Visualisation and the Implications for Writing Extensive Readers
by Jo Appleton
Steps taken in the Action -Research
'Extensive readers written in a particular genre can encourage
The pedagogic aims:
1. Extensive readers written in
a particular genre will encourage visualisation
2. Extensive readers that use visualisation will increase
the motivation for extensive reading.
Action research aims:
1. To find out how suitable 'Jungle Fever' is as an extensive
reader for young adults at a pre -intermediate or intermediate
level in the UK.
2. To help learners relate reading strategies in their L1
The research project was conducted through the
use of questionnaires and a mini-lesson. There were 3 stages
to be followed one after the other beginning with Questionnaire
1, a mini-lesson and Questionnaire 2.
A Summary of Discoveries
Various discoveries were made from the
research, but I will restrict the discussion to the areas
of motivation, visualisation, and genre.
When asked the question, 'Do you enjoy
reading in English?' the majority of learners had a neutral
response to reading. Comments gave the idea that learners
are very word bound by texts and therefore may lack motivation
to read extensively.
When asked 'Which of these do you think
is most useful when reading a story? Why?' Visualise (create
pictures in your mind), Talk to yourself, Mouth the words,
Translate, Follow the words with a pen, other, 30 learners
said visualisation. This was reinforced by comments such as:
"Creating a play in your mind makes it
easier to understand and follow". "It's like creating
a picture is as if your are watching a film".
As suggested by Tomlinson, 98% of people visualise
when reading in their L1. However, Tomlinson (1997) also suggests
that most L2 learners do not automatically transfer their
visualisation skills from the L1 when reading a text in their
L2. However, my data contradicts this claim. In fact, it demonstrates
that 100% of learners visualised in their L2 when reading
this story 'Jungle Fever'. So, why is this so? It may be because
the learner's minds were activated for visualisation with
the readiness activities before listening to the text. Or
it may be because the learners were already aware through
their own learning and their teachers that visualisation can
be an important tool. I feel that the learners were in some
way influenced to use their visualisation skills but it is
difficult to prove at this stage how and when this happened.
After reading a short section of 'Jungle Fever'
the learners were asked to think about reading strategies
they used. Again, 26 out of 30 learners said used visualisation
techniques. Learners were also asked to
think about the genre used in the story.
The results encouragingly revealed that
email and diary genre are both popular choices. The learners'
comments go on to reaffirm this. For example, "Emails
are a good communication tool"; " I think a diary
is more personal and we can see real feelings".
However, it was surprising to see that diary format was more
popular than email. I had thought reading emails would be
Another question aimed to find out about
learner's motivation for continued reading. They were asked
if they would like to read more of 'Jungle Fever'.
The data clearly showed that learners would
like to read more of the story 'Jungle Fever' with only a
few objections. Motivation could therefore be linked to the
genre, topic, plot, characters and accessibility of the writing
to the learner corroborating other data collected in this
research and supported by these comments:
"I want to know what happens".
" I would be great to read the whole story".
" The story leaves the space for the reader to imagine".
Response to the Action Research Process
The limitations of this research project are
various. Firstly, a relatively small number of learners were
involved. Secondly, there was limited time available to carry
out this research project and a controlled amount of time
language teachers could spend on this project. The questionnaires
and mini-lesson had to be slotted into the teaching programme
as a one- off, as and when the timetable allowed. Finally,
the teachers themselves varied in beliefs, background and
experience. More extensive research is therefore felt necessary
in different locations for more detailed and reliable results.
Reactions to research
On a personal level, I was pleased with
the data gathered and encouraged by their comments. I was
even surprised by requests from teachers for more of the story
for their learners to read.
The teachers were also given a questionnaire to complete.
These have proved to be an invaluable source of ideas, comments,
suggestions and observations from a different perspective.
"I think the students related well
to the theme of the story: young people going off on an adventurous
trip - it's what they're doing themselves after all"
" As the students wanted to read it, it's the right sort
of thing to motivate them".
The results from this action research
reveal that learners reading in their L2 can and do visualise
when reading extended texts. Providing that they are given
prior exposure to visualisation in the form of pre-reading
visualisation tasks or awareness raising activities. Through
this learners may in turn become more motivated to read.
This then has important implications for
materials writers and teachers in language learning. When
we write readers and then introduce readers to learners in
class we should encourage visualisation by the use of the
4. Awareness-Raising Activities
The topics of readers available to the
learners need to be of personal interest to them. It is important
as teachers to find out what they enjoy reading in their L1
in order to provide suitable books for them. As writers we
need to think of the literature available to learners in their
L1 and then to try to provide either something similar or
something very different that they may not have come across
before. The majority of learners who took part in the action
research were all happy to read about culture, cultural problems,
romance, travel and adventure.
Readers using genres that provide a familiar
and interesting angle to a story should be encouraged. These
can help learners to relax making them more receptive to learning.
The genres of diary and email style also lend themselves to
a deeper insight into the characters, their attitudes and
emotions. Many people gain more from this type of reading
and can relate or compare it to personal experiences. This
therefore can make reading more 'visualisation friendly'.
Pre-reading, whilst-reading or post-reading tasks can also
lend themselves to visualisation. Tasks could be: A story
begun in pictures, continued in words, continued further in
pictures and ended in words (Tomlinson 1997); drawing tasks;
shared writing tasks; physical activities; communication tasks
about the topic, genre, culture involved; reading stories
of which a version has already been experienced through watching
a video or acting it out. (Tomlinson 1997).
Awareness-raising activities could be
ones that provide learners with reasons why visualisation
can help them. This can involve direct information, guidance
and advice given to learners to help them to use visualisation
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