Page 1

Álvarez Gilda- Belitsky Gabriela- Busto Riquelme Daniela. Isfd n° 30 LENGUA Y EXPRESIÓN ESCRITA IV. PROFESOR: BLAS BIGATTI

The devil you know or the devil you don’t know: choosing readers in the EFL classroom Abstract. Based on the assumption that students are willing to read stories known beforehand, a survey was carried out within a focus group of 64 students aged 13-14. The results portrayed that our hypothesis was proved, suggesting that students enjoy to read a story they have approached previously in their mother tongue. This does away with the typical supposition of many teachers that those kinds of stories will bore students.

The current Argentinean National Curriculum makes emphasis on contents organized around the Communicative Approach. This approach focuses on the English language as tool for international communication and as a link to connect with other cultures through literature. The public educational document previously mentioned deals with several axes among others. The communicative one gives students the opportunity to connect and enjoy diverse literary texts belonging to different genres, such as poetry, tales, novels and theatre in their original language (Diseño curricular. Educación secundaria, 2007.). Nowadays, literature is being used more intensively in English classrooms due to the tendency to prevail the Communicative as the main approach in the teaching of English in foreign language classrooms. That’s why teachers have to decide and analyse the type of texts they will make use to approach students to reading. It is through this selection and analysis of texts that we realized about the current tendency in TEFOL. Looking for stories to work with during the year, one of the researchers in this paper started a careful exploration on short stories that could be appealing to students. She went to a book shop and found an attractive shelf filled with readers based on well know movies. She bought some of those readers taking for granted that they could be useful just to focus on some fragments and to carry out activities related to the films. The plan was not to read the stories completely because students knew the plot already and it would be boring. Surprisingly while dealing with “Pirates of the Caribbean: the course of the black pearl” the teacher noticed that students were not bored, quite the contrary, they were engaged on the reading activities proposed and disposed to a further reading of the story. After this experience we can state that there seems to be a tendency to look for brand new stories to present to the students. This is mainly because we, teachers, assume that what is familiar will be boring and what is unknown will be interesting. Written on the basis of a survey risen on students’ likes and dislikes on the reading field, this paper is presented as an attempt to get rid of that typical assumption. Methodology A survey containing three questions was designed in order to find out students’ preferences as regards reading in the English classroom (see appendix I). 64 students aged 1314 from Moreno, Buenos Aires were asked to answer the survey. They attend 2 nd year at two different private schools in working class areas. Students were asked to answer three questions. In the first one, they have to state whether they preferred reading a story they

knew or a story they didn’t know. In the second and third questions, students had to tick one of three given options or to expand their selection by means of an open answer. The latest pointed to find out other reasons that were not proposed in the survey. The project was designed to analyze the effect of familiar stories on student’s experiences with English texts. The results of the data gathered from the surveys will be used as the discussion point in this paper. Results 56. 25% of the students who took this survey said that “in the English classroom they preferred reading something they have read before” (Fig 1). A far lower percentage of the students surveyed (according to our results the 35.93% of them) chose the option “I prefer reading something I haven’t read before”. A small number of students that represents the 7.81% considered that neither of the options was suitable according to their preferences. The following charts show the results graphically.

Graphic 1

Graphic 2

Graphic 3


As it was formerly exposed, the results let us see that more than a half of the students who answered the survey feel appealing to read a story they have handled before. 33.33% of them justified this election due to the fact that “they can anticipate the sequence of events in the story”, while a majority of 55.55% argued that reading something familiar is easier to understand in the foreign language (Fig 2). A valuable proof of this assertion may be evident in the justification a student wrote in the open question, “At least I understand something”. What this student really means by this is that known stories are not boring at all. In fact, this proves the point developed so far; students do not find discouraging to deal with a plot previously faced. It may not be surprising that a high amount of the group that prefer reading new stories attend lessons at private schools of English. This information was gathered from personal and informal conversations with the students, since we were interesting about knowing why they followed this pattern. Most of them argue that reading a story known beforehand would be a waste of time (see graphic 3). The numbers obtained from the survey carried out provide us with useful information to affirm that students with higher levels of English feel more confident when facing a story completely unknown. Taking into account confidence as the reason to justify the students’ choice, it can be said that those who have preferences over familiar plots feel self-assured in front of the teacher’s questions while working with the story in class.

Conclusion There is no doubt that literature should be an important tool to consider in the English class since there is a current tendency towards a communicative classroom. Definitely, the teacher in charge of the course has the ultimate decision in the selection of the literary texts that are going to be used. The elections will surely have a strong connection with his or her own beliefs as well as the teacher’s training he or she underwent. The analysis of the class we are teaching is another important aspect to keep in mind when deciding upon a story. Every group is different from each other and that is why teachers cannot assume that only one story is enough to work with diverse courses. Several teachers of English decide not to work with literature in the classroom. This might be due to the fact they assume reading as a boring activity for students, a difficult challenge for teachers to find an engaging story as well as a hard task to carry out for both of them. In order to throw away the assumptions listed before, teachers should bear in mind that some familiar stories that students have dealt with in their mother tongue could be useful and easier to handle. For those teachers that are already working with literature, this paper might be helpful to incline for the selection of stories that students have dealt with before. If they can prove for themselves the hypothesis presented in this paper, a further research can be carried out. For the time being and regarding the results obtained in the survey, we can state that students find interesting and motivating to work with plots they have experienced before.

Appendix I NOMBRE:



Marca con una cruz la opción que elijas. 1- En la clase de inglés, preferís leer una historia que: YA CONOZCO


¿Por qué?....................................................................... 2- Cuando leo en inglés una historia que ya sé: ME GUSTA



3- Si contestaste “ME GUSTA” es porque… SE LO QUE VA A PASAR DESPUÉS


OTROS………………………………………………….. 4- Si contestaste “NO ME GUSTA” es porque: YA CONOZCO LO QUE VA A PASAR



Reference Buenos Aires (prov.). Dirección General de Cultura y Educación Diseño Curricular para la Educación Secundaria : 1º año ESB / coordinado por Ariel Zysman y Marina Paulozzo - 2a ed. - La Plata: Dir. General de Cultura y Educación de la Provincia de Buenos Aires, 2006. 240 p. ; 28x20 cm. ISBN 987-1266-13-8 1. Educación Secundaria. 2. Diseño Curricular. I. Zysman, Ariel, coord. II. Paulozzo, Marina , coord. III. Título CDD 373.2. Translated by the writers.

Choosing readers in EFL  

Students' assignment