diciembre 2019 - mayo 2020
ISSN 2007-5480


Teaching reading comprehension activities through sociocultural aspects

Ma. De Los Angeles Mendoza González *


El presente trabajo aborda los elementos que los libros didácticos deben tener para contribuir al logro de los objetivos educativos planteados. En el área de lenguas extranjeras, especialmente para la adquisición de competencias del idioma inglés. Para tal efecto, se realizó una investigación con usuarios de un libro que aborda lecturas de lugares y temas culturales locales, a fin de determinar la importancia de plantear lecturas que aborden aspectos socioculturales vinculados a la experiencia y conocimientos previos de los estudiantes. Los resultados obtenidos muestran que las lecturas y actividades planteadas, incrementan la motivación y fomentan la comparación de su cultura con otras, logrando de este modo la reafirmación de su identidad cultural, fomento de la competencia lectora y de la comprensión de textos en lengua inglesa.


This paper addresses the elements that teaching books should have to contribute to the achievement of the educational objectives set out. In the area of foreign languages, especially for the acquisition of reading comprehension and sociocultural competences. For this purpose, a research was conducted with users of a book that present readings about local places and cultural topics, in order to determine the importance of consider tasks that address aspects associated with the experience and previous knowledge of students. The results show that these kinds of readings, increase motivation and encourage the comparison of their culture with others, thus achieving the reaffirmation of their cultural identity, the promotion of reading competence and the understanding of English language texts.

Palabras clave

competencia, comprensión, lectura, libro, interculturalidad.


competence, understanding, reading, book, interculturality.


I. Importance of teaching books

The teaching book is of significant importance in the teaching/learning process. As an instrument for disseminating cultural discourses with specific linguistic samples, alternative forms of communication and value systems, which will act directly in the cognitive training of the student as to be individual and social person. (Celis, 2012).

Textbooks must comply, inter alia, with the following aspects:

  1. Learning teaching objectives, each thematic unit comprising a learning unit has specific and general objectives that contribute to the learning of specific competences of the students. So, the book should consider these goals to be useful.
  2. Complementary activities. It refers to the use of exercises, included in the same book or virtual.
  3. Presentation. The book may be in physical or electronic form.
  4. Self-contained use. Allow the student to use it without the need for the teacher to explain their content or activities to be carried out. Includes an exercise response section.
  5. Level adaptation. In some cases, according to the subject(s) required, it is necessary to adapt activities for various levels.

In the structure of the book must also exist a constant participation of the student through the proposed activities, it is important to promote the student's point of view and allow him to build concepts, share information and knowledge acquired previously.

Criteria for evaluating teaching books may be as follows (Seville, 1995):

  1. General data: Title, author, price, page number, level, size, number of units, lessons, hours, objectives.
  2. Evaluation: Charts, images, readings, exercises, physical characteristics, location, sufficient, review, flexibility, guidance, appropriate level.

In the specific case of teaching a second language, the book should suggest or provide diversified activities. Traditional teaching, with its rules and definitions, not always produces the desired results for good language proficiency. However, teaching based on language functionality provides greater language proficiency to students, because it teaches how the grammatical elements work, training them for various situations. (Sánchez, 2004).

Thus, if the content of a book does not provide something new and interesting to the student, the learning process loses part of its meaning. In addition, socio-cultural activities within the learning teaching process of English, as a foreign language, aim to help better understand the context of the target language, as well as contributing to the comprehensive training of students and motivate teachers in the application of these aspects in language classes.

II. Research planning and development

Based on the above, it is considered that an activity can be carried out on a reverse basis, i.e. that the student reaffirms his identity through readings containing information from his cultural and historical environment, in order to generate the same synthesis and comparison activities with other cultural identities. Knowledge of the values and beliefs shared by social groups in other countries and regions, such as religious beliefs, taboos, common history assumed, etc., is essential for intercultural communication. which is conditioned by the character, richness, and structure of our previous knowledge, and also serves to modify and restructure this knowledge, even in a partial way. Clearly, "an individual's knowledge already acquired is directly related to language learning". (CMER, 2002:11)

This reflection on one's own culture will make students aware that the language they are learning is the expression of a culture different from their own, although, obviously, there may be some similar aspects. It is also appropriate to compare and contrast the culture of the student with the target culture to reach an adequate intercultural understanding. (Rodríguez, 2004)

The main objective of this research is to determine the degree of acceptance of students to learn sociocultural aspects of the mother tongue through the target language. Textbooks generally contain these sociocultural elements of countries that speak originally and/or officially speak the L2. Even tough, this information may seem distant and unreal to some students, so it is proposed that one also reaffirms its own cultural identity through text comprehension material containing information that the student perceives, knows, and identifies as own and of their daily lives.

In this tenor, it is also intended to make known to the teacher of a foreign language that not only can teach grammatical and lexical aspects based on readings or texts related to L2, but also use topics that students know, have tried, visited, among other activities, it contributes to the student performing in a better way in the context of the target language.

According to Tomlinson, materials can help students feel comfortable in a variety of ways, such as texts or illustrations that link different environments and cultures. Also, materials where the main objective is to learn, not evaluate. Following Tomlinson, the materials allow the student to develop confidence through activities that strengthen and develop their four skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) using real problems that lead to him being creative, imaginative, and analytical. (Tomlinson, 1998).

The understanding of texts is part of the communicative competence, comprising the linguistic competences of lexicon, grammar, semantics, spelling, among others. In order to include sociocultural aspects it is necessary to develop elements of the second language or L2 through various strategies and materials that each teacher applies in the classroom so that the student knows traditions, culture, way of seeing life, among others aspects and thus be able to generate vocabulary, ability to synthesize and also compare with its own cultural identity.

Generally, foreign language textbooks to address sociocultural aspects present readings of places, characters, and other elements that students perceive as distant, unknown, and out of context. This generates vocabulary and addresses the competence of reading comprehension but does not meet the objective of comparing what is read with its own culture because sometimes the text is too unlinked and in a different context that does not allow points of reference and/or comparison

The book Facts of Chiapas, Reading Comprehension Activities, was originally published in late 2012, in a print edition of UNICACH with a circulation of 500 copies. Since 2016 it is in digital format available from the University's website. It consists of 18 readings relating to food, tourist sites, plants and history of the state of Chiapas, as well as comprehension activities such as open, closed questions, identification of the main idea, crosswords, among others to increase motivation in the classroom, to generate a state conducive to learning,  diminish anxiety and optimize concentration.

In this sense, the use of this text, is regarded to contribute to a strategy to support the learning of L2. The book is considered ideal for working the sociocultural aspects of the language for students with minimal knowledge of A2 under the Common Framework of Reference, so the student is able to produce brief and common expressions (personal data, usual actions, deficiencies and needs, demands for information). It uses basic syntactic structures and communicates through phrases, groups of words by referring to themselves and others, to what it does, to places, to possessions, among others. It has a limited repertoire of short sentences.

The approach to using the text, as mentioned above is of a reverse nature, i.e. usually work by bringing language and culture closer to the student by giving it real-life samples of the country where the language under study is spoken.  By using content that the student quickly recognizes as part of their daily life or identifies because they have ever been in contact, it allows the student to be highly motivated, increase their interest in developing vocabulary and participate actively in the learning activities that arise.

Knowledge, perception and understanding of the relationship between the "world of origin, and the world of the community under study (similarities and distinctive differences) produce an intercultural consciousness, including, of course, awareness of regional and social diversity in both worlds". (MERC, 2002101)

In relation to the motivation to learn L2 through the understanding of texts, Diaz and Hernandez, establish that cognitive motivation implies an active search for meaning, meaning and satisfaction regarding what is done and proposes that the subjects are guided for the goals set, beliefs, internal representations, attributions and expectations. Thus, this approach considers that people as active, curious, able to work and strive, want to understand, and succeed. In this context, motivating means stimulating the will to learn. They also determine three main purposes of school motivation: to arouse the student's interest, to stimulate the desire to learn and to direct interests towards the achievement of the objectives set out in the activity developed. (Díaz and Hernández, 2014).

a) Research methodology

The study was carried out during the semester February-June 2019, at the Center of Languages attached to the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Sciences and Arts of Chiapas.

The methodology of this research is descriptive, questionnaires were used for students, where qualitative and quantitative data were obtained on the degree of acceptance of students to learn sociocultural aspects and motivate the understanding of texts with readings addressing places, history and maternal elements in English as a foreign language class.

The total population studied was 78 students, distributed in 4 groups, representing 60% of those enrolled in the 4th semester of the basic course of English in the Center of Languages attached to the Faculty of Humanities of the University of Sciences and Arts of Chiapas (UNICACH). A questionnaire of 6 closed questions was applied based on motivation, degrees of acceptance and sociocultural aspects, which were processed, analyzed and interpreted in a qualitative way, as they were intended to become known students' opinions about their learning by using the sociocultural aspects of their own environment through the book facts of Chiapas Reading Comprehension Activities, and comparing and interpreting them according to the existing theory about it. The book consists of 18 readings relating to food, tourist sites, plants, and history of the state of Chiapas, as well as comprehension activities such as open, closed questions, identification of the main idea, crosswords, among others.

b) Research results

The main results include explanations of the population studied, where the majority consider it motivating to learn the terms of their own culture through the target language. Below are the main findings and conclusions obtained from the study.


Based on the results, it is possible to determine that students receive with great acceptance the book containing readings that refer to the environment in which they live and know.

The topics included to them find them interesting and consider the aspect of previous knowledge that they possess important, in this way the reader finds meaning in reading. Reading the known themes written in the meta language, they find it fun, interesting and most are surprised to find this theme, so it fulfills the goal of motivating the student to learn a second language.

They consider that they learn vocabulary, expand their knowledge in its cultural aspect and are also able to identify main ideas as one of the objectives of reading comprehension.

Regarding the usefulness of the knowledge learned, students consider it very useful, especially to be able to converse with foreigners and have a knowledge about the State. It is also useful for carrying out tasks and projects, to spread knowledge through social networks.

In general, it can be established that students have a positive attitude towards the text, they learn new elements, apply prior knowledge and through it, reaffirm their cultural identity.

Bibliographical references

Celis, Z. (2012). Free textbooks in Mexico, their importance and validity. XI National Congress of Educational Research 13 Policy and Management- Lecture. Retrieved May 24, 2019,

Diaz, F. & Hernandez, G. (2014). Teaching strategies for meaningful learning. Mexico City: Ed. McGraw-Hill.

Cervantes Institute (2002). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Recovered June 20, 2019

Mendoza, Maria (2012). Facts of Chiapas, reading comprehension activities. Retrieved https://repositorio.unicach.mx/handle/20.500.12114/58

Rodriguez, R. (2012) The cultural component in the teaching/learning of foreign languages. Retrieved June 02, 2019
https://www.researchgate.net/publication/28179210_El_componente_cultural_en_la_ensenanza aprendizaje_de_lenguas_extranjeras

Sánchez, M. (2004) Why and how to analyze the didactic book. Proceedings of the Spanish Didactics Symposium for foreigners. Recovered May 06, 2019
https://cvc.cervantes.es/ensenanza/biblioteca_ele/publicaciones_centros/PDF/rio_2004/26_nu nez.pdf

Sevillain, M. (1995). Evaluation of materials and equipment, Educational Technology. New Technologies Applied to Education. Edit. Alcoy, Ivory

Tomlinson, B. (1998). Materials development in language teaching. New York, USA. Ed. Cambridge University Press.


* Ma. De Los Angeles Mendoza González: Coordinadora de la Licenciatura en Lenguas Internacionales adscrita a la Facultad de Humanidades UNICACH. Docente de la UNICACH en Centro de Lenguas desde 2001, Docente en Licenciatura en Lenguas con Enfoque Turístico UNICACH-2015, Docente Escuela Bancaria y Comercial (7 años).
Docente Nivel Maestría y Doctorado en diversas escuelas. Autora de libros “Guía para la planeación didáctica Universitaria” (2007), “El juego como estrategia de aprendizaje en adultos” (2008), “Apuntes para la comprensión de textos en Lengua Inglesa” (2010), “Facts of Chiapas, Reading Comprehension Activities” (2012), todos editados por la UNICACH, “Tips de finanzas y administración para pequeñas y medianas empresas” (2016) CREATIVE SP María Edith Zarco Vite: Maestra en Comunicación y Tecnologías Educativas, profesora titular en UAM-Xochimilco. Participa en el área de investigación “Problemas teórico-prácticos de la educación” y es líder del Cuerpo Académico “Análisis del lenguaje como medio primario de la comunicación”.


Reserva de Dererchos-INDAUTOR: 04-2010-060210103400-203
ISSN 2007-5480