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Vol 2, No. 1 (September 1984)

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Computer-Assisted ESL Research

Sally Brownfield


Abstract:
The computer can be an asset to the intermediate or advanced ESL reading class. This article describes three programs developed to aid ESL students acquire competent reading strategies and shows how simple for-next loops can be creatively integrated into different programs to act as timers. The programs are written in Applesoft BASIC for the IIe. Listings of the first and third programs are included to aid novice teacher-programmers.

"VIDEODEUTSCH": A COMPUTER ASSISTED APPROACH TO VERBAL AND NONVERBAL CULTURAL LITERACY

KEYWORDS: ESL; reading; reading strategies; intermediate; advanced; Applesoft Basic; Basic; Apple IIe; program listing.

Teachers who are aware of the latest is reading theories understand the importance of convincing students to take a "top-down" approach to reading.1 It is, however, a difficult task when the students are not native speakers of English. Insecure in their own knowledge of the language, it is unlikely that they will heed the seemingly unsound advice of taking risks, not using the dictionary, guessing, skimming and the like. Indeed, these strategies seem to go against our intuition, just as our own perception of what happens when we see does not correspond to reality (Smith, 1982, p. 26). As most students operate on common sense, the first step in convincing students of the merits of our reading methodology is to demonstrate in what ways their common sense is off target. What better way to demonstrate this than to let students discover the principles for themselves by being experimentees in their own perception experiments conducted by the computer?

The first program is a sample of a possible perception experiment which could be included in a reading tutorial meant to persuade students of the validity of the current reading methods through their own participation in experiments. This program attempts to replicate the memory experiment discussed by Smith (1982, p. 29). Instead of using a tachistoscope to flash letters or words at 50 milliseconds, the computer uses a simple for-next loop to flash data on the screen. Students are asked to watch carefully when they press return. The data is flashed on the screen for a fraction of a second. The students are then asked to type in what they remember. It becomes obvious after several turns that more letters are perceived and remembered in the context of words than when randomly displayed; and more words are perceived and remembered in the context of sentences than when randomly displayed. If the sentence relates to a subject they know about, it is even easier to remember. Students see for themselves that they are able to perceive more and remember better when a series of words is in a sentence, and especially when they know something about the topic of the sentence. Students are able to see the advantage of taking in groups of words (as opposed to word-by-word reading or translation) and become aware of the importance of drawing on their own background knowledge in perceiving and remembering data.

The programming of the flash is simple—a for-next loop followed by a HOME statement. Q$ represents the data. END Q$ is the flag noting the end of the data:

READ Q$

IF Q$ = "End Q$" THEN 1000

PRINT Q$

FOR I = 1 TO 3: NEXT I

(FLASHES DATA)

HOME

For a better idea of how this is integrated into the program, see lines 190-250 in the listing for program one.

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PRACTICING READING STRATEGIES

The best way for ESL students to improve their reading strategies is by reading. The next two programs give students the opportunity to practice their reading and at the same time focus on specific strategies. As the goals of the various tasks differ, the manner in which they approach the text must differ too. Students learn that there are many ways to read a text and that they must vary their strategies to suit their purpose. The first program described in this section focuses on improving skimming techniques. The second one focuses on improving reading speed but requires the practice of other strategies as well.

The Skimming Program

The skimming program forces students to abandon word-by-word reading and/or translation first by limiting the task of the exercise and then by limiting the time. Skimming is defined as quickly running one's eyes over a text to get the gist of it (Grellet, 1981, p. 4). Students are therefore told that their goal is simply to get a general idea of the text. They are not to read every word in the text. They are even advised to read the first and last sentences first, and then, only if they have time, to return to the middle. The students have three speed choices, ranging from about 9 to 22 seconds. The text appears and then disappears. A question, in multiple choice format, then asks that the most important idea of the text was. The computer confirms a correct response but does not give the correct answer for a false response in case the students decide to repeat the exercise.

The next step is to repeat the same process with a brand new text. The texts are short (about 100-150 words) and there are usually five texts in one file. If students wish to continue, they must branch on to a new file of five texts.

By limiting the task to answering one question, students do not have to worry about not getting enough information from the text in the limited amount of time. By limiting the time, students cannot dwell on any one word or section and risk missing the general meaning. By repeating the same task with new texts, students practice this skill and develop new habits which hopefully will be carried over to all their reading.

The programming is based on the same principle as in the perception program. A simple for-next loop is used, but since there are three speed choices, the actual number of clock cycles is set up to T. A clock cycle of 1000 is equal to about 1.25 seconds so it is possible to vary the amount of time the text remains on the screen by adjusting the number of cycles. The first speed of 7000 cycles is about nine seconds.

A=FAST B=MEDIUM C=SLOW

INPUT"A,B,OR C";R$

IF R$="A" THEN T=7000

IF R$="B" THEN T=14000

IF R$="C" THEN T=18000

IF R$=""THEN T=18000

IF R$="Q" THEN END

READ T$

IF T$="XXX" THEN 430

(FOR-NEXT LOOP)

PRINT T$

GO TO 390 (READ T$)

FOR D=1 TO T:NEXT D

HOME

The T$ represents the text in data. The "XXX" is a flag which signals the end of the text. And, of course, HOME clears the text from the screen. Although a listing of this exact program is not included in this article, this same skim loop has been integrated in part of the speed reading program in lines 750-980.

The Speed Reading Program

The speed reading program is more comprehensive in that it emulates the steps that a teacher might follow when giving a timed reading and thus includes several strategies. The student is shown the title of the text and asked to make a prediction about the contents of the text before reading it. Prediction is defined as the faculty of guessing what is to come next, making use of grammatical, logical and cultural clues (Grellet, 1981, p. 17). In this exercise, the students are asked to make logical guesses concerning the contents of the article. Students get information from both the title and the multiple choice question itself which help them formulate an idea as to what the text is about. They are then asked to skim the text in the same manner as described in the skimming program. This time, however, their goal is simply to verify whether their prediction is right or wrong. When the text disappears, the title and question reappear in order to give the students a chance to change their answer if necessary.

Now the students are ready to read more carefully. They are again given a choice of speeds to choose from, but this time they are expected to try to read the whole text in order to answer comprehension question. The text will stay on the screen just enough time to allow them to read it at 150, 200, or 250 words per minute. (These speeds can be adjusted by changing the values for W in lines 1420-1450). If they finish before the time is up, they can press the space bar. The computer will record how many words per minute they actually read.

The goals of the exercise are to increase reading speed and comprehension. As comprehension is achieved by reading neither too fast not too slow,2 the students are not allowed to take as much time as they wish to read the text even though the task requires more careful reading. They are not allowed to dwell on one or two words they don't understand and thereby lost the greater meaning of the text. In anticipation of the text's disappearance, it is hoped they will read quickly, skip over unknown words, and understand the most important ideas in the text.

Next, students are presented with the comprehension questions. When they finish, they are given their reading speeds and comprehension scores. At this point, they may choose to reread the text to try to improve their reading speed. The

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computer feedback in the form of a speed score makes it easy for the students to compete with themselves. They may also wish to take this opportunity to scan for answers to comprehension questions they answered incorrectly.

By combining the reading strategies of prediction, skimming, careful reading (but not too careful), speed reading, and scanning, the speed reading program provides a comprehensive reading lesson yet allows the students to focus on specific strategies one at a time. This is much like the manner in which a teacher would guide the students through a timed reading in class. The computer, however, is able to limit the students' access to the text, provide immediate feedback, individualize instruction, allow unlimited repetition, and add a game-like quality to the exercise by keeping score and encouraging self-competition.

The speed reading programming makes use of a for-next loop, but this time it is in a subroutine.2 The words-per-minute calculations are in the main body of the program (see lines 1290-1560 in the listing):

IF S$="A" THEN W=250

IF S$="B" THEN W=200

IF S$="C" THEN W=150

IF S$="" THEN W=150

TX=((100*60)W) REM NUMBER OF SECONDS

T=((TX,3)*100) REM TIME LIMIT IN CYCLES

**SHOW TEXT ROUTINE**

GOSUB 50

HOME

The subroutine is placed at the beginning of the program (lines 50-110) in order to keep the timing consistent. As Applesoft BASIC does not have a built-in timer, it was necessary to time the clock cycles with a stop watch. The for-next loop in the subroutine includes two additional lines (80,90). Their execution changes the length of time necessary for the computer to complete the cycle. It was therefore necessary to reclock the cycles in the context of the subroutine and base later word-per-minutes calculations on this new time.

***SUBROUTINE***

FOR D=I TO T

A=PEEK(116384)

IF A=160 THEN GOTO 12

(RETURN)

NEXT D

RETURN

The two additional lines consist of a PEEK command to the keyboard buffer and an ASCII value for the space bar which is activated only if the student finishes the text early and presses it.

EFFECTIVENESS

Although no empirical studies have been done as to the effectiveness of these programs, students using the skimming and speed reading programs have reported that they enjoyed using them. It is hoped that other teachers will use these programs in conjunction with their ESL reading classes and provide feedback as to their effectiveness and student reaction. The listings of the first and third programs discussed are given below. The author will be happy to make copies of all three programs for any interested teachers. Please send an empty diskette.

ENDNOTES

1 The schema theory model of reading refutes the common sense notion that reading is a bottom-up process which goes from letter to word to sentence to meaning. The reader is referred to Adams and Collins in Freedle (1979) for more information about top-down and bottom-up processing strategies.

2 See Coady in Mackay (1979, p. 12). "Increasing speed is important to avoid loss of comprehension of the passage as a whole. But the degree of speed to be used should vary according to the complexity of the material read, the purposes for reading the material, and the reader's background."

3 The author would like to thank Larry Heyl, programmer for the Saudi Arabian Customs Project at Arkansas State University, for assistance in developing the subroutine.

Bibliography

Adams, Marilyn Jager and Allan Collins. 1979. "A Schema-Theoretic View of Reading," in Roy O. Freedle (Ed.), New Directions in Discourse Processing. Volume II. Norwood, New Jersey: Ablex Publishing Co.

Coady, James. 1979. "A psycholinguistic model of the ESL reader." In Ronald Mackay, Bruce Barkman and R. R. Jordan (eds.), Reading in a Second Language. Rowley, Massachusetts: Newbury House Publishers, Inc.

Grellet, Francoise. 1981. Developing Reading Skills. London: Cambridge University Press.

Smith, Frank. 1982. Understanding Reading. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

Author's Address

Intensive English Program

Saudi Arabian Customs Project

Arkansas State University

P.O. Box 2410

State University, AR 72467

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10 REM *** SPEED-READING MODEL PROGRAM ***

20 REM BY SALLY BROWNFIELD, JANUARY 19, 1984

30 REM PROGRAMMING ASSISTANCE BY LARRY HEYL

40 GOTO 130

50 REM ***** SUB-ROUTINE *****

60 REM ***** SEE 1550 *****

70 FOR D = 1 TO T

80 A = PEEK (116384)

90 IF A = 160 THEN GOTO 110

100 NEXT D

110 RETURN

120 REM F=FIRST TRY RIGHT, S=SECOND TRY RIGHT, P=PERCENTAGE FIRST TRY, R=PERCENTAGE SECOND TRY, K=# OF QUESTIONS, W=WORDS PER MINUTE DESIRED, T=TIME LIMIT IN NUMBER OF CYCLES, TX=NUMBER OF SECONDS, WT=NUMBER OF WORDS IN TEXT

130 DIM T$(255),R$(80),Q$(80),A$(80

140 DIM K$(80),O$(80),N$(80),Y$(80),C$(80)

150 RESTORE

160 K = 1

170 F = 0

180 S = 0

190 PRINT

200 PRINT "WELCOME TO THE COMPUTER CENTER!"

210 PRINT

220 PRINT "WHAT'S YOUR NAME?"230 PRINT "(FIRST NAME ONLY, PLEASE)."

240 INPUT N$

250 PRINT

260 PRINT "<<PUSH RETURN>>"

270 GET R$

280 PRINT

290 PRINT "HI ";N$;", I'M GLAD YOU COULD"

300 PRINT "COME TODAY!"

310 PRINT

320 PRINT "ARE YOU REPEATING THE EXERCISE?"

330 PRINT "(Y=YES, N=NO) -- TYPE 'N' IF THIS IS"

340 PRINT "YOUR FIRST TIME DOING THIS LESSON."

350 PRINT

360 INPUT D$

370 IF D$ = "Y" THEN 1260

380 REM ******** DIRECTIONS ********

390 PRINT "THEFOLLOWING IS A SPEED READING AND COMPREHENSION EXERCISE. FIRST, A TITLE WILL APPEAR ON THE SCREEN. YOU WILL"

400 PRINT "BE ASKED TO MAKE A PREDICTION ABOUT THAT TITLE. THEN, YOU CHOOSE A SPEED. THE TEXT WILL APPEAR AND YOU WILL BE"

410 PRINT "ASKED TO SKIM IT AS FAST AS YOU CAN. WHEN IT DISAPPEARS, YOU WILL BE ASKED TO RECHECK YOUR PREDICTION."

420 PRINT

430 PRINT "THEN YOU WILL BE ASKED TO READ THE TEXT AGAIN BUT THIS TIME MORE CAREFULLY"

440 PRINT "FINALLY, THERE WILL BE COMPREHENSION QUESTIONS"

450 REM ******** *********

460 PRINT

470 PRINT

480 PRINT

490 PRINT "<<PUSH RETURN>>"

500 GET R$

510 REM ******** TITLE AND PREVIEW-PREDICTION QUESTION ********

520 PRINT

530 PRINT "----------------TITLE-----------------"

540 PRINT

550 PRINT "READ THE TITLE ABOVE. WHAT DO YOU"

560 PRINT "THINK THE TEXT IS ABOUT?"

570 PRINT

580 PRINT "A) POSSIBILITY A"

590 PRINT "B) POSSIBLITY B"

600 PRINT "C) POSSIBILITY C"

610 PRINT "ANSWER:"

620 INPUT B$

630 IF B$ <> "A" AND B$ <> "B" AND B$ <>"C" THEN 680

640 IF B$ = "C" THEN 700

650 PRINT "MAYBE ";B$;" IS RIGHT. SKIM THE TEXT,"

660 PRINT "MAYBE YOU'LL CHANGE YOUR MIND!"

670 GOTO 720

680 PRINT "PLEASE TYPE A, B, OR C."

690 GOTO 610

700 PRINT "GOOD!! WE MADE THE SAME PREDICTION."

710 REM ******** ********

720PRINT

730 PRINT "<<PUSH RETURN>>"

740 GET R$

750 REM ******** ********

760 PRINT

770 PRINT "CHOOSE YOUR SPEED."

780 PRINT

790 PRINT "A) FAST, B) MEDIUM, C) SLOW."

800 PRINT "TYPE A, B, OR C."

810 INPUT R$

820 PRINT "PRESS <<RETURN>> WHEN YOU'RE READY TO"

830 PRINT "BEGIN."

840 PRINT "REMEMBER, SKIM AS QUICKLY AS YOUCAN!"

850 GET RX$

860 REM ******** VARIABLES FOR TIMER ********

870 IF R$ = "A" THEN T = 5000

880 IF R$ = "B" THEN T = 8000

890 IF R$ = "C" THEN T= 10000

900 IF R$ = "" THEN T = 9000

910 REM **** SHOW TEXT ****

920 READ T$

930 IF T$ = "XXX" THEN 960

940PRINT T$

950 GOTO 920

960 FOR D=1 TO T:NEXT D

970 REM **** TEXT DISAPPEARS ****

980 HOME

990 REM ******** SHOW FOLLOW-UP QUESTION ********

1000 PRINT : PRINT

1010 PRINT "NOW THAT YOU'VE SKIMMED THE PASSAGE,"

1020 PRINT "DO YOU STILL THINK ";B$;" IS RIGHT?"

1030 PRINT "(TYPE Y OR N AFTER 'ANSWER')."

1040 PRINT

1050 INPUT "ANSWER:";Y$

1060 IF Y$ = "Y" THEN 1260

1070 IF Y$ = "N" THEN 1080

1080 PRINT : PRINT

1090 PRINT "---------------TITLE---------------------"

1100 PRINT

1110 PRINT "THE TEXT IS ABOUT:"

1120 PRINT "A) POSSIBILITY A"

1130 PRINT "B) POSSIBILITY B"

140 PRINT "C) POSSIBILITY C"

1150 PRINT "TRY AGAIN. THE TEXT IS ABOUT..."

1160 PRINT "ANSWER:"

1170 INPUT C$

1180 IF C$ <> "A" AND C$ <>"B" AND C$ <> "C" THEN 1230

1190 IF C$ = "C" THEN 1250

1200 PRINT

1210 PRINT "I THINK 'C' IS A BETTER ANSWER."

1220 GOTO 1260

1230 PRINT "PLEASE TYPE A, B, OR C."

1240 GOTO 1170

1250 PRINT "GOOD, I AGREE WITH YOU."

1260 PRINT : PRINT "OKAY, NOW YOU'RE READY TO READ THE"

1270 PRINT "TEXT MORE CAREFULLY."

1280 ******** ********

1290 REM ******** SECOND TIMER ********

1300 PRINT

1310 PRINT "WHAT SPEED DO YOU PREFER TO READ AT?"

1320 PRINT

1330 PRINT "A) 250 WPM B) 200 WPM C) 150 WPM

1340 PRINT "(WPM=WORDS PER MINUTE. CHOOSE 'C' FOR THE SLOWEST SPEED)"

1350 INPUT S$

1360 PRINT

1370 PRINT "PRESS <<RETURN>> WHEN YOU'RE READY"

1380 PRINT "TO BEGIN. READ CAREFULLY THIS TIME."

1390 PRINT "(PRESS THE <<SPACE BAR>> IF YOU FINISH"

1400 PRINT "EARLY.)"

1410 GET R$

1420 IF S$ = "A" THEN W = 250

1430 IF S$ = "B" THEN W = 200

1440 IF S$ ="C" THEN W = 150

1450 IF S$ = "" THEN W = 150

1460 TX = ((100 * 60) / W)

1465 WT = 100: REM # OF WORDS IN TEXT

1470 T = ((TX / 1.3) * WT)

1480 REM ******** SHOW TEXT ********

1490 RESTORE

1500 READ T$

1510 IF T$ = "XXX" THEN 1550

1520 PRINT T$

1530 GOTO 1500

1540 REM ******** *********

1550 GOSUB 70

1560 HOME

1570 REM ******** READ AND SHOW QUESTIONS ********

1580 Y = 0

1590 IF K = 4 THEN 1990

1600 READ K$

1610 PRINT

1620 FOR C = 1 TO 10

1630 READ Q$(C)

1640 IF Q$(C) = "END" THEN 1670

1650 NEXT C

1660 PRINT "QUESTION NUMBER: ";K

1670 FOR X = 1 TO (C - 1)

1680 PRINT Q$(X)

1690 NEXT X

1700 REM ******** ********

1710 REM ******** STUDENT INPUT AN REEDBACK *********

1720 PRINT "ANSWER: "

1730 INPUT A

1740 IF A$ <> "A" AND A$ <> "B" AND A$ <> "C" AND A$ <> "" THEN 1820

1750 IF A$ = K$ THEN 1930

1760 IF A$ = "Q" THEN 2070

1770 IF S$ = "" THEN 1790

1780 IF A$ <> K$ THEN 1840

1790 PRINT "AW, COME ON, ";N$;", DON'T BE LAZY!"

1800 PRINT "TAKE A GUESS."

1810 GOTO 1730

1820 PRINT "PLEASE TYPE A, B OR ."

23

1830 GOTO 1720

1840 IF Y = 1 THEN 1880

1850 PRINT "SORRY, WRONG ANSWER."

1860 Y = Y + 1

1870 GOTO 1660

1880 PRINT "SORRY, YOU MISSED AGAIN."

1890 PRINT "THE CORRECT ANSWER IS ";K$

1900 PRINT "<<PUSH RETURN>>"

1910 GET R$

1920 GOTO 1970

1930 PRINT "GREAT, ";N$;"!!! ";K$;" IS THE RIGHT ANSWER."

1940 REM ******** COUNTERS FOR 1ST AND 2ND TRIES ********

1950 IF Y = 0 THEN F= F + 1

1960 IF Y = 1 THEN S = S + 1

1970 K = K + 1

1980 GOTO 1580

1990 GOTO 2000

2000 REM ******** END PROGRAM ********

2010 PRINT

2020 PRINT

2030 PRINT N$;", YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE EXERCISE."

2040 REM ***** PERCENT CORRECT CALCULATION *****

2050 P = INT (((F / 3) + .005) * 100)

2060 R = INT (((S / 3) + .005) * 100)

2070 PRINT

2080 PRINT "YOU GOT ";P;"% RIGHT ON YOUR FIRST TRY"

2090 PRINT "AND ";R;"% RIGHT ON YOUR SECOND TRY."

2100 REM ***** WPM CALCULATION *****

2110 L = D / 77

2120 V = (100 / L)

2130 M = INT (V * 60)

2140 PRINT "YOU READ ";M;" WORDS PER MINUTE."

2150 PRINT

2160 REM ******** BRANCHING ********

2170 PRINT "WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO NEXT?"

2180 PRINT

2190 PRINT "1. REPEAT THE SAME EXERCISE."

2200 PRINT "2. GO ON TO THE NEXT TEXT."

2210 PRINT "3. GO BACK TO THE MENU."

2220 PRINT "4. QUIT."

2230 PRINT

2240 PRINT "TYPE THE NUMBER: "

2250 INPUT O$

2260 IF O$ = "1" THEN 150

2270 IF O$ = "2" THEN 5000

2280 IF O$ = "3" THEN 5000

2290 IF O$ = "4" THEN 2300

2300 PRINT "GOOD-BYE ";N$;". COME AGAIN."

2310 END

5000 REM *** BACK TO THE MENU ***

5010 PRINT CHR$ (4)"RUN MENU(READING)"

10000 REM ******** DATA ********

10010 DATA "***************************************"

10020 DATA " "

10030 DATA " THIS IS THE SPACE FOR THE TEXT. "

10040 DATA "********"

10050 DATA "* "

10060 DATA "* "

10070 DATA "* "

10080 DATA "* "

10090 DATA "* "

10100 DATA "* "

10110 DATA " "

10120 DATA "***************************************"

10125 REM 'XXX' IS THE FLAG

10130 DATA "XXX"

10140 REM ******** ANSWER KEY ********

10150 DATA "A"

10160 REM ******** QUESTION ********

10165 DATA " "

10170 DATA "WHICH ONE?"

10180 DATA "A. (1)"

10190 DATA "B. (2)"

10200 DATA "C. (3)"

10210 DATA "END"

10220 DATA "B"

10230 DATA "WHICH TWO?"

10240 DATA "A. (1)"

10250 DATA "B. (2)"10260 DATA "C. (3)"

10270 DAT "END"

10280 DATA "C"

10290 DATA "WHICH THREE?"

10300 DATA "A. (1)"

10310 DATA "B. (2)"

10320 DATA "C. (3)"

10330 DATA "END"

24