The Impact of Teaching Short Stories for the Sudanese English Foreign Language Learners’ Achievement of English Language
Abdelrazig Abdelghani Mahil Ibrahim
Posha Academy – Riyadh- Saudi Arabia
Abstract: This study aimed to investigating the effect of teaching short stories for Sudanese EFL Learners’ Achievement of English Language. The problem of the study was that, the researcher noticed that the aims of Sudan Practical Integrated National English Series (SPINE ) are not achieved since the students who finish the 6th textbooks of SPINE series can hardly write a paragraph or speak English freely, naturally and fluently, add to that the results of English Language Exams in Sudan Secondary Certificate are characterized by deterioration. This study adopted a quasi-empirical method. The sample of the study consisted of (68) male and female eighth basic students in Omdurman locality in the first term of the academic year 2016 / 2017.The population of the study was (204) students. The subjects of the study were distributed randomly into two groups in each one (34) (17 male and 17 female group as an experimental) and (17 male and 17 female as a control group). The experimental group was taught via student’s text book plus short stories strategy while the control group was taught via student’s textbook only. A pre/post-test was constructed to measure the students’ level in Language skills before and after the experiment. The study used recent statistical package to analyze the data. The results indicated statistically significant differences in students’ achievement in favour of the experimental group. Based on these results the researcher recommended that curricula designers, educators, and experts should adopt short stories or include at least short stories in syllabuses. There is an urgent need for training programs for teachers in the field of literature in general and short stories in particular. Simplified copies of short stories such as A Tale of Two Cities, the Black Tulip, Treasure Island, etc., are very much recommended as formal literary text.
Keywords: short story, language skills, curriculum, adopt, literature, acquisition
The art of teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) witnessed great changes throughout its history. Applied linguists and language teachers exerted a big effort establishing language teaching methods. However, every time, a language teaching method came, it did not work long but another one pursued it claiming much for itself while criticizing such a method as inadequate. This kind of criticism often forms a two-sided weapon. It provides some sort of assessment regarding the good sides of the method concerned. But criticism such as this often abruptly causes a language teaching method to go to the store of history even before having a complete turn. The Grammar Translation Method (GTM) was one of the early attempts of EFL teaching that is no longer used at present.
The GTM is based on the translation of literary texts of a second/foreign language into the native language. Thus, translation forms the main learning activity of this method where literary works represent notable sources of materials in EFL classrooms. One of the adequacies of the GTM is the use of literary texts that represent the most versatile, timeless and interesting material to be used in English language teaching, in any respect. These characteristics are arguably enough to prepare the GTM for prospective use. Furthermore, they can label literature as integral for understanding English grammar efficiently. However, the GTM was replaced by the Structural Approach (1960s-1970s) consequently literature was no longer used as a technique of language teaching. The Structural approach focused on the teaching of English grammar ignoring the content, interpretation of written word or style.
Thus, the Structural Approach dealt only with the teaching of English language structures (Brown 2000). Other approaches followed including the Direct Method, Audio-lingualism, Communicative Approach, task-based language learning, Total physical Response, the Silent Way, and the Natural Approach, etc. These approaches successively dominated ESL/EFL setting out different objectives of English teaching (Zainuddin, et al 2011). All through this history no formal effort has been exerted towards the involvement of literature in English language teaching. Linguists and language teachers who are interested in language teaching recently have started developing trends towards the teaching of English language through literature. These new trends probably take place due to research conclusions that point to literature as an effective technique for language teaching (Brumfit and Carter, 1986; Little and Wood, 2005 Alam 2002). Krashen (1982) states that as the themes of stories are popular and known everywhere in the world, such stories can function as a helpful filter enabling younger learners to learn a language fast. Kellem (2009) explains that teaching stylistic analysis of a literary text gives students a chance to illuminate the formal features of English grammar, etc
Short stories could be beneficial since literature has the quality of being universal and short stories will allow the teacher to deal with human problem. Arigol (2001as cited in Omid Pourkalhor, &Nasibeh Kohan,2013)
listed the following advantages for pedagogical advantages of short stories over other literary texts:
- Short stories makes the students’ reading task easier because it is simple and short.Give learners a better view of other people and other cultures.
- Requires more attention and analysis helps students to be more creative and raise the critical thinking skills.
- Raise cultural awareness.
- Reduce students’ anxiety and helps them feel more relax.
- Is good for multicultural contexts because of its universal language.
- Offers a fictional and interesting world.
There are several benefits of short stories including motivational, cultural and higher-order thinking benefits. Nevertheless, before instructors look at these benefits in more details, they need to be reminded of one benefit that all instructors should take advantage of, reinforcement of skills (Odilea Rocha Erkaya). Instructors using short story in their classes, utilized all four skills to their learners.
According to Collie and Slater (1991), short stories are practical as their length is long enough to cover entirely in one or two class hours. Second, short stories are not complicated for students to work with on their own. In addition, short stories can be used with all levels and all ages of learners as they appeal to different interests of learners. Ellis and Brewster (1991: pp. 1-2) confirm that “as stories are motivating and fun, they can help students develop positive attitudes towards the foreign language and enrich their learning experiences”.
Significance of the study:
This study is considered significant for a number of reasons:
- The results of this study should be of great importance to curriculum designers because they are expected to draw their attention to a very rich content to design an integrative syllabus and authentic activities that link students to real life situations.
- The results are also important for students because will learn the four English language skills and sub-skills in authentic integrative way.
Problem statement and objectives of the study:
The researcher, who used to teach SPINE series for the last seventeen years noticed that the aims of SPINE series are not achieved, and nobody would claim that the central aims of SPINE which are indicated above in the introduction are achieved. Furthermore, there are general indicators that support the deterioration in English language level among the students one of these indicators is that the rate of failure in English in the Sudanese Secondary School Exam in 2008 has been as high as 21% although the exam content is copied from the SPINE textbook. In addition to that students who finish the 6th textbooks of SPINE series can hardly write a paragraph or speak English freely, naturally and fluently, even the most talented students cannot speak or write English out of the need for their study, add to that the results of English Language Exams in Sudan Secondary Certificate are characterized by deterioration. The results of these examinations reflect “poor English or no English at all.” (Al Busiri, 2008). So, the researcher believes that the SPINE series is not enough to enable the pupils to use English freely, naturally and fluently, so it is believed that using short stories may solve the problems above; such kind of short stories may help students to discuss ideas and issues they can see related to their own lives.
Questions of the study:
Based on the objectives of the study, researcher attempted to answer the following questions:
1-Are there any significant differences in the achievement level of students in the pre and posttest that attributed to the strategy of using short stories?
2- Do short stories widen students’ acquisition of English Language?
The main aim of this study is to:
- Explore whether using short stories gives significant influence (s) on the students’ achievement level in English Language skills or not.
- Explore the effectiveness of teaching short stories in reinforcing the English Language skills of the students.
Limitations and of the study:
This study will be limited to the following aspects:
- one short story to be taught to the experimental group at AL-Ma’arif school for girls in Omdurman Locality in the first term for the academic school year 2016 – 2017.
- The program will last into two months, two classes weekly. Moreover, this study is restricted to the eighth basic grade at AL-Ma’arif basic school for boys and girls in Omdurman Locality.
- It also examined the effective learning of English language via short stories as an independent treatment, and the traditional method of teaching English language program which lacks this kind of literature intervention.
Selection of stories:
The use of short-story in English teaching should be aimed to encourage the students to use what they have previously learnt. By doing this, the learning process will be student-centered. However, the teacher plays a great role. She/he must choose a suitable text to use in class, and should help her/his students understand the story with various activities.
In using short stories to teach English, story selection is indeed one of the most important roles of the teacher. Since the lengths of short-stories quite vary, choose a story short enough to handle within course hours. The shortness of the text is important for the students because they will see that they can read, understand and finish something in English, and it will give the students a feeling of achievement and self-confidence. Besides the length, Hill (1994, p. 15) recommends considering three other criteria in story selection:
- The needs and abilities of the students.
- The linguistic and stylistic level of the text.
- The amount of background information required for a true appreciation of the material.
Spack (1985) suggests that the interest value of the story be also considered. McKay (2001) and Rivers (1981) point out that students read and enjoy a text if the subject-matter is relevant to their life experience and interests. Similarly, Loukia (2006) recommends choosing stories with appropriate language level (vocabulary, structures), content (interesting, fun, motivating, memorable, encourages participation), motivation (develop imagination, arouse curiosity, draw on personal experience), and one that has language learning in terms of potential for skills development, language practice, recycling, and learning the target and other cultures.
This is an empirical and analytical study its aim is to investigate the effect of teaching short stories on learners’ Achievement of English Language in the Sudan basic schools in the academic school year 2016 – 2017.
Study population and sampling:
The population of this study is all students in grade eighth at AL-Ma’arif basic schools for boys and girls (204) students. The sample of the study consisted of (68) students chosen randomly from AL-Ma’arif school for boys and girls (Omdurman Locality) in the first term from the academic school year 2016- 2017.The students were divided randomly into two groups (17 male and 17 female as an experimental group) which consisted of (34) students and was taught by student’s textbook plus a short story (A tale of Two Cities) and (17 male and 17 female as a control group) which consisted of (34) students and was taught by using the student’s textbook only.
The data of this study has been obtained by using pre and posttest.
The content of this test was unit (1) and unit (2) from the student’s textbook Spine (3). The pretest was administered to measure the students’ level in English Language skills before conducting the experiment. On the other hand, a posttest was given after the experiment to identify whether there is a significant effect in the students’ achievement level in English Language attributed to the use of short stories or not.
Validity of pre and posttest:
To ensure the validity of the pre and posttest a panel of three EFL teachers and five university professors were consulted, and their comments and recommendations were taken into consideration before editing the final copies of these copies.
Reliability of pre and posttest:
Cronbach’s alpha coefficient (it also known as the coefficient alpha technique) is a test of reliability as internal consistency (Cronbach, 1951). In order to determine whether the entire test is consistent, Cronbach Alpha was conducted to ensure the reliability of the pre and posttests. The higher the Alpha is, the more reliable the test is. Usually 0.7 and above is acceptable (Nunnally, 1978).
Table1. Reliability analysis and internal consistency Cronbach’s Alpha
|Items||Item-Total Correlation||Cronbach’s Alpha
if Item Deleted
|Give Short Answer||.300||.867|
|Match the Word||.476||.862|
|Fill-in the gaps||.598||.853|
|The correct Answer||.800||.842|
|Match(A) with (B)||.756||.845|
|Complete the dialogue||.658||.849|
The above table shows that how each item is correlated with the entire test and what the Alpha will be if that variable is deleted? For example, the seventh item is positively correlated with the total score. If it is deleted, the Alpha will be increased to be (0.868). Item (12) has the strongest correlation to the entire test.
Results and discussion:
- Distribution of passed and failed students for the control and experimental group:
Descriptive statistics of the sample involved in the study, including subjects’ pretest/posttest counts and corresponding percentages for control and experimental groups are given in table (2) and (3) by mode of presentation.
Table (2): Frequency distribution of passed and failed students for the control group (n=34)
|Give _Short Answer
|Draw a circle||Pass||No||31||33||64|
|Match the Word||Pass||No||18||19||37|
|Under line the odd word||Pass||No||32||32||64|
|Fill-in the gaps||Pass||No||21||22||43|
|Write the correct answer||Pass||No||29||22||51|
|Match (A) with (B)||Pass||No||25||29||54|
|Complete the dialogue||Pass||No||20||19||39|
Table (3): Frequency distribution of passed and failed students for the experimental group (n=34)
|Give _Short Answer
|Match the Word||Pass||No||23||26||49|
|Write Correct Answer||Pass||No||28||28||56|
The researcher used the t-test in this study because a t-test’s statistical significance indicates whether or not the difference between two groups’ averages most likely reflects a “real” difference in the population from which the groups were sampled.
Although the random assignment to the students in the two groups in this study, the pretest was administered in order to determine the students’ level in English Language before conducting.The comparability of the experimental and control groups at randomization is important , so in order to establish the comparability of the two groups routinely comes to mind Independent Samples test for comparison between groups, but we are not sure about the normality of the dependent variable to use Independent Samples as inferential statistics, so we must check the normality of the dependent variable (overall degrees) and conducting detection for the outliers.
Assessing normality and detection for outliers:
The below table shows the results from the two tests of normality, i.e. the Kolmogorov-Smirnov Test and the Shapiro-Wilk Test. The Shapiro-Wilk Test is more appropriate for small sample sizes (< 50 samples), but can also handle sample sizes as large as 2000. So, we will use the Shapiro-Wilk test as numerical means of assessing normality. As shown in the table that the significant value (p value) of the Shapiro-Wilk Test is below 0.05, indicating that the dependent variable “Overall degree or achievement” by the (experimental and control) groups was non-normally distributed. Hence the two group did not follow the normal distribution regarding the variable overall degree (normality violation). In the SPSS output (1) below we noticed that there are no outliers, and because the Shapiro-Wilk Test is more appropriate for small sample sizes (< 50 samples), we used the Shapiro-Wilk test as our numerical means of assessing normality and we can safely use the non-parametric test Mann-Whitney U test to check the comparability of the experimental and control groups.
Table (4): Mann-Whitney U test for the comparability of the experimental
and control groups in the pre-test average scores
|Groups||N||Mean Rank||Sum of Ranks|
|Mann-Whitney U =434.500, Wilcoxon W =1029.500, Z =-1.762, (2-tailed P value) = 0.078|
Due to its non-normal distribution of the two groups, the Mann-Whitney U test was used to check if the two groups were equivalent, and the analysis confirmed that there was no significant difference between them regarding the scores of the pre-test (U =434.500, p=.078) which indicating that the groups were equivalent. (Table 4).
- Are there any statically significant differences in the achievement level of basic students in English language that is attributed to the strategy of using short stories?
Assessing normality and detection for outliers
Conducting the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test to assess whether the achievement level of basic students in English language variable follow a (normal) distribution by the two groups (experimental and control) in the post test. The test statistics of Shapiro-Wilk and Kolmogorov-Smirnov tests were statistically significant for the experimental group indicating non normal distribution and insignificant for the control group indicting normal distribution. But compare the two groups it must be both normally distributed. So the two group did not follow the normal distribution regarding the variable overall degree (normality violation). In the SPSS output (1) below we noticed that there are no outliers and the two curves were not belled shaped, therefore we can safely use the non-parametric test Mann-Whitney U test to compare the two groups (experimental and control) in the post test achievement.
Table (5): Mann-Whitney U test for the comparison between the experimental
and control groups in the posttest achievement
|Groups||N||Mean Rank||Sum of Ranks|
|Mann-Whitney U =372.500, Wilcoxon W =967.000, Z =-2.531, (2-tailed P value) = 0.011|
The above table shows mean rank and sum of ranks for the two groups tested (i.e., experimental and control), the experimental group had the highest achievement because it was the group with the highest mean rank and regarding this results, it can be concluded that achievement level of basic students in English language was statistically significantly higher in the experimental group (which received the intervention program) than the control group (U = 372.500, p =.011, Table: 5). This finding indicates that there was statically significant difference in the achievement level of basic students in English language that is attributed to the strategy of using a literature-based syllabus which was effective in developing learners’ English language.
Q2: Do short stories widen students’ acquisition of English language?
This question can be answered by comparing the number of students in the two tested groups (control and experimental) who passed the English language achievement posttest successfully which was administered to the two groups. Table (6)
Table (6): Number of succeeded students in the posttest achievement in the two tested groups
|Give short Answer||32||34|
|Draw a circle||33||33|
|Match the word||19||26|
|Under line the odd word||32||33|
|Fill-in the gaps||22||29|
|Write the correct answer||22||28|
|Match (A) with (B)||29||31|
|Complete the dialogue||9||16|
As in table shown in table (6) and the figure below, there was a remarkable increasing in the number of students in the experimental group who passed the English language achievement posttest successfully comparing with the control group. So the answer for question is surely that short stories can widen students’ acquisition of English language by which they acquired the capacity to perceive and comprehend language, as well as to produce and use words and sentences to communicate.
Conclusion and Recommendations:
In the light of the results obtained from this study, it may be concluded that short stories play very significant role in teaching English Language for its great benefits that may serve a variety of learning purposes. The main aim of this study were: to explore whether using short stories gives significant
influence (s) on the students’ achievement level in English Language skills or not, and to explore the effectiveness of teaching short stories in reinforcing the English Language skills of student. The study followed an empirical and analytical method. The results of the study indicated statistically significant differences in students’ achievement in favour of the experimental group.
Recommendation for English Language curricula designers and educators:
Curricula designers and educators, and experts need to include short stories in syllabuses for their necessity and importance taking into consideration the level of students and the degree of difficulty, add to that there is an urgent need for training programs, courses, and workshops for the English Language teachers in the field of literature so that they can achieve the highest values, and finally the researcher recommended simplified copies of short stories such as A Tale of Two Cities, the Black Tulip, Great Expectations, Treasure Island, etc., are very much recommended as formal literary.
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هدفت هذه الدراسة إلى تقصي أثر استخدام القصص القصيرة على تحصيل دارسي اللغة الانجليزية كلغة أجنبية في السودان. واستخدمت الدراسة المنهج شبه التجريبي. وتكون مجتمع الدراسة من (204) طالباً وطالبةً. تكونت عينة الدراسة من (68 ) طالباً وطالبةً من طلاب الصف الثامن أساس في محلية أمدرمان في الفترة الدراسية الأولي للعام الدراسي 2016/2017 م تم توزيعهم إلى مجموعتين بواقع (34 ) لكل مجموعة (مجموعة تجريبية تتكون من 17 طالباً و17 طالبة ) و(مجموعة ضابطة تتكون من 17 طالباً و 17 طالبة ). دٌرست المجموعة التجريبية باستخدام مقرر اللغة الانجليزية زائدا القصة القصيرة، ودرست المجموعة الضابطة بواسطة مقرر اللغة الانجليزية فقط. خضعت المجموعتان: التجريبية والضابطة لاختبار قبلي وبعدي لقياس مستوى تحصيل الطلاب في مهارات اللغة الإنجليزية قبل وبعد التجربة. استخدمت الدراسة الحزم الإحصائية الحديثة لتحليل البيانات.
وأشارت نتائج الدراسة إلى وجود فروق ذات دلالة إحصائية في تحصيل الطلاب لصالح المجموعة التجريبية التي دُرست باستخدام استراتيجية القصصة القصيرة. بناءا على تلك النتائج قدم الباحث مجموعة من التوصيات منها: على مصممي المناهج والمربين والخبراء أن يتبنوا مناهج مبنية على القصص القصيرة أو إدخال القصص القصيرة في المناهج على أقل تقدير. هناك حاجة ماسة لإخضاع المعلمين لبرامج تدريبية في مجال تدريس الأدب بصورة عامة والقصص القصيرة على وجه الخصوص. وأخيراً أوصى الباحث باستخدام قصص قصيرة بطريقة مبسطة؛ فعلى سبيل المثال لا الحصر (حكاية مدينتين, الزنبقة السوداء, وجزيرة الكنز) كنصوص أدبية منهجية.
الكلمات المفتاحية :القصة القصيرة , المهارات اللغوبة , منهج , تتبني , الأدب , اكتساب.