System of tasks to develop reading comprehension in first year students of Foreign Language Degree


English is used extensively as a second language and as an official language throughout the world. Modern English is the dominant international language in communication, business, science, aviation, entertainment, radio and diplomacy. Mastering English has become a requirement in a number of fields, occupations and professions.

Cuba holds international relationships with several nations and offers professional services in more than 70 countries all over the world. Nowadays, most of the information that people acquire in TV programs, magazines, internet and other sources is in English. That is the reason why is very important to study English in Cuba.

English is taught in all the levels of Education, from primary school to university. The communicative approach was established along all the educations by 2000 and its main goal is to develop communicative competence taking into account its components: linguistic, strategic, sociolinguistic, discursive and sociocultural. It is also a goal to develop the four macroskills: speaking and writing which are the productive ones and listening and reading which are not productive.

Reading is one of the main skills that learners should acquire in the process of mastering a language because reading develops psychological processes such as analysis, synthesis, comparison, generalization, memory and imagination. Reading tasks may activate the development of speaking abilities or vice versa. It is also important because science and technology are developing at an incredible speed and thousands of new books and articles are published every day and most of them are in English, not only in countries where English is spoken, but also in other countries, whose official language is other than English.

In view of the fact that the first year students should be able to read intensive and extensive texts in English and demonstrate general comprehension of them; the author made a research about the process of developing reading comprehension in the students from Foreign Languages Degree.

By means of empirical observation the author verified that the students have some difficulties at comprehending texts since most of the students have different levels of English. In addition to that it was evidenced that the students find hard to understand the meaning of unknown words, look for specific information and recognize the main ideas when they are working with a given text. The author established a contradiction between the need students have to read and comprehend texts in English and the real state that lies in the difficulties they face doing so.

Taking into account the problematic situation mentioned before and the contradiction established, the following scientific problem is identified:

How to improve the development of reading comprehension in first year students of Foreign Language Degree?

Object of study: The reading skill

Field of action: The development of reading comprehension in the students

Having in mind the problematic situation and the scientific problem started and to give solution to the problem the objective of this investigation is: to design a system of tasks to develop reading comprehension in first year students of Foreign Language Degree.

Variable: Development of reading comprehension.

Taking into account the different criteria the author of the investigation selected the operationally concept of the development of reading comprehension: "It is the process of deriving meaning from written texts by means of using several reading strategies according to the three moments of the reading comprehension that allows the reader to understand ideas, locate information, infer meaning and grammatical structures, summarize texts, give opinions and point of views according to the text".( Reyes Alvarez, I.2014:2)

Several scientific methods were used to carry out this research.

Theoretical methods:

-Historical and logical

-Analysis and synthesis

-Induction and deduction

-System approach

Empirical methods:



-Pedagogical test

Statistical mathematical method

-Descriptive statistic

*Percentage analysis procedure


-Observation guide

-Questionnaire for the survey

-Questionnaire for the pedagogical test

In the investigation the sample is 17 students of first year students of foreign language degree which represent 100% of the population.

Practical Significance:

Taking into account the diagnosis results and the characteristics of the students in order to solve a problem in a pedagogical practice with the elaboration of a system of tasks this investigation will contribute to develop reading comprehension in first year students who belong to foreign language degree at UNAH.


Chapter I:

The theoretical and methodological foundations of the research

1.1Reading as a linguistic skill

Skills constitute a form of assimilation of the activity of the man. From the pedagogical side they are formed and developed for the man to use knowledge, as much in the course of the theoretic activity and the practice. It is almost impossible to achieve the appropriation of knowledge if it does not materialize through ability. Through the abilities the knowledge and the level of performance of the man are exteriorized .Skills evaluate the extension and depth of knowledge.

There are many authors that have referred to the term ability, after analysing different definitions; the author of this research shows some of them:

-L. Klimberg (1985) stated that abilities are "automatized components of the man, made through practice".

- Viviana González Maura and an association of authors defined abilities, from the psychological point, as "the control of operations (psychic and practical) that enable the rational regulation of activity. It is the understanding of the interrelation between the end of activity and conditions, the means for its implementation".

-More recently Maribel Ferrer defined ability as "The construction and control for the student, from the inherent behavior to a determined activity, that it allows you searching or using concepts, properties, relations, procedures, using strategies of work, developing reasonings, broadcasting judgments and solving exercises and problems".

The process of the development of abilities is a (cognoscitive) generalizing process that passes in the same way for the different particular abilities.

The formation of linguistic skills has a vital importance in the teaching of foreign languages in view to achieve the communicative competence in the students, through the development of the four linguistic skills: oral expression, the listening comprehension, writing and reading comprehension.

According to Roberto Gonzales Cancio, a linguistic skill is "The capacity of directing the verbal activity in conditions of solution of communicative tasks; is the capacity the student develop, to use in a different way, communicative objectives, the linguistic habits or its continuity". (Gonzalez, R., 2009: 29)

Reading is the linguistic skill more used since it can continue with independent mode during the whole life. In addition to that, we live in a country whose mother tongue is Spanish, and the practice of the oral communication in English language is not very common, and to develop a determined study or professional work we have to look for the bibliography not only in the mother tongue, but also in English language, this is the reason that the reading skill is more used by the consultants.

Reading is a medium of communication, the power to get Information from written language; it is an active, thought- getting, and problem-solving process. In this process, the reader must make an active contribution by drawing upon and using concurrently various abilities that he has acquired. Reading is a mighty weapon to develop in the qualities of the students as patriotism, internationalism, responsibility, honesty, loyalty and love. Also, through reading the learner enriches his knowledge of the world and increases his understanding of the cultures of the speakers of the language, their ways of thinking, and their contribution to many fields of artistic and intellectual endeavor.

Reading is more than an interaction between a reader and a text. When a person reads, he tries to relate the new information in the text to what is already known. The reader must make connections between what a text is about and external absent objects, ideas and people.

Different reading definitions have been compiled by the author and taken into consideration to conceptualize the variable chosen in the investigation.

According to Grellet (1981) reading is a constant process of guessing, and what one brings to the text is often more important than what one finds in it.

Johnston Mikulecky defines this as "a complex behavior which involves conscious and unconscious use of various strategies, including problem-solving strategies, to build a model of the meaning which the writer is assumed to have intended". (Mikulecky, J., 1990:2)

Michigan University teachers Wixson, Peters, Weber, explain that reading is the process of constructing meaning through the dynamic interaction among:

-the reader"s existing knowledge

-the information suggested by the text being read

-the context of the reading situation.

Isora Enríquez O"Farrill (2002), expose that "reading is an active and productive activity characterized by the interaction, negotiation and recognition of meaning between the reader and the text as well as among readers: Through the critical analysis of the texts the students will develop their processes of thinking and their communication skill".

After analyzing these definitions, it is evident that all definitions have some aspects in common. For example: the authors are agreed that reading is a process in which the reader and the text are involved. The author of this investigation assumed the definition by the teachers of Michigan because it is synthetic and it includes the elements which are essential for the development of the skill.

As a major linguistic skill, reading has been divided into different types depending on the procedures or the studying purpose emphasized.

When a person reads, tries to relate the new information in the text to what he already knows. The reader must make connections between what a text is about and external objects, ideas and people.

Types of activities in the teaching- learning process of reading

Reading activities are usually classified according to the stage in which they are employed within the teaching learning process. Accordingly, three main types are distinguished: before, while and after reading activities.

Before reading activities

These activities, as their name implies, are carried out before students read the text. They are used to activate the background knowledge and place students in a position favorable for understanding better what they are going to read. They start creating images and formulating hypotheses. At this stage, general questions must be formulated to direct the students´ attention to the main ideas they will see in the passage. Therefore, these questions should be few in number, easy regarding form and content. The teacher should make any necessary explanation in reference to language or culture specific aspects.

During this stage, several types of activities may be carried out. They include brainstorming, listening to a poem or a song, working with either pictures, or the title of the text, or with an excerpt of the text, discussing about news, or the main ideas of a similar text that has been written in students´ mother tongue.

While reading activities

These activities are carried out while students are reading the text. They process the text working on the cues provided in it. These cues can confirm or reject predictions and hypotheses. Students relate old and new information; they work on the relationships between words and ideas, arrive at conclusions and can even evaluate critically a piece of information. This is all related to what is known as the construction of meaning by the reader as opposed to the carrying of meaning of the text.

A varied set of activities can be considered for this stage: completing charts; puzzles; relating pictures with specific information; drawings; answering questions; true or false exercises and organizing the ideas in chronological order. Other activities within the stage could be classifying ideas into main topics and details; recognizing patterns of relationships; identifying the relationships between ideas, the overall structure of the text and guessing the meaning of unknown words from the context.

After reading activities

These activities, also called follow up activities, are designed to put into practice what students have learned, that is to apply or transfer knowledge and skills to a new situation, to outline or summarize the text. They also contribute to develop other language skills as oral or written output.

Activities employed at this stage include: commenting the main ideas, answering questions, activities related to the vocabulary used in the text, retelling the text, summarizing and reflecting.

A reading lesson should begin by providing opportunities for students to learn to use analytical language orally. The more the students read, the more they will comprehend. It is important to teach the students to concentrate on the text and not on the sentence. If reading comprehension is to be achieved, the structure of long units such as the paragraph or the whole text must be understood. To start with global understanding and move towards detailed understanding rather than working the other way around.

1.2 The developing of reading comprehension.

Reading is an activity that comprises two facets or moments: The process or act of reading and the product, which is the comprehension itself.

Reading comprehension is the ability to understand what is read, in reference to the meaning of words that form a text, as compared to the overall understanding of the text itself. Obviously, reading comprehension improves with practice. The objective is showing growing interest and efforts to understand what you read, so the content has to be commensurate with their skills, with appropriate vocabulary or grammatical forms without syntactic constructions that you find frustrating. For young people, it always helps to have a dictionary handy to answer questions and point the meaning of those words that do not understand.

Some authors state that comprehension is an active process in the construction of meaning. It is also the process of making sense of words, sentences and connected text. Readers typically make use of background knowledge, vocabulary, grammatical knowledge, experience with text and other strategies to help them understand written text.

ElizabethPang (2003), "comprehension is the process of deriving meaning from connected text. It involves word knowledge (vocabulary) as well as thinking and reasoning"

Joanne Suter (2006), "comprehension is the process of making sense of words, sentences and connected text. Readers typically make use of background knowledge, vocabulary, grammatical knowledge, experience with text and other strategies to help them understand written text".

A reading expert Katherine Maria (1990) defines reading comprehension as:...holistic process of constructing meaning from written text through the interaction of (1) the knowledge the reader brings to the text, i.e., word recognition ability, world knowledge, and knowledge of linguistic conventions;(2) the reader's interpretation of the language that the writer used in constructing the text; and (3) the situation in which the text is read.

After analyzing these definitions, the author of this research agrees with the definition given by Katherine Maria because such as she said reading comprehension is a process where the students pick up the message of the text.

Different types of reading comprehension are often distinguished according to the reader's purpose and the type of reading used. The following are commonly referred to: (1) literal comprehension: reading in order to understand, remember, or recall the information explicitly contained in a passage;(2) inferential comprehension: reading in order to find information which is not explicitly stated in a passage, using the reader's experience and intuition, and by inferring;(3) critical or evaluative comprehension: reading in order to compare information in a passage with the reader's own knowledge and values;(4) appreciative comprehension: reading in order to gain an emotional or other kind of valued response from a passage (J. Richards, 1997, p.306).

Regarding the levels of comprehension, the author makes reference to N. I. Guez, when offering the following levels of comprehension classification:

Strategies for Reading Comprehension

For most second language learners who are already literate in a previous language, reading comprehension is primarily a matter of developing appropriate, efficient comprehension strategies. Some strategies are related to bottom-up procedures and others enhance the top-down processes. Following are ten such strategies, each of which can be practically applied to classroom techniques:

1. Identify the purpose in reading

2. Use graphemic rules and patterns to aid in bottom-up decoding (for beginning level learners)

3. Use efficient silent reading techniques for relatively rapid comprehension (for intermediate to advanced levels)

4. Skimming

5. Scanning

6. Semantic mapping or clustering

7. Guessing

8. Vocabulary analysis

9. Distinguish between literal and implied meanings.

10. Capitalize on discourse markers to process relationships.

H. Douglas Brown offered some Microskills for Reading Comprehension in order to know what the students need to do to become efficient readers:

These skills are developed gradually in a step by step process and little by little they finally form the reading comprehension.

1.3 The system of tasks

A system is a group of things, or parts working together as a whole, a set of ideas, theories, procedures etc., according to which something is done. Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary (1992)

According to the Cambridge Thesaurus of American English, (1994) a system may be considered as:

1) -a set of principles (that is, order, regularity, rules, structure, worldview)

2) - a way of operating (i.e. method, mode, scheme, way, custom, practice, modus operandi, plan, procedure, outline, technique).

3) -a way of organizing (organization, structure, method, protocol, framework, hierarchy, construct, edifice, taxonomy)

According to the Business dictionary a system is "a set of detailed methods, procedures and routines created to carry out a specific activity, perform a duty, or solve a problem".

Alberto Valle Lima (2001) defines system as "the set of interrelate components and logically structured that permit to fulfill a determined professional work based on keeping certain functions and with the aim of achieving the drawn objectives".

A task (in language teaching) is an activity or action, which is carried out as the result of processing or understanding language (i.e., as a response). It usually requires the teacher to specify what will be regarded as successful completion of it. "It is an activity that is designed to help achieve a particular learning goal. The concept of tasks is central to make theories of classroom teaching and learning, and the school curriculum is sometimes described as a collection of tasks". (Richards, J. 1985)

In second language teaching, the use of a variety of different kinds of tasks is said to make teaching more communicative since it provides a purpose for a classroom activity, which goes beyond the practice of language for its own sake. (J. Richards, 1997 ).

Ellis (2003) "a task is a work schedule that requires that students process the language pragmatically with the objective of attain the result that can be evaluated in function of fulfill it ,in a correct or adequate way, the proposed content. With this aim it is necessary for students to pay attention to meaning fundamentally; making use of their own linguistic resources, even though the design of the task can predispose them to use particular ways. A task is intended to give as a result the use of the language that keeps a similarity, direct or indirect with the way that its uses itself in the real world. Like any other activity of the language, a task can implicate productive, receptive, oral or written skills as well as several cognitive processes".

According to Roberto G. Gonzales Cansio (2009) "Tasks constitute one of the main ways that propitiates the development of the cognitive potentialities of the students within the process of teaching learning".

A task contributes significantly, to development of the communicative competence in the students, because it implicates them in the search of their own linguistic models of the communicative functions than they are studying and inserting them in the solution of the communicative tasks that the teacher orientated them within a determined situation.

Tasks aim is the achievement of independence in the students, that in the pedagogic site consists in the freedom of choice of manners and the roads to develop cognoscitive tasks, that is, the capacity to act for themselves.

Celia Rizo Cabreras defined system of tasks as "those activities that with systemic character the teacher conceives to be made for the student in class and in the study out of this, linked to the search and acquisition of knowledge and to the development of abilities, that require determined integrative requirements for its solution".

A system of tasks refers to the set of procedures or activities that a teacher follows to accomplish a goal. In other words; the activity structures that teachers assign to attain particular objectives; in this case, developing reading skills.

There should be a close relationship between the reading skills stated previously and the tasks chosen by the teacher. These tasks should be aimed at developing those skills, which, at the same time, are considered reading objectives.

Chapter II:

Analysis of the results in the initial stage of the investigation

The diagnosis state began during 2015-2016 courses in first year students of foreign language degree at UNAH. In the diagnosis of the investigation about the development of reading comprehension during English lessons in connection to the study sample. Different instruments were applied to detect some problems that students have in the development of this skill. The following instruments were applied: observation guide directed to the development of reading comprehension in English lessons, the survey to the students to find out the different criteria that the students have about the development of reading comprehension and pedagogical test to measure the students" knowledge in relation to the comprehension of readings.

They were applied to first year students of foreign language degree at UNAH, with 17 students that represent 100% of the population.

In the investigation it was taken into consideration the variable reading comprehension in English language. It is considered an important ability in the development of a communicative competence in the students. The author makes use of the observation guide to analyze the stage of this skill in the students and the author of this research used five indicators:

To measure this indicators the following scale was used: good, fair and bad.

The indicators average was four students were evaluated as G for a 23.5%, five were evaluated as F for a 29% and eight were evaluated as B for a 47%.

That is why the author considers this system of tasks will contribute to solve the problem of this investigation. Based on these results, the author decided to design a system of tasks to develop reading comprehension in first year students of foreign language.

2.2- Fundamentation, characterization and exemplification of the system of tasks.

The proposal of a system of tasks scientifically based is supported in the philosophical, sociological, psychological and pedagogic sciences. Their categories, laws and principles constitute the theoretical foundations for the structural and functional organization of a proposal that answers the needs and actual conditions of the preparation of the students to develop tasks that potentiate reading skill in English subject.

Philosophical Foundations: The proposal sustains itself in the dialectical materialism, impregnated with José Martí humanistic philosophy which combines creatively. In the system proposed the center is the human being, the student and the conception of the tasks that integrate it comes from the lively contemplation (diagnosis of the students), to the abstract thought (elaboration of the proposal) and this into practice (application of the proposal) in terms of revaluing the practice and working in its improvements, coming true the postulates of the theory of the knowledge of V. I. Lenin.

Sociological Foundations: The system of tasks is based on the ideas of the Cuban sociologist Antonio Blanco Pérez, who establishes a system of reciprocal influences between the individuals and the group, with the aim of achieving their inclusion in it, that is, the socialization occurs through the students" interactive dialogic communication. Join to this socialization it manifested the personologic of every individual, where each student processes the reality in a particular way and contributes to the results of their own recreation, like social active asset.

 Psychological foundations: The psychological foundation of the proposal is based on the historical – cultural focus developed by Vigotsky, who applied creatively the dialectical and historical materialism to the interpretation of the integral development of the personality. Following vigotskyans ideas, the system of tasks takes into account the unit of the cognitive and affective in learning, the development and personal growth of the students during the acquisition of knowledge, as well as the transit of the students from the dependence to the independence in the process of socialization. Furthermore, it becomes evident in the capacities that the student develops in the realization of more complex tasks, where they learn to know, to make, to live together, and to be, what will help them for other moments of their life.

Pedagogical foundations: The elaboration of the system of tasks to contribute to the development of the reading comprehension in English in first year students of foreign language is based on the pedagogic laws proposed by the investigator Justo Chávez for the organization of the socio-educative processes:

"The unit between the educational process that volunteers in school and the ones whose come from the other educational agencies of the society in a historic moment given". (Chavez Rodríguez, J, 2006: 53)

Through the learning process that carries the development of reading comprehension in English, the students can establish the relation between the content and the complex activity that the human beings develop in the society.

"The educational process, to its level, has an end: The formation and the development of the man." (Chávez Rodríguez, J. 2006: 53)

The system of tasks to development reading comprehension in English in the students of foreign languages, contribute to their preparation like future pedagogues and to his later development like professionals.

"The educational scholarly process contributes essentially to the process of socialization of the man, although it is not the only one that propitiates that fact related to the human process". (Chavez Rodríguez, J. 2006: 53)

The creation of a system of tasks allows to the socialization of the student through a dialogic interactive communication which propitiates them to exchange knowledge with the other members of the group. With this socialization they also obtain a personal growth where each student processes the reality in a particular way and they give the results of their own recreation.

"The conditional and conditioned character of the education" (Chávez Rodríguez, J. 2006: 53)

The system of tasks appears due to the existing actual conditions as to the insufficiencies in the development of the reading comprehension in English that the first year students of foreign languages have. This system creates the conditions in order that the students make the necessary adaptations in every moment of their practice, according to the situations in which they meet. That is, the system of tasks was conceived from and for the practice.

System of tasks to develop reading comprehension in first year students of foreign language:

The system of tasks is composed by ten tasks to be applied in first year students of foreign language degree during the reading lessons. It has a logical order in the creation and organization of the exercises in correspondence with the content, and the levels of assimilation that the students should develop in each unitThis system of tasks has an important role in the students because the reading activities that are exposed in the Integrated English Practice (textbook) are insufficient for the students. In the application of the system the author of this research paper will take in consideration all of those activities but she will reinforce the activities with the tasks.

The reading lessons has three steps: Before, While and After reading activities already mentioned but the system of tasks proposed by the author will be applied in the final step because it is the time in which the content is systematized and the author considers that it has an important role in the process of acquisition of the content studied in the reading lesson and the activities tasks of the third step provide to the teacher the level of comprehension that the students have.

Model activity

Unit 5

Tad Potter and Brent Potter are cousins. Both of them are redheads. They are also both fourth graders and on the same soccer team. But when it comes to math, they are different kids. Why? Because Brent is a math whiz. He does truly amazing things with numbers. For example, he walks up to the checkout counter at the music store with his purchases already totaled in his head, including tax. Brent can do all the problems in the eighth-grade math book and get them correct. On the other hand, Tad knows he will never be able to brag about his ability with numbers the way Brent can. He is fairly good at math, but only because he works at it. In class, he pays attention, asks questions, and keeps trying.

Task 1:

Objective: To summarize the text.

Level of assimilation: Reproduction

Evaluation: hetero-evaluation

Make a summary the text with no more than 60 words.

Task 2:

Objective: To describe people physically and in terms of personality

Level of assimilation: Application

Evaluation: co-evaluation

Make a chart comparing Rosa and Diana taking into account their age, hair, height, eyes….Use your imagination to express aspects of their personality

Task 3:

Objective: To give opinions about a character in the text.

Level of assimilation: Application

Evaluation: hetero-evaluation

Make a comment about Tad behavior providing viewpoints.







Yanelis Ayala Hector