The K to 12 curriculum in the Philippines lists key features including contextualization and localization, spiral progression and the 21st century skills. Adapting to the needs of the times, the future graduate is foreseen to be information and technologically skilled. It is difficult to explore on such skills without basic skills, among which is Reading. The ability to read is no longer confined to addressing the traditional 3R’s (Reading, W’riting and A’rithmetic) but expands to the demands of the modern society. The learner of the 21st century is exposed to a variety of print and non-print materials that provide them opportunities to become functionally literate, technologically accustomed individuals, and lifelong learners.
But decades of reading instruction has not always reverted to its current state. The era of school expansion gave rise to an average to above average (35%-75%) literacy rates during the 1950s (UNESCO, 2006). The considerable numbers affect the young learners the most as evidenced by the crucial literacy Grade 3 level, claimed to be a predictor level for school retention in the elementary education. However comprehensive government efforts tend to be, improvements remained dismal in terms of reading instruction and performance. In an article written by Luz (2008) whereby conflicting performance indicators (high literacy rate vs. low reading and writing abilities) were discussed, results showed that the Philippines is pre-dominantly a nation of non- readers.
The concept of reading has evolved from a passive perspective to an active skill concept and cannot be generally understated. Among the well-researched factors associated with reading instruction is the achievement of reading fluency, a critical skill that is deemed as a “central component for reading and the driving force in the literacy curriculum” (Kuhn, Schwanenfluge, & Meisinger, 2010). Factors involving the reading fluency have been reported as related to: high correlation with reading comprehension and indicator of overall reading competence (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp & Jenkins, 2001); motivation to read (Quirk, Schwanenflugel, & Webb, 2009); motivation, competence and beliefs, and social interaction, Guthrie, 2013). Results yielded from decades of reading fluency studies showed that a single factor cannot be solely contributory to reading fluency as evidenced by models showing the multifaceted aspects of reading.
A recently funded literacy project done in the Philippines is the Early Grades Reading Assessment-Early Grades Math Assessment (collectively called EGRA-EGMA), sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Generally, EGRA aims to improve the literacy skills of sampled Grade 1 pupils in selected mother tongues in the Philippines. The sub-tasks are progressive in nature and are done through assessment materials which have been validated for the purpose of the study. The Round 1 results of EGRA showed a considerable percentage of pupils with zero scores in several sub-tasks but mostly on oral reading fluency based on the theory of learning automaticity. The combined zero scores of both genders for oral reading fluency was 62. 06% while decreased combined zero scores were reported in the Letter Name Knowledge (25.50%) and Initial Sound Discrimination (21.11%). Findings on these sub-tasks indicate that learning competencies on phonics are achieved during the 1st Grade but are not geared towards reading fluency. Pupils are able to discriminate the sounds but are not yet fully capable of decoding words and making meaning.
Studies have zeroed in on the crucial importance of the foundational schooling years and have directed towards the implication that pupils who are not fluent in reading by 3rd Grade are predicted to drop out during their elementary years. Utilizing the data for policy purposes is limited knowledge without full classroom intervention. The successive grades leave the teachers and administrators with limited time but challenging objectives to help struggling readers become self- directed 3rd Grade readers.
Game-based learning (GBL, hereafter) in Philippine education is mostly employed using traditional games but the proliferation of online games remains unexplored. Recent developments in GBL studies are available for the past four decades but the bigger challenge is its practicality and utilization in the classroom. Despite deliberate transition from research to practice, GBL is supported by learning tenets such as personalized and situated learning, critical and active learning, and transfer of learning which used approaches to problem solving. Games have set of rules that require the users to achieve objectives in a certain period of time (Thomas, 2017) and drives intrinsic motivation. Similar to reading, facilitation of games in the classroom allows learner to become engage in lessons by way of the real life situations and provides teachers with interesting avenue for non-traditional learning. However, it is highly probable that use of GBL in instruction will not guarantee learning gains over time.
The dynamics of GBL is not dependent on game usage alone. Without solid learning methods that accompany GBL, failure of instruction may risk the learning atmosphere. One consideration in the Philippines is the lack of teacher training to instructional technology that is beyond PowerPoint usage. Methods of teaching are still relatively traditional and lack innovation. Games as supplement to teaching are posited by Mitgutsch (2007, cited in Chandler, 2013) as successful if teachers bear in mind that the interaction using the game is what leads to actual learning.
The main objective of this study is to incorporate explicit instruction and GBL for early grades reading to improve reading fluency. The study also aims to probe if significant correlation exists between explicit instruction and GBL.
Game-based learning frameworks in classroom research have fundamentally subscribed to Garris, Ahlers, and Driskell’s (2002) model. This paradigm concentrates on the incorporation of GBL features in pedagogy. To ascribe GBL as a model, perspective taking was reflected in the inputoutput-process. This popular model systematically looks into the structural components of gameusage to achieve improved learning outcomes. In this study, the model was adapted to fit early grades teaching of reading, explicit instruction and learning outcomes as factors that will largely be influenced by the use of game-based learning processes in the classroom.
Tarng and Tsai (2010) posit that the development of GBL emerged from E-Learning which aims to increase motivation and interest to achieve better learning outcomes. The Internet is the most comprehensive platform for games which have significantly brought together players from different backgrounds but with similar goals. It cannot be discounted that reading takes a predominant role in playing online games successfully compared to traditional games. Situated learning is apparent in GBL due to the presence of a context allowing the players to obtain knowledge through the potential learning process (Liang, et.al, 2006).
Explicit Instruction and Early Grades Reading
Teaching reading in an early grade classroom requires the teacher to fulfill responsibilities not only as the facilitator of learning but also as the initiator of reading. Reading is an active skill that involves the thought processing, retention of ideas and comprehension of text material. A scientific understanding on the cognition relationship of reading was first proposed by Goodman (1981) through a theory called “psycholinguistic guessing game” which contended the simplistic definition that reading is a passive skill. In establishing the connection between reading and cognition, Goodman developed a more comprehensive account of how a reader makes sense of the print. Errors in reading were also reclassified as miscues which are normal circumstances for beginning readers to undertake and are necessary for executing decoding, print knowledge, word recognition, among others. In understanding how thought processes are organized and processed in reading, meaning is acquired through the utilization of schemata, or prior knowledge.
Rasinski (2004) explored the three most important components for reading fluency leading to reading comprehension: accuracy in word decoding, automaticity in text processing, and prosodic reading. Accuracy in word decoding refers to reading of the word correctly. An accuracy rate of 90%-95% is interpreted as adequate. The second dimension which is automaticity in text processing involves little effort in word decoding and more focus on meaning-making in reading. The third dimension builds on prosodic reading which refers to the expressiveness that a reader can convey through features of pitch, rhythm, and stress. In reading instruction, the immediate assessment of the three components can be instantaneous and can be readily observed by the teacher through calculations of accurate words read per minute, reading rate and expressiveness in reading. As immediate as the teacher assessments can be, probing how this effectively contributes to literacy education entail more than just observations. Relatively, discussing these components in isolation is agreed by leading reading experts. The theoretical perspectives posited by Chall (1996), Ehri (1995), & Perletti (1992) diverted from the generalizable conception that reading fluency is gained from speed in reading. In most cases, reading speed cannot explain the thought processes resulting to comprehension and may only show ability to read but cannot speak for capability to comprehend. To achieve reading fluency, Rasinski (2010) qualifies accuracy in word decoding, word recognition, and interpretive and meaningful reading in bridging the gap from Phonics to Comprehension. However, this does not do much without the availability of suitable reading resources, qualified reading teachers and specialists who will closely monitor the reading progress of early grades readers.
To address the teaching-learning gap, explicit instruction has been used by educators to provide developmental time for early grade readers to read with their teacher and then, read on their own. In exploring how it effectively work in the classroom, Archer (2011) posits that explicit instruction follow the principles of systematic, relentlessness, engagement, and success as good practices. Pacing also plays a crucial part in the effectiveness of explicit instruction wherein the learners’ individual learning pace is taken into account. Reinforcement should be provided to the learners as they move along the learning scale (Gunter, Estes & Schwab, 2003) and serve as bases on a certain number of correct responses. In regular and stiff curriculum-adhering classrooms, instructional time seems to be too standardized and results to remediation that lacks attention to the learner’s personal development. Learners who fail to achieve the learning standards are prone to a one-size-fits-all type of remediation. Improved learning outcomes can be achieved by providing sequential tasks and corrective and immediate feedback on the reader’s progress. By correcting reading miscues, specific behaviors that need intervention and incidental teaching or re-teaching are addressed and not prolonged. In this manner, the reader can also practice self-correction and monitoring without sacrificing pacing and individual differences.
Game-based learning: Monkey Junior
Monkey Junior© is a downloadable software application that contains a comprehensive reading program using reading games that will help children to read and improve their vocabulary. The game is divided into three reading levels: easy, medium and advanced. Easy courses focus on word-level lessons; medium-level aims to teach learners how to read simple sentences and the advanced level is suited for early grade readers to enhance their reading fluency and skills in sentence formation. The reading program covers several topics that range from things and home, body parts, toys, among others.
As an interactive reading program, Monkey Junior was developed using educational theories and integration of sight word approaches based on the studies of Glenn Doman, Shichida and Maria Montessori. It features a growing number of courses and languages, multiple profiles, customized game modes, and sticker award system as a form of positive reinforcement. An innovative component of Monkey Junior is its adaptability to the reader’s comprehension level.
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This study seeks to address the following research questions:
1. What are the significant differences between game-based and non-game based teaching in Grade 2 classes?
2. What is the correlation between explicit instruction and game-based learning?
3. What are the pedagogical implications of employing game-based learning in explicit instruction to improve early grades reading performance?
The research will utilize the experimental design in employing game-based learning in explicit instruction in Grade 3 classes. A control group (class) will be facilitated under normal teaching-learning conditions while the treatment group (class) will undergo game-based learning which will be anchored on Monkey Junior, an empirical-based game application that is “developed by early educational experts to teach children to read by visualizing the whole learning process with images and videos”. Facilitation of the research will not be subject to any class disruptions that may hamper the teaching-learning processes prescribed in the public school curriculum. For a period of one month, the teaching strategy will be embedded in all the predefined lesson plans of the Grade
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Table 1. Correlation between Explicit Instruction and GBL employment
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Table 2. Interpretation Table between Explicit Instruction and GBL employment