Among
the main four language skills, reading is of vital importance. It is a
receptive skill that enables learners to receive a significant comprehensible
input. Such an input can be used later on in writing and speaking. Li and Zang
(2016) state that reading is a fundamental means of enhancing students’
learning the language.

            Based on School Based Curriculum (Kurikulum
Tingkat Satuan Pendidikan/
KTSP),
the objective of teaching reading for the second grade is to enable the students to construct meaning from
text. Basically, it is the same as
comprehension
of the reading text. The students are expected to be able to identify the aspects such as identifying
main idea, explicit and implicit specific
information,
reference, word meaning, phrase and sentence of short simple essay.

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            It means that after finishing from junior
high school, the students are expected to
be
good at comprehending the reading text suitable to their level of the passing grade standard (Standar
Kompetensi Kelulusan/SKL) of junior
high school for reading
skill.

            The difficulties that students get
in comprehending reading text  shows that the students
do not know which strategies is suitable for
their
reading. Therefore, the teacher should find an appropriate strategy in order to improve their reading skill and
reading comprehension.

            One of the strategy that is
appropriate to improve students’ reading comprehension is Schema Based Strategy especially  graphic organizers. Understanding the role of schema in
the reading process provides deep perception
why
students may fail to comprehend text material. When students are familiar with the topic of the text they are
reading (i.e. possess content schema), aware of the
discourse level and structural make-up of the genre of the text (i.e. possess formal schema), and skillful in the
decoding features needed to recognize words
and
recognize how they fit together in a sentence (i.e. possess language schema), they are in a better position to
comprehend their reading assignment.

            Research on reading comprehension
indicates that readers rely on their prior knowledge and world experience when
trying to comprehend a text. It is this organized knowledge that is referred to
as schema. The learner’s existing schemata, which are integrated structures of
knowledge about a given topic, play a critical role in new learning. Schemata
include underlying objects, situations, events, actions, and sequences of
actions for use in interpreting new experiences.

            Schema theory is an important
concept directly related to interactive views of the reading comprehension
process that has had a major impact on both reading research and instruction. A
powerful feature of schema theory is that it helps to better understand how new
learning is integrated with the knowledge an individual already possesses. Research
on schema theory and reading comprehension indicates that the task of teaching
reading becomes helping students build the appropriate background knowledge
they need, and teaching them that reading is an interactive process of
activating prior knowledge with textual input in order to build new knowledge.

            Zhao and Zhu (2012) state that
schema theory is effectively in developing students’ reading skills and
improving their reading abilities. Similarly, schema-based techniques have
proved very effective in developing learners’ reading skills as many studies
have shown (Bottomley and Osborn, 1993; Ciardiello, 1998; Lysynchuk, 1989;
Odafe, 1998; Palincsar, 1987). The purpose of such a process is to help student
acquire a reading schema that emphasizes the reader’s purposes and the dynamic
interaction between reader and the printed page. Basic to this process is also
the point that meaning does not lie “in text” and that what students already
know will affect what they can come to know.

            One of the first steps in this study
was defining reading comprehension as the way students get the required information from a passage which
has to be done as efficiently as possible. Osborne (2010) sees students’ major reading problem arising when they
are so worried about understanding every single word of a text they are reading that they do not get the
general idea from the passage. Middle school ESL learners may also struggle in other areas while comprehending a
passage. Firstly, while they may be good at recognizing and pronouncing the words, they struggle to understand
the central theme of the passage. They read a passage in bits and pieces and
fail to connect the ideas. This results
in fragmentary understanding. Next, they fail to follow the schemata while reading. They fail to identify the
main idea of a passage and how it is developed in the body paragraphs. Using a graphic organizer, they learn the
skill of classifying information of a passage under a schema. Once they master this skill, they can divide the
passage into different lexias such as main idea, supporting details,
topic sentences, data,
fact, opinion, etc.

            Tomlinson (1999) explains that
teachers can modify three aspects of teaching: Content, Process, and Product.
By using graphic organizers, teachers
modify the product. It is a universal fact that students in a class are not
likely to learn to read at the same rate.
Some will learn faster than others, and some will be able to demonstrate their understanding in more complex ways
sooner than others. For all children to learn at an optimal pace, teachers must match children with a
reinforcing activity that allows each child to be successful in reading
comprehension at
a cognitively appropriate level. According to Kintsch and Rawson (2005),
comprehension skills aided by graphic
organizers help a reader develop his/her reading abilities. Therefore, incorporating
graphic organizers in reading
comprehension helps middle school ESL students in developing their
comprehension skills.

            Learning through visuals helps
students in comprehending passages more effectively than other reading strategies like skimming, scanning,
note making, etc. According to Slavin R. E. (2011), research in pedagogy and psychology demonstrates that visual
learning is among the most effective methods for teaching comprehension skills to students of all ages.
Helping students organize the content helps them better comprehend texts for information such as main ideas
supporting details, facts, opinions, comparisons and contradictions.

            According to Keene and Zimmerman
(1997), students must be encouraged to make connections with the text they read to increase the
effectiveness of reading. Graphic organizers can play a vital role establishing
the connections. The text will be very
clear to students when a graphic organizer is incorporated depicting the theme or content of a text they read.
Moreover, graphic organizers using diagrams illustrate concepts and
relationships between
concepts discussed in a text.

            Despite the appeal of using graphic
organizers as a technique for assisting reading comprehension, critical response from research is mixed.
Some research on graphic organizers has produced incongruent findings and has raised questions about their
overall effectiveness in reading instruction (Jiang & Grabe, 2007). Another
issue relating to graphic organizers lies
in the wide range of understandings of what a graphic organizer is and how it should be designed for research or
instructional purposes.

            Previous research has investigated
the effects of prior knowledge on comprehension, and has found it to be an important
individual differences factor in the ability to generate inferences and maintain local and global coherence
(O’Reilly & McNamara, 2007), the ability organize the mental representation of the text (Rawson
&Kintsch, 2004) and generally improves comprehension (Shapiro, 2004). Studies that have
provided readers with background knowledge prior to reading

have
also found benefits of prior knowledge on comprehension (Rawson &Kintsch,
ibid). Extant text
comprehension theories also assume that prior knowledge is used to complete,
and enrich, the reader’s
mental representation of the text (Rapp & van den Broek, 2005). The
importance of prior knowledge
in comprehension is indisputable, however the relative contributions of various
types or characteristics of prior knowledge
have not been studied. Therefore, one of the goal of this study is to begin investigate the effects of
qualitatively prior knowledge on comprehension product.

            On
the other hand, out of all of the research-proven instructional strategies used
in the classroom to help students learn,
the use of some instructional strategies such as graphic organizer stand out the most (Marzano,
Pickering, & Pollock, 2001). These instructional methods create an instructional strategy that helps
students identify similarities and differences in the information they are presented within their
classrooms. Clarke
(1990) defines graphic organizers as: “Words on paper, arranged to represent an individual’s understanding of the
relationship between words. Whereas conventions of sentence structure make most writing linear
in form, graphic organizers take their form from the presumed structure of relationships among ideas”
(p. 30). Another explanation of graphic organizers is given by Tate (2003), who defines them as
visual representations, which help the left and right hemispheres of the brain make sense
out of information and search for patterns in the information it processes.

            By using graphic organizers on a
consistent basis in the classroom, teachers can reach many of their students and be equipped to
raise them up to an acceptable level of academic achievement and understanding.

            Because of the importance of reading
strategy in improving students’ comprehension
of the text, this study is conducted to find out whether or not schema strategy can improve
students reading comprehension.
Therefore, the researcher expected that using schema based strategy especially graphic organizer
could overcome the difficulty in
reading
comprehension.