Content and Formal Schemata in Esl Reading

Topics: Reading comprehension, Comprehension, Reading Pages: 21 (8330 words) Published: October 24, 2008
Content and Formal Schemata in ESL Reading
PATRICIA L. CARRELL Southern Illinois University
Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) Content and Formal Schemata in ESL Reading
Author(s): Patricia L. Carrell
Source: TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 3 (Sep., 1987), pp. 461-481 Published by: Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, Inc. (TESOL) Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3586498
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TESOL QUARTERLY, Vol. 21, No. 3, September 1987 Content and Formal Schemata in ESL Reading PATRICIA L. CARRELL Southern Illinois University This article reports the results of an experiment investigating the simultaneous effects on ESL reading comprehension of both culture-specific content schemata and formal schemata, as well as any potential interaction between them. In the study, high- intermediate ESL students read, recalled, and answered questions about each of two texts. For each of two groups of readers (students of Muslim and Catholic/Spanish backgrounds), one text had culturally familiar content, the other culturally unfamiliar content. Within each group, one half of the subjects read the texts in a familiar, well-organized rhetorical format, the other half read the texts in an unfamiliar, altered rhetorical format. Results showed the conditions expected to yield good reading compre- hension (familiar content, familiar rhetorical form) did so. Similarly, the conditions expected to yield poor reading comprehension (unfamiliar content, unfamiliar rhetorical form) did so. More interestingly, the results for the "mixed" conditions (familiar content, unfamiliar rhetorical form; unfamiliar content, familiar rhetorical form) indicated that content schemata affected reading comprehension to a greater extent than formal schemata. Specific results are presented and discussed, as are limitations of the study and teaching implications. One type of schema, or background knowledge, a reader brings to a text is a content schema, which is knowledge relative to the content domain of the text. Another type is a formal schema, or knowledge relative to the formal, rhetorical organizational structures of different types of texts. In empirical tests of these two different types of schemata, it is fairly easy to separate out and to test for the effects of one type, while holding the effects of the other type constant. For example, in testing for the effects of content schemata, one keeps the formal rhetorical structure of a text constant, manipulates the content, and has comparable groups of subjects process each different content. Any differences on the dependent measures (answers to literal or 461...

References: Berkowitz, S., & Taylor, B. (1981). The effects of text type and familiarity on the nature of information recalled by readers. In M.L. Kamil (Ed.), Directions in reading: Research and instruction (pp. 157-161). Washington, DC: National Reading Conference. CONTENT AND FORMAL SCHEMATA 477
Carrell, P.L. (1981). Culture-specific schemata in L2 comprehension. In R. Orem & J. Haskell (Eds.), Selected papers from the Ninth Illinois TESOL/BE Annual Convention, First Midwest TESOL Conference (pp. 123-132). Chicago: Illinois TESOL/BE. Carrell, P.L. (1983). Some issues in studying the role of schemata, or background knowledge, in second language comprehension. Reading in a Foreign Language, 1, 81-92. Carrell, P.L. (1984a). The effects of rhetorical organization on ESL readers. TESOL Quarterly, 18, 441-469. Carrell, P.L. (1984b). Evidence of a formal schema in second language comprehension. Language Learning, 34,87-112. Carrell, P.L. (1985). Facilitating ESL reading by teaching text structure. TESOL Quarterly, 19, 727-752. Carrell, P.L., & Eisterhold, J.C. (1983). Schema theory and ESL reading pedagogy. TESOL Quarterly, 17, 553-573. Carrell, P.L., & Wallace, B. (1983). Background knowledge: Context and familiarity in reading comprehension. In M.A. Clarke & J. Handscombe (Eds.), On TESOL '82 (pp. 295-308). Washington, DC: TESOL. Dale, E., & Chall, J.S. (1948). A formula for predicting readability: Instructions. Educational Research Bulletin, 27, 37-54. Flahive, D.E., & Snow, B.G. (1980). Measures of syntactic complexity in evaluating ESL compositions. In J.W. Oiler, Jr., & K. Perkins (Eds.), Research in language testing (pp. 171-176). Rowley, MA: Newbury House. Hunt, K.W. (1965). Grammatical structures written at 3 grade levels. Champaign, IL: National Council of Teachers of English. Johnson, P. (1981). Effects on reading comprehension of language complexity and cultural background of a text. TESOL Quarterly, 15, 169-181. Johnson, P. (1982). Effects on reading comprehension of building background knowledge. TESOL Quarterly, 16, 503-516. Kintsch, W., & Greene, E. (1978). The role of culture-specific schemata in the comprehension and recall of stories. Discourse Processes, 1, 1-13. Lipson, M.Y. (1983). The influence of religious affiliation on children 's memory for text information. Reading Research Quarterly, 18, 448-457. Mandler, J.M. (1978a). Categorical and schematic organization in memory (Tech. Rep. No. 16). San Diego: University of California, Center for Human Information Processing. Mandler, J.M. (1978b). A code in the node: The use of a story schema in retrieval. Discourse Processes, 1, 14-35. Mandler, J.M., & Johnson, N.S. (1977). Remembrance of things parsed: Story structure and recall. Cognitive Psychology, 9, 111-151. Markham, P., & Latham, M. (1987). The influence of religion-specific background knowledge on the listening comprehension of adult second- language students. Language Learning, 37, 157-170. TESOL QUARTERLY 478
Steffensen, M.S., Joag-dev, C., & Anderson, R.C. (1979). A cross-cultural perspective on reading comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 15, 10-29. Stevens, K. (1982). Can we improve reading by teaching background information? Journal of Reading, 25, 326-329. APPENDIX Saint Catherine (Familiar, Well-Organized Form) About six hundred years ago, there was a young woman named Catherine. She lived with her parents in Italy. As a young child, because she was born on the Feast of the Annunciation, Catherine loved the Blessed Mother and the Holy Family very much. Whenever she climbed up or down stairs, she would kneel on each step and say a Hail Mary. She never went anywhere without her rosary. When she was sixteen years old, a rich man was eager to marry Catherine. Her parents liked him and wanted her to marry him, but Catherine did not want to. After refusing to marry the rich man, Catherine told her parents she wanted to become the bride of Christ. Her parents were angry, but they finally agreed. When she was twenty-one years old, Catherine joined the Dominican order. She worked in the hospitals with the other young women of the order. When she was not nursing the sick, she was at Mass. One day, on Ash Wednesday, after receiving communion as a Dominican, Catherine had a remarkable vision. While looking at the cross, five blood-red rays of light came from the cross and touched her hands, feet, and chest. After her vision, Catherine fainted. She got better quickly, but the scars remained on her body for the rest of her life. This was not long, however; she died when she was thirty-three. Because of this, and other remarkable things about her life, she is known today as Saint Catherine. Saint Catherine (Unfamiliar, Altered Form) About six hundred years ago, there was a young woman named Catherine. She lived with her parents in Italy. As a young child, because she was born on the Feast of the Annunciation, Catherine loved the Blessed Mother and the Holy Family very much. Whenever she climbed up or down stairs, she would kneel on each step and say a Hail Mary. She never went anywhere without her rosary. When she was twenty-one years old, Catherine joined the Dominican order. She worked in the hospitals with the other young women of the order. When she was not nursing the sick, she was at Mass. CONTENT AND FORMAL SCHEMATA 479
When she was sixteen years old, a rich man was eager to marry Catherine. Her parents liked him and wanted her to marry him, but Catherine did not want to. One day, on Ash Wednesday, after receiving communion as a Dominican, Catherine had a remarkable vision. While looking at the cross, five blood-red rays of light came from the cross and touched her hands, feet, and chest. After refusing to marry the rich man, Catherine told her parents she wanted to become the bride of Christ. Her parents were angry, but they finally agreed. After her vision, Catherine fainted. She got better quickly, but the scars remained on her body for the rest of her life. This was not long, however; she died when she was thirty-three. Because of this, and other remarkable things about her life, she is known today as Saint Catherine. Ali Affani (Familiar, Well-Organized Form) There once was a young man named Ali Affani. He lived in Jidda with his widowed mother. Towards the end of the year 405, young Ali 's mother agreed that he could go to Mecca as all good men do. While in the desert, on his way to Mecca, something happened which made young Ali unfit to continue his trip. Believing that his trip had begun badly, he returned to Jidda. Upon returning to Jidda, young Ali found his mother sitting in the street, crying and tearing her clothes and hair like a crazy woman. She told Ali that since he had left, she had been in the street. She would not enter the house without her son. Ali really wanted to go to Mecca, but could not leave her sitting outside, so he stayed home. Ali was finally able to go to Mecca, several years later, after his mother died, in the year of 420. Ali spent the rest of his life in the sanctuary, Al- Haram, in the Holy City. He only left once each day to buy food. He did not need to buy water because God provided it. As an old man, Ali was very religious and prayed constantly. Each day he would read from the Koran while walking around the Kaaba a number of times. In the sanctuary in Mecca, whenever Ali walked around the Kaaba, he would show his respect for the precious stone. Ali died in the Great Mosque, his home for thirty years. Ali Affani (Unfamiliar, Altered Form) There once was a young man named Ali Affani. He lived in Jidda with his widowed mother. Towards the end of the year 405, young Ali 's mother agreed that he could go to Mecca as all good men do. Ali was finally able to go to Mecca, several years later, after his mother died, in the year of 420. Ali spent the rest of his life in the sanctuary, Al-Haram, in the Holy City. He only left TESOL QUARTERLY 480
once each day to buy food. He did not need to buy water because God provided it. While in the desert, on his way to Mecca the first time, something happened which made young Ali unfit to continue his trip. Believing that his trip had begun badly, he returned to Jidda. As an old man in Mecca, Ali was very religious and prayed constantly. Each day he would read from the Koran while walking around the Kaaba a number of times. Upon returning to Jidda, young Ali found his mother sitting in the street, crying and tearing her clothes and hair like a crazy woman. She told Ali that since he had left, she had been in the street. She would not enter the house without her son. Ali really wanted to go to Mecca, but could not leave her sitting outside, so he stayed home. In the sanctuary in Mecca at last, whenever Ali walked around the Kaaba, he would show his respect for the precious stone. Ali died in the Great Mosque, his home for thirty years. CONTENT AND FORMAL SCHEMATA 481
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