Students’ response to reading while listening graded stories activities

Recent research on listening while reading activities mostly focus on its effectiveness or

comparison with other activities or adopt quantitative measures. The purpose of this qualitative

action research is to investigate how and why first year students at Nam Dinh University of

Nursing respond to reading while listening graded stories in English class. In this study, in order

to triangulate the data, three data collection methods were used; namely, individual

interview, group interview, and observation. The participants were 15 first year students with

varied English proficiency levels from elementary to pre-intermediate. Data were thematically

analyzed. After 14 weeks of implementing the activities, participants positively reported on their

engagement in the class and benefits of the activities on language development; however, there

were also problems with stories selection and follow up activities.

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contribute participant who did nothing. 
Moreover, different groups acted differently 
while fulfilling the task. The group with better 
students often finished earlier then gossiped 
while the weaker one often asked for more 
time. In the interview with a group leader, she 
expressed her dissatisfaction when she “had 
to do most of the work”. As for the summary 
task, students did not really work even when 
the teacher set the time limit. During the task 
time, students seemed to be distracted. Some 
looked at friends’ paper, some looked outside, 
some yawned and put their head on their 
hand. Finally, they asked me to set it 
homework. The next day, they handed in 
nearly the same copy. For the role play, there 
were still uneven parts between group 
members. Often, the best one would always 
be the one who acted the most while the weak 
one even said nothing or just performed some 
body languages. The role play had variety of 
complaints from students. S9, S4, S8 and S11 
agreed that “it is really difficult to create a 
play from such short stories within 10 or 15 
minutes”. As I observed, S4 and S11 were less 
active participants who often gossiped or 
teased others. The group interviewees 
suggested that “the follow up activities should 
be assigned as homework and performed on 
the next lesson, that way we have more time to 
prepare”. Furthermore, time allocation was 
another source of problem. According to data 
from the interviews, the follow up activities 
were time-consuming; however, the primary 
problem might be inefficient group work, in 
which students did not know how to interact, 
cooperate and allot work for each member. 
4. Discussion 
The first point to take into consideration 
would be students’ engagement. It is 
understandable because this is the first time 
Nguyen Thi Hue et al TNU Journal of Science and Technology 199(06): 119 - 126 
 Email: jst@tnu.edu.vn 125 
reading while listening has been introduced in 
my class, so students might welcome it as a 
novelty effect. Though most of the students 
were engaged in the reading while listening 
activity, the taste varied among groups of 
students. The competent ones preferred the 
unfamiliar stories for more challenges 
whereas the weaker ones favored the common 
ones. Boys insisted that the stories were too 
childish; they preferred thrilling ones. 
Moreover, this mode also gave students 
autonomy, which means they can manage 
their own learning preferences. They can 
decide to listen to the audio only until they 
hear incomprehensible utterances and then 
consult the text or reading while listening. 
Normally, at the very first sessions, students 
follow both the text and the audio, then 
afterward they could just ignored the text. S2 
even created her own way to employ the 
method. She said, “When I get used to the 
mode, I challenge myself by listening to the 
audio and wrote down the story like a 
dictation exercise.” 
4.1. Benefits of reading while listening 
Obviously, data from different sources 
confirmed that reading while listening 
brought in positive results. Word 
pronunciation gains were stressed by group of 
weaker students, who mainly come from rural 
and suburban areas where students have less 
chance to expose to authentic English. 
Stronger students reported that they were 
more confident with sentence intonation and 
vocabulary consolidation. It is easy to 
understand that more competent students 
already master the pronunciation so it does 
not bother them and their brain automatically 
shift the attention to other aspects like 
vocabulary. Actually, there are not many new 
lexical items in the graded stories, thus, “new 
vocabulary” may mean the passive 
vocabulary, which students rarely use but 
they already know. 
Actually, my class is a mixed ability class 
where students’ language proficiency varies 
deeply. Therefore, it seems impossible for a 
certain story to be suitable for all students. 
Also, the weak students said that the stories 
become easier to understand when being read. 
This feature was also reflected by students in 
[13]. She explained that learners of foreign 
language tend to read word by word. As a 
result, sentence integrity is broken down 
making it difficult to understand. With 
reading while listening mode, the text is 
presented in larger semantic unit, which in 
turn leads to better comprehension. In 
general, in terms of benefits for students, the 
innovation was a success to some extend. 
4.2. Unsuccessful follow up activities 
It is obvious from the data that insufficient 
teamwork skills are fundamental reason for 
the failure. Most of the tasks are in the form 
of group work with the primary aim to foster 
cooperation between students. Initially, I 
supposed that group work would help me 
save time because “three heads are better than 
one”. But in fact, inefficient group work 
waste the class time. At high schools in 
Vietnam, especially in rural and remote areas, 
where teaching methods often focus on test 
oriented, students had little chance to develop 
teamwork ability thus led to students’ lack of 
such basic skills. Furthermore, the students 
were in their first year at a completely new 
learning environment, they preferred to work 
with their close friends instead of the ones 
they were not so acquainted. Actually, during 
the project, I kept the same groups (I group 
students sitting next to one another) due to the 
crowded class and small classroom, it was 
inconvenience for students to move around to 
form new groups. This created chance for 
passive group member as they became more 
dependent in groups with dominant member. 
At the beginning of the study, I did not think 
of these situations, I expected that students 
would be involved in the group work 
activities because I assumed that they at least 
had some experience working in a team. For 
the next cycle, I will deliver a test to clarify 
students reading ability and vocabulary size 
so that I will be able to select more 
appropriate level of graded stories. I will also 
spend some time training students on group 
Nguyen Thi Hue et al TNU Journal of Science and Technology 199(06): 119 - 126 
 Email: jst@tnu.edu.vn 126 
work skills. Moreover, during the 
implementation of the project, I will take into 
consideration various grouping methods for 
more effective application. 
5. Conclusion 
This paper described the experiences and 
responses of first year nursing students at 
Nam Dinh University of Nursing to reading 
while listening activities in English class. In 
summary, reading while listening activities 
have positive effects on student’s 
engagement and student’s language learning 
process. Though students’ competency 
varied, the activities benefited students 
differently. The data presented here have 
contributed to the teaching professional 
development of the author and hopefully, it 
is helpful for other colleagues. 
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