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Storyboards and Reading Comprehension of Literary 
Fiction in English 


Historietas y comprension lectora de obras literarias de ficcion 

Jose Mario Molina Naar 

jose.molina3@unisabana.edu.co 
Universidad de La Sabana, Colombia 

This article reports on a study developed in order to help a group of six limited- proficient students 
of English (newcomers) to improve their reading comprehension of English novels by designing 
storyboards, a type of graphic organizer that condenses both images and scripts. The investigation was 
carried out in a public school in the state of North Carolina, United States, and lasted eight weeks. The 
following instruments were implemented in order to measure the impact of this investigation: two 
pre-tests and two posttests, a teacher’s journal, students’ portfolios, and the results of a reading 
benchmark. Data were analyzed using cross tabulation and coding of the data collected. The results 
revealed that storyboards can have a positive impact on English language learners with limited language 
proficiency. 

Key terms: fiction, graphic organizers, non-linguistic representations, novels, reading comprehension, 
storyboards 

En este articulo se reporta un estudio desarrollado para ayudar a un grupo de seis estudiantes con li- 
mitaciones en ingles a mejorar su comprension de novelas de ficcion a traves de la realization de histo¬ 
rietas, las cuales son un tipo de organizador grafico que condensa ilustraciones y descripciones. La 
investigacion fue realizada en una escuela publica del estado de Carolina del Norte en Estados Unidos y 
duro ocho semanas. Los siguientes instrumentos fueron implementados con el fin de medir el impacto 
de esta investigacion: dos examenes previos al tratamiento y dos examenes posteriores, diarios de cam- 
po, portafolios y los resultados de una prueba de lectura estandarizada. Se emplearon tabulation cruzada 
y codification para el analisis de datos. Los resultados revelaron que el uso de historietas puede tener un 
impacto positivo en aprendices del ingles con habilidades lingmsticas limitadas. 

Palabras clave: comprension lectora, historietas, novelas de ficcion, organizadores graficos, re- 
presentaciones no linguisticas 


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Introduction 

According to the latest census data, in the United States “among the 262.4 million people 
aged 5 and over, 47.0 million (18 percent) spoke a language other than English at home” (Shin 
& Bruno, 2003, p. 1). The lack of language scaffolding and academic support these 
multicultural children experience at home often reflects on their performance at school. Their 
reading comprehension skills, for example, are one of the most affected factors. Historically, 
very few investigations have attempted to examine the different processes students use 
whenever they are exposed to reading comprehension in English as a foreign language (EFL) 
in Colombia. In recent years, however, a few studies that focus on the explicit instruction of 
reading strategies in EFL have flourished, especially at the university level. Lopera (2012) 
conducted a case study in which 26 students from Universidad de Antioquia were instructed 
in how to use reading strategies such as previewing, predicting, and inferring as part of a 
20-week reading course designed for the purpose of his investigation. After the completion of 
the project, it was concluded that the reading comprehension of the study participants had 
improved significantly. Another study including a web-based program for reading strategy 
instruction was conducted at the same university as well. Arismendi, Colorado, and Grajales 
(2011) concluded that, after their investigation, the participants had adopted the utilization of 
reading strategies as part of their reading habits, which had a positive impact on their reading 
comprehension skills. Nevertheless, the study proved to have some limitations as the 
researchers were not experienced in web-based course teaching and frequently had to rely on 
printed texts. 

Despite the fact that many Colombian educators and investigators in the EFL arena 
consider explicit instruction of reading strategies a ground rule for effective foreign language 
learning, strategy instruction in EFL as a vehicle to attain reading comprehension has not been 
widely accepted as an official instructional model in this country, especially in elementary and 
secondary school settings. According to the program “Leer Libera, Plan Nacional de Lectura 
y Bibliotecas” (Reading is Freedom, Libraries and National Reading Plan, Biblioteca Nacional 
de Colombia, 2009), Colombia is ranked 30th among thirty-five different nations from all 
over the world, which means that the majority of school-aged Colombian children have very 
low reading comprehension skills in their own native language (LI). As a result, it could be 
inferred that there is a strong need to implement strategies that will help Colombian students 
increase their comprehension as they read in Spanish (LI) and in English (L2). 

This article explicitly reports some findings of an action-research that focused on the use 
of storyboards as a type of post-reading activity involving visual representations in which the 
students were able to rediscover what they read by doing (working on hands-on activities) and 
seeing (using visual representations or pictures). The project was carried out in a public school 
in the state of North Carolina in the United States of America. Additionally, the research was 


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developed and applied in an English as a second language (ESL) setting that consisted of a 
small group of English language learners of Hispanic descent, and whose socio-cultural 
background did not differ much from that of Colombian students. The findings of this 
research study validated the effectiveness of storyboards to help this type of students to 
decode the knowledge they acquire by exploring their reading understanding in an 
unconventional manner. 


Literature Review 

The similarities between LI and L2 reading development have been a matter of discussion 
for several decades. Even though research has demonstrated that the relationship between LI 
and L2 reading processes is very close and significant, the role of LI reading abilities in the 
development of the L2 reading process has still been very controversial. Fortunately, several 
reading strategies attempting to help L2 learners acquire good quality reading skills regardless 
of their LI reading level have emerged during the past couple of decades. 

Research on LI Reading: General Overview 

Over the past forty years, research on the reading process has evolved significantly. 
Studies conducted in the 1960s suggested that reading was a bottom-up process consisting of 
“placing together graphemes to form words, words to form sentences, sentences to form 
paragraphs, and so on” (Parry, 1996, p. 668). This particular modality of reading gave little 
importance to the background knowledge, previous experiences, and higher-order thinking 
skills the readers could use to reach full reading comprehension. 

During the 1970s and earlyl980s, a new vision of the reading process, frequently called 
the “Top-Down Revolution,” was supported by reading specialist Kenneth Goodman in 
1967 and later, in 1982, by researcher Frank Smith. Goodman and Smith (as cited in Parry, 
1996) defined reading as a top-down process in which readers use their expectations and 
predictions to understand what the text will say. This new idea of reading gave birth to the 
schema theory, which suggests that “when individuals obtain knowledge, they attempt to fit that 
knowledge into some structure in memory that helps them make sense of that knowledge” 
(Ajideh, 2006, p. 4). These structures in memory were later known as schemata, and they are 
thought to be responsible for the ability of the reader to comprehend and make connections 
when reading a text. 

Research in the late 1980s fostered an interactive approach to the reading process. This 
new approach, widely referred as the “Interactive Model,” places emphasis on both the print 
and the interpretation of the reader (Rumelhart, Stanovich as cited in Abisamra, 2001). Under 
this approach, the reading process is conceived as a close and mutual interaction between the 


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reader and the text. As a result, the Interactive Model has often been considered to be the 
perfect equilibrium between the text and the reader. 

Nevertheless, the 1990s introduced a variety of new approaches and strategies that 
dissolved the stabilized idea of comprehension provided by the Interactive Model. By the late 
1990s, a great number of reading strategies attempting to fulfill the necessities of different 
types of learners had come to be an effective part of research on the reading process. Scholars 
like Kamil, Intrator, and Kim (as cited in Eskey, 2005) consider that this new vision of reading 
has been especially framed on the neurobiological, socioeconomic, sociocultural, and political 
dimensions of the human being, which has offered a more expanded, rich, and individualized 
vision of the reading process. 

During the last decade, this humanistic vision of the reading process has highly 
encouraged researchers, educators, and even government agencies to view reading as a 
sociocultural discipline. In the United States, for example, the No Child Left Behind Act of 
2001 established reading as the only way to help school-age children succeed in our current 
and future society (Mandel-Morrow, Rueda, & Lapp, 2009). 

Fortunately, not only LI but also L2 reading research has made advances in terms of 
finding the appropriate strategies to help L2 readers master the English reading process. 
These achievements, however, have not been easy to reach as the relationship between LI 
and L2 reading has not been widely accepted due to its apparent feeble foundations. 

Relationship Betiveen LI and L2 Reading Comprehension Processes 

In spite of the considerable number of studies attempting to prove the similarities 
between LI and L2 acquisition, comparisons between LI and L2 literacy development have 
been a matter of discussion for several decades. Cummins presented his widely recognized 
language interdependence theory in the 1970s. This theory stated that “the level of competence a 
child attains at a certain point in a second language is largely dependent on the level of 
competence already achieved in their first language” (New Zealand Ministry of Education, 
2009, p. 1). Since this premise proposed that learners with a low level of literacy or 
comprehension in their LI are not capable of mastering an L2, a substantial number of 
counterarguments have emerged. 

The major rival to Cummins’s interdependence language hypothesis, for example, was 
Clarke’s short circuit theory. Clarke (1980) argued that regardless of the level of knowledge L2 
learners have regarding their LI, reading proficiency cannot be attained unless they are 
proficient in the L2. After he conducted an experiment in which a number of proficient adult 
Spanish speakers were assessed in both Spanish and English reading comprehension, he 
concluded that even good readers’ abilities can short circuit and become vulnerable “when 
confronted with a difficult or confusing task in the second language” (Clarke, 1980, p. 206). 


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Hence, Clarke suggested that ESL teachers should make use of reading strategies that 
effectively help students apply behaviors developed by skilled readers: concentration on 
passage-level semantic cues, formulation of hypotheses about the text before reading, 
reading to confirm and refine or reject the hypotheses, and a willingness to take chances and 
make mistakes. Semantics seen as the conveyance of messages by using nonlinguistic 
representations in L2 reading justifies the purpose of this research. 

Current L2 Reading Research and Instruction: Focus on the Learner 

During the last decade, research on L2 reading has been flourishing significantly, which 
has brought hope to those educators who had to rely on LI reading research to fulfill the 
necessities of their L2 learners. Even though researchers and educators in the L2 reading 
arena still recognize a significant relationship between LI and L2 reading processes, they have 
also opened a gap arguing that factors such as age, family role, and previous schooling make 
native speakers’ and second language learners’ reading abilities significantly different 
(Diaz-Rico & Weed, 2006). 

Recently, previous experience in schooling has been seen as the most influential factor in 
L2 reading development. Students who are literate in their LI are more likely to become 
proficient in their L2 literacy skills. Likewise, background knowledge has been proven to be 
a very influential aspect in L2 reading development. Herrera and Murry (2005) suggested that 
English language learners’ (ELL) prior knowledge significantly stimulates their comprehension 
and allows them to break down new information more easily and effectively. 

As a result of this cultural and humanistic vision of L2 reading, several reading strategies 
have become an active part of the L2 reading arena. Faltis and Coulter (2008) proposed that 
daily reading in the target language sharpens the learners’ L2 reading skills. In addition, 
Gibbons (2002) emphasizes the importance of scaffolding before, during, and after reading 
takes place. As pre-reading activities, she suggests predicting, storytelling, and sequencing 
illustrations. Concerning post-reading activities, she recommends encouraging students to 
give alternative nuances to the knowledge they acquire from reading by creating cartoon 
strips, participating in readers’ theatre, and producing story innovations. Evidently, the use of 
nonlinguistic representations has been seen as a solution to close the language gaps of many 
ELLs, especially during L2 reading instruction (Zuniga-Dunlap & Marino-Weisman, 2006). 

L2 Reading Instruction: Comprehension and Storyboards 

Fortunately, the advances in L2 reading research have facilitated the development of a 
great variety of resources and reading strategies designed to satisfy the needs of every ELL 
regardless of his or her level of language proficiency. The use of nonlinguistic representations, 
for example, is an asset to get ELLs engaged in different types of reading activities. Hill and 


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Flynn (2006) claimed that “knowledge that is presented nonlinguistically is stored in the form 
of mental pictures or physical sensations such as sight, sound, smell, touch, taste, and 
movement” (p. 36). Moreover, Short (as cited in Hill & Flynn, 2006) recommended the use of 
realia, technology, and hands-on activities such as drawing pictures and sequencing stories in 
order to provide ELLs with a more simple language instruction and level of comprehension. 

Based on the previous premises, this study intended to make good use of nonlinguistic 
representations, particularly storyboards, to help students increase their comprehension of 
novels. As defined by Varvel and Lindeman (2005), “storyboards are a means to graphically 
represent layout, organization, content, and linkages of information to create a conceptual 
idea of the information, location, meaning, and appearance” (p. 1). Many ELLs, especially 
those with very limited language skills, do not have the language abilities they need to 
understand different types of texts. Storyboarding as a type of post-reading activity could 
provide these students with a great number of advantages. For example, storyboarding 
enhances the students’ organization, time management, and planning because it allows them 
to organize their ideas and picture them before they write them using words (Doherty & 
Coggeshall, 2005). Also, storyboards allow students to make use of different reading 
strategies such as previewing, visualizing, illustrating, using background knowledge, 
summarizing, sequence understanding, identifying main idea and details, identifying 
important information, and many more. Last, storyboarding promotes the integration of 
reading and writing during class instruction since students are expected to describe their 
illustrations in detail. 

Like every process, storyboarding requires a number of steps in order to be well 
implemented. Varvel and Lindeman (2005) stated that after reading, the first thing to do is to 
organize both abstract and concrete materials. That is, all of the information and resources to be 
used during the development of the storyboards need to be handy well in advance. Because it is 
important to maintain organization, it is necessary to use graphic organizers to record important 
information such as characters, plot, and setting. This allows students to put down the ideas that 
will be included in the final work without missing any important detail. It is important to say that 
this process should always be modeled and monitored by the teacher. When all of the important 
information has been discussed and recorded in the graphic organizers, students can start 
creating their storyboards. The layout of the storyboard template should be big enough to allow 
students to draw neat pictures and write clear explanations of the illustrations. During this step, 
students can work more independently. Using their imagination and creativity, they have to 
decide the exact pieces of information they will be including in the storyboards and plan for the 
illustrations that will accompany them. Once all the visuals are completed, students can start 
describing what is happening in each flow chart. Lastly, it is advisable to review all the 
flowcharts on storyboards to check for mistakes dealing with spelling and punctuation, missing 
or redundant information, and poor transitions. 


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The intention of this study was to demonstrate that storyboards could help the 
participants improve their comprehension of fiction texts by synthesizing the knowledge they 
acquired in multiple ways. Many educators and researchers have applied this technique and 
have obtained gratifying results. In 2008, a high school teacher in Florida concluded that after 
having worked with storyboards, the students not only improved their reading 
comprehension skills, but also learned how to use critical thinking, plan well in advance, and 
manage their time (Snider, 2008). 

Method 

Burns (2010) suggests that effective educators must use action research (AR), an 
investigative approach that prompts teachers to evaluate and reflect on their own teaching 
procedures, in order to identify problems and envision adequate solutions. After identifying 
and reflecting on a problem regarding the lack of reading comprehension skills present in the 
setting where this study was developed, it was concluded that an AR intervention needed to be 
undertaken in order to attain sustainable improvements of that particular issue. The present 
AR study was carried out in order to determine the impact and effectiveness that storyboards 
had on the reading comprehension skills of a group of ELLs in the earliest stages of language 
proficiency. Specifically, the storyboards were made after the students read the novel 
“Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry, as a requirement of the state standards for middle school. 
In order to measure the significance of this study, three research instruments were 
implemented: two pretests and three posttests, a teacher’s journal, and students’ portfolios. 
Additionally, the results of a district-wide reading test were taken into consideration. These 
instruments will be described in detail further on in this section. 

Participants 

The participants of this study were a group of newcomer students belonging to the 
English Academy Program, a pilot program especially designed to fulfill the needs of 
newcomer students who were enrolled in sixth, seventh, and eighth grades at Selma Middle 
School during the 2010-2011 school year. The group consisted of six students, three males 
and three females, whose ages ranged from 11 to 15. Three of the students were in sixth grade 
(Participants 1, 2, and 3), two in seventh grade (Participants 4 and 5), and one in eighth grade 
(Participant 6). All of the students were of Hispanic origin, five from Mexico and one from 
the Dominican Republic. 

According to the results of the W-APT test (WIDA-ACCESS Placement Test), which was 
used officially in the United States at the time to analyze the ELLs proficiency levels, all of the 
members of the sample were identified as Level 1—entering, on a scale of 1 to 6. In spite of 
this, they all had very different levels of language proficiency. In other words, some of 


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participants seemed to be more advanced or simply had better language skills in the four 
language domains, but especially in reading and writing. This is due to the fact that some of 
them had limited access to education back in their home countries (Participant 1), while 
others were completely literate in their first language and had a very good mastery of it 
(Participants 2, 5, and 6). Diaz-Rico and Weed (2006) noted that having poor schooling in LI 
or experiencing failure significantly affects the students’ “self-esteem and willingness to take 
risks in learning” (p. 87). The final results of this research study, however, revealed 
unexpected outcomes that made this investigation a lot more interesting. 

Instrumentation 

As mentioned previously in this section, three different types of instruments were 
implemented in order to measure the impact of this research study: two pretests and three 
posttests, a teacher’s journal, and students’ portfolios. A fourth instrument was also taken 
into consideration, the results of the Reading Quarterly Assessments, a county reading 
benchmark assessment whose results were analyzed as follows: one before the treatment and 
one after the treatment. 

Pretests/Posttests. The novel “Number the Stars” has 17 chapters of approximately the 
same length. Therefore, two pre-tests during the first phase of this research study (before the 
treatment) and two posttests during the second phase of the research (during the 
development of the treatment) were administered. These reliable multiple-choice tests were 
taken from www.thinkquest.org, an educational teacher-created website. The questions did 
not require the students to make use of higher order thinking skills such as interpreting or 
evaluating. Also, the tests were traditionally-oriented and did not have any type of visual 
support. 

The first pretest was administered after the students finished reading the first four 
chapters. Then students took their second pretest after they finished the eighth chapter. The 
results of these tests were carefully registered in a teacher’s grade book. Furthermore, the first 
posttest was administered after students finished reading chapter twelve. By this time, 
students had been exposed to the research treatment, which was drawing storyboards after 
reading each chapter. Last, the students took the second posttest at the end of chapter 
seventeen. Again, students needed to make their storyboards on the chapters they had read 
previous to the test. The results of these posttests were also carefully registered in a teacher’s 
grade book. 

Teacher’s journal. Throughout the study, a journal containing detailed descriptions of 
the development of the research was maintained. The journal entries were dated and included 
the teacher’s observations on the students’ perceptions, feelings, and attitudes. As part of a 
color-coding technique used in the analysis of qualitative data, any difficult situation or 


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problem was highlighted in red while positive aspects were highlighted in yellow. For this 
purpose, a tally sheet that measured the students’ attitudes was used and three possible 
alternatives were considered: outstanding, good, and poor. Through this system, the 
teacher-investigator intended to see if the treatment affected the students’ engagement as 
they read the novel. Likewise, using a similar tally sheet, the researcher recorded the 
engagement of the participants as they created their storyboards. Again, the objective was to 
see if their attitudes towards the creation of storyboards were related to their success or failure 
in the posttests they took after reading their novel chapters. 

Students’ portfolios. These portfolios contained the students’ graphic organizers and 
storyboards as well as the tests. These samples facilitated the registration and processing of 
more accurate findings while evaluating the impact of the research. In addition, the students 
recorded their perceptions on the use and effectiveness of storyboards by using a learning log 
which they also kept in their portfolios. The students were prompted to do this every day after 
they finished their storyboards and after they took a test. 

Reading quarterly assessment. In order to measure student progress, many school 
districts in North Carolina mandate that every elementary and middle school give pupils a 
reading benchmark at the end of each quarter, which covers a period of nine weeks. This 
assessment tool offers teachers feedback on how to modify their instruction in the language 
arts class and prepare all of their students for the Reading End-Of-Grade (EOG) tests. 

Particularly, the results of this system-wide assessment provided information on how this 
research study impacted the students’ reading comprehension skills in general. In other 
words, by comparing the results of the reading assessments the students took before and after 
the treatment, it could be determined if the use of storyboards helped students improve their 
reading comprehension in a long term basis. This fourth instrument was not intended to 
measure the impact of this research study directly, but it did strengthen it. 

Research and Pedagogical Design 

This research study was conducted for a period of eight weeks between November, 2010 
and January, 2011. It covered three main phases: Preparation Phase, Development Phase, and 
Analysis Phase. These phases were modeled on the four AR steps proposed by Glanz (2003): 
(1) select a focus, (2) collect data, (3) analyze and interpret data, and (4) take action. 

During the Preparation Phase, the students were trained in how to design storyboards. 
First, as part of the language arts class, they were prompted to read several short stories for 
about a period of two weeks. During this time, they not only read but also analyzed the 
characters, plots, and settings of each story using graphic organizers. After the students had 
read and analyzed about five different stories, they were shown a storyboard that was 
designed based on one of the stories they had read in class. The students were taught about 


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the elements of a storyboard as well as the steps on how to create it. Also, they could see how 
the sample storyboard was elaborated based on the information that was collected in the 
graphic organizers they had filled out in previous classes. Using the information in the graphic 
organizer as a support, the students were encouraged to choose a different story and design a 
storyboard following the model they had been provided. When the storyboards were 
finished, the students were asked to retell their stories using the storyboards as a support. 

The Development Phase was the actual implementation of the treatment and covered a 
period of four weeks. During this time, the students read the novel, filled in the graphic 
organizers, designed their storyboards, and took the pretests and posttests previously 
described. These materials were filed in the students’ portfolios. Simultaneously, perceptions 
on the students’ attitudes were thoroughly recorded in the teacher’s journal. 

During the first two weeks of the Development Phase, the students read the first eight 
chapters of the novel without having any contact with storyboards. In the third week and 
starting on chapter nine, the students filled in their graphic organizers after reading each 
chapter and then created their storyboards using a storyboard template. On average, they 
spent about forty minutes doing this. Additionally, the students were given a rubric that 
contained the project guidelines, grading scale, and expectations about the storyboards. They 
were assessed on the choice of scenes they made for their storyboards, the relationship 
between the captions and the illustrations, the quality of their work (color, neatness, 
organization), and the effort and interest they exhibited as they worked. Along with the 
pretests and posttests, these storyboards served as a formative assessment tool. 

Finally, during the Analysis Phase, an exhaustive analysis of the data collected from the 
instruments selected for this research study was carried out. For a period of about three 
weeks, the teacher’s journal was examined using a tally sheet. Moreover, a detailed 
comparison between the students’ growth in their reading comprehension using the results of 
the pretests and posttests took place. Likewise, all of the materials inside the students’ 
portfolios including tests, graphic organizers, storyboards, and rubrics were assessed. The 
results of this analysis will be explained in the next section of this article. 

Results 

This research study attempted to change a problem present in an L2 setting: the lack of 
reading comprehension skills concerning fiction texts of a group of newly-arrived ELLs. 
Through the design of storyboards, the participants of the study received extra support that 
allowed them to understand a 137-page novel in four weeks only. The rigorous analysis of the 
instruments that were utilized for this research helped the researcher conclude that the use of 
storyboard did positively impact the participants’ reading comprehension skills of a fiction 


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text since there was a positive relationship among the data obtained from all of them. Below 
specific details of the study outcomes based on the analysis of each instrument are provided. 

Results of Pretests and Posttests 

First, based on the observations of the participants’ attitudes during the implementation 
of the treatment and their academic histories, the results of the pretests and posttests were 
predictable. Participant 1 had limited access to school back in his home country. As a 
consequence, significantly low scores were expected. Participant 3 did not have interrupted 
schooling, but he had some problems staying focused and following directions. Because of 
his lack of attention and commitment, poor test results were predicted as well. Participants 2, 
5, and 6 had strong academic backgrounds in LI, so they were expected to have good results 
on the tests. Plus, they were engaged all the time during the development of the research 
study. Participant 4 had a fair academic background and was usually engaged during the 
development of the activities, but this engagement was not consistent. Her test results 
showed that she experienced growth, but not as much growth as expected. 

After the final analysis of both pretests, it could be concluded that the predictions made 
were correct. From the first pretest to the second pretest, Participant 1 grew four points only; 
and Participant 3 grew six points. Participants 2, 5, and 6 grew twelve, ten, and twelve points, 
respectively. Participant 4 grew six points. 

The results of the posttests also showed some unanticipated outcomes. Although 
Participant 1 always struggled because of his poor academic background, he showed much 
more growth than the rest of the participants: twelve points. In spite of his poor performance 
during the treatment, Participant 3 grew six points. Participant 4 grew four points only, but 
she got more than 90% accuracy on both posttests. Participants 2, 5, and 6 grew six, six, and 
four points, respectively. These figures do not seem significantly high, but they all got more 
than 95% accuracy on each posttest. 

After both pretest and posttest results were collected, each student’s average was 
calculated. Likewise, the number of points each participant grew was added. This information 
has been summarized in Table 1. 

The analysis of the first instrument—the pretests and the posttests—revealed that the use 
of storyboards did have a positive impact on the participants’ reading comprehension skills of 
fiction texts as they all made significant growth after the treatment. 

Teacher’s Journal Analysis 

The teacher’s journal was analyzed by using a tally sheet that contained the frequency of 
the participants’ positive behaviors and attitudes towards the design and use of storyboards. 


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This process was carried out by using a color-coding technique that consisted of studying the 
occurrence of these positive attitudes and behaviors on a daily basis. It is important to say that 
three categories ( outstanding, good , and poor) were considered in order to simplify the process 
and make the tabulation of this type of qualitative data more feasible (see Appendix 1). 


Table 1. Analysis of Pretests and Posttests 


Subject 

Pretest 

Average 

Posttest 

Average 

Growth 

Participant 1 

50% 

76% 

26 points 

Participant 2 

59% 

95% 

36 points 

Participant 3 

55% 

77% 

22 points 

Participant 4 

67% 

94% 

27 points 

Participant 5 

55% 

93% 

38 points 

Participant 6 

78% 

98% 

20 points 


Table 2 shows the analysis of the observations made after the data analysis of this 
instrument was concluded. 


Table 2. Participants’ Engagement in the Study 


Subject 

Tally (Participants’ Engagement) 

Frequency 
(Four Weeks) 

Participant 1 

INI INI INI 

14 

Participant 2 

1111 1111 INI 1111 

20 

Participant 3 

1111 Mil II 

12 

Participant 4 

INI 1 1 11 ++++ 

16 

Participant 5 

INI INI INI till 

20 

Participant 6 

INI INI INI INI 

20 


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Participants 2, 5, and 6 were always engaged during the application of the treatment. An 
excerpt from the journal, for instance, reads: 

As usual, Participant 2 and Participant 5 were very engaged today. They worked on their 
storyboards diligently and finished their work in a timely manner. Participant 6 took his time to 
complete his work, maybe more than usual. However, he also showed commitment and interested 
in doing a good job. 

It is evident that these three participants always demonstrated a positive attitude regarding 
the design and use of storyboards. Also, their consistent participation and engagement was 
directly related to their test results as they always scored higher than the rest of the 
participants. In addition, the engagement of Participant 4 was not always consistent, although 
she showed commitment at least 80% of the time. For example, in one particular entry at the 
beginning of the research treatment, the journal reads: “Participant 4 was very engaged today 
while working on the storyboards,” whereas a few days later, another entry expresses that 
“Participant 4 was a little off today. She seemed to be a little unmotivated and quit doing her 
job several times. I had to remind her she had to be on task at all times.” Participants 1 and 3 
exhibited 70% and 60% of engagement, respectively. Because they got distracted or did not 
follow directions, they sometimes experienced frustration throughout the design of the 
storyboards, especially when they had to describe their scenes. Evidence of this can be seen in 
some journal entries that state: “Participant 1 and Participant 3 struggled to do their work 
today. They were frustrated and refused to complete their work on time.” These findings led 
to the conclusion that the engagement and active participation students had during the design 
of storyboards strongly influenced their success in the pretests and posttests. 

Analysis of Students ’ Portfolios 

The documents that the students filed in their portfolios as well as the log where they 
recorded their perceptions about the role and the effectiveness of storyboards were studied. 
Appendices 2 and 3 show examples of learning logs and graphic organizers the students used 
during the development of this research study, and which were analyzed in order to support 
its main findings. 

The average grade each participant obtained after they completed the nine storyboards 
they designed during the Development Phase was calculated. The data obtained from these 
calculations have been summarized in Table 3. 

The results of the survey to find out about the effectiveness of storyboards revealed that a 
100% of the participants enjoyed designing their storyboards, even the two students who 
sometimes felt frustrated and unengaged. Also, 100% of the participants expressed that 
designing storyboards helped them score better on the tests. 


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Table 3. Effectiveness of Storyboards 


Partic. 

Tally (I really 
enjoyed working on 
my storyboard) 

Freq. 

Tally (I think designing 
storyboards helped me 
do well on the tests) 

Freq. 

1 

++++1111 

9 

II 

2 

2 

++++IIII 

9 

II 

2 

3 

++++IIII 

9 

II 

2 

4 

++++IIII 

9 

II 

2 

5 

++++IIII 

9 

II 

2 

6 

++++ INI 

9 

II 

2 


In general, all of the students seemed to enjoy being part of the study. They all enjoyed 
choosing the scenes for their storyboards, especially because they had the opportunity to 
interact with their peers and exchange their opinions on what events were the most important 
ones. They also enjoyed drawing and coloring the pictures. On the other hand, when they had 
to describe the scenes, they sometimes struggled to express their ideas in written form. Figure 
1 shows the grade average every participant obtained for their work on nine storyboards on 
nine different chapters. 


100 



Figure 1. Grade Average 


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Storyboards and Reading Comprehension of Literary Fiction in English 


Results of Reading Benchmark 

The results of the fourth and last instrument, the Reading Quarterly Assessments, 
revealed some unexpected outcomes that made this research significandy interesting. 
Participant 1, who had limited schooling back in his home country and who struggled during 
the development of the study, scored higher than Participant 2 on both the assessment before 
the treatment and after the treatment. This situation was unexpected as Participant 2 seemed 
to be one of the strongest subjects of this research study. Participant 1 also scored higher than 
Participant 3 on the reading assessment they took after the treatment. Nevertheless, this fact 
was predictable as Participant 3 showed a considerable amount of disinterest as the study 
progressed. The students who exhibited the most growth were Participant 5 and Participant 
6, two of the most committed subjects of this research study. To summarize, based on the 
results of the Reading Quarterly Assessments, it was revealed that all of the participants 
except Participant 3 demonstrated growth in their reading skills. Nonetheless, it would be 
difficult to determine if the use of storyboards was the only factor that influenced the 
students’ reading comprehension positively since they were also applying different strategies 
that made up part of the language arts class routine. Figure 2 shows their results on the 
reading quarterly benchmark they took before the treatment (Assessment 1) and after the 
treatment (Assessment 2). 



■ Assessment t 
MU Assessments 


Conclusions and Future Implications 

The design and use of storyboards proved to be effective in helping a specific group of 
newcomer ELLs improve their comprehension of novels. The analysis of the data gathered 


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revealed that all of the participants of the study showed some growth in their reading 
comprehension of literary fiction. Moreover, their motivation significantly increased since 
100% of the students expressed that designing storyboards helped them succeed in their 
assessments. 

Additionally, all of the students benefitted from this research as they all expanded their 
knowledge of different cultures and historical events, gained organizations skills, explored 
their creativity, and strengthened their social skills as they interacted with their classmates 
daily. Furthermore, the students were exposed to a variety of instructional strategies that had 
an effective impact on their vocabulary development as they were required to learn a 
significant number of words that appeared in the novel. Last, the students’ writing skills were 
also positively impacted since they had to write descriptions of their illustrations every day. 

Despite all the advantages that this study seemed to bring, it also had some limitations. To 
start with, the sample was probably not the most suitable. Due to the lack of vocabulary and 
experience with the structure of the English language, students at the earliest stages of 
language proficiency lack the abilities to understand longer novels. Even though the 
participants of the study had constant guidance and support, they sometimes struggled to 
participate in the activities planned for the treatment. Also, the sample was too small, so no 
generalizations about the effectiveness of storyboards and their incidence in ELL long-term 
reading comprehension can be made. In addition, some of the instruments were not easy to 
work with or analyze. The teacher journal, for example, required too much time as detailed 
descriptions of the attitudes of six different individuals had to be provided. Plus, analyzing the 
information recorded on the tally sheet was not easy as the descriptions were sometimes too 
vague. It is important to be precise and create standard conventions that facilitate the 
interpretation of the ideas recorded. 

To conclude, it would be advisable that the study be applied using technology. In recent 
years, many scholars in the English as a second language field of study have stated that the 
incorporation of technology in the 21 st century classroom has “undoubtedly always facilitated 
the task of language learning for both instructed and non-instructed learners” (Brinton, 2001, 
p. 459). The design of storyboards using computers might have a much more positive impact 
on the students as they could have the opportunity to increase their knowledge of technology 
and augment their motivation. Likewise, it would be recommendable to apply this research 
study for a longer period of time. The results of the country reading benchmarks were taken 
into consideration in order to see if the use of storyboards would result in gains that allowed 
the students to transfer the skills they learned and apply them in texts other than novels. 
Based on the results of this investigation, it cannot be concluded if the participants really 
gained sufficient knowledge and skills to succeed in such assessment. Perhaps if the treatment 
is applied for more time, this hypothesis might be demonstrated. However, it is important to 


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Storyboards and Reading Comprehension of Literary Fiction in English 


mention that the research question and hypothesis were proven since the use of storyboards 
did have a positive impact on the reading comprehension of nonfiction texts in this particular 
sample. 

References 

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Ajideh, P. (2006). Schema-theory based considerations on pre-reading activities in ESP textbooks. 
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Arismendi, F. A., Colorado, D., & Grajales, L. F. (2011). Reading comprehension in face-to-face 
and web-based modalities: Graduate students’ use of reading and language learning strategies 
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Biblioteca Nacional de Colombia. (2009). Leer Libera, Plan Nacional de Lecturay Bibliotecas [Reading is 
Freedom, Libraries and National Reading Plan]. Retrieved from http://www.slideshare.net/ 
godeloz/leer-libera-plan-nacional-del-lectura-y-bibliotecas 

Brinton, D. (2001). The use of media in language teaching. In M. Celce-Murcia (Ed.), Teaching 
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NY: Routledge. 

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complete K-12 reference guide (3 rd ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education. 

Doherty, J., & Coggeshall, K. (2005). Reader’s theatre and storyboarding: Strategies that include 
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Eskey, D. E. (2005). Reading in a second language. In E. Hinkel (Ed.), Handbook of researching second 
language teaching and learning (pp. 563-580). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates 

Faltis, C. J., & Coulter, C. A. (2008). TeachingEnglish learners and immigrant students in secondary schools. 
Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education. 

Gibbons, P. (2002). Scaffolding language, scaffolding learning: Teaching second language learners in the 
mainstream classroom. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann. 

Glanz, J. (2003). Action research: An educational leader’s guide to school improvement (2nd ed.). Norwood, 
MA: Christopher-Gordon. 

Herrera, S. G., & Murry, K. G. (2005). Mastering ESL and bilingual methods: Differentiated instruction for 
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Hill, J. D., & Flynn, K. M. (2006). Classroom instruction that works with English language learners. 
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Lopera, S. (2012). Effects of strategy instruction in an EFL reading comprehension course: A case 
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Mandel-Morrow, L., Rueda, R., & Lapp, D. (Eds.). (2009). Handbook, of research on literacy and diversity. 
New York, NY: Guilford Press. 

New Zealand Ministry of Education (2009). Are languages linked? Retrieved from 
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Parry, K. (1996). Culture, literacy, and L2 reading. 1ES OE Quarterly , 30(4), 665-692. 

Shin, H. B., & Bruno, R. (2003). Language use and English speaking ability: 2000. Retrieved from 
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Varvel, V. E., & Lindeman, M. (2005). Online courses as learning scripts: Using storyboards in 
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Huntington Beach, CA: Shell Education. 


The Author 

Jose Mario Molina Naar is an English teacher. He holds a B.A. in Foreign 
Language Teaching from Universidad del Atlantico (Colombia) and an M.A. in 
TESOL from Greensboro College (North Carolina, United States). He currendy 
works for the Department of Foreign Languages and Cultures at Universidad de La 
Sabana (Colombia). 

This article was received on August 1, 2013, and accepted on September 17, 2013. 


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Storyboards and Reading Comprehension of Literary Fiction in English 


Appendix 1: Measuring the Engagement of Students as They 
Design Storyboards 

Key: 1 = Outstanding, 2 = Good, 3 = Poor 
Week of 12/6-12/10 


Subject 

12/6 

12/7 

12/8 

12/9 

12/10 

Participant 1 






Participant 2 






Participant 3 






Participant 4 






Participant 5 






Participant 6 







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Appendix 2: “Number the Stars” Reading Log 


After you finish reading your chapter book and design your storyboard, circle your answer 
in the third column. After you take your test, circle your answer in the fourth column. Do not 
forget to put the date! 


Date 

Chapter Number 

I really enjoyed working 
on my storyboard 

I think designing storyboards 
helped me do well on the tests 


9 




10 




11 




12 




13 




14 




15 




16 




17 




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Storyboards and Reading Comprehension of Literary Fiction in English 


Appendix 3: “Number the Stars” Storyboards 

After you read each chapter, design your storyboard. First, choose four important events, 
and draw pictures of them. Then, write a short description for each event. Use your story 
elements graphic organizer to help you choose the events, draw the pictures, and write the 
descriptions. Be neat and creative! 

Chapter # 


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