Using Practical Activities To Improve Pupils Listening Skills During Story Telling At Accra Grammar School In KG2
Listening is the first language skill that children develop and it is the most dominant communication skill in the classroom and everyday life. One way by which the skills of listening can be developed is through storytelling. Studies have shown however that listening skill is not given adequate attention in primary schools especially, through the use of storytelling. This study therefore investigated the effect of storytelling on the listening skills of Accra Grammar school KG2 pupils. The study adopted pretest-posttest control group quasi experimental design. Two public primary schools were purposively selected and randomly assigned to experimental and control groups. The experimental group was exposed to storytelling with illustrations while the control group was exposed to storytelling without illustrations. Morrow’s 10-Point Scale for Retelling Analysis was used to measure the listening skills of pupils before and after listening to stories. Data collected was analyzed using ANCOVA. There was a significant main effect of treatment on the listening skills of primary one pupils (F(1,40) = 0.01; p < 0.05; η2 = 0.14). Among recommendations made was that storytelling in indigenous languages with illustrations should be adopted by teachers in primary schools to teach listening skills.
1.1 Background to the study
Many African children begin primary education by age six and these children are still in their early childhood period. According to World Bank (2011), early childhood period is the most rapid period of development in human life. Although individual children develop at their own pace, all children progress through an identifiable sequence of physical, cognitive, social and emotional growth and change.
Physically, six year old children have improved use of all their different body parts which allows for better gross and fine motor skills and they are more aware of their body positions and movements. Socially, they are very interested in their peers’ opinions and abilities, both for social comparison and for the sake of making friends. Also, they have close emotional attachments with the pivotal adults in their lives including teachers. Emotionally, they are not good in understanding accurately another person’s emotions as awareness of others emotions may play a role in the reduction of aggressive and disruptive behaviours among primary school children (Tornlinson, 2009). Intellectually, Anthony (2014) noted that they are in the latter phase of Piaget’s preoperational period, the time during which children learn to use language. Children’s thought and communications are typically egocentric (about themselves). Another key feature which children display during this stage is animism.
Animism is the belief that inanimate objects have human feelings and intentions (McLeod, 2012). While some of this thinking actually fuels creativity, supporting the development of a child’s schema (her foundation knowledge) around animals and habitats is a wonderful way to advance the child’s thinking and understanding of the world (Anthony, 2014) Also, children in this age group are concrete learners (Thomlinson, 2009) learning should be supported with lots of visuals or real objects in the classroom.
One of the goals of primary education in Ghana is inculcation of permanent literacy and the ability to communicate effectively (FG, 2004). Literacy creates the foundation for a lifetime and allows a wide range of opportunities. Primary school literacy involves developing oral and written communication in all subject areas. Primary school pupils can learn literacy skills through instruction and practice of speaking, reading, writing and listening (Grayson, 2013). Listening is the process of taking in information through the sense of hearing and making meaning from what was heard. Listening comprehension prepares young children for later reading comprehension (Jalongo, 2008). This may be the reason why Brown (2012) submitted that it is crucial for a child to develop good listening skills in order to cope with the academic demands of school and to learn adequate literacy skills. Listening skill helps children to guide their self-inquiry and discover their individual possibilities. Children who are active listeners can incorporate the things they hear faster in their framework of knowledge than a more passive counterpart. In his own view, Tramel (2011) observed that Children can also exhibit better concentration and memory when they develop good listening skill.
Listening is very important because of all the language skills that young children develop, listening is the one that develops earliest and is practiced most frequently (Roskos, Christie and Richgels, 2003). Studies conducted on children’s listening, both in and outside school, estimated that between 50 and 90 percent of children’s communication time is devoted to listening (Wolvin and Coakely 2000; Gilbert, 2005). Listening is central to a child’s development of other skills, including survival, social and intellectual skills. (Wolvin and Coakley, 2000). Listening comprehension is considered one of the skills most predictive of overall, long-term school success (Brigman, Lane and Switzer, 2001). In their studies, Isbell, Sobol, Lindauer and Lowrance ( 2004), Gallets (2005) and Philips (2000) revealed that storytelling improves the listening skills of children.
In spite of the many advantages embedded in teaching listening to children, an observation of the teaching and learning activities in our primary schools revealed that is is not given adequate attention. This supports the report of Smith (2003) that despite the fact that listening is the language skill that is used the most, it is the one that is taught the least in the classroom. The fact that listening has been neglected or poorly taught may have stemmed from the belief that it is a passive skill and that merely exposing learners to the spoken language provides adequate instruction in listening comprehension (Call, 1985). What may not be realized however is that stories which employ the use of illustrations are vital in teaching listening skills to children.
Tales and stories are effective and useful listening materials for children to develop listening comprehension and literacy both in their first and second language (Zevenbergenn and Whitehurst, 2003). Storytelling is one of the oldest methods of communicating ideas and images (Mello, 2001). In the traditional African societies, young children were told stories by their parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts. According to Omoleye (1977), folktales played a very important role in the community life of Ghanans. Although the stories were unwritten, they have been passed down from generations without losing their originality. As important as storytelling is to the education of young children, it is not accorded adequate attention in primary schools (Mello, 2001 and Philip 2000). It has been observed that children spend more time with the electronic media and lesser time listening to stories because parents lead such busy lives that they no longer have time to read bedtime stories to their children (TalkTalk Group, 2011) instead they prefer their children to fill their evenings watching the television and playing games (Paton, 2012).
Several factors such as gender and background knowledge can affect the listening skills and several researches lends support to this. Tanner (2001) stated that men and women have very distinct communication styles that influences how they listen. For example, women listen to understand the other person’s emotions to find common interests whereas men listen in order to take action and solve problems. Also, males listen to hear facts, while females are more aware of the mood of the communication (Booth – Butterfield, 1984). Purdy, (2000) examined the stereotypes about listening behavior that have contributed to the sustained belief that one gender functions better as listeners than the other. Characteristics of good and poor listeners were collected. The most frequent characteristics of good listeners (top 30) and poor listeners (top 28) were randomized and participants were asked to respond to each on a scale from male, some- what- male, true of both sex, female, some-what- female.
Results showed that most of the good characteristics were associated with females, while the poor characteristics were associated with males. In a study by Isbel et. al. (2004) on effects of storytelling and story reading on the oral language complexity and story comprehension of young children, little difference was found between language measures for preschool boys and girls within and between the groups exposed to storytelling and story reading.
Background knowledge has been seen as what one already knows about a subject (Stevens, 1980) and all knowledge learners have, when entering a learning environment, that is potentially relevant for acquiring new knowledge (Biemans and Simmons, 1996). Culture is an important aspect of background knowledge and it influences all aspects of life. Culture has a major impact on all components of learning process (Al-Issa, 2006). This is to say therefore that the cultural background of listeners can affect listening skills. Few researchers have studied the relationship between cultural background and listening skills. For instance, Bakhtiarvand and Adinevand (2010) investigated the effect of cultural familiarity in improving Iranian EFL (English as a Foreign Language) learners’ listening comprehension. Results of the posttest showed that participants who listened to the target culture texts (English and American) performed better than all the other participants who did not listen to target culture texts. A similar study by Samian and Dastjerdi (2012) also showed that cultural familiarity improved Iranian EFL (English as a Foreign Language) learners’ listening comprehension. It is imperative therefore to find out if cultural background can influence the listening skills of primary school pupils especially when they are told indigenous stories, using illustrations. It is based on this background that this study investigated the effects of using practical activities to improve pupils listening skills during story telling at Accra Grammar school in kg2.
1.2 Statement of the Problem
Listening is an important skill in which students need to gain adequate proficiency. It is a critical means of language learning and so is it the basis for other language skills (Vandergrift, 1999; Rost, 1990).It is very much important particularly in the educational setting where a foreign language is used as medium of instruction. As in the case of Ethiopia listening ability plays a prominent role on students’ achievement in other field of studies. Therefore, effective listening becomes one of the determining factors for students’ success or failure (Tarone and Yule, 1989.)
In the case of Accra Grammar school, particularly KG2, is the level at which English is taught as a subject and is used as a medium of instruction and where students begin to attend lessons in English. Therefore, they are expected to understand what they listen to; however, the listening abilities of most students seem to be inadequate. The researcher of this study as he was an English teacher at primary level and as he is now teaching English in the high school, has a good first hand experience of this problem.
It is believed that students should develop academic listening skills while they are at schools. They should be provided with varied listening comprehension practices and trained to employ effective listening strategies (Ur, 1984; Richards, 1985; Harmer, 2001). Some local researchers also share similar ideas. Berhanu (1993) and Mulugeta (1997) who studied listener strategies in collaborative discourse and motivation in listening classes respectively are some of the studies worth mentioning.
In addition to Berhanu and Mulugeta’s work, other studies were conducted in the area of listening. Studies by Tewolde (1988) and Semie (1989) focused on students’ listening ability. Findings by Tewolde show that the listening ability of KG 2 students is below the expected listening level required of them in understanding their subject areas. The study, on the other hand, indicates that the students could understand some functions like definitions. The study also shows that the teachers’ language is unsatisfactory and seems to be a problem to the students because it is complex and full of errors. Similarly, findings by Seime depict that students from Bahir Dar Teachers College of Science are below the level expected of them in understanding lectures on physics, chemistry and mathematics subjects.
According to Mulugeta (1997) the student’s intrinsic motivation is accounted for by their perception of the relevance of the skill, the tasks and the texts to their needs in the academic setting. Haregewein’s (2003) findings indicate that there is a mismatch between the teaching practice implemented by the teachers and the methodologies favored by the course book designers for teaching listening sections of the new course book.
1.3 objective of the study
The main objectives of this study is to find out how using practical activities to improve pupils listening skills during story telling at Accra Grammar school in kg2. specifically it will;
- To examine the extent do teachers implement the use of practical activities to improve pupils listening skills during story telling
- To determine the modifications they can make to the listening lessons they teach
- To determine the effect of Songs on listening skills of primary one pupils.
- To determine the effect of gender on the listening skills of the primary one pupils
1.4 Research Questions
The study will answer the following research questions
- To what extent do teachers implement the use of practical activities to improve pupils listening skills during story telling?
- What modifications do they make to the listening lessons they teach, if any?
- What is the effect of Songs on listening skills of primary one pupils?
- What is the effect of gender on the listening skills of the primary one pupils?
1.5 Significance of the Study
The researcher believes that the findings of this study contribute to:
create awareness for classroom teachers so that they can evaluate their own and the materials they use for teaching listening
help material developers to make some improvements in the teaching materials and help students develop their listening comprehension skill.
give feedback to teacher trainers who are in charge of training teachers to test their programmes and improve their methodological training.
help other researchers to make use of these findings as bases or further study in the area.
The following hypotheses were formulated and tested
Ho1: There is no significant main effect of Songs on listening skills of primary one pupils.
Ho2: There is no significant main effect of gender on the listening skills of the primary one pupils.
1.7 Scope of the Study
It is undeniable that there are many factors that can contribute to the development of listening comprehension skills. Some of these could be the purpose and context of the listening, the teaching material and methods to be implemented. Learners’ characteristics and their socio- cultural and economic backgrounds, teachers’ capacity and student- teacher relationships (Haregewein, 2003). All of these influence the development of Macro and Micro listening skills of the learners.
Realities, however force us not to include all of these factors in a single study of this kind. Therefore, this study is restricted to investigating the actual teaching practice of listening in KG2 i.e. the teaching procedures and the aids that teachers provide when presenting the listening lessons in terms of methodologies stated in the teachers’ book and theories of teaching listening.
1.8 Limitation of the Study
A number of factors can influence the teaching of listening. However, this study was restricted to investigating the practice of teaching listening by considering teachers’ background, the preparations they make to teach listening, and the techniques they employ in the actual teaching listening classes.
Infact the comprehensiveness of the study would have been increased if it had entertained more schools. But time and finance limited the researcher to three teachers and eighty students from Accra Grammar school.