The effect of literature response activities on student motivation in an american literature class at the Hanoi national university of education

Abstract. The author investigated the effect of using literature response activities when teaching American Literature to students who are majoring in English language at the Hanoi National University of Education. One class of English-major students studied American Literature in two phases. In phase 1 there were no literature response activities and in phase 2 there were literature response activities. It was seen that during the second phase, students were much more motivated to learn American Literature than during the first phase. On the basis of this observation, the author suggests some effective activities that teachers could present when teaching American Literature to English-major students.

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JOURNAL OF SCIENCE OF HNUE Interdisciplinary Science, 2013, Vol. 58, No. 5, pp. 150-158 This paper is available online at THE EFFECT OF LITERATURE RESPONSE ACTIVITIES ON STUDENT MOTIVATION IN AN AMERICAN LITERATURE CLASS AT THE HANOI NATIONAL UNIVERSITY OF EDUCATION Do Thi Phuong Mai Faculty of English, Hanoi National University of Education Abstract. The author investigated the effect of using literature response activities when teaching American Literature to students who are majoring in English language at the Hanoi National University of Education. One class of English-major students studied American Literature in two phases. In phase 1 there were no literature response activities and in phase 2 there were literature response activities. It was seen that during the second phase, students were much more motivated to learn American Literature than during the first phase. On the basis of this observation, the author suggests some effective activities that teachers could present when teaching American Literature to English-major students. Keywords: Literature response activities, American literature, motivation. 1. Introduction English language teaching in Vietnam in recent years has moved from the traditional approach to various versions of communicative approaches. Such has been the case in the teaching of Literature to EFL students. In the traditional approach, a teacher would give a lecture about a work of literature and give the students his interpretation of the content and value of the book. It is now thought that this might not be the best method of teaching in a language class. Consequently, a variety of other approaches and methods are now being used. One is the use of literature response activities. However, few studies have been done to show the usefulness of these activities in the classroom. Therefore, the author decided to do this research in order to evaluate the effect of literature response activities in American Literature classes on English–major student motivation at the Faculty of English, Hanoi National University of Education. Received May 19, 2012. Accepted January 2, 2013. Contact Do Thi Phuong Mai, e-mail address: maidtp@hnue.edu.vn 150 The effect of literature response activities on student motivation in an American Literature class... 2. Content 2.1. Reader Response theory and Literature response activities Reader response theory was first suggested by Rosenblatt (1938, [8;1978]). She proposed a radical view of how people derive meaning from what they read. The key features of her theory are the focus on readers’ psychological processes and literature being a means of promoting critical thinking and an openness to multiple perspectives. She believed that when experiencing literature, readers bring a wealth of emotion, experience and personal knowledge which provokes associations with words, images and ideas in the text. This in effect promotes open-mindedness, a foundation of democracy. Rosenblatt also described how a reader’s response is both individually and socially constructed. This accounts for the multiple and diverse responses within and between readers. Teaching literature should therefore be a delicate balance between eliciting personal responses from students and guiding their understanding of literary elements. Based on Rosenblatt’s theory, researchers like Alice Hoffman (ny) and Sarah & Michael Martin (2000) have developed a variety of literature response activities. The followings are some of the most common activities [1]: • Compare and contrast characters, two books or texts. • Create an alternative ending. • Create a book jacket. •Write a letter to a character. •Make a puzzle depicting a scene or a character. • Create a crossword puzzle based on the story. •Make a cartoon of your favorite scene or the entire story. •Write a review. • Create a scrapbook. 2.2. Motivation The term “motivation” comes from the Latin word ‘movere’ whichmeans ‘to move’. The idea of movement is reflected in different commonsense ideas about motivation as something that keeps us working, gets us going and helps us complete tasks. Motivation is a process rather than a product. Therefore we cannot observe it directly but we can infer it from actions and verbalizations. There are many definitions of motivation and abundant disagreement over its precise nature. For this study, motivation is defined in the terms put forward by Crookes and Schmidt (1992, [4;498- 502]) and quoted in Peacock (1997 [7]): interest in and enthusiasm for the materials used in class, persistence with the language task as indicated by the levels of attention or action for an extended duration and levels of concentration and 151 Do Thi Phuong Mai enjoyment. The writer chose this definition as she agrees with them considering that the long hours that students spend in the classroom would make such motivation an important factor in the successful learning of a language. Moreover, Ushioda (1993, p.1-3) calls this view of motivation “practitioner-validated” and adds that student participation and enthusiasm are significant outcomes in themselves. Generally, two kinds of motivation are distinguished, extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. Intrinsic motivation is motivation from within the student and it focuses on the learning task itself. An intrinsically motivated students studies because he/she wants to study. To have an intrinsically motivated learner is the goal of all motivational development. Jeremy Harmer (1996, p.5) identified 4 factors that affect intrinsic motivation in an EFL classroom. He listed them as the physical conditions (the classroom, the board, etc.), the method (boring or interesting), the teacher (pronunciation, explanation, patience, etc.) and success (success or failure). Extrinsic motivation is, on the other hand, concerned with factors outside the classroom such as student attitude about language learning, rewards and punishments. Extrinsic motivation is divided into 3 sub-types of motivation: social motivation (People’s desire to gain social approval from significant others), instrumental motivation (People’s desire to be rewarded or to avoid being punished) and achievement motivation (characterized by striving for high levels of performance in a competitive environment). However, life is not so clear cut. The difference between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation is not always sharp. In other words, people usually learn a language for reasons which are an integration of both these two kinds of motivation (intrinsic as well as extrinsic). 2.3. Presentation of the course The American Literature course was designed to be taken by fourth-year students in their 7th semester in the eight-semester program. It was a fifteen-week course which provided students with an overall view of American literature. They were to gain a basic knowledge of different stages of its development, factors that have affected this development, some major literary trends and some prominent American writers that could represent different stages and trends in literature. However, in this study, the researcher chose to analyze just 4 lessons and on this basis he has drawn his conclusions. 1 Kate Chopin and her The Story of an Hour and Hemingway’s Cat in the Rain. 2 Bret Harte and his The Luck of the Roaring Camp and Jack London with The Law of Life. Of each pair of books, the latter was taught with the use of literature response activities while the other was not. In this way the change in student’s motivation could be 152 The effect of literature response activities on student motivation in an American Literature class... measured when literature response activities were used. 2.4. Method In carrying out this research. the writer used the following research instruments: Observation An observation sheet (cf. [7]) was used to assess overall class motivation generated by the tasks as manifested by level of student interest, enthusiasm, persistence with the learning task, concentration, and enjoyment during class as measured rating 8 items. This observation sheet was used in Peacock’s 1997 study. Each item in this sheet was scored using an artificial materials scale of one (low) to five (high). The maximum possible score is 40. The class was observed by a trained colleague on four occasions, two during which using literature response activities were being used and and two during which literature response activities were not being used. The observation sheet was completed while the lesson drew to a close and an analysis was later done to evaluate the observation. Survey questionnaire for students A questionnaire was completed by students (cf. [7]) on two occasions, once before and once after the use of literature response activities in the American Literature class. The questionnaires were used to measure any change in student motivation when literature response activities are used. The questionnaire is divided into 2 parts: Part I was a self-report question adapted from Peacock which aims to measure levels of motivation generated during the American Literature class. It consists of 7 closed items on a semantic differential scale of adjectives expressing motivation, i.e. boring/interesting, enjoyable/ unenjoyable, meaningful/meaningless, exiting/ dull, satisfying/unsatisfying, appealing/unappealing, absorbing/monotonous. Each item was scored from one to seven, making artificial materials total of from 7 to 49 for each complete questionnaire. Part II was an open question designed to allow students to write what they wished regarding the whole lesson as well as make suggestions as to how make the lesson more interesting. In order to make sure that the students could understand the questions, and respond in an appropriate way, clear instructions were given at the beginning of the surveys. They were completed by each student at the end of each of the four lessons. The researcher was present when the surveys were handed out so as to instruct the students on how to complete it and help those who could not understand something. Interview After each lesson, 4 students were chosen at random and questioned about the lessons. Students’ thoughts about the American Literature classes are also discovered through these interviews. 153 Do Thi Phuong Mai All comments and remarks were processed and assessed using data analysis. 2.5. Results and discussion Overall class motivation As stated in 2.2, the Observation Sheet was completed during each lesson by the co-researcher who made 1 score for each unit and 4 scores in total. The observation results of 2 stages, with and without literature response activities, are synthesized in Tables 1 and Tables 2. Table 1. Before action plan is used (phase 1) and Table 2. After action plan is used (phase 2) From the two tables, it is clear that overall class motivation increased significantly (from 20.1 in phase 1 to 29.75 in phase 2) when literature response activities were used (. . . ) Data collected from Questionnaires completed by students Student’s self-report motivation Table 3. Student’s motivation (phase 1) and Table 4: Student’s motivation (phase 2) Again, from the data presented above, it is clear that when literature response activities were used, student’s motivation increased significantly. Data collection and analysis from post-class interviews The four students chosen had English language abilities at different levels. One was rather good at English, two were ‘normal’ and one was not good at English. They were each interviewed, in English, by the author and the co-researcher at the end of each reading lesson, making a total of 16 interviews conducted during the time of this research. Students were asked their opinions on the activities that occurred that day. Responses varied greatly and the students offered many comments about the activities used. The following is a sample of interview quotes from students talking about the traditional way of learning American Literature: 154 The effect of literature response activities on student motivation in an American Literature class... Hard to understand Language is too difficult I can’t remember much It is too difficult Rather impractical Somewhat boring So theoretical. The following is a sample of quotes from students who were talking about literature response activities: Interesting Very worthwhile Very impressive You see! I can become a writer!!! More challenging but useful I like it Very exciting I want some translation. 2.6. Suggested activities Following the data interpretation, it can be concluded that the use of literature response activities has a positive effect on student motivation in American Literature classes. It can now be presumed that student motivation will increase when these activities are used. Here are some of the practical activities that were used in the American Literature classes a. Artistic/ Visual activities (Drawing, Advertisement) Artists have often created paintings or other art forms in response to literature they have read. For instance, they might paint a scene depicted in a poem, or create a sculpture of a literary character. The students now have the opportunity to create some sort of artwork in response to the literature they have been reading. They are free to express their interpretation in whatever way best communicates their understanding of the literature’s characters, theme, meaning, or anything else they see in it. These activities can be conducted in groups. Sample • You are now working for a publisher. Draw a cover page for the story Law of Life by Jack London in order to most attract the readers. • Create a comic strip for The story of an Hour by Kate Chopin that is no more than 7 pages in length, including the cover page. Procedure • In groups, discuss and determine the character, theme, setting or symbol that they 155 Do Thi Phuong Mai wish to portray. • Choose the materials needed (papers, color pencils, rulers, etc.) • Create the artistic products as required. • Include a one page explanation of their interpretation for the project. b. Dialogue or Buddy journal For this activity, students in pairs will read and respond to each other’s journals about the literary work they have just studied. This activity will provide an opportunity for students to record quotations, observations, lists and images from the work and then return to those entries for reflection and comment. This activity can be adapted for any of the literary works. Procedure • The students read the stories/poems and write comments, questions, insights and observations that occur to them in a spiral notebook, and then pass their journal to their buddy. • Date and sign each entry and record inclusive page numbers. • The buddy responds to their partner’s writings, makes comments or asks questions of her/his own, and then returns the journal to their partner. • Continue reading and responding back and forth as many times as possible c. Dependent Authors This activity gives students a chance to extend, elaborate or revise the storyline as a collaborative author. Students can form groups or do it individually. Example: • Rewrite the ending of the story Cat in the Rain by Hemingway. •Write a dialogue between Richard and Josephine while Mrs. Mallard was upstairs in The story of an Hour by Kate Chopin. Procedure: After reading the book, take the position of a dependent or co-creative author to extend, refine, and/or reiterate the text. Consider the following list. Select one of these projects and enter the imaginative life of the book/ story. • Write interior monologues in the persona of a chosen character at a particular point in a story. •Write dialogues between two or more characters. • Add asides or subliminal thoughts to existing dialogue. •Write an epilogue to the text. •Write a continuation of a scene or the whole text. •Write a dream for one of the main characters. • Add another episode. 156 The effect of literature response activities on student motivation in an American Literature class... d. Free writing This is quite a familiar activity that can be used in almost every literature lesson. It is an activity in which individual students freely discover and explore ideas. Procedure: • After students have read the story, they write about the issues, themes, or characters that they have been thinking about since they finished reading. • Begin writing on paper or composing at the computer for 10-15 minutes. Write down ideas as they come to mind. • Students reread what they have written and highlight ideas that they think could become topics. • Choose one of the ideas and focus their next free writing on that idea. •Write for another 10-15 minutes and hand that in. e. Create an original metaphor In a story, there are many metaphors and symbols that describe the main character. For this activity, think of a metaphor for the main character that is not in the story. Create a visual representation for the metaphor and then write a brief explanation for the image. f. Dramatic performance Students perform an oral interpretation of a poem or passage from literature to convey their understanding of the work to the audience through the effects they create. This type of activity should be fun so that students can be highly motivated. Sample:Give a live performance of the story Cat in the Rain and make up your own ending for the story. Procedure: • Decide on the form of oral presentation: a monologue, dialogue, or small group performance (This can be done with the teacher’s help). • Reach a consensus regarding the meaning of the literature. • Assign tasks to each group member according to interest and talent. • Practice, practice, practice. • Give a live performance for the class or videotape it and show the tape. 3. Conclusion In this article, the author made an attempt to investigate the effect of using literature response activities in an American Literature classroom, by investigating the activities and student responses to those activities. It is undeniable that when literature response activities were used, students interacted more with the literary work and this raised their confidence level as well as their interest in exploring the text; consequently, they were highly motivated. It is hoped that this research will provide teachers and students with some practical activities that will be useful in the language classroom. 157 Do Thi Phuong Mai REFERENCES [1] Asselin, M., 2000. Reader response in Literature and Reading instruction Teacher Librarian. [2] Burns, A., 2010. Doing action research in English language teaching: A guide for practitioners. New York and London: Routledge. [3] Kemmis, S., & McTaggart, R. (Eds.), 1988. The action research planner. Melbourne: Deakin University. [4] Crookes, G. and R.W. Schmidt, 1991. Motivation: Reopening the Research Agenda. Language Learning 41/4, pp.469- 512. [5] Glasgow., 1997. Utilizing our Multiple Intelligences Reader Response Activities. [6] Harmer,J., 2001. The Practice of English Language Teaching. London and NewYork: Longman. [7] Peacock,. M.. 1997. The Effect of Authentic Materials on the Motivation of EFL learners. Oxford: Oxford University Press. [8] Rosenblatt, L. M., 1978. Literature as exploration. New York: Aplleton Century. [9] Rosenblatt, L. M., 1978. The reader, the text, the poem: The transactional theory of the literary work. Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press. [10] Takayuki Nakanishi, 2002. Critical Literature Review on Motivation. Ibaraki University, Japan. 158