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Determining the comprehensibility of texts in sixth grade Turkish course books.

It is frequently stated that the improvement of four basic language skills for Primary School second stage will influence the individual's success in other lessons as well (Sever et all, 2006, p.13). Teaching environments in language education present an integrity with its classrooms, teachers, plans and programs, methods and techniques, and materials to be used in the lessons. All these environments serve the goals determined in Turkish language teaching programs and mediate permanent achievements. Ceyhan & Yigit state that various materials, the primary ones of which are course books, should be used for an individual to attain reading skill, and teachers use course book as the most basic reading and writing means in every stage of education (2003, p.14). In that case, the determination of texts to be chosen for course books and their applicability in teaching environments gain importance.

Language education is perceived as a whole with its skills and contents, and contains activities aiming to improve the student's cognitive, emotional and psychomotor features (Sever, 2004, p.7-27). Fields of Native Language Education Activities are composed of four basic skills for the primary education second stage, and of the use of grammar, spelling and punctuation for the contents (Sever et all, 2006, p.25-30). Turkish language education, in accordance with the goals stated in Turkish Lesson Teaching Program and Guide (2006), is carried out by texts, which have an important role in forming and improving an individual's reading culture. Thus, the methods and the materials to be used in language education must be chosen properly to the goals, and applied systematically in conformity with teaching principles.

In Kecik & Uzun (2004, p. 10), it is stated that neither the phonemes nor the words and sentences by themselves takes on duty in language based communication, and that the basic unit of language based communication is texts and people use texts in communication. The selection of the quality of the texts in course books which will be used in teaching environments in accordance with the goal gains importance for the Primary School Education Turkish Language Program (6th-8th degrees) goals to be attained. This makes it necessary for the texts to be included in course books to be moderate, systematic, applicable in teaching and chosen according to the goals. It also requires modern authors' best products of every type to be included, and the data and criteria of theories such as linguistics, text linguistics, semiotics and pedagogy to be used. The importance of text selection in Turkish language is pointed out saying, "One of the primary goals of native language education is to enable students to achieve language awareness and sensitivity. Texts used in Turkish education must be carefully chosen to attain this goal. An education carried out with texts that neglect child reality and in which Turkish is used carelessly can not be expected to cause students to gain love of native language." in Sever et all, (2006, p.13). Students, in accordance with this goal, are to be encountered with texts of various genres reflecting the expression power of Turkish language and fitting the students' levels for them to be able to gain reading culture. Therefore, texts have an important role with respect to Turkish language education.

Comprehension has two dimensions in Turkish language education: listening and reading. Rules of phonetics are valid in the former while rules of morphology are valid in the latter. Each skill (listening, speaking, reading, writing) is given importance in Turkish Language lesson Programme and Guide (2006). Turkish language lessons are charged with the responsibility of having a society form reading culture and gain reading habit. As a result, the readability and the comprehensibility of texts to be used in Turkish language education gain important. The physiological, psychological and sociological sides of reading being stated in Demirel (2006, p. 18), the place and importance of reading in the society are emphasised. The physiological side of reading is defined as "a visual image of every word related to its own form in our mind". The psychological side of reading is expressed as "Mind has to rise up to a certain level of comprehension and thinking. It is also important to make the students reach emotional maturity". The quality of the texts in course books in forming a reading culture is emphasised by explaining the sociological side of reading as "Since an individual is educated at a certain culture level, the presence of the environment he is in is very important. The culture levels and reading habits of the individuals in the family affect the child during the improvement of reading education".

It is observed that studies on the readability and comprehensibility of the texts to be chosen for the course books are not sufficient for Turkish while such studies are frequently conducted for other languages. The concept of readability is defined as "the determination of how easily or difficultly comprehensible the texts are for the readers" in Atesman (1997, p.71). In this respect, it becomes important for the comprehensibility levels of the texts as well as their readability levels to be high. The longer the words and sentences in a text are, the less desire for reading they arouse. Such texts are not approved by the readers. (see. Temur, 2003, p.170; Gunes, 1997, p.235). One of the important factors affecting the comprehensibility levels of texts is also the highness of their readability levels. The highness of a text's readability level affects the interpretation of that text. However, the texts organized well in terms of quantity should be organized well in terms of quality as well although there is a relation between the readability and comprehensibility of a text.

The importance of content in the comprehensibility of a text is expressed in Atesman ( 1997, p .71) as; "The content is very important in the comprehensibility of a text. For instance, while in which order the thoughts are told and the interests of the readers to the subject affect comprehensibility, the grammatical features of the text and average of words and sentences rather than readability should be taken into consideration". It is stated in Goldbort (2001, p.41) that "A text should also have some qualitative features besides its quantitative features" (see Temur, 2003, p.171; Ginned, 1997, p.236). Accordingly, a good text should be from known to unknown, and clear and explicit enough not to cause confusion. The words to be used in the text should be chosen from words whose meanings are known in general. Words with the same meanings shouldn't be used, or words as few, short and clear as possible should be used. It is mentioned in Ozmen (2001, p.24) that the length of the words and sentences forming a text should be determined according to the student's level. The levels of the students should be taken into consideration since it makes it hard to read the text if it is difficultly readable and comprehensible or it lessens the interest to reading if the text is easy to read.

The features required from the texts which will be chosen for the course books are defined in Ministry of National Education Turkish Language Education and Guide (2006, p.162) as following:

1. The text should be appropriate for the general goals and basic principles of the Ministry of National Education.

2. Components against national, cultural and ethical values and the indivisible integrity of our nation shouldn't take place.

3. Factious, destructive and ideological statements that will cause political oppositions and discrimination shouldn't take place.

4. Components like sexuality, pessimism, violence, etc which will negatively affect the social, intellectual, psychological development of students shouldn't take place.

5. Components against human rights and freedoms, and humane values shouldn't take place.

6. It should be of quality to fulfill the goals and achievements of the lesson.

7. It should be appropriate for the interests and levels of the students.

8. It should be of appropriate length for the time during which it will be studied.

9. It should reflect the richness and beauty of expression in Turkish.

10. Each text should have integrity in itself.

11. It should be of quality to improve the students' taste and awareness of language, and to enrich their imaginations.

12. It should be of quality to contribute to the students' personal development and make them achieve an aesthetic sensitivity.

Texts which will be carried to the teaching environments are made sufficient in terms of quality by considering other required principles apart from the ones mentioned above. That texts should also be appropriate for some principles, as well as the ones mentioned above, such as abstraction principle, level principle, scheme principle, the material organization principle, activity principle and visual organization principle is also stated in Sonmez (2003, p.25).

Purpose

The purpose of the study is to determine the comprehensibility levels of the texts in Primary school 6th grade Turkish course books. The sub-goals of the study towards this purpose can be formed as below:

1. What are the comprehensibility levels of the texts in Book A?

2. What are the comprehensibility levels of the texts in Book B?

3. What are the comprehensibility levels of the texts in Book C?

4. What are the comprehensibility levels of the texts in Book D?

Method

Mixed (quantitative-qualitative) research method is used in the study. It is stated in Punch, (2005, p.225-235) that the differences between the two approaches result from the nature of the data and the analysis method, and that quantitative research can also be done to discover a field, and to develop a hypothesis and theory although it is basically done for the sake of theory trial. In addition to this, it is also stated that although qualitative research is preferred for theory production, it can be used to test hypothesis and theories as well. Quoting Miles & Huberman (1994, p.42), the use of both methods in the same study as a mixed method is mentioned in Punch (2005, p.226) as "Both types of data may be efficient for descriptive, searching, exploratory, inductive and innovative purposes. In addition, both may be efficient in terms of explanation, confirmation and hypothesis trial". Furthermore, the methodological reason for the use of quantitative and qualitative studies together is explained in Punch (2005, p.231) by quoting Bryman (1988); "The most fundamental reason for this combination is to make use of the strong sides of two approaches and eliminate the weak sides of them. Besides, particular reasons for combining these two approaches should be evaluated in terms of the practical conditions and context of the research".

According to these explanations, determining the unknown words from students through interview constitutes the qualitative design of the research while the testing of the data obtained from the course books by various formulas constitutes the quantitative design of the research.

It is asserted in Sonmez (2003) that Gunning's "Fog Index" is not appropriate for texts in Turkish while they are appropriate for texts in English. Accordingly, a mathematical formula concerning the comprehensibility of texts in Turkish is developed and it is called Sonmez Model. The study is based upon Sonmez Model, which is proposed to be used to determine the comprehensibility levels of the texts in Turkish. The texts in course books are evaluated through the formulas developed in Sonmez (2003).

Population and Sample

The universe of the study is composed of the texts in Turkish language course books of 6th grade. Texts in four Turkish language course books which are chosen for the primary school 6th grade by the Ministry of National Education Training and Education Committee and published by different publishing houses are sampled. Each book is given a code (Book A, Book B, Book C, Book D). Each code refers to a book which is published by a different publisher and used as Turkish language course book for the 6th grade at Primary Schools.

Content and Limitations

The study is limited to the texts in Primary school 6th grade Turkish language course books that are approved by the Training and Education Committee. "Listening texts" at the end of each theme in the books are not included in the study.

Data Collection Technique

Texts in the course books are first examined by the researcher and the unknown words are marked considering the levels of the students. Five students studying in the 6th grade are made to read each text and they are asked to underline the words they don't know. The words the researcher determined and the ones the students marked are compared, students are asked questions about the text, and unknown words are defined in accordance with the answers in order to find out whether the students have comprehended the text and grasped the meanings of the unknown words, which they underlined, in context. Words and sentences in the text are counted. Repeated words are extracted from the total word number. The data is collected in this way.

Data Analysis

The data is analysed in Microsoft Office Excel for Windows basing on the Sonmez Model in Sonmez (2003). According to the mathematical approach developed in Sonmez (2003), word proportion is defined by dividing the number of words by the number of sentences and the difficulty proportion is determined by dividing the number of foreign words, expressions, formulas, terms, concepts, metaphors, similes, and symbols by the number of words in the text. The comprehensibility level is defined by dividing the meaning proportion by word proportion, and multiplying the result of this division of by difficulty level. This gives us information about the comprehensibility of a text.

Gunning' "Fog Index", which forms a mathematical formula on whether a text is comprehended by people, is claimed to be invalid for texts in Turkish in Sonmez (2003). Sonmez has tried to find out whether there is a mathematical formula to determine the comprehensibility levels of texts in Turkish and, as a result of the experimental studies he conducted; he has developed which is called "Sonmez Model".

Findings and Results

Findings obtained by Sonmez Model concerning the comprehensibility levels of the texts are given in tables below.

According to Table 1; 3 of the 24 texts in the book are in "Complete communication is assured" position, 6 of them are in "Text is clear and comprehensible" position, 12 of them are in "Text is comprehensible" position, and 3 of them are in "Text can be comprehended by aid" position.

According to Table 2; 5 of the 18 texts in the book are in "Complete communication is assured" position, 11 of them are in "Text is clear and comprehensible" position, and 2 of them are in "Text is comprehensible" position.

According to Table3; 2 of the 19 texts in the book are in "Complete communication is assured" position, 11 of them are in "Text is clear and comprehensible" position, 5 of them are in "Text is comprehensible" position, and 1 of them are in "Text can be comprehended by aid" position.

According to Table4; 4 of the 18 texts in the book are in "Complete communication is assured" position, 10 of them are in "Text is clear and comprehensible" position, and 4 of them are in "Text is comprehensible" position.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Conclusions

As a result of the analysis of the data, it can be said that, except for a few texts, the comprehensibility of the texts in the Turkish language course books which are carried to the teaching and education environments after being approved by the Ministry of National Education Training and Education Committee are at high level. However, that some texts are "Text can be comprehended by aid" is not seen as a desired situation in terms of teaching and education principles. Therefore, to carry out teaching through "Complete communication is assured" texts is a desired and expected situation.

It is seen that, out of the 79 texts studied in the research, 4 (one from Book A and one from Book C) are "Text can be comprehended by aid", 23 (twelve from Book A, two from Book B, five from Book C and four from Book D) are "Text is comprehensible", 38 are "Text is clear and comprehensible" and 14 are "Complete communication is assured". Four texts that are "Text can be comprehended by aid" are in Book A and Book C. On the other hand, there are no texts of "Text can be comprehended by aid" in Book B and Book D. In accordance with this, it can be inferred that the comprehensibility levels of the texts in Book B and Book D are stronger than those of the texts in Book A and Book C.

The result that four of the texts in Book A and Book C are "Text can be comprehended by aid" supports the idea that to use these texts in teaching environments presents an inconvenient situation.

Half of the texts in Books A, B, C and D are seen as "Text is comprehensible". To use texts of "Complete communication is assured" is thought to be more convenient for the education to be carried on more efficiently.

It is concluded that, when education and teaching is carried on through texts of "Complete communication is assured", the qualities of the texts will rise and this will increase the efficiency.

Recommendations

The selection of the texts to be carried to the education and teaching environment by Sonmez Model will increase the quality of education. Sonmez Model should be used to measure the comprehensibility of the texts which will be included in the course books at every grade of Primary and Secondary Education.

In addition, texts which have communicational values according to the textual criteria discussed in Beaugrande & Dressler (1981), which are the criteria for text's communicational value and availability, and are mentioned in Iseri (2007, p.250) as well, should be carried to education and teaching environments.

The comprehensibility and readability levels of texts as well as their other features such as appropriateness to the level, educational principles, linguistic and expression features, and to what extent they represent their type of text should also be paid attention.

The texts to be chosen for course books should be chosen and carried to the education and teaching environments after multidimensional analysis considering the data of various sciences (linguistics, text linguistics, semiotics, pedagogy) in addition to the author of the text and formal or literary features.

Studies like this should be conducted for other grades of teaching and education as well.

References

Atesman, E. (1997). Turkcede Okunabilirligin Olculmesi. Dil Dergisi. Ankara: TOMER Yaymlari. Sayi: 58. s. 71-74.

Beaugrande, R. & Dressier, W.U. (1981). Introduction to Text Linguistics. London: Longman.

Ceyhan, E., & Yigit, B. (2005). Konu Alam Ders Kitabi Incelemesi (3.basim), Ankara: Am Yayincilik.

Demirel, O. (2003). Turkce Ogretimi. Ankara: Pegem Akademi Yayincilik.

Gunes, F. (1997). Okuma-Yazma Ogretimi ve Beyin Teknolojisi. Ankara: Ocak Yayinlari.

Iseri, K. (2007). Altinci Sinif Turkce Ders Kitabinin Ilkogretimin Turkce Programinin Amaclarina Uygunlugunun Degerlendirilmesi. Dil Dergisi. Ankara: TOMER Yayinlari. Sayi: 136. s. 58-74.

Kecik, I. & Uzun, L. (2004). Turkge Sozlu ve Yazili Anlatim. Eskisehir: Anadolu Universitesi Yayinlari.

Milli Egitim Bakanligi. (2006). Ilkogretim Turkce Dersi Ogretim Programi ve Kilavuzu (6,7,8. Siniflar). Ankara: MEB Devlet Kitaplari Mudurlugu Yayini.

Punch, K.-F. (2005). Sosyal Arastirmalara Giris (cev. Dursun Bayrak, H.Bader Arslan, Zeynep Akyuz). Ankara: Siyasal Kitabevi.

Ozmen, R. (2001). Okuma Becerisi. Konu Alant Ders Kitabi Inceleme Kilavuzu Tuirkce 1-8 (ed. Leyla Kucukahmet). Ankara: Nobel Yayinlari. s.17-57.

Sever, S. (2004). Turkce Ogretimi ve Tam Ogrenme (4. baski). Ankara: Am Yayincilik.

Sever, S., Kaya, Z., & Aslan, C. (2006). Etkinliklerle Turkfe Ogretimi. Ankara: MORPA Yayinlari.

Sonmez, V. (2006). Gelecekteki Olasi Egitim Sistemleri ve Bazi Arastirmalar (2. baski). Ankara: Ani Yayincilik.

Sonmez, V. (2003). Metinlerin Egitselligini Saptamada Matematiksel Bir Yaklasim (Sonmez Modeli). Egitim Arautrmalart Dergisi. Ankara: Ani Yayincilik. Sayi: 10. s. 24-39.

Temur, T. (2003). Okunabilirlik (Readability) Kavrami. Turkluk Bilimi Arastirmalari Dergisi. Ankara: Bizim Buro Basimevi. Sayi: 13 Turkcenin Ogzretimi Ozel Sayasi s. 169-180.

DR. KAMIL ISERI

Nigde University

Faculty of Education
Table 1: The comprehensibility levels of the texts in Book A

Book A     Comprehensibility Proportion       Comprehensibility
           in Sonmez Model                    Proportion

Text 1                                        0.026754
Text 2                                        0.000055
Text 3     1.00-.99 Text is totally           0.000072
Text 4     meaningless                        0.000027
Text 5                                        0.001375
Text 6     98-.26 Text is meaningless         0.004011
Text 7                                        0.002726
Text 8     25-.16 Text is ambiguous           0.001386
Text 9                                        0.000749
Text 10    15-.09 Text is hard to             0.066639
Text 11    comprehend                         0.001589
Text 12                                       0.003989
Text 13    .08-.04 Text can be                0.000172
Text 14    comprehended by aid                0.001862
Text 15                                       0.005180
Text 16    .03-.001 Text is comprehensible    0.002211
Text 17                                       0.029149
Text 18    .00099-.0001 Text is clear and     0.001820
Text 19    comprehensible                     0.003698
Text 20                                       0.002657
Text 21    000001-0 Complete                  0.016198
Text 22    communication is assured           0.000714
Text 23                                       0.003198
Text 24                                       0.000594

Book A     Result

Text 1     Text is comprehensible
Text 2     Complete communication is assured
Text 3     Complete communication is assured
Text 4     Complete communication is assured
Text 5     Text is comprehensible
Text 6     Text is comprehensible
Text 7     Text is comprehensible
Text 8     Text is comprehensible
Text 9     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 10    Text can be comprehended by aid
Text 11    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 12    Text can be comprehended by aid
Text 13    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 14    Text is comprehensible
Text 15    Text can be comprehended by aid
Text 16    Text is comprehensible
Text 17    Text is comprehensible
Text 18    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 19    Text is comprehensible
Text 20    Text is comprehensible
Text 21    Text is comprehensible
Text 22    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 23    Text is comprehensible
Text 24    Text is clear and comprehensible

Table 2: The comprehensibility levels of the texts in BookB

BookB       Comprehensibility Proportion in   Comprehensibility
            Sonmez Model                      Proportion

Text 1      1.00-.99 Text is totally          0.008747
Text 2      meaningless                       0.000916
Text 3                                        0.000024
Text 4      .98-.26 Text is meaningless       0.000315
Text 5                                        0.000330
Text 6      .25-.16 Text is ambigious         0.000169
Text 7                                        0.000043
Text 8      .15-.09 Text is hard to           0.000262
Text 9      comprehend                        0.000067
Text 10                                       0.000543
Text 11     08-.04 Text can be                0.000618
Text 12     comprehended by aid               0.000772
Text 13                                       0.001179
Text 14     03-.001 Text is comprehensible    0.000039
Text 15                                       0.000675
Text 16     .00099-.0001 Text is clear and    0.000013
Text 17     comprehensible                    0.000180
Text 18     000001-0 Complete                 0.002819
            communication is assured

BookB       Result

Text 1      Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 2      Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 3      Complete communication is assured
Text 4      Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 5      Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 6      Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 7      Complete communication is assured
Text 8      Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 9      Complete communication is assured
Text 10     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 11     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 12     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 13     Text is comprehensible
Text 14     Complete communication is assured
Text 15     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 16     Complete communication is assured
Text 17     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 18     Text is comprehensible

Table 3: The comprehensibility levels of the texts in BookC

BookC      Comprehensibility Proportion in    Comprehensibility
           Sonmez Model                       Proportion

Text 1     1.00-.99 Text is totally           0.0053
Text 2     meaningless                        0.02250
Text 3                                        0.000094
Text 4     98-.26 Text is meaningless         0.000796
Text 5                                        0.001225
Text 6     .25-.16 Text is ambigious          0.001712
Text 7                                        0.001259
Text 8     15-.09 Text is hard to             0.000087
Text 9     comprehend                         0.000654
Text 10                                       0.004803
Text 11    .08-.04 Text can be                0.000848
Text 12    comprehended by aid                0.000150
Text 13                                       0.001890
Text 14    .03-.001 Text is comprehensible    0.000947
Text 15                                       0.006944
Text 16    .00099-.0001 Text is clear and     0.000443
Text 17    comprehensible                     0.000387
Text 18                                       0.000820
           000001-0 Complete
Text 19                                       0.000171
           communication is assured

BookC      Result

Text 1     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 2     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 3     Complete communication is assured
Text 4     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 5     Text is comprehensible
Text 6     Text is comprehensible
Text 7     Text is comprehensible
Text 8     Complete communication is assured
Text 9     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 10    Text is comprehensible
Text 11    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 12    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 13    Text is comprehensible
Text 14    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 15    Text can be comprehended by aid
Text 16    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 17    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 18    Text is clear and comprehensible
           Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 19

Table 4: The comprehensibility levels of the texts in BookD

BookD      Comprehensibility Proportion in    Comprehensibility
           Sonmez Model                       Proportion

Text 1     1.00-.99 Text is totally               0.000182
Text 2     meaningless                            0.000082
Text 3                                            0.000198
Text 4     98-.26 Text is meaningless             0.000790
Text 5                                            0.002356
Text 6     .25-.16 Text is ambigious              0.000576
Text 7                                            0.000191
Text 8     .15-.09 Text is hard to                0.000017
Text 9     comprehend                             0.000426
Text 10                                           0.000133
Text 11    08-.04 Text can be                     0.000108
Text 12    comprehended by aid                    0.000524
Text 13                                           0.000053
Text 14    03-.001 Text is comprehensible         0.000067
Text 15                                           0.004867
Text 16    .00099-.0001 Text is clear and         0.009633
Text 17    comprehensible                         0.000234
Text 18    000001-0 Complete                      0.012625
           communication is assured

BookD      Result

Text 1     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 2     Complete communication is assured
Text 3     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 4     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 5     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 6     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 7     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 8     Complete communication is assured
Text 9     Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 10    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 11    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 12    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 13    Complete communication is assured
Text 14    Complete communication is assured
Text 15    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 16    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 17    Text is clear and comprehensible
Text 18    Text is clear and comprehensible
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Date:Dec 22, 2010
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