% 50% 8% 8% 0%


(12) (20)
(4) (4) (0)

7 I understood the all the words in the 0% 50% 25% 25% 0%


passage/story (0) (20)
(10) (10) (0)

8 The words I learned help me understand 18 % 42% 25% 16% 0%


the story/passage/question (12) (17)
(10) (11) (0)

9 Learning the words make it easier for me 17% 65% 0% 18% 0%


to do the exercises/activities given by (11) (27)
teacher (0) (12) (0)

Table 4-10: Item 5,6,7,8 and 11: Table of Percentage

Item 5 show that 58% of the students know the key vocabulary items even before the

lesson takes place. The remaining 42% indicates that the students are either unsure whether they

confidently knew the words or they did not know what the word means before the lesson takes

place.
40

In Item 6, 33% of the students strongly agree and 50% agree that they understood the

passage/story that they have read for the lesson. 8% of the students responded are unsure and

another 8% responded that they did not understood the passage/story they have to read for the

lesson.

The response in Item 7 show that 17% of the students strongly agree and 42% percent

agree they understood the all vocabulary item central to the given passage/story. 25% of the

students are unsure that they understood all and 25% responded that they did not understood all

of the words in the given text.

Item 8 shows that 17% of the students strongly agree and 42% agree that the teaching of

key vocabulary items have helped them understand the given text better. 25% of the students are

unsure and another 17% disagree that the teaching of key vocabulary items at the beginning of

the lesson facilitated their understanding of the given passages and stories.

In Item 9, a majority of the students agree that the learning of the key vocabulary items

helped them in completing the exercise of the students (17% strongly agree, 67% students). 17%

students disagree that the learning of key vocabulary items have any significantly positive impact

in completing exercises and task given by the teacher.

4.3.2 Post-Lesson Questionnaire: Table of Median, Min and Mode

The following table of percentage uses the following scale as a point of reference:

5 – Strongly Agree, 4 – Agree, 3 – Don’t know, 2 – Disagree, 1 – Strongly Disagree


41

Student Response

No Question Median Mode Min Mean

5 I knew the words in the lesson even 3.5 3 5 4


before teacher taught me
6 I understood the passage/story 4.5 4 2.5 3.25

7 I understood the all the words in the 3.5 4 2.5 3.25


passage/story

8 The words I learned help me 3.5 4 2.5 3.25


understand the story/passage/question
9 Learning the words make it easier for 3.5 4 2.5 3.25
me to do the exercises/activities given
by teacher
Table 4-11: Item 5,6,7,8 and 11: Table of Median, Mode, Min and Mean

Item (5) has a median of 3.5, which indicates the average response given by the students.

Its highest frequency is at 3 (Don’t Know) and its lowest frequency is at 5 (strongly agree).

Item (6) has a median of 4.5, shows that the majority of the respondents agree that they

understood the passage. The highest response is at 4 and the lowest is between 2 and 3.

Item (7), Item (8) and Item (9) have consistently similar median, mode, min and mean.

This could probably indicate the tendency of the respondents to choose their responses based on

the higher values (3 and above).


42

4.4 Student Interview

The following are the responses recorded from the sample population in an interview.

4.4.1 The Teaching of Key Vocabulary Items in the Beginning of Lesson

i. “I agree because it helps me understand what teacher is saying.”

ii. “Not all words are new to me. I already know most of the words but don’t

understand the words really well. I know what to expect in the lesson”.

iii. “Not always at the beginning. Sometimes we can ask teacher when we

don’t know the meaning when we are reading the paper teacher give us”.

iv. “I agree because I learn a lot of new words from teacher, even when I

don’t understand what teacher is teaching”.

The responses above show that some of the students feel that teaching vocabulary

does not necessarily have to be in the beginning of the lesson. The reason behind this is

that they felt free to ask if there were any clarification needed. Some students already

knew what the some of the words meant even before the lesson takes place

4.4.2 The Effect of Teaching Key Vocabulary on Reading Prescribed Text

i. “I like it because it helps me understand the paper teacher ask me to read”


43

ii. “yes, I can read and understand than if teacher did not teach me the

words”

iii. “Sometimes, teacher give us difficult papers so it helps me understand the

paper when I read it”

iv. “It makes reading easier”

The above suggests that the students agree that the teaching of vocabulary

have an impact on understanding the texts given by the teacher. Vocabulary has a

positive impact on the students reading ability.

4.4.3 The Effect of Teaching Key Vocabulary on Reading Comprehension Activity

i. “Only if the questions/tasks involve the words teacher give us”

ii. “It helps us because how do we know what to do if we don’t know what the

word means?”

iii. “Knowing the words help me know what I must look for in the questions”

iv. “I don’t know. I think fifty fifty”.

The above response shows that the teaching of key vocabulary item have a

positive impact on their ability in reading comprehension activity. A student

pointed out that the reading comprehension ability is improved only when the key

vocabulary items is closely related to the tasks they have to perform.


44

4.5 Discussion of Findings

4.5.1 Pre-test Questionnaire

The pre-test questionnaire in Chapter 4 investigates on the students’ vocabulary

knowledge on a number of selected words based on lesson 1 (refer to Chapter 4 or

appendix). Out of the three words, “survival” is the most known word as all students

responded that they know what they word means. However, according to five respondents

selected to give their definition of the word, only 3 out of 5 of the respondent had the

accurate or closest to the correct definition of the word survival. Based on the responses, it

can concluded that the students had the knowledge of its root word “survive” but they are

unaware the difference in meaning when the final sound is substituted from /e/ to /al/. The

change of the final sound changes the word from a verb to a noun.

However, such inaccuracy is known as errors. According to Lightbown and Spada

(2006), errors are not the result of the learners incompetency. It is the result of the learners

system of learning and developing knowledge of the target language – in this case, the

English Language. Lightbown and Spada also pointed out that people tend to see this kind

of language as the incorrect version of the target language. The students’ definition of

“survival” is the result of generalization. Since “survive” and “survival” are highly

similar in sound, the students’ assume the meanings are more or less the same.

For the next word, “independent”, 91% of the students responded that they knew

what the word means. The five selected respondents gave acceptable meanings of the

word “independent”. For the third word, “resourceful”, the number of students who are

not familiar with word is the most of all three words in the questionnaire. In an anecdotal
45

response during the related lesson, the students’ reason for their response the word is

unfamiliar because it is seldom used.

4.5.2 Teacher Classroom Observation

The first lesson (Lesson 1 - Robinson Crusoe) is observed as a controlled

lesson. It contains an introduction of vocabulary central to the lesson topic but

there was less emphasis on them compared to the other lesson observed. What was

observed during the presentation of the activity phase shows that the students

presented items that are not central to what Robinson Crusoe might need but to

what they think might need to survive. This occurrence can be attributed to unclear

instruction from the teacher’s part. Moreover, the activity involves very little or

none of the other words.

Even so, the vocabulary introduced in the lesson is central to passage given

to the students. However, the impact on the outcome of the activity was minimal.

There is an exception to this from the group that chose a knife as their item of

choice. The group related their choice to the word “resourceful” because they

thought that it had many practical uses on a deserted island. Despite the ability of

this group to relate more than one out of three words in their presentation, it is still

not substantial enough to say because only one out of six groups manage to do so.

The second lesson (Lesson 2 - Our Natural Heritage) has a greater

emphasis on vocabulary than the previous one. The selected passage contains a

saturated amount of new vocabulary for the students – according to their anecdotal
46

response during class. They explained their unfamiliarity with the words as “high

level words” or words that they expect to be introduced when they reach upper

secondary level. The vocabulary includes words such as defibrillation, lethal and

batrachotoxin. Their comments were proven to be substantial because these words

are not included in the yearly teaching scheme and also not state in the vocabulary

list found in “Huraian Sukatan Pelajaran Bahasa Inggeris Tingkatan 2”.

Evidently, the activity in Lesson 2 did strongly reflect how the students

perform based on the vocabulary they learn at the beginning of the lesson. This

can be seen in Activity 1 Question 5 and Question 6 (refer to appendix).

Knowledge of the text can be evaluated through the students answer in Question 6:

“Are the frogs venomous? Why?”. “Venomous” means animals who deliver

poison through injection, sting or bite meanwhile “poisonous” is the presence of

toxin in an animal. The students ability to correctly answer this question depends

their ability to associate the frog as being poisonous and what it meant being

venomous – namely, being able to distinct between the two.

In Lesson 3 (Chapter 12: Going Organic), the role of the key vocabulary

is to help students draw out main ideas from the passage to be used in their

discussion and presentation. Their task is to state the features of organic farming.

In this lesson, it is observed that the teaching vocabulary does not only help

students understand (or comprehend) reading materials but also gives them focus

for the task given. From their presentation, it can be observed that teaching the

students the meaning of “organic” has helped them complete the task given –
47

“draw a mindmap on features of organic farming”. Students understood that

“organic” means generally means “natural and without chemicals” when referred

to the passage in the textbook and therefore able to relate “compost” and crop

rotation as organic farming.

4.5.3 Post-Lesson Questionnaire

Based on Item (5), it is evident from median that a majority of response

suggests that the students know the key vocabulary items before it is taught in the

lesson. This can also be seen in the percentage table where a total 58% of the

students inclined to agree with the statement.

As a result, Item (6) indicate a total percentage of 83% of the students

agree that they understood the passage given, while 8% are unsure and the

remaining 8% disagrees. Therefore, the results in Item (5) are valid based on the

results in Item (6).

In Item (7), half of the students responded that they understood every word

in the passage given, meanwhile 25% are unsure and 25% disagrees. This shows

that even if a majority of the students knew the key vocabulary items prior to the

lesson, there are still new words to be learned from the given passages. This

finding can be supported by the observation in Lesson 2 where students asked for

clarification on words that are not a part of the key vocabulary in the lesson, such

as, “defibrillation” and “lethal”.


48

The inclinations in Item (8) shows a majority of the students agree that

vocabulary teaching helped them understand the given passage better meanwhile

25% are unsure and 17% disagrees. In relation to Item (5), their knowledge of

vocabulary prior to the lesson could have contributed to the percentage in this

item.

Item (9) shows that a huge majority of the respondents (up to 82% percent

combined) agreed that the key vocabulary taught have contributed in their

performance during completing exercises and tasks in the lesson. The numbers

suggests that the teaching of vocabulary have positive impact on the students

reading comprehension performance.

4.5.4 Student Interview

The respondents have agreed that learning key vocabulary items in the

beginning of the lesson have a positive impact in their learning but none of them

gave a direct connection between the learning of those words and their

performance in later classroom activities. Furthermore, a respondent suggests that

the learning of vocabulary should not necessarily take place in the beginning of a

lesson as they are free to enquire whenever clarification is needed.

In the second item in the interview, all respondents agree that the teaching

vocabulary items in the lesson have helped improve their reading performance

during the lesson. One of them suggests that one of the passage given to them was
49

unfamiliar. Therefore, the key vocabulary taught had a positive impact on their

reading ability.

The last item in the interview reveals that the primary contribution of the

key vocabulary during the activity was not understand of the reading material but

it provides them direction and focus on how to approach the reading tasks given.

A respondent suggests that the vocabulary helps only if it is involved with what is

needed in the task given. In addition, another respondent states that their

performance in the activity is improved because they were able to comprehend the

reading material firsthand before doing the tasks given.

4.6 Student Interview

In order to evaluate the implications of the findings to this research, it is important to

reflect on the research questions stated in Chapter 1 of this research.

4.6.1 Can Pre-teaching Vocabulary in the Early Stages of a Lesson Enhance

Students’ Reading Comprehension in Later Activities?

The hypothesis of this research states that the pre-teaching of vocabulary in

the early stages of a lesson can enhance students’ reading comprehension in later

activities of the lesson. Based on the findings in the observations, it is found that this

hypothesis is true but if a certain condition is met. The condition that must be met is

that the activity must be dependent on the vocabulary item that is taught. This is

evident from the observation in Lesson 3 where the students understanding of the
50

word “organic” help give them pointers on what main ideas they need to find in the

given passage. Referring to the post-lesson questionnaire Item (5), a majority of the

students know the meaning of the key vocabulary prior to the lesson. This means that

they may know or understand the passage as a whole but the teaching of vocabulary

has helped provide focus and direction for the activities later in the lesson, as evident

in Lesson 3.

4.6.2 Which Aspect of Vocabulary Had the Best Effect on Students’ Reading

Performance?

In the findings, there no elaborate data that indicate which aspect of

vocabulary had the best effect on the students’ reading performance. Most of the

lesson focuses primarily on the literal meaning, or dictionary meaning, of the key

vocabulary items. Nevertheless, there are indications that the context of a word also

helps improve their reading comprehension performance. As revealed in the third

item in the student interview, the teaching of vocabulary improved their reading

comprehension provide them the context, in addition to comprehension, in their

approach towards the reading material before performing the tasks given by the

teaching. This shows that the context, in addition to its literal meaning, help guide

the students in approaching the reading material and tasks they are require to

perform.
51

4.6.3 Can Students’ Reading Comprehension Performance Be Effected Through

Vocabulary-based Task and Activities?

The hypothesis that the students’ reading comprehension performance can be

effected through vocabulary-based task and activities can be substantiated in the

observation of Lesson 3 and the third item in the students’ interview. The emphasis

on vocabulary have been found to not only improve comprehension but also serve as

a guide on how to approach reading comprehension tasks.

4.7 Summary

In this chapter, the data analysis begins with the pre-lesson test and the followed by

the report of the lesson observation. The lesson observation is done according to a checklist

where the student behaviour during the lesson is recorded. The checklist is divided into 4

sections: (1) At the beginning of the lesson, (2) During reading and discussion, (3) During

presentation/tasks/exercises and (4) At the end of the lesson. Then, the post-lesson

questionnaire, which consists of 5 questions, is presented in a table of percentage and a

table of median, mode and min. These tables reveal the pattern of response among students

towards the questionnaire. Finally, a summary of the interview is presented and it consists

of 3 major points: what students think about teaching vocabulary at the beginning of a

lesson, what effect does it have on their reading ability and what effect does teaching
52

vocabulary have on their ability to perform the reading comprehension activities given by

the teacher.
53

CHAPTER 5: RECOMMENDATION AND CONCLUSION

5.0. Introduction

This previous chapter summarizes and discusses on the findings in Chapter 4 and present

recommendations based on the discussion. The summary and discussion will focus on the

patterns of response found in the findings. Then, the recommendation are made based the

discussion and on how to improve the reading comprehension through the teaching of

vocabulary. After presenting the recommendation, the objectives, findings and recommendations

will be concluded by the end of this chapter.

5.1. Recommendations

Based on the findings found and discussion made in this research, there are revealed

insights on teaching vocabulary to improve reading comprehension. This subchapter

presents several recommendations on how teacher can improve practice in improving reading

comprehension performance through vocabulary teaching.

5.1.1. Implementation of Vocabulary Instruction in Reading Comprehension

Students’ reading comprehension performance can be improved through

proper vocabulary instruction. Based on the research findings, it is recommended


54

that the vocabulary instruction to be done in the beginning of a lesson. This can

help introduce the lesson topic and help students understand the reading material

used during the lesson.

Other than that, when selecting the vocabulary items to be included in the

instruction, it is important to make sure that the vocabulary item must be related or

central to the exercise, tasks and classroom activity. As evident in the findings

gathered from classroom observations and student interview, the introduction of

key vocabulary items can help provide focus and direction for students to perform

activities and find main ideas in a reading material.

5.1.2. The Use of Semantic Mapping

Semantic mapping is a visual strategy used in teaching to expand

vocabulary and word knowledge by displaying a category of words which are

related to each other. Masters, Mori & Mori (1993) define the technique as “used

to motivate and involve students in the thinking, reading and writing aspects. It

enhances vocabulary development by helping the students link new information

with previous experiences”. The following is the instructional sequence proposed

by Master, Mori and Mori:

a. Select a word central to the topic.

b. Display the target word.

c. Invite students to generate as many words as possible that relate to

the target words.


55

d. Have the students write the generated words in categories.

e. Have students label the categories.

f. From this list, construct a mindmap.

g. Lead the class in a discussion that focuses on identifying meanings

and uses of words, clarifying ideas, highlighting major conclusions,

identifying key elements, expanding ideas and summarizing

information.

In teaching reading comprehension and for purpose of research such as

this, the use of semantic mapping is not only useful in expanding ideas and

vocabulary development but it is also useful in evaluating the students vocabulary

knowledge.

Diagram 3: Semantic map of transportation (taken from

http://www.kidbibs.com/images/semantic.gif)
56

5.2. Conclusion

This research has provided insights in the aspect of vocabulary instruction in

improving students’ reading comprehension performance. They include the positive effects

of vocabulary teaching towards reading comprehension performance and how can

vocabulary knowledge contribute positively in their performance. It is found that vocabulary

instruction not only just help students improve their reading and their ability to understand

reading materials, but also help guide them in their approach towards the material and a

variety of possible task related to the reading material such as answering questions,

discussion and extracting main ideas.

Finally, I hope that this research would not stop here and I believe it can be made

better if it is conducted as an action research in the future. It is hoped that product of this

research are able provide relevant information and as a guide for language teachers in

developing effective instruction to improve reading comprehension performance among their

students.
57

Bibliography

1. Calixto, B.J. (2007) The Gap Between Vocabulary Knowledge and Reading

Comprehension in a Foreign Language. Retrieved from: [http://e-

revista.unioeste.br/index.php/expectativa/article/download/85/675] on November 10th,

2009.

2. Chitravelu, Sithaparam, The Soo Choon (2005) ELT Methodology Principles and Practice

(2nd. Ed). Shah Alam: Penerbitan Fajar Bakti.

3. Hirsch, Jr. (2003) Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge – of the Words and the

World. The American Educator. Retrieved from: [http://www2.nutn.edu.tw/randd/post/38-

1/%E8%AE%80%E7%9F%A5%E8%AD%98.pdf\] on November 10th, 2009.

4. McQuirter, R. (2007) Word Study and Reading Comprehension: Implications for

Instructions. Brock University Canada, Faculty of Education. Retrieved from:

[http://www.edu.gov.on.ca/eng/research/mcquirter.pd] on November 10th, 2009.

5. Schoenbach, Greenleaf, Cziko et al (2003) What is Reading?: An Excerpt for Reading and

Understanding. Retrieved from: [http://www.indiana.edu/~reading/ieo/digests/d126.html]

on November 10th, 2009.

6. Shanker, J.L (2009) Locating and Correcting Reading Difficulties. Pearson Education.

Retrieved from: [http://www.education.com/reference/article/developing-vocabulary-

knowledge/] on November 10th, 2009.


58

7. Shereen Maher Salah (2008) The Relationship Between Vocabulary Knowledge and

Reading Comprehension of Authentic Arabic Texts. Brigham Young University. Retrieved

from: [http://e-revista.unioeste.br/index.php/expectativa/article/download/85/295] on

November 10th, 2009.

8. Thornbury, T. (2003) Teaching Vocabulary (3rd Ed). Nottingham, Pearson Publishing Ltd.

9. Wallace, C. (2003) Reading : Oxford University Press.


59

APPENDICES

(5) APPENDIX A: Pre-Test Instrument

(6) APPENDIX B: Observation Checklist

(7) APPENDIX C: Post-Test Instrument

(8) APPENDIX D: Lesson Plans and reading materials.


60

APPENDIX A: Pre-Test Instrument

Pre-Test Instrument

1. Have you read the novel before? (Yes/No)


2. Did you finish reading the novel? (Yes/No)
3. Do you know the meaning of these words? If yes, state the meaning of the words:
a. Survive / Survival:________________________________________
b. Independent: ____________________________________________
c. Resourceful:_____________________________________________

Please indicate, with (/), your response to the statement below

No. Item Strongly Agree Don’t Disagree Strongly


Agree Know Disagree
1 I fully understand what the words
above means
2 I understood the story in the novel
3 I find the novel difficult to
understand
4 I am able to relate the lessons in the
story in my life
5 I learned a lot of new words from the
novel
6 I fully understood the meaning of the
new words I learned.
61

APPENDIX B: Observation Checklist

Observation Checklist

No. Form of Student Behaviour During Tick Where Comments


Lesson Applicable
1 At the beginning of the lesson:
g) Students understood instructions
given by the teacher.
h) Students demonstrate familiarity
with the text.

2 During reading and discussion:


m) Students ask questions regarding
the material given.
n) Students ask questions regarding
difficult words during the reading
activity.
o) Students ask for further clarification
of the material given.
p) Students are able to provide their
opinion on the reading materials
3 During student presentation:
j) Students exhibit understanding of
topic.
k) Students’ presentation product /
summary / answers demonstrate
their understanding of what is
required by the task.
l) Students are able to use the words
taught / students are able to elicit
words that are not included in the
lesson.
4 At the end of the lesson:
g) Students used to the words
introduced to summarize what they
learned.
h) Students summarize what they
learned using their own words.
62
63

APPENDIX C: Post-Test Instrument

Post-Test Instrument (for Robinson Crusoe)

1. Do you remember the meaning of these words? If yes, state the meaning of the words:

a. Survive / Survival:________________________________________
b. Independent: ____________________________________________
c. Resourceful:_____________________________________________

Please indicate, with a tick, your response to the statement below

No. Item Strongly Agree Disagree Strongly


Agree Disagree
1 I fully understand what the words above
means
2 I already know what the words mean even
before the lesson
3 I find the introduction of the words at the
beginning of the lesson helpful in
understanding the passage given
4 I understood the story in the passage

5 I find the passage hard to understand

6 I find the words introduced helpful in our


group presentation
7 The words the teacher introduced in the
beginning of the lesson tells me what the
passage is all about.
8 The words the teacher introduced in the
beginning of the lesson tells me what I am
supposed to learn.

Control Group Pre-Test Instrument (for non-literature texts)


64

1. Do you know the meaning of these words? If yes, state the meaning of the words:
a. Venomous:________________________________________
b. Poisonous: ____________________________________________
c. Predator:_____________________________________________
Please indicate, with a tick, your response to the statement below

No. Item Strongly Agree Disagree Strongly


Agree Disagree
1 I have heard of the words state above before the lesson.

2 I fully understand what the words above means

3 I understand what the passage is all about

4 I find the answering the given questions difficult


65

Post-Test Instrument (for Non-Literature Text)

1. Do you remember the meaning of these words? If yes, state the meaning of the words:

a. Venomous:________________________________________
b. Poisonous: ____________________________________________
c. Predator:___________________________________________

Please indicate, with a tick, your response to the statement below

No. Item Strongly Agree Disagree Strongly


Agree Disagree
1 I fully understand what the words above means

2 I already know what the words mean even before the


lesson
3 I find the teacher’s explanation of the words useful

4 I find the introduction of the words at the beginning of


the lesson helpful in understanding the passage given
5 I find the passage hard to understand

6 I find the words introduced helpful in our group


presentation / exercise activities
7 The words the teacher introduced in the beginning of
the lesson tells me what the passage is all about.
8 The words the teacher introduced in the beginning of
the lesson tells me what I am supposed to learn.
66

Text 2

The world’s most poisonous animal is not a snake, spider,


centipede,
cen tipede, jellyfish or scorpion.
scorpion.
The most poisonous animal is neither of the above. Actually, it’s a little frog,
measuring max 2 inches in length.

Now, most frogs produce skin toxins, but the dart poison frogs from Central and
South America are the most potent of all. But the king among all them all is the golden
poison frog, scientifically called “phyllobates terribilis.” A single terribilis contains enough
poison to kill up to 100 people. In case you think this is a typo, I really meant one
hundred!

Would you want to argue that it is definitely the most poisonous animal on Earth?

It is so toxic that even touching its skin can be dangerous. Certain death is
guaranteed if you touch the tip of your tongue on its skin.

Its skin is the main source of poison hunting darts used by the Choco Embera
people in Colombia’s rainforest. They get the poison by wiping heated darts on the frogs’
backs. The poison on the darts remains lethal for 2 years.
So how does the poison kill? Its skin contains batrachotoxins, which “prevents nerves
from transmitting impulses, leaving the muscles in an inactive state of contraction. This
can lead to heart failure or fibrillation.”

Even if you don’t see it around, it could still kill – the poison lasts long after the
frog has left the area; chickens and dogs have died from contact with a paper towel that
the frog had walked on.

Interestingly, it does not actually produce the toxins itself. It gets it from its
natural diet, apparently some kind of beetle, which in turn got it from some plant. Hence
these frogs are harmless when bred in captivity.

Aren’t you glad this frog does not live in Malaysian jungles?
67

Activity 1

1. What is the most poisonous animal in the world?

2. The poison frog is very useful to the Choco Embera people. What is it used for?

3. How does the frog’s poison kills?

4. Where do the frogs get their poison?

5. Are the frogs still dangerous if it was bred in laboratories? Why?

6. Are the frogs venomous? Why?

Activity 2

Write a summary on: why is the golden poison frog is the most poisonous animal? You

can use the sentence below to start your summary.

“The world’s most poisonous animal is called the golden poison frog…”

The summary must be:

- less than 60 words.

- in a continuous paragraph