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IMPROVING STUDENTS READING COMPREHENSION OF DESCRIPTIVE

TEXTS BY USING PICTURES AND SEMANTIC MAPPING


AT GRADE VII.1 OF SMPN 2 X KOTO DIATAS SOLOK REGENCY

Nurmailis Muis, Zainil, Desmawati Radjab


English Education Section of Language Education Program
Graduate Program of State University of Padang

Abstrak: Artikel ini ditulis berdasarkan hasil penelitian tindakan kelas yang bertujuan untuk
(1) mengukur sejauhmana penggunaan gambar dan peta semantik membantu siswa kelas
VII.1 SMPN 2 X Koto diatas dalam memahami teks deskriptif dan (2) menemukan faktor-
faktor yang ikut mempengaruhi peningkatan pemahaman tersebut. Data penelitian ini yang
berbentuk kuantitatif dikumpulkan melalui tes pilihan ganda dirata-rata dan dibandingkan
dengan KKM (kriteria ketuntasan minimum). Sedangkan kualitatif data yang dihasilkan dari
kegiatan observasi, catatan lapangan dan wawancara di analisis dengan menggunakan
prosedur kualitatif data PTK (penelitian tindakan kelas). Hasil kedua data ini dibandingkan
dan dihubungkan untuk menjelaskan temuan dari penelitian ini. Dari penerapan teknik ini
ditemukan bahwa pemahaman membaca siswa meningkat dari 41,5 pada tes awal, menjadi
84,5 pada siklus pertama dan meningkat menjadi 86,14 pada siklus kedua. Adapun faktor-
faktor yang mempengaruhi peningkatan tersebut berupa materi, teknik, media, manajemen
kelas, strategi guru dan pendekatan guru yang digunakan.

Key words: students reading comprehension, descriptive text, pictures and semantic
mapping

Introduction (1997: 94) descriptive text is a way to


Teaching English genres become explain about events in or states of the
one issue for Indonesias curriculum now a world. Schwegler (2010: 351) adds that
day. From Junior High School until descriptive text is a text used to expose
college or university, the students have the details about places, people, qualities,
been required to comprehend at least emotions, moods, etc. So, descriptive text
twelve genre texts, where the descriptive is a text that describes the details of events
text is as the first. The descriptive text has or something.
been taught in the grade VII of Junior
High School (see Depdiknas, 2003: 17). The descriptive text is built from
Like other genres, the descriptive text has two generic structures. Pardiyono (2007:
its own specification that is different from 33) writes that descriptive text begins with
others. As the case, the students have an the identification and description. In the
ability to identify the characteristics. first part of the text, the writer identifies
the object that will be explained.
Descriptive text is a kind of genre Generally, the text is started by stating the
text that contains describing about people, object that is the focus explanation of the
place or thing. According to Matthews texts content. Next, the text describes the
Journal English Language Teaching (ELT) Volume 1 Nomor 2, Juli 2013

object. The details of the text allow the good way not only to understand the
reader understanding the information to meaning of the context of the text but also
make the sense of the object in his mind. assisted them to find the correct translation
of the words that they found in the
On the other hand, the descriptive descriptive text.
text also has the social function differed
from other genres. According to Kramsch To avoid the ambiguous meanings
(1998: 63) the social function of the genres of what the pictures and the semantic
is based on the name of the text itself. So, mapping are, there are several definitions
the descriptive text aims at describing the from several experts. Kemp, et al. (1994:
details of something (Depdiknas, 2003: 217) state pictures that are slide models
76). It means that if the text is explained which are colorful, realistic reproductions
about My house, the text has a social of original subjects, may contain verbal,
function to describe the details of my graphic, and photographic and may fill
house. information of the text. Smaldinho, et al
(2007: 251) write that pictures can be
Dealing with the components of the viewed as photographic representations of
descriptive text above, the writer found people, places and things. Wales (2011)
that the students faced the problem to adds that pictures or images can be shown
identify them. It was indicated by the as paintings, drawings or photographs
result of the preliminary test observation at about something that is taken in a flat
grade VII.1 of SMPN 2 X Koto Diatas surface. In this research, the pictures are a
Solok Regency, only 32% students who media that is used in the classroom that
got the grade above the minimum standard may be taken as pictures, images or photos
criteria achievement (then known as that are taken in a flat surface.
KKM) where the KKM was 60. When the Hendrick (1994: 371) states that
teacher tried to do the preliminary pictures in reading process help students to
observation, it was found that make a link from the language to the
the students were lazy to read and hard printed material. Pictures that are used in a
to figure out the descriptive text since reading text do not explain the text
the text was not completed with the completely, but they can be used to
motivate the reader since the pictures can
pictures. Sometimes several books that
give general information of the text
were used in the learning and teaching
(Smaldino et al, 2007: 251). In addition,
process were no title. It was difficult for
pictures entertain the readers to read the
them to know the content of the text.
text, because when the readers see the
Several students tried to translate the text
pictures, it makes them have desire to
into Bahasa Indonesia in order to
know what the real meaning of the
understand the meaning of the text.
pictures or what the pictures may tell
Unfortunately, most of the words in the
about. Jensen (1998: 95) adds that the
dictionary did not match with the context
patterns in pictures and context in the
of the text. That was the reason, the
written material give a significant effect to
students cheated when they had to finish
the reader, where the reader understands
the exercises or homework since the
the meaning of the text easily. It is why the
technique was not successful to assist them
picture is an alternative media used in
to comprehend the text.
teaching and learning reading
To solve the problem above, the comprehension.
teacher wanted to share to the students a Semantic mapping is a way to draw
collaborative technique (pictures and the linking ideas that have a core topic in
semantic mapping) that was hoped to be a the center. Actually, several experts have

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Journal English Language Teaching (ELT) Volume 1 Nomor 2, Juli 2013

their own definition about the semantic pictures and the semantic mapping are
mapping. According to Mikulecky (1990: used as a combination that is not separated
41) semantic mapping is an association each other. The pictures of the text will be
model that is shown the relation between used firstly before the students make the
the words about the texts meaning. The semantic mapping based on the pictures.
semantic mapping, according to They will read the text to clarify their
McWhorter (1992: 307) is a model of semantic mapping. The process will be
visual outlines that draw the relationship done by the students to activate their
of all ideas from a text or a message. So, background knowledge and link it to the
the semantic mapping can be drawn as text that they will read.
many things that are correlated each other The procedures for the pictures and
that can be shown from the lines in the the semantic mapping that are used in this
model of the semantic mapping. research are adopted from Zaids (1995)
In reading a text, the students can model that is suited with the needs;
be helped to activate their background presenting the topic or title, Brainstorming
knowledge and the reading concepts by by using pictures, categorizing the ideas
using semantic mapping. The use of that comes from the brainstorming
semantic mapping has several purposes: process, personalizing the map, and post
Brown (2001: 308) states the semantic assignment synthesis to find the best map.
mapping helps students to overwhelm the The procedures ( based on
long ideas and the events in the written Curriculum Depdiknas 2003) used to assist
text become easy to understand since the the students to figure out the indicators of
semantic mapping facilitates the students reading comprehension of descriptive text
to make it short. In the same idea, Estes are as follows:
(1999) agrees that semantic mapping aims a. identifying the generic structures
at allowing students to arrange their ideas The generic structures of the
and knowledge based on what they read or descriptive text consist of
study. So, the semantic mapping can be a identification and description.
technique for the students in understanding Generally, the identification is taken in
what they read, because they do not need the first paragraph. The function of the
to translate all English words to their identification is to introduce to the
mother tongue. reader about the phenomenon that will
The use of pictures and semantic be described its details in the next
mapping as a collaborative technique gives sentences or paragraphs that are known
many advantages (McWhorter, 1992: 307 as description.
and Brown, 2001: 308). First, the pictures b. Identifying the social function
can be a tool to the students to imagine
what the text will tell about. Second, the The social function of
semantic mapping can be mapped the text descriptive text is to describe the
well in order to help the students to details about something, such as thing,
understand about the meaning of the words people, place, universe, etc.
and also the context of the text. third, the c. Identifying the main idea and
use of pictures and semantic mapping is as supporting ideas
a good collaboration where the pictures The main idea is a core idea
help to assist the students to make the where the topic is concluded in it. This
semantic mapping. main idea will be explained more
Using pictures and semantic details in the supporting ideas. It
mapping in this research is applied as a means that the supporting ideas fulfill
mixing technique to help students to much information related to the topic
comprehend the descriptive text. So, the in the main idea.

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Journal English Language Teaching (ELT) Volume 1 Nomor 2, Juli 2013

d. Identifying the vocabularies meaning 23rd March 19th 2011 into two cycles in
The vocabularies meaning order to improve about 22 students
consists of synonym and antonym of reading comprehension at grade VII.1 of
the vocabularies that are available in SMPN 2 X Koto Diatas Solok Regency.
the text. The synonym is the same The classroom was chosen since the result
meaning of the specific word. For of the preliminary test was low in reading
example, the word start is as same as test.
begin. On the contrary, the antonym of
a word has an opposite meaning from There were quantitative and
another word. For example, the word qualitative data to measure the validity of
start has opposite meaning with finish. the research. The quantitative data was
e. Identifying factual information collected by reading test in a multiple
Factual information is the all choice model and counted by using mean
information that are general knowledge formula (Sudjiono, 2006: 81), then the
or specific one from the text. In fact, result was compared with the KKM. On
the factual information in descriptive the other hand, the qualitative data was
text is the all details about the found by using several instruments like
phenomenon. It may be as the observation, field notes and interviews and
characteristics, location, qualities, etc. analyzed by some procedures from Yasin
about the phenomenon that is told in (2010: 66-67). In collecting the data, the
the topic. researcher was helped by a collaborator
This paper explains the result of a who was also an English teacher. She
classroom action research in improving conducted to fill the observation sheets
students reading comprehension of and make a note during the research.
descriptive text by using pictures and
In controlling the two cycles, the
semantic mapping at grade VII.1of SMPN
researcher did four procedures (see: spiral
2 X koto diatas solok regency. The
model by Kemmis and McTaggart 1988:
research has two research questions; 1) to
p.11). Every cycle consists of four
what extend can pictures and semantic
meetings. The activities (based on
mapping improve students reading
Curriculum Depdiknas 2003) in every
comprehension at grade VII.1 in Junior
meeting can be explained as follows:
High School 2 X Koto Diatas Solok
Regency? 2) what factors influence the 1. Plan
changes of students reading a. Designing several lesson plans to
comprehension by using pictures and teach the reading skills especially
semantic mapping? It is hopefully that this for descriptive text.
study would give the researchs significant b. Collecting descriptive texts based
theoretically and practically. Theoretically, on the themes for grade VII Junior
the use of pictures and semantic mapping High School.
can be a source to get new information c. Seting up the questions that were
about the description of using pictures and answered by the students based on
semantic mapping as a collaborative the texts.
technique in reading activity. Practically, it d. Creating and finding out the
gives a direction how to use the pictures pictures related to the genre text.
and the semantic mapping as a e. Building up the semantic mapping
collaborative technique in teaching and according to the descriptive texts
learning process. f. Preparing researchs instruments
Method such as observation checklist,
This research was held in the students attendance lists, etc.
classroom action model from February

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Journal English Language Teaching (ELT) Volume 1 Nomor 2, Juli 2013

g. Asking for another English teacher 4. Reflection


as a collaborator and the head After the researcher finished the
masters permission to do the action stage, she and the collaborator
research. followed a reflection stage. In this stage,
h. Informing the students about the they reviewed all activities that had been
researchs aims and purposes, share occurred in the classroom in order to
the rules and how it was done in confirm the lesson plan. Then, at the end
their class. of the cycle, they evaluated the students
2. Action reading comprehension by giving them test
In action activities, the teacher to measure how deep they understood the
implemented the lesson that had been text. The students marks from the test
designed in the planning activities. The were scored to get the mean. The results of
teacher taught the class based on the lesson the measurement were checked by using
plan that was prepared before. The the minimum standard criteria
technique was held in this step. Action in achievement (KKM) that had been
the classroom is to apply the use of determined before (it was about 60).
pictures and semantic mapping to the
students to improve their reading A. Result and Discussion
descriptive comprehension. The steps The research that was held in
(based on Curriculum Depdiknas 2003) in two cycles were taken from February
the action were like bellow: 23rd March 19th 2011, began by
a. Greeting the students to start the class. doing the three meetings for the
b. Showing the title and the pictures teaching and learning process and the
about the text end of each meetings the researcher
c. Asking to predict about the texts did the test dealing with their
content based on the pictures improvement for the day. The
d. Guiding to make a semantic mapping researcher also did the test in the each
based on the prediction cycle that was followed in each fourth
e. Asking to read the text to checking the meeting.
semantic mapping In teaching and learning
f. Asking to make the correct one and process, the researchers began the class
give the questions about the reading by greeting the students, checked the
comprehension. attendances and gave motivation. In
3. Observation the whilst activities, she showed
Observation activity in every cycle pictures about the reading text and
was done by the observer and her asked the students some questions to
collaborator. The observation aims at brainstorm. Then she guided the
monitoring all students and the teacher in students to guess what the text about.
teaching and learning process. So, for each She wrote the students ideas in the
meeting, the collaborator viewed and
checked all students and the teachers white board and asked the students to
activities. To help the collaborator to do read the text in order to make a
the monitoring, she was given the semantic mapping in group. In the end
observations checklists that contains of of the process, the researcher
reading comprehension indicators, picture concluded the lesson and tested the
and semantic mappings procedures, and students by using the reading test. The
steps of the lesson plan. In the observation result of the students reading test after
process, she also did field notes about the using the pictures and semantic
activities in the classroom. mapping in the first cycle like bellow:

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Journal English Language Teaching (ELT) Volume 1 Nomor 2, Juli 2013

Diagram 1. The Mean Score of 100


Reading Descriptive
Comprehension Indicators 80 1st meeting
of each Meeting in Cycle 1 60 2nd meeting
100 40
90 3rd meeting
80 1st meeting 20 4th meeting
70
2nd meeting 0
60
50 3rd meeting
40 4th meeting
30
20 GS : Generic Structure
10 V : Vocabulary
0
SF : Social function
GS

V
FI
SF
MI&SD

FI : Factual Information
MI&SD : Main Idea and Social Function
GS : Generic Structure
V : Vocabulary From the diagram, the students
SF : Social function had improved in understanding the
FI : Factual Information reading descriptive text. However, the
MI&SD : Main Idea and Social Function best scores were for generic structures
and social function of the descriptive
Based on the diagram above, we text, the other indicators was above the
can see that the students were able to KKM scores. The successful of the
answer the reading test in almost all using pictures and semantic mapping in
indicators well. Unfortunately, the result improving the students reading test also
in understanding the main idea and can be compared like bellow:
supporting details, and the vocabulary Diagram 3. The Mean Score of Reading
mastery was still unsatisfying. The Descriptive Comprehension
researcher tried to fix the problems in the of Preliminary Test and Two
second cycle. The researcher tried to use Cycles
some colorful cards about the ideas in the
text in order to make the students easy to
remember the words. After finishing the
100 Preliminary
second cycle, the researcher did the test
where the result of the students test in 80 cycle 1
the second cycle can be seen in the 60 cycle 2
diagram bellow:
40
Diagram 2. The Mean Score of Reading 20
Descriptive Comprehension 0
Indicators of each Meeting
in Cycle 2

According to the diagram above, generally


the students comprehension about
descriptive text was improved significantly
from the preliminary test to the cycle 2s
examination. The students average scores

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Journal English Language Teaching (ELT) Volume 1 Nomor 2, Juli 2013

were improved from 41.5% in the of the students scores through the use
preliminary test to 84.5% in the cycle 1 the pictures and semantic mapping to
and to 86.14% in the cycle 2. It means that comprehend the descriptive reading
the use of pictures and semantic mapping text. Besides that, there are other
to improve the students reading factors that influenced the
comprehension in descriptive text was improvement of the students
successful. understanding. They can be seen from
The explanation above shows the table bellow:
the scores that were got from the result

Table 1. The result of the observation and interview (Qualitative Data)


Qualitative Data
Observation and Field Notes
No Result
The teachers The Students Interview
Activities Activities
1 She selected the Most of the students They agreed that the The
material based on could understand the material was easy to be material
the syllabus material understand
2 She used the The students were Most of the students felt The
picture and the facilitated that the technique really teachers
semantic mapping comprehending the help them to understand technique
as a technique in text by showing the the text especially
teaching reading of picture and made the dealing with the generic
descriptive text semantic mapping structure
3 The teacher The students could Almost 95% students The
managed the consentrate to finish were able to finish the classroom
classroom by their tasks in the duty easily in the group. manageme
dividing the group in order to They agreed that the nt
students into make a semantic group assist them to
several small mapping comprehend the text and
groups since the the felt enjoy to follow
students in a class the teaching and learning
were only about 22 activities.
students.
4 She picked the The students were They loved the pictures The media
colourfull pictures interested to the media and felt that the pictures
and cards. by guessing about the assisted them to
pictures and active in understand the material.
the discussion.
5 The teacher The students were Most of the students The
showed the pictures guided by using the were assisted to know teachers
to guide the pictures and semantic and predict the content of strategy
students to make mapping. the text.
the semantic
mapping and to
understand the text.
6 She allowed the The students were They agreed that the The
students to discuss learning in a good teachers approach teachers
with the teacher controlled. They could helped them to be active approach
and the other be more discipline in learning and be more

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Journal English Language Teaching (ELT) Volume 1 Nomor 2, Juli 2013

friends in the group then before. discipline.


and also gave
appreciation and
punishment for the
discipline.
Based on the table above, there are Fifth, the teachers strategy
about six factors that influenced the facilitated them to understand about the
students success in understanding the text by showing the pictures firstly before
descriptive text. First, the material was they begun to make a map and read the
chosen was suitable with the students text. And the sixth, the teachers approach
level. Dealing with this factor, the teacher also affected to the students to motivate
should be considered to the curriculum for them to do their duties. To build a good
Junior High School. Brown (2001: 314) atmosphere in teaching and learning
states that the reading materials should be reading, the teacher has to aware to the
suitable with the students level where the students conditions. Marlowe and Page
tacher teaches. It means that the materials (1998:37) propose that the teacher has to
have to get appropriate standard from the assist the students in a discipline attitude.
government. Harmer (1998: 273) also He can give good instructions and several
agrees that the good reading material is not rules that have to be obeyed by the
only interesting but also can be a good students. Moore (2005: 384) chooses the
model for writing aspects, give a good humor to approach the students in order to
chance to students to open a discussion, facilitate the students in good conditions.
know about new topics and as a tool to He believes that the humor can make the
study the language itself. students relax and always ready to study
Second, the technique that was as a and finish their duties.
mixing between pictures and semantic
mapping that was really facilitated them to Conclusion
understand about the descriptive text. As 1. The use of pictures and semantic
the same opinion, Wulyani (2007: 263) mapping better improve the
states that semantic mapping and pictures, students understanding of reading
the both are used to teach the new descriptive text. The result can be
vocabulary that is important for the shown from the tables and the
students in understanding the descriptive diagrams in the previous chapter.
text. 2. Factors that influence changes of
Third, the media that was used in the students reading
colorful things stimulated them to be comprehension of Descriptive text
active in the teaching and learning process. are; the material, the technique, the
Brown (2001: 192) states that media is media, the classroom management,
also as one thing that attracts the reader to the teachers strategy and the
know what the text about. The fourth teachers approach.
factor is the classroom management that
helped them to work together with their Suggestion
friends in group discussion. Horn (2008: 1. The use of pictures and semantic
54) agrees that the students group can be mapping to comprehend the
assisted one by one and all the students in students understanding could be a
the group can interact each others. good alternative in teaching and
Murawski and Dieker (2004:57) adds that learning English.
the group discussion not only facilitates 2. The researcher as an English
the students to comprehend the texts but teacher would prepare some
also in finishing their tasks. activities dealing with the use of

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Journal English Language Teaching (ELT) Volume 1 Nomor 2, Juli 2013

pictures and semantic mapping to Horn, Bradley. 2008. Exploring New


motivate the students in interaction York City English Teaching
and feed backs among the process. Forum. No. 1, p. 52 55.
3. The other researchers could apply
the pictures and the semantic Jensen, Eric. 1998. Teaching with the
mapping on other skills in English, Brain in Mind. Virginia:
such as listening, speaking or Association for Supervision and
writing and other genre texts such Curriculum Development.
as procedure, narrative, report, etc.
Kemmis, Stephen and Robin McTaggart.
Notes: 1988. The Action Research Planner
3rd Ed. Victoria: Deakin University
*This article is from the writers thesis at Press.
graduate program State University of
Padang for graduation period of March Kemp, Jerrold E., Gary R. Morrison, and
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Zainil, M.A and Co-Advisor Dr. Effective Instruction. Toronto:
Desmawati Radjab, M.Pd. Maxwell Macmillan Canada
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liii