vol 17 / no 3 / March-May 2008 / issn 0118-3931

Reading Via Retelling
By Prof. Romeo Y. Martin, Department of English, CAS Manila


The declining proficiency in English among Filipino students is alarming. College graduates are adjudged as no longer globally competitive. The plan of restructuring the Basic Education Curriculum to ensure quality education is still flickering. Restructuring means upgrading the quality of Filipino learners in three disciplines: English, Mathematics and Sciences.

To achieve quality learning, the learners must be honed in four skills: listening, speaking, writing and reading. One of the most important areas that should be managed by teachers is reading. It has been said that “The man who reads is the man who leads.”

Villamin (1994) states that most of us read because it gives the pleasure of knowing, feeling, acting and learning or escaping from our individual worlds. Reading should be at as fast a rate as the material can be understood properly. A good reader will have several different reading speeds, each of which can be used appropriately in the correct way. Villamin, et al. (1994) also mentioned the research study of Wendell Holmes (1976) which described reading as reasoning. Holmes believes that the power and speed of reading can adequately explain the act of reading. The power of reading means the power to read, comprehend and apply relatively difficult textbook material.

But then, there is a common trend among the schools, colleges and universities in the Philippines. Most of our students now are not serious with reading. They read because it is required to pass the subject. It is also alarming to know that there are college students who read by syllables. Some students have the habit of reading very slowly. Some could not even read. This permits their attention to wander and encourages daydreaming; then they lose interest because of the small amount of material covered. They need special training to speed up most of their reading. Comprehension in reading is the most important aspect to consider in assessing our students on whether they are already at the threshold level of it. Comprehension has been called the teacher’s bugbear. Many students achieve accuracy in recognition and pronunciation, but very few succeed in comprehension. To comprehend means to understand the meanings not only of single words and sentences but also of the interrelationships among sentences in a discourse.

Of all human functions, comprehension is one of the most complex. Because of its intricate nature, it is most difficult to explain as a process, although it is easy to observe. Despite the complexity of the nature of reading comprehension, the researcher believes that a continuous reading diagnosis for problem readers should be applied. As Villamin, et al. (1994) also stated, reading experts agree that reading is the golden key to the world of enlightenment and enjoyment. Also, through reading we can reach the unreachable, climb the unclimable and see the invisible.

According to Blair and Rupley (1983), children who experience reading problems are at a disadvantage in school and later in life. In school, they find that reading is often frustrating; it is something to avoid. As a result, such children often do poorly in other areas of learning and may also demonstrate behavior problems. If their reading difficulties are not corrected nor remediated, these children can have limited future achievements both in and out of the school.

Reading is a valuable ingredient for blending our inner psychological world with the outer social world, and for emerging into a new universe of thought, imagination and reality.

Teachers who understand that reading is a strategic process establish environments that provide opportunities for children to learn language and learn about language while they use language for a real purpose (Kaiser, 1997).

It is for this reason why this study is anchored to Eileen Kaiser’s statement and belief, aside from the fact that reading is a skill essential for formal education and learning the ABCs of language, which makes the learner succeed in real life, and a test of how, in one way or the other, reading becomes instrumental in their personal success.

According to Taylor, regardless of the causes for reading difficulties, classroom teachers are confronted with the task of addressing and overcoming the symptoms of the problem. The teacher plays a pivotal role in this learning process, especially in the teaching of reading. He has to know how to teach and understand the meaning and conditions that promote reading ability.

There are many ways of assessing students’ needs in reading. One way is retelling.

The Retelling Method is an effective teaching and assessment tool that enables the reader to focus on a specific discipline or area of learning. Through this method, remediation should be done. Thus, the reading teacher would be able to know where to start to alleviate and increase even further the reading literacy of students.

Story retelling boosts a learner’s reading comprehension. Many teachers and early educators are familiar with the wealth of research indicating that reading aloud to learners, especially to young children, enhances literacy development. However, studies have shown that the learning experiences that occur before, during or after reading aloud have an equally important impact on literacy development. Based on my experience when I was still teaching in the secondary level, comparing learners over time can be useful in monitoring their progress in comprehension. In addition, story retelling can be a helpful technique to assess a learner’s comprehension.

In assessing reading comprehension through story retelling, Cooper (1993) stated the following guidelines: first, it is important if the learner starts with unprompted retelling. Select similar text. When comparing a learner’s retelling over time, use the same text each time. Compare narratives with nonfiction texts with other fiction text. Secondly, prepare a guide sheet. When using narratives, identify the setting, characters, events and resolution. For informational text, identify the topic, purpose and main idea. Use this information sheet as a guide or a checklist as you listen to the learner’s retelling. Third, ask the learner to retell the text. After he finishes an unprompted retelling, you may want to prompt him with more specific questions about parts of the text he did not include. Lastly, summarize and evaluate the retelling. Using the guide sheet, discuss and review the retelling with the learner, to help him understand what can be improved and how. This process also helps the teacher develop instructional goals for the future sessions.

Hence, for teachers of reading, retelling can be very time-consuming. To minimize these inconveniences, make retelling assessment part of regular activities. After reading a story or passage to your class, ask the students for cooperation and participation in the activities. It is the teacher’s motivation that will trigger interest for the students to learn. Don’t make retelling a burden both for the teachers and learners; make it an enjoyable and productive habit. Remember that the basics of learning in all disciplines and levels start from reading. Therefore, as English teachers, we should show compassion and incite intelligent reading through RETELLING!

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