Language instruction in the high school classroom: an action research study

Finnegan, Amy
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This study examines the role of language in an Advanced Placement Literature class consisting of high school students in the Midwest. The language strategies focused on pertain to storytelling, dialect, syntax and style, vocabulary, and narrative framework. The three literature texts explored were Zora Neale Hurston's Their Eyes Were Watching God, Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The research questions for this study examine the literature classroom in terms of language instruction: (1) What strategies do students use to read difficult texts? (2) What motivates students to continue reading what they consider to be challenging texts? (3) How does language instruction influence critical and creative thinking? (4) How can teachers help readers comprehend challenging texts? I used a method of triangulation for this study that involved the use of case studies (student interviews, student surveys, and student writing samples), observation of class discussions (using audiotape), and a teacher journal that served as field notes centered around theoretical, methodological, and personal findings. The following conclusions were drawn from this study involving both quantitative and qualitative research: (1) High school students can identify and apply language strategies to the texts they read. (2) While engaged in small group discussions, students used reading strategies to construct meaning of the texts. (3) Reading strategies were accessible to both high and intermediate students. (4) Using reading strategies involving vocabulary and tone helped students to appreciate the author's word choice and style. (5) Some students lacked motivation to read texts but developing a historical context helped reader motivation. (6) Using multiple language strategies helped students ask new questions about literature.

English, English literature, Literature