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Universidad de Santiago de Chile

Facultad de Humanidades
Final Structure Research Project Outline

The impact of cultural background knowledge on L2 reading comprehension in the


Chilean classroom

Course: Research Project


Teacher: Dr. Roxana Orrego
Students:
Denise Ibaez
Beln Nahuel
Valentina Madariaga

1) Title of the study


The impact of cultural background knowledge on L2 reading comprehension
in the Chilean classroom.
2) Introduction
Reading comprehension is one of the four language skills that need to be
taught in every L2 classroom. As stated by several experts, reading is an
interactive process in which the reader interacts with the text and makes
interpretations out of it. In order to make sense out of a text, the reader brings
about his or her knowledge of the world and links it to what is being said there. In
other words, the students complement the information given in a text with their own
knowledge. However, their knowledge does not always match the written material
due to differences in social conventions, traditions, points of views etc. This
phenomenon is accentuated when reading in a second or foreign language leading
to a misinterpretation of the text and therefore to poor reading comprehension
outcomes. Sadly, there is not much research done about such topic in the Chilean
context which prevents teachers from wisely solving this problem in the EFL
classroom. Consequently, the purpose of this study is to determine the extent to
what cultural background affects the reading comprehension outcomes of Chilean
students.

3) Research Question (s)

To what extent does cultural background knowledge affect L2 reading


comprehension?

Does socioeconomic status affect the outcomes of reading comprehension


in a state funded school and in a private school?

4) Hypotheses
Background knowledge affects students L2 reading comprehension
depending on their socioeconomic status
4.1. Dependent variable
Reading comprehension on students in a private school and in a statefunded school
Reading comprehension is the act of understanding what you are reading. It
is an intentional, active, and interactive process that occurs before, during, and
after a person reads a particular text.
4.2. Independent variable
Background knowledge on students in a private school and in a state-funded
school
Background knowledge is what someone already knows about a certain
subject that will help him or her gain new information, Reason why it has been
described as a key element in reading comprehension

4.3. Operationalization of these variables.


The independent variable will be measured through a survey that will be
taken to students in order to determine their background knowledge as well as their
socioeconomic status.
The survey will include questions related to the closeness the learner and
the learners family have with culture, such as Do you usually go to the theater?
and How many books do you have in your house? The survey will also include
questions in order to get to know the learners socioeconomic status such as How
many computers do you have in your house?, and more questions related to their
families purchasing power (See Appendix 1).
The dependent variable will be measured by using a specific type of text
(short story) that will be given to students in order to determine their reading
comprehension level. The type of text chosen was considering that the students
taking part in the investigation fluctuate between 14 and 16 years old are might not
be used to reading longer texts (See Appendix 2).
Considering that a part of the sample might not be used to reading in
English at all, we also want to study the way they feel when approached to new
circumstances such as reading a text in English. In order to do so, a survey will be
handed out after their reading comprehension task to record their feelings and
impressions towards the task itself (See Appendix 2)

5) General Objective (s)


1. To determine the influence of background knowledge in the outcomes of
reading comprehension in an L2
2. To determine the influence of the socio economic status in the outcomes of
reading comprehension in an L2
6) Specific Objectives
1. To identify the background knowledge of secondary students in a statefunded school.
2. To identify the background knowledge of secondary students in a private
school
3. To determine the differences between the background knowledge of
secondary students in a state-funded school and a private one.
4. To develop a theoretical framework within which background knowledge and
its effects on reading comprehension in a foreign language can be
established.
7) Type of study
In order to answer our research question without distorting the reality in
which the phenomena being studied takes place we will carry out a descriptive
research, since this type of research does not alter the phenomena and therefore
its findings are assumed to be the direct reflection of reality which is what we will
try to aim to when carrying out the research.

On the other hand, our study is also correlational since we want to discover
if there is a relationship between the students background knowledge and their
levels of reading comprehension in the English Language.

8) Theoretical Framework
Whenever people talk about learning English as a Foreign or Second
Language, it is understood that every learner needs to focus on the four skills:
speaking, writing, listening and reading. Sometimes, English Teachers try really
hard for their students to get as much knowledge as they can and for their students
to develop their abilities as much as possible, but no all of them acquaint for the
importance background knowledge has on students when learning English, and
especially, when learning how to read properly in the aforementioned language.
Many studies support what was previously mentioned, but despite that, not
even one of those studies focus on the relationship that exists between the
students background knowledge and their reading comprehension levels on
Chilean high school students. It is for this reason, that all of our study is centered in
discovering that relationship in students that belong to private schools and statefunded schools in our country.
If the study leads to a relationship between those variables, then the results
will be used to create new ways of trying to give all students -no matter their
background knowledge nor their socio-economical status- the same opportunities
to develop their reading comprehension skills equally.

8.1) Referential framework


Reading comprehension is understood as one of the four language skills
that need to be taught in every L2 classroom. As stated by several experts, reading
is an interactive process in which the reader reacts to the text and makes
interpretations out of it.
In order to make sense of the text, the reader brings about his or her
knowledge of the world and links it to what is being said there. In other words, the
students complement the information given in the text with their own knowledge.
However, their knowledge does not always match the written material, due to
differences in social conventions, traditions, points of views, etc. This phenomenon
is accentuated when reading in a second or foreign language leading to
misinterpretations of the text and therefore to poor reading comprehension
outcomes.
Although there are abundant research concerning the effect of strategy
training on learners reading comprehension ability in L2, few studies, if any, have
scrutinized the possible effect of a socio cultural knowledge on the learners reading
comprehension and reading strategy use. Moreover, there is not much research
done about such topic in the Chilean context which prevents teachers from wisely
solving this problem in the EFL classroom.

It is for this reason that this study will contribute significantly to L2 teachers
understanding of the effects of cultural background knowledge. As some
researchers have stated learning is not an individualistic process and it needs to
be learned in a social context with the help of some peers or expert teachers
(Lantolf & Thorne, 2006; Yang & Wilson, 2006; Zuengler & Miller, 2006). Hence, if
L2 teachers are informed about the importance of cultural background knowledge,
students reading comprehension outcomes would be enhanced. In other words, it
would not only benefit teachers but should also enrich students knowledge in this
process.
In this regard, the purpose of this study is to determine the extent to what
cultural background knowledge affects reading comprehension outcomes of
Chilean students.
To broaden our understanding of how reading occurs, it is important to
examine some theories which are closely related to the process of reading
comprehension. Some of them are: bottom-up theory, top-down theory, interactive
theory, and the current sociocultural perspectives on reading.
Reutzel and Cooter (2005) claimed that reading is similar to solving a jigsaw
puzzle, since first the reader needs to examine each piece of the puzzle and then
put the pieces together to make a picture. In other words, the bottom-(Anderson
and Barnitz, 2004) up theory hypotheses that reading is a sequential or serial
mental process, in which the reader goes from lower order to higher order stages
of comprehension (Tracey & Morrow, 2012).

Even though the bottom-up theory was popular in the 1970s, researchers
claim that it fails to consider other factors that participate in the process of reading,
and therefore, categorizing the reader as a passive participant, since reading is
more than simply decoding and using linguistic skills. (Rainey, 2014)
An opposite theory in which the reader becomes a more active and engage
learner, is the Top-down theory. This theory suggests that reading is a process in
which the reader uses background information to predict the meaning of a given
word or sentence. Therefore, comparing this theory with the previous one, it can
be said that what the reader brings to the reading task is more pervasive and
more powerful than the general psycholinguistic model suggests (Carrell &
Eisterhold, 1983, p. 556). However, from a cognitive view, the reader may have
some difficulties to understand the text as the difficulty of it increases, especially if
the topic of the text is unknown for the reader, leading to rely on a bottom-up
strategy again. Then, a more balance theory is needed.
Providing that a nonlinear view of reading was required, Rumelhart (1977)
proposed the Interactive Theory which contributes to a great extent in
understanding the reading process. Since it brings both bottom-up and top-down
theory together, it helps the reader to comprehend a text of any level of complexity.
As Rainey explains (2014) they can work in a compensatory manner, where one
or both levels of processing can be working at any one time (p. 17)
In spite of Rumerharts efforts to demonstrate the compatibility of information
processing and cognitive processing, this theory also fails to take into
consideration external factor as the social and cultural context of the reader.

Unlike, the cognitive approaches previously explained, Sociocultural


theories put social factors first. Considering that, readers bring to a text a wide
range of experiences with the world and with the discourse, it is impossible to let
context aside, since it helps them to construct meaningful representations of the
text
The aforementioned has been explained by Schema theory. Widdowson
defines schema as Cognitive constructs which allow for the organization of
information in long-term memory (1994), which means that such schema is formed
by the reader's own life experiences and linguistics encounters that are stored in
his or her memory. It is possible to recognise several dimensions of schema,
namely content schema (related to how familiarize the reader is to the topic being
discussed in the text), formal schema (information regarding the structure of
different types of text ), and finally language schema which is related to the
knowledge of the language itself.
According to Gilakjani and Ahmadi in their article "The relationship between
L2 reading comprehension and schema theory: A matter of text familiarity " (2011),
the reader's comprehension of a written text depends largely on how he or she
links the written word to his or her knowledge of the world and that is exactly what
the schema theory states. Therefore, it is interesting to notice that reading is a
dynamic process in which the reader brings his own experiences, culture and
emotions to the text in order to make meaning out of it.
It is argued that failure to understand a text is closely related to the readers
limited background knowledge of a given topic being discussed in a text rather than

to his or her linguistic abilities . This matter should be taken into account when
choosing reading material for a second language classes . Moreover, it should be
the source for further research.
Many researchers have studied the function of schema or background
knowledge; whose approaches are more or less similar.
Yousef et al. (2014), for example, investigated the relationship between
cultural background of Iranian EFL learners and reading comprehension. In this
study, the participants were 45 language learners from three different ethnicities. All
participants received three different reading comprehension sub-tests: a reading
sub-test including culturally familiar topics and two reading sub-tests with culturally
unfamiliar topics. The results showed that the means of all groups on culturally
familiar reading tests were greater than their means on reading tests with
unfamiliar contents. Therefore, they concluded that background knowledge
determines the ease or complexity of understanding a reading passage. In
Yousefs words (2014), no matter how well a reader may know a language, he or
she cannot read in that language with good comprehension if the subject matter or
the content of the text is one he or she knows absolutely nothing about (p. 712)
Similarly, Johnson researched how cultural origin affected reading
comprehension. The participants were 46 Iranian University students at medium
English proficiency. Every subject would read two articlestwo English stories
seeming from Iranian and American folklore. Half of students read original one, and
the other half read adapted one. When finishing them they would do a multi-choice
test, and this was to identify how much one had understood. The result suggested

that cultural origin was more influential than semantics and syntax in terms of
reading comprehension.
Erten and Raz (2009) arrive at a similar conclusion regarding the impact of
cultural familiarity. Following Alpekins ideas, the researchers decided to replicate
and extend one of Alpekin's studies related to the nativization of written texts. For
that, they conducted an investigation in a state University in the west of Turkey.
Forty four students were elected and later randomly assigned to four different
groups. The prime material used was a short story which was nativized for
research purposes, the names of the characters were changed as well as the
names of streets, locations and more. It is worth mentioning that only two groups
worked with the nativized version while the other two remaining worked with the
original text.
The procedure followed was different for each of the groups, the first group
worked with the original text and some reading activities while the second group
only worked with the original text. The third group only read the nativized version
and the fourth group worked with the nativized version and also did some reading
exercises. In order to evaluate the students understanding of the short story, a
recall test was carried out.
The results of this study highlight the fact that cultural familiarity has a great
effect on reading comprehension, since the two groups that worked with the
nativized version of the story scored better than the other two groups. Moreover,
the findings of this study also showed that the reading activities did not help

comprehension of the original text nor did they compensate the lack of cultural
familiarity.
While Erten and Razs findings support the ideas proposed by of Yousef et
al. in their study, the believe that cultural familiarity has a great impact on reading
comprehension, they also provide a real insight concerning reading activities. In
fact, their study showed that compensating the gap of cultural familiarity through
reading activities can be really challenging. This issue and how to cope with it has
been investigated by other researches.
Taking into account the importance of developing reading activities that can
make up for the lack of background knowledge of L2 students, Alfaki and Siddiek
(2013) carried out a research in which they attempted to investigate the role of
activating background knowledge in reading comprehension by means of text
previewing as a pre-reading activity. With that purpose, the researchers made use
of a reading strategy called THIEVES which is said to improve the students
reading comprehension enabling them to preview the structure of a text (titles,
headings, introduction, visuals, vocabulary etc. ) in an organized way.
Forty three year students from a secondary school were chosen and then
randomly assigned to group number 1(control group) and group number 2
(experimental group). The experiment was divided in three sections for the
experimental group, namely text previewing, silent reading and answering
questions. Then a T test was administered. The results showed that the group that
took the treatment (previewing activity) did better than the group that did not take
the treatment. These findings suggest that activating the students background

knowledge by means of text previewing has a positive effect on reading


comprehension.
Alfaki and Siddieks investigation provide insightful information regarding
how to compensate the lack of schemata through activating the knowledge the
students already have. Furthermore, pre-teaching the concepts needed to fully
understand a text through the strategy THIEVES has proven to be worthwhile.
Their investigation seems extremely useful since it complements and partly
answers the questions that arise from Erten and Razs research regarding the
success of reading strategies.
A different approach to this issue considers the situation including other two
theories that have dominated the discourse processing literature: memory-based
and explanation-based theories. What these theories have in common is that both
of them acknowledge the importance that world knowledge has in the
comprehension process. According to Cook and Guraud (2005) the memorybased processing relies only on low-level automatic memory retrieval processes,
whereas explanation-based processing relies on the readers search in the longterm memory for any meaningful information to develop a rich and complete
representation of the text. The latter presented information is not new, there have
been many previous studies supporting it, but the authors point out that none those
studies consider the world knowledge as an important part of the process.
Despite the authors view on the important role of world knowledge, it is
important to emphasize the fact that not only they state the positive aspect of it, but
also the negative side, since the use of peoples information of the world when

trying to comprehend a text can either facilitates or hinder the processing of current
information (Obrien et all, 2001).
There are some other authors that agree with the previously mentioned, but
they lead a study in order to scientifically prove the role of world knowledge, as it is
the case of Droop and Verhoeven (1998), that state that cultural background does
not help people comprehend texts better alone, but helps them improve their
reading speed as well by making them take less time when reading something they
are acquainted with.
Previous authors have stated the importance of cultural background, but
how important is it in reality? As a matter of a fact, its importance is such that Bgel
and Buunk (1996) demonstrated that the text topics of a foreign-language reading
comprehension text may affect the type of information remembered depending on
the degree of familiarity people have with it.
In order to support this by means of strong evidence is that Droop and
Verhoeven conducted a study in which 150 Dutch and 150 minority third graders
(from Turkey and Morocco) participated by reading three different texts, all of which
were taken from the Dutch curricula. A distinction was made between the three
type of texts: the first one referred to the Dutch culture, the second one referred to
the Near Eastern culture (Turkey and Morocco) and the last one was considered to
be neutral, that is to say, equally familiar for both groups of participants. All the
texts were given to 10 primary-school teachers and 10 researchers in the linguistic
department so as to prove their reliability.
The study results were conclusive: Dutch children obtained higher scores
than the minority children on the topics referring to the Dutch culture. On the other

hand, the minority children had higher scores on the topics referring to their culture.
In other words, it can be clearly seen that background knowledge does have an
effect when doing activities related to reading comprehension, which led to children
comprehending better texts referring to their own culture rather than texts with
unfamiliar topics.
It is important to mention that the study Droop and Verhoeven (1998)
conducted contributes enormously to the discipline, since so far the only studies
led regarding the effects and importance of cultural background had been directed
on adult people.
In spite of all the positive qualities cultural background has, none of the
precedent authors mentions that when L2 language knowledge is low, it limits the
power of background knowledge. That is to say, that students with either low
(below 60%) or high (above 80%) L2 language knowledge scores do not benefit
from background knowledge (McNeil 2010). That being the case, it is possible to
say that background knowledge does not lead to significant improvements for
readers that are at either low or high levels of L2 language knowledge.
Even though the study was rigorously conducted, it is necessary to say that
the author shows bias, implying that previous studies were not well done because
they assumed participants experiences instead of measuring as a way of
measuring background knowledge as well.
A problem with the study design is that students were taught to create selfquestions regarding their reading performance, which were later used in the study
afterwards. This latter action could have produced bias against their own study,

reason why the author should not have given the participant that amount of
freedom.

8.2) Conceptual framework


When talking about English language, it is necessary to mention that in
every L2 classroom the main objective is developing English four skills (Listening,
Reading, Speaking and Writing). But sometimes schools do not have the resources
to help their students get the most out of each skill. In order to do this, a plethora of
studies have been carried out so as to develop more literature on the subject that
may be helpful to all people involved in the learning process.
Below there are the concepts that we believe are the most important to
know for our investigation to be well-lead.

The four skills


When babies are born, it takes them years to develop the necessary skills to
communicate properly. First, they learn to listen, then to speak, then to read and
lastly to write. As an adult, it is really important for them to master those four skills
in order to be able to communicate with their environment. These skills are
listening, writing, speaking and reading.
The listening skill involves identifying sounds and processing them into
words and sentences. It is an important skill because it helps us to understand
people and also to help people understand us.
The writing skill is the process of using symbols to express our thought on a
readable form. In order to write properly, it is necessary to master some other

abilities first, such as grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and spelling. For
this reason some people consider this ability to be one of the hardest to master
when learning a second language.
The speaking skill is when we use our mouth in order to deliver information
to other people. And there are three ways in which it can be developed: interactive,
partially interactive and non-interactive. The first one includes face-to-face
interactions, the second one includes just one-sided communication (for example,
a person giving a speech with no interruptions) and the last one can be exemplified
as recorded speech.
The reading skill is the process of looking at symbols and get meaning from
them. Why is this skill important? Because it is a complex process in which not only
people use their eyes to get information from a text, but they also need to use their
brain to construct meaning and sometimes they also use their background
knowledge in order to support the meaning they constructed.
Reading Comprehension
Throughout many years, the way in which the brain reacts to reading has
puzzled the scientists. Even to this day, they have not been able to come to an
agreement regarding what reading comprehension is or what it involves. But, is it
actually necessary to choose a side? Recent researches indicate that reading
comprehension is neither simply a unidirectional information-receiving activity nor a
comprehension of words, sentences, and texts. Readers construct a certain
cerebral mode in the reading process, a comprehension-aimed, multi-stratiform,
and interactive process that requires consistent inferring and guessing. (Huang,
2009: 138-139).

In spite of the fact that not everyone thinks the same about reading
comprehension, scientists do agree on one thing: reading comprehension is much
more than understanding words that are arranged in a certain way. It is the process
of making meaning from text. The goal, therefore, is to gain an overall
understanding of what is described in the text rather than to obtain meaning from
isolated words or sentences. In understanding read text information children
develop mental models, or representations of meaning of the text ideas during the
reading process. There are two classes of mental models: a text-based model,
which is a mental representation of the propositions of the text and a situation
model consisting of what the text is perceived to be about (Kintsch 1998; van Dijk
and Kintsch 1983)
Bottom-up theory
Bottom-up theories argue that learning to read is a process in which people
first learn the parts of language, and once that is understood, they move on to
understand the whole text. That is to say, people learning to read (whether they are
children or adults) first focus on form and then on meaning.
As Reutzel and Cooter (2005) said, reading is similar to silving a jigsaw
puzzle, since first the reader needs to examine each piece of the puzzle and then
put the pieces together to make a picture.
It is possible to say that the bottom-up theory is much like decoding, which
means that when this process is happening, our brains behave as computers. This
latter situation is what some experts in the field declare not to be efficient enough
since the reading process is more than just decoding information; it is the process

in which students compare their background knowledge to the text in order to


understand what they read, a process that does not occur in the bottom-up theory.
Top-down theory
An opposite theory in which the reader becomes a more active and engaged
learner is the Top-down theory. This theory suggests that reading is a process in
which the reader uses background information to predict the meaning of language
they are going to read or listen to. In other words, people develop expectations
before reading and as they listen to or read they confirm or reject these
expectations.
Carrell and Eisterhold (1983) claim this theory to be the most effective one
since it takes the most out of learners and out of their background knowledge and
experiences for them to understand as much meaning as possible from a text.
Sereno et al (2003) states that this theory is effective because information
relying on the interpretation of the context activates the appropriate meaning of an
ambiguous word which is what is looked for when developing reading
comprehension habits.
Interactive theory
The interactive reading theory recognizes that there is an interaction
between the bottom-up and the top-down process in a simultaneous way when
reading. Moreover, it states that readers retain more knowledge if they are
interested in what they are reading so as to interact with the text in a way they
would not if they did not have any interest in the information.
According to Emerald Dechant (1991) the reader constructs meaning (topdown processing) by the selective use of information (thus, using the bottom-up

processing). But even though this interaction between cognitive processing and
information processing exists, it does not include the students background
knowledge when constructing meaning or comprehending the text.
Sociocultural theory
Sociocultural theory describes learning and development as being
embedded within social events and occurring as a learner interacts with other
people, objects, and events in the collaborative environment (Vygotsky, 1978).
This situation is clearly seen when Gilakjani and Ahmadi claimed in one of their
studies that learners comprehension depends on how he or she links the written
information to his or her knowledge of the world (background knowledge).
This theory is the one that best fits with our study, since it does not only
accounts for information processing (understanding a text through its form) nor
cognitive processing (predicting what might be on a certain text), but also accounts
for the learners background knowledge and how this can improve the learners
comprehension when connecting their experiences with the information they
retrieve.
Background Knowledge
Whenever we read a text we understand the words we read not just
because we know how to read, but also because we have background knowledge
that helps us get the meaning from any texts. But what is background knowledge?
Also called prior knowledge, it is supposed to consist of two main components: our
assimilated direct experiences of life and its manifold activities, and our assimilated
verbal experiences and encounters (J. M. Swales, 1990). That is to say, when we

read, we put together what we get from the words themselves plus what our life
experiences add to our understanding of a text.

Schema theory
The schema theory deals with the idea of relating our background
knowledge with our previous knowledge when reading a text. It also has to do with
the culture the reader belongs; since everyone has a different background
knowledge, the information they will add to understand a text, or the way of
understanding a text itself will vary from person to person.
According to Huang (2009) and the schema theory, any text, spoken or
written, does not by itself carry meaning. In reading, a text only provides directions
as to how a reader should retrieve or construct meaning from previously acquired
knowledge. Comprehending words, sentences, and entire texts requires the ability
to relate the material to ones own knowledge. Effective reading is a combination of
the non-visual information already stored and organized in the brain and the
present visual information printed on the page.

All the previous concepts are helpful to our investigation in the sense that
they help us understand better how to approach the students that are going to be
under investigation, and they also help us to notice that previous investigators have
studied external factors that may influence reading comprehension. And even
though some other authors have investigated the correlational status between

cultural background and reading comprehension levels, our investigation is


intended to discover if that correlation exists in our country, a whole new context.

Method
Participants
The sample of the study will comprise of 75 students in total: 45 students
from a state funded school and 30 students from a private one. The number of
students in each group differ in number due to school contexts. Both male and
female students will be used as participants in the study. The participants will be
English secondary students who range from 14 to 16 years old.
Instruments
In order to measure the level of cultural background knowledge the students
have, it is necessary to apply a questionnaire which includes multiple-choice items
and open ended questions related to general education, manifold activities, places
the visit normally, cultural experiences, among others. Moreover, there will be a
section directly related to books and reading in general. Therefore, in this section
they will have to answer questions as the following: 1) Do you read a lot? How
many books do you read a book every month? Or every year? 2) What are you
reading at the moment? Do you like it? 3) Do you have a favourite book or books?
What is it about? 4) What kinds of books do you like to read?

The aim of this questionnaire is to provide us a considerable and revealing


insight into the students cultural background knowledge. In the same way, it will
allow us to compare, contrast or classified their cultural experiences.
On the other hand, a short story will be used so as to measure students
reading comprehension levels on their L2. The short story will be carefully selected
since it must be the appropriate level for students not to frustrate just by reading it
which would interfere with our study by no having the possibility of measuring each
variable on its own and see their correlations.

Procedures
In order to determine the level of reading comprehension of both groups
three stages have been established:
Pre-test: Class activities will be chosen to address the three stages of a
normal reading class: pre-reading, while-reading and post-reading. These activities
will be used with both groups. The purpose of these activities is to contextualize
the story that they are going to read later.
While-activity: After the pre-reading activities, the participants will be
instructed to move onto the while-reading stage during which they will be asked to
read a short story. Eventually, the students answer some questions related to the
story. These activities have been chosen since they allow a large number of
subject to be assessed.
Post test: After the application of the text, the students will be interviewed in
order to know how they may feel while reading the text and answering the
questions, if they had any difficulty in reading it and why.

The data for this study will be collected based on the participants
performance on the reading comprehension test and the interviews. Later, the data
will be organised and analysed from a qualitative perspective. Once the grading of
the test is completed, the scores will be transferred to a database in SPSS for
statistical analysis.

Ethical Considerations
DOCUMENTO DE CONSENTIMIENTO INFORMADO
Ttulo del Proyecto: The impact of cultural background knowledge on L2 reading
comprehension in a state-funded and a private school in the Chilean classroom (El
impacto del capital cultural en la comprensin de lectura en un idioma extranjero
en colegio municipalizado y en un colegio privado en las aulas chilenas)
Investigador responsable:
Beln Nahuel
Valentina Madariaga
Denise Ibaez
Invitacin a participar: Se le invita a participar en el proyecto de investigacin a
desarrollarse en el establecimiento educacional perteneciente a la comuna de
Renca y a desarrollarse al mismo tiempo en el establecimiento educacional
perteneciente a la comuna de Las Condes, denominado The impact of cultural
background knowledge on L2 reading comprehension in a state-funded and a
private school in the Chilean classroom. Los investigadores requieren que usted
entregue su consentimiento firmado para participar en este proyecto. La siguiente

informacin es proporcionada para ayudarle a tomar una decisin informada con


respecto a la posibilidad de participar.
Naturaleza y propsito: Los objetivos centrales de este proyecto apuntan a
determinar el efecto del capital cultural de los estudiantes aprendiendo una
segunda lengua al momento de desarrollar la habilidad de comprensin de lectura
en su L2.
Explicacin del procedimiento: Durante el desarrollo del proyecto, se harn dos
visitas a cada establecimiento (particular y municipal), la primera para solicitar los
permisos requeridos para poder trabajar en dichos lugares, la segunda para
realizar el trabajo de campo.
En la segunda visita a cada establecimiento se les entregar un cuestionario a los
estudiantes que debern responder de forma individual y honestamente de modo
que se procure la fiabilidad de la informacin. Luego de que hayan respondido el
cuestionario, los estudiantes que participen del proyecto sern entregados un texto
en ingls con preguntas de comprensin lectora que debern responder. Al
finalizar este trabajo, los investigadores entrevistarn a los estudiantes
participantes para conocer su percepcin sobre su trabajo individual de
comprensin de lectura en un idioma extranjero.
Riesgos: No habr riesgos de ninguna naturaleza involucrados en la participacin
delos estudiantes en este estudio. Por el contrario, el propsito central de este
proyecto de investigacin es el de contribuir a alcanzar mayor conocimiento en

torno al impacto que tiene el capital cultural de los estudiantes al momento de


desarrollar su habilidad de comprensin de lectura en su segunda lengua.
Beneficios: Los participantes se beneficiarn del perodo de retroalimentacin al
momento de desarrollar sus habilidades de comprensin de lectura durante el
estudio. Adems, un beneficio indirecto para usted ser el tener la satisfaccin
personal de haber colaborado a aumentar el conocimiento en el rea de ASL.
Confidencialidad: Su identidad est protegida en cuanto a su derecho de
anonimato y privacidad por parte de los responsables del estudio. Sin embargo,
usted debe saber que los datos recolectados sern utilizados para el anlisis de
esta investigacin. Estos datos no sern utilizados por otras personas ni en otros
proyectos, siendo garante de esto los investigadores responsables. Usted debe
saber que la informacin que nos entrega ser de gran importancia para el estudio
y conocimiento del posible impacto que tiene el capital cultural sobre el desarrollo
de la habilidad de comprensin de lectura en el L2.
Derecho a rehusarse o retirarse: Su participacin es absolutamente voluntaria.
Usted es libre de retirar su participacin en cualquier momento o de elegir no
participar y al hacer esto, no ser penalizado.
Consultas: Si tiene consultas acerca de esta investigacin, puede contactarse
con Beln Nahuel Hernndez correo electrnico belen.nahuel.h@gmail.com o con
Valentina Madariaga Salinas correo electrnico valentinamadariaga.s@gmail.com,
denise.ibanesz@gmail.com ,todas personas responsables de la investigacin.

Acuerdo: Estoy totalmente consciente de la naturaleza y grado de mi participacin


en esta investigacin tal y como aparece explicado ms arriba. En consecuencia,
estoy de acuerdo con participar en este proyecto. Declaro haber recibido una
copia de este consentimiento. Tengo 18 aos o ms.

(Firma del(a) participante)

(Fecha)

(Nombre impreso del(a) participante)

(Firma del investigador)

(Fecha)

Procedures
Before the experiment
Selection of survey
In order to know the students cultural and socioeconomic background
knowledge, a survey will be carried out. (See Appendix 1)
This survey is based on the National Survey on Participation and Cultural
Consumption in Chile, since it measures the free or limited access for students and
their families to cultural services, the frequency of accessing to cultural services
and goods; and finally, the reason why they do or do not have access to them.
Furthermore, this survey aims to measure:

the attendance at the different cultural facilities, such as museums, theatre,

cinema, etc.
Evaluation of the cultural equipment (televisions, notebooks, air

conditioning, washing machine, among others)


Cultural practices and use of free time

Selection of story
First of all, it is necessary to mention the fact that this study does not intend
to measure the level of English of the subjects, but their reading comprehension in
L2 and their understanding of the cultural codes present in the short story.
According to the previously stated, we found it appropriate to select a story with an
uncomplicated (basic) vocabulary. Additionally, the length of the story is expected
to be relatively short so as to match the concentration span of the subjects.
The criteria for the selection of the story followed three basic requirements:
1) The story had to be originally written in English, 2) the author of the story had to
be a native of the language, 3) the story had to be a classic of the country of birth
of the author and it also had to provide valuable insight into his or her culture.
Given the elements required for the short story, we have selected The Last Leaf
by the American short story writer known by the pen name of O. Henry. This story
is a classic of the American literature. Additionally, it is often part of the middle
schools reading program in USA.
During the experiment
Once the instruments are validated by experts they will be used with the sample
already chosen.
Reading activity
The subjects will answer a multiple choice questionnaire, asking factual information
about the story.

Such questionnaire will be similar to the following.


1- Where does the story take place?
Greenwich Village, New York City
Washington Square
NY
What kind of people were attracted to that specific place?
Musicians
Actors
Dancers
All of the above
Who is the main character of the story?
Johnsy
Sue
Mr Behrman
All of the above
What are the professions of Sue and Johnsy?
Artists
They do not have any profession
Musicians
Where did Sue and Johnsy first meet?
They met in a bar
They met in a restaurant
They met in a Park
What month of the year and season did Johnsy get sick?
a) June/ Winter
b) July/ Winter
c) November /Winter
7- Why did Sue and Johnsy become roommates?
a) Because they were friends
b) Because of money
c) They were not roommates
8- Where was Sue from?
a) Maine
b) Colorado
c) Orlando
9- Where was Johnsy from?
a) North Carolina
b) Oklahoma
c) California
10-What was Johnsy suffering from?
a) Pneumonia
b) Asthma
c) A cold

a)
b)
c)
2a)
b)
c)
d)
3a)
b)
c)
d)
4a)
b)
c)
5a)
b)
c)
6-

Measurements and calculations


Based upon the data we will have collected as well as the research design
that we are using for our research, we have decided to use SPSS in order to
calculate the data collected in both the questionnaire and the reading activities
results.
SPSS is defined as a Windows based program that can be used to perform
data entry and analysis and to create tables and graphs. Moreover, SPSS is
capable of handling large amounts of data and can perform all of the analyses
covered in the text, therefore, it matches our research project and the type of
results we expect to obtain. Finally, the collected data will be analysed and
discussed so we can subsequently, state new findings and develop final
conclusions plus new possible theories
Projections of the study
After all the research has been done, as researchers we expect to find a
clear correlation between students background knowledge and their reading
comprehension levels in L2. If this is proven by the end of our investigation, that
would mean that students with less resources are undeniable destined to show a
lower performance when developing (or trying to develop) their reading skills.
Together with this, and more from a social point of view, this would mean that
students not-pertaining to higher socio-economical statuses are deprived from
everything that is English-related, that is to say, understanding new cultures,
getting to know different ways of living, obtaining all the available information that is
on the internet, which is mostly in English.

Having found a correlation between these two variables would enable us as


researchers and also English teachers to do something to diminish the gap
between these two groups of students and would allow other researchers to
develop further studies regarding the same topic.
Conclusions
Throughout the development of the research project we noticed that there are
many things and factors that should be taken into account when investigating, no
matter if the topic has one or two variables, it all matters. That is to say, that every
researcher must be careful because if one little detail is left out, that would mean
that the investigation might be biased and as a result of that, the discoveries (if
any) would not be real.
References
Alfaki, I. M., & Siddiek, A. G. (2013). The Role of Background Knowledge in
Enhancing
Reading Comprehension. World Journal of English Language, 3(4), 4266.Reutzel, Andersson, B.V. Barnitz, J.G. (2004).Cross-Cultural Schemata and
Reading
Comprehension Instruction, Cross-Cultural Schemata and Reading
Comprehension
(pp. 94-101).
Carrell, P., & Eisterhold, J. (1983). Schema theory and ESL reading pedagogy,
Teachers

of English to Speakers of Other Languages Quarterly, 17(4), pp. 553-573.


Cook, E & Guraud, S. (2005). What have we been missing? The role of general
world
in discourse processing, Research Gate, 1-15.
Erten, H., & S. R. (2009). The effects of cultural familiarity on reading
comprehension.
Reading in a Foreign Language, 21, 60-77.Tracey, D., & Morrow, L. M.
(2012).
Lenses on reading: An introduction to theories and models (2nd ed.). New
York,
NY: The Guildford Press.
Gilakjani, A. P., & Ahmadi, S. M. (2011). The Relationship between L2 Reading
Comprehension and Schema Theory: A Matter of Text Familiarity.
International
Journal of Information and Education Technology, 1(2), 142-149.
McNeil, L. (2010). Investigating the contributions of background knowledge and
reading

comprehension strategies to L2 reading comprehension: an

exploratory study.

Springer Science Business Media. Vol. 24. No. 8; April

O'Brien, E. J.. Cook, A. E., & Derepentigny, K. A. (2001). Psychology of knowledge


activation in text comprehension and problem solving. In W Kintsch (Ed.),

International encyclopedia of the behavioral and social sciences (12, pp. 81 13-81
17).
Rainey, K.F (2014) Reading comprehension: English language learners. (Tesis
doctoral
indita) University of Victoria.
Reutzel, D R., & Cooter, R. B. (2005). The Essentials of Teaching Children to
Read: What

Every Teacher Should Know! Columbus, Merrill/Prentice- Hall.

Yang, S. (2010) The Influence of Schema and Cultural Difference on L1 and L2


Reading
English Language Teaching Vol. 3, No. 4; December.
Yousef, H. et al (2014). The Relationship between Cultural Background and
Reading
Comprehension. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 4, 707-714.
Retrieved
April 17, 2016, from
http://www.academypublication.com/issues/past/tpls/vol04/04/07.pdf

Appendix 1
Encuesta sobre Capital socio-cultural
Nombre:___________________________________________Edad:______________________
Colegio:___________________________________________ Fecha: _____________________
Estimados (as) alumnos (as):
Estamos realizando una encuesta para evaluar el impacto del capital cultural
en la comprensin de lectura en un idioma extranjero. Los objetivos de ste,
apuntan a determinar el efecto del capital cultural de los estudiantes
aprendiendo una segunda lengua al momento de desarrollar la habilidad de
comprensin de lectura en su L2.
Se solicita su colaboracin contestando este cuestionario, que le tomar cerca
de 15 minutos de su tiempo. Sus respuestas sern estrictamente
confidenciales por lo que puede responder con total confianza.

I. mbito Familiar y Hogar


1. En una escala de 1 a 5, donde 1 es Ningn Inters y 5 Muy Interesado,
indique el grado de inters de los integrantes de su hogar por:
participar, asistir, comprar, practicar, escuchar, ver, actividades
relacionadas con

ACTIVIDADES
1

Grado de Inters
2
3
4
5

Artes Visuales (pintura, escultura, grabado,


etc.)
Artes Escnicas (Teatro, danza, circo, opera)
Artes Musicales (discos, conciertos, etc.)
Libros y Lectura (diarios, revistas, bibliotecas,
lectura, etc.)
Medios Audiovisuales e interactivos (tv, cine,
internet, etc.)
Patrimonio (Museos, parques nacionales, bailes
religiosos, etc.)

2.
C
u

n
t
o
s

libros tiene en su hogar?


a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
h.
3.

No tiene
Entre 1 y 5
Entre 6 y 10
Entre 11 y 25
Entre 26 y 50
Entre 51 y 100
Entre 101 y 200
Ms de 200

Maque dos opciones cmo obtiene los cds, casettes o discos de


msica que hay en su hogar?
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
h.

Los compra en disqueras


Los compra en tiendas o locales (malls/tiendas de departamentos, etc.)
Los compra en la calle
Se los prestan familiares y/o amigos
Se los han regalado
Los copia
Los baja gratis de Internet
Los compra por Internet

4. Marque con una X Sin considerar el material escolar posee en su


hogar?
SI
a. Instrumentos o materiales para artes visuales (lienzos,
pinceles, pinturas, etc.)
b. Cmara de fotografa no digital (anloga)
c. Cmara de fotografa digital
d. Instrumentos musicales (guitarra, piano, saxo, de
percusin, etc.)
e. Equipo de sonido (reproductor de msica,
minicomponente, equipo de msica)
f. Equipamiento de amplificacin y grabacin para
trabajar y componer msica
g. Programas computacionales para componer msica
5.

Cmo obtiene los libros que hay en su hogar principalmente?


a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
h.
i.
j.

Los compra en libreras


Los compra en ferias del libro
Los compra en la calle
Se los prestan familiares o amigos
Se los han regalado
Los baja de Internet
Los compra por Internet
Provienen de prstamos bibliotecarios
Los fotocopia
No tiene libros

6. Qu aparato electrnico posee en su hogar? Marque con una X


Aparato electrnico
a. Computador de mesa
b. Notebook Personal
c. Lavadora elctrica
d. Secadora elctrica
e. Aire acondicionado
f. Calefaccin
g. Estufa a gas/parafina
h. Televisor comn
i. Televisor plasma
j. Otro __________________________
7. Cuntos televisores hay en su hogar?
a. 1 o 2 televisores
b. 3 a 4 televisores

SI

NO

NO

c. Ms de 4 televisores
d. Ninguno
8. En su grupo familiar, se comparte el notebook o computador?
a. Si
b. No
c. No tenemos computador/notebook
II. Opinin Personal
1. Escucha msica?
a. S
b. No
2.

Marque dos opciones qu tipo de msica es la que ms le gusta?


a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
h.
i.

3.

Cul es el origen de la msica que prefiere?


a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.

4.

Msica docta (clsica)


Rock
Pop
Meldica, romntica
Tropical (salsa, merengue, cumbia, sound)
Reggaeton
Hip hop / rap
Folclore (cueca, msica andina)
Otras
Especifique:_____________________________________________________________
___

Msica de EE.UU
Msica europea
Msica latinoamericana
Msica nacional
Msica asitica
Otra
Especifique:_____________________________________________________________
___

Marque dos opciones qu aparato utiliza habitualmente para escuchar


msica?
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.

Radio o equipo de msica


Tocadiscos
Computador
Reproductor de Mp3/Mp4
Celular

f. Ipod
g. Otro
Especifique:
________________________________________________________________________
5. Qu aparato tecnolgico posee?
a.
b.
c.
d.

6.

Smartphone (Blackberry, iPhone)


Computador de escritorio
Notebook, netbook
Otro
Especifique:_____________________________________________________________
___

En el ltimo mes, ha usado Internet?


a. S
b. No
c. 3. Nunca he usado internet en mi vida

7. Por qu no ha accedido a Internet?


a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
8.

No le interesa o no le gusta
Falta de tiempo
Falta de dinero
No sabe ocupar el computador
No tiene computador
No tiene acceso a Internet en el hogar
Otro.
Especifique:______________________________________________________________

Con qu frecuencia utiliza Internet?


a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.

Todos los das (de lunes a domingo)


4 veces a la semana
De 2 a 3 veces a la semana
1 vez a la semana
1 vez cada 15 das
1 vez al mes

9.

Ud. utiliza Internet?

a. Varias veces al da
b. Una vez al da
10. Marque dos opciones En qu lugar se conecta a Internet?
a. Trabajo/oficina
b. Hogar
c. Cybercaf

d.
e.
f.
g.

Casa de amigos/familiares
Colegio/instituto/universidad
Biblioteca, municipio u oficina pblica
Conexin inalmbrica (wifi) en espacios pblicos o banda ancha
personal (USB)
h. Otro.
Especifique:________________________________________________________________
___

III. Tiempo libre


Obras de Teatro
1.

En los ltimos 12 meses, ha asistido a


obras de Teatro?

a. S
b. No
c. Nunca he ido en mi vida
2. Cul es la razn principal por la que no asisti?
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
3.

No le interesa o no le gusta
Falta de tiempo
Falta de dinero
Falta de informacin
Falta de costumbre
No hay sala de teatro en su barrio o comuna
Otra
Especifique:____________________________________________________________
__
Durante esos ltimos 12 meses, cuntas veces asisti a obras de teatro?

a. Ms de 6 veces
b. 2 a 5 veces
c. 1 vez
4.

Estara Usted dispuesto a gastar ms de lo que habitualmente gasta para


ir al Teatro?
a. S
b. No

Espectculos en Vivo
5. En el ltimo mes, ha visto algn Espectculos en Vivo en el espacio
pblico?

a. S
b. No
6. Cul es la razn principal por la que no ha visto Espectculos en Vivo en el
espacio pblico?
a.
b.
c.
d.

No le interesa o no le gusta
Falta de tiempo
Falta de costumbre
Otra
razn:______________________________________________________________

7. En el ltimo mes, cuntas veces ha visto algn Espectculo en Vivo en el


espacio pblico?
a.
b.
c.
d.

Ms de 6 veces
4 5 veces
2 3 veces
1 vez

8. Marque dos opciones Qu tipo de Espectculos en Vivo en el espacio


pblico ha visto en el ltimo mes?
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.
h.
i.

Pantomima (mimos)
Malabarismo y/o artes circenses
Tteres o marionetas
Estatua Humana
Recital de poesa
Cuentacuentos
Magia
Humorismo / monlogo
Cantantes Callejeros

Cine
9. En los ltimos 12 meses, ha asistido al cine?
a. S
b. No
c. Nunca he ido en mi vida
10.Durante esos ltimos 12 meses, cuntas veces ha ido al cine?
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.

12 veces o ms
De 7 a 11 veces
De 4 a 6 veces
3 veces
Dos veces
Una vez

11.Cul es la razn principal por la que no asisti?


a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.
g.

No le interesa o no le gusta
Falta de tiempo
Falta de dinero
Falta de informacin
Falta de costumbre
Prefiero ver pelculas en mi casa
Otro
Especifique:_____________________________________________________________
___

12.Durante esos ltimos 12 meses, cuntas veces ha ido al cine?


a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.

12 veces o ms
De 7 a 11 veces
De 3 a 6 veces
Dos veces
Una vez
Ninguna vez

13.Usted cree que en Chile el cobro por ir al Cine es...?


a.
b.
c.
d.
e.

Muy caro
Caro
Adecuado
Barato
Muy barato

Museos
14.En los ltimos 12 meses, ha asistido a algn
museo (de bellas artes, ciencias naturales,
histrico, etc.)?
a. S
b. No
c. Nunca he ido en mi vida
15.Cul es la razn principal por la que no asisti?
a.
b.
c.
d.
e.
f.

No le gusta o no le interesa
No tiene tiempo
No sabe dnde estn, no los conoce
No existen museos o se encuentran muy lejos de su barrio o comuna
Falta de costumbre
Otro

g. Especifique:____________________________________________________________
__

16.En los ltimos 12 meses, cuntas veces ha asistido a museos?


a.
b.
c.
d.
e.

Una vez a la semana


Una vez al mes
Una vez cada 3 meses
Una vez cada 6 meses
Por lo menos una vez al ao
Gracias por su colaboracin!

Appendix 2
Entrevista de percepcin
1. Fue fcil o difcil para ti la lectura del texto?

2. Cul crees que fue tu mayor dificultad?


3. Existan elementos en el texto que hayas visto con anterioridad?
4. Crees que si el texto hubiese sido ms corto podras haberlo entendido
mejor?
5. Crees que si el texto hubiese sido ms largo podras haberlo entendido
mejor?
6. Qu nivel de comprensin de lectura crees tener: bueno, regular, malo?
7. Cmo crees que puedes mejorar tu nivel de comprensin de lectura?

Appendix 3
Research Project Plan

Research Project Plan


Present the project to both schools and asking for the
corresponding permissions

Months
October November
(weeks)
(weeks)
1 2 3 4 1 2 3 4

Going to schools (private and state-funded schools)


and handing in the consent form to participants
Going to schools and handing in the first survey to
students in order to measure students' cultural
background
Going to schools handing in the reading
comprehension task to students
Going to schools and interview students after they
have done the reading comprehension task to get to
know their perception
Collect all the data gathered
Measure quantitative data through the use of SPSS
Observe qualitative data
State new findings and develop final conclusions plus
new possible theories

Appendix 4
Short story
The last leaf by O. Henry
Many artists lived in the Greenwich Village area of New York. Two young women
named Sue and Johnsy shared a studio apartment at the top of a three-story
building. Johnsy's real name was Joanna.

In November, a cold, unseen stranger came to visit the city. This disease,
pneumonia, killed many people. Johnsy lay on her bed, hardly moving. She looked
through the small window. She could see the side of the brick house next to her
building.
One morning, a doctor examined Johnsy and took her temperature. Then he spoke
with Sue in another room.
"She has one chance in -- let us say ten," he said. "And that chance is for her to
want to live. Your friend has made up her mind that she is not going to get well.
Has she anything on her mind?"
"She -- she wanted to paint the Bay of Naples in Italy some day," said Sue.
"Paint?" said the doctor. "Bosh! Has she anything on her mind worth thinking twice
-- a man for example?"
"A man?" said Sue. "Is a man worth -- but, no, doctor; there is nothing of the kind."
"I will do all that science can do," said the doctor. "But whenever my patient begins
to count the carriages at her funeral, I take away fifty percent from the curative
power of medicines."
After the doctor had gone, Sue went into the workroom and cried. Then she went
to Johnsy's room with her drawing board, whistling ragtime.
Johnsy lay with her face toward the window. Sue stopped whistling, thinking she
was asleep. She began making a pen and ink drawing for a story in a magazine.
Young artists must work their way to "Art" by making pictures for magazine stories.
Sue heard a low sound, several times repeated. She went quickly to the bedside.
Johnsy's eyes were open wide. She was looking out the window and counting -counting backward. "Twelve," she said, and a little later "eleven"; and then "ten"
and "nine;" and then "eight" and "seven," almost together.
Sue looked out the window. What was there to count? There was only an empty
yard and the blank side of the house seven meters away. An old ivy vine, going

bad at the roots, climbed half way up the wall. The cold breath of autumn had
stricken leaves from the plant until its branches, almost bare, hung on the bricks.
"What is it, dear?" asked Sue.
"Six," said Johnsy, quietly. "They're falling faster now. Three days ago there were
almost a hundred. It made my head hurt to count them. But now it's easy. There
goes another one. There are only five left now."
"Five what, dear?" asked Sue.
"Leaves. On the plant. When the last one falls I must go, too. I've known that for
three days. Didn't the doctor tell you?"
"Oh, I never heard of such a thing," said Sue. "What have old ivy leaves to do with
your getting well? And you used to love that vine. Don't be silly. Why, the doctor
told me this morning that your chances for getting well real soon were -- let's see
exactly what he said he said the chances were ten to one! Try to eat some soup
now. And, let me go back to my drawing, so I can sell it to the magazine and buy
food and wine for us."
"You needn't get any more wine," said Johnsy, keeping her eyes fixed out the
window. "There goes another one. No, I don't want any soup. That leaves just four.
I want to see the last one fall before it gets dark. Then I'll go, too."
"Johnsy, dear," said Sue, "will you promise me to keep your eyes closed, and not
look out the window until I am done working? I must hand those drawings in by
tomorrow."
"Tell me as soon as you have finished," said Johnsy, closing her eyes and lying
white and still as a fallen statue. "I want to see the last one fall. I'm tired of waiting.
I'm tired of thinking. I want to turn loose my hold on everything, and go sailing
down, down, just like one of those poor, tired leaves."
"Try to sleep," said Sue. "I must call Mister Behrman up to be my model for my
drawing of an old miner. Don't try to move until I come back."

Old Behrman was a painter who lived on the ground floor of the apartment building.
Behrman was a failure in art. For years, he had always been planning to paint a
work of art, but had never yet begun it. He earned a little money by serving as a
model to artists who could not pay for a professional model. He was a fierce, little,
old man who protected the two young women in the studio apartment above him.
Sue found Behrman in his room. In one area was a blank canvas that had been
waiting twenty-five years for the first line of paint. Sue told him about Johnsy and
how she feared that her friend would float away like a leaf.
Old Behrman was angered at such an idea. "Are there people in the world with the
foolishness to die because leaves drop off a vine? Why do you let that silly
business come in her brain?"
"She is very sick and weak," said Sue, "and the disease has left her mind full of
strange ideas."
"This is not any place in which one so good as Miss Johnsy shall lie sick," yelled
Behrman. "Some day I will paint a masterpiece, and we shall all go away."
Johnsy was sleeping when they went upstairs. Sue pulled the shade down to cover
the window. She and Behrman went into the other room. They looked out a window
fearfully at the ivy vine. Then they looked at each other without speaking. A cold
rain was falling, mixed with snow. Behrman sat and posed as the miner.
The next morning, Sue awoke after an hour's sleep. She found Johnsy with wideopen eyes staring at the covered window.
"Pull up the shade; I want to see," she ordered, quietly.
Sue obeyed.
After the beating rain and fierce wind that blew through the night, there yet stood
against the wall one ivy leaf. It was the last one on the vine. It was still dark green
at the center. But its edges were colored with the yellow. It hung bravely from the
branch about seven meters above the ground.

"It is the last one," said Johnsy. "I thought it would surely fall during the night. I
heard the wind. It will fall today and I shall die at the same time."
"Dear, dear!" said Sue, leaning her worn face down toward the bed. "Think of me, if
you won't think of yourself. What would I do?"
But Johnsy did not answer.
The next morning, when it was light, Johnsy demanded that the window shade be
raised. The ivy leaf was still there. Johnsy lay for a long time, looking at it. And then
she called to Sue, who was preparing chicken soup.
"I've been a bad girl," said Johnsy. "Something has made that last leaf stay there to
show me how bad I was. It is wrong to want to die. You may bring me a little soup
now."
An hour later she said: "Someday I hope to paint the Bay of Naples."
Later in the day, the doctor came, and Sue talked to him in the hallway.
"Even chances," said the doctor. "With good care, you'll win. And now I must see
another case I have in your building. Behrman, his name is -- some kind of an
artist, I believe. Pneumonia, too. He is an old, weak man and his case is severe.
There is no hope for him; but he goes to the hospital today to ease his pain."
The next day, the doctor said to Sue: "She's out of danger. You won. Nutrition and
care now -- that's all."
Later that day, Sue came to the bed where Johnsy lay, and put one arm around
her.
"I have something to tell you, white mouse," she said. "Mister Behrman died of
pneumonia today in the hospital. He was sick only two days. They found him the
morning of the first day in his room downstairs helpless with pain. His shoes and
clothing were completely wet and icy cold. They could not imagine where he had
been on such a terrible night.

And then they found a lantern, still lighted. And they found a ladder that had been
moved from its place. And art supplies and a painting board with green and yellow
colors mixed on it.
And look out the window, dear, at the last ivy leaf on the wall. Didn't you wonder
why it never moved when the wind blew? Ah, darling, it is Behrman's masterpiece
he painted it there the night that the last leaf fell."