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  • Background to the Study

            Figurative expressions, or literary terms, are tools of language used by authors to deliver their message more effectively. These tools also give writing a rich and vivid feeling. This means that instead of delivering plain, boring, tasteless text, authors give interesting and compelling stories adorned with these tools. Figurative expressions can be used for poetry, drama, fiction, and nonfictional work. Figurative expressions can be found in novels and poetry. Even movies sometimes make use of some of these elements (in their scripts or the structure of their plots). Too often, educators focus on improving writing through better punctuation and grammar. What they neglect to suggest (and what would improve the writing far more efficiently) is to show aspiring writers how to use literary techniques/elements in the writing they enjoy reading. These elements help writing spring to life. They include simile, metaphor, hyperbole, personification, alliteration, oxymoron, onomatopoeia, assonance among others. These are elements of excellent writing.

            Figurative expressions offer tremendous benefit to both teachers and students in particular. According to Ayanniyi (2009), literature study has the following value: it opens the mind and illuminates it, purging the mind of prejudices as it makes it free and active. Through the study of literature, students learn the human approach of examining thought and actions. Aluko (2009) opines that the study of literary instruction leads to the development of the cognitive, affective and psychomotor domains of an individual. It plays an important role in the achievement of the goal that education aims at; the complete development of the individual. It is the potential for growth in knowledge and wisdom; the acquisition of a keen understanding of human nature and relationship, the freedom of choice to enter each character’s heart.

            Figurative expressions help to develop the cognitive domains of the individual and also develop the capacity for discrimination, judgment and decision. It helps in language development as it is a tool for understanding language because it is easily learned in real life situation in which language is heard and\ or in use. It helps students to appreciate their culture and those of others and develops reader’s creative ability. Figures of speech such as metaphor, simile and metonymy create a resonance between disparate images, a layering of meanings, forming connections previously not perceived. To Alabi (2007) figurative expressions are the tools and techniques of language that authors use to convey meaning. Skilled use of figurative expressions brings richness and clarity to a text. Figurative expressions refer to the typical structures used by writers in their works to convey their messages in a simple manner to the readers. When employed properly, the different figurative expressions help readers to appreciate, interpret and analyze literary works. When an author sits to write a story, he doesn’t simply write what happened. Instead, he uses figurative expressions which are narrative techniques that add texture, energy, and excitement to the narrative, grip the reader’s imagination, and convey information. Over the years, there has been a public outcry on the poor standard of teaching and learning of literature in English in secondary schools in Pankshin Local Government Area and the whole country in general especially in the area of poetry. Students often perform woefully in external examinations of Literature in English such as WAEC and NECO. This is corroborated by (Jide, 2014).

            In the affective domain, Aluko (2009) also opines that figurative expressions have the capacity to shape an individual’s taste, develop his sympathy and empathy, the expression of feelings and emotions. It gives pleasure and entertainment. Figurative expressions encourage students to develop the desire for achievement, continuous self education and self improvement both in school and in later life.

            There are three genres of literature and each of them makes a unique impact on people exposed to them. Poetry, in particular appeals to the feelings and by so doing develops the emotional and imaginative aspects of man. According to William Wordsworth, an 18th century romantic poet, cited by Smith (2010), Poetry is a spontaneous overflow of powerful feeling or thinking recollected in tranquility or an exposition of one’s inner feeling when the mind is at rest. Poetry explores the possibilities of language and uses it to control and clarify emotion, spiritual and sense experience. Poetry is a form of literature that uses aesthetic and rhythmic qualities of language—such as phonetics, sound symbolism, and metre—to evoke meanings in addition to, or in place of, the prosaic ostensible meaning. Poetry uses forms and conventions to suggest differential interpretation to words, or to evoke emotive responses. Devices such as assonance, alliteration, onomatopoeia and rhythm are sometimes used to achieve musical or incantatory effects. The use of ambiguity, symbolism, irony and other stylistic elements of poetic diction often leaves a poem open to multiple interpretations.

Smith (2010) also postulate that familiarity with the concept of metre and rhythm can improve students’ own writing and they will be able to appreciate and apply these ideas. Brosna (2008) highlights the features of poetry which include the following:

The language of poetry is concise and condensed. The words in poetry are carefully chosen in a way to make them sound musical and meaningful. Poetry is written in verse and can only be best realized when it is recited or sung. This is because every good poem is first and foremost meant to be sung. Poetry is not easily understood when reading (p.12).

Research has shown that among the three genres of literature, poetry seems the most difficult because of its ambiguity, obscurity, unfamiliarity of words and its elliptical nature. Literature as a subject that features prominently in the school curriculum, the failure rate in it at the school certificate level, in spite of all the good efforts of researchers, is a phenomenon that is giving students, teachers and school authorities a big concern. This is because, the low performance in this subject has shattered the dreams of students of getting admission into many lucrative courses such as law, mass communication, language arts, communication arts, theatre arts and a host of others in tertiary institutions. As stipulated in JAMB Brochure (2010), at least a credit pass is a requirement before any candidate is eligible for admission to any of the aforementioned courses. Poetry is a unique literary art form that has been written and read for millennia. The basics of poetic form are often a major part of secondary and post-secondary study. An understanding of the elements of poetry is important when reading and writing poetry. Recognizing figurative expressions and elements are the first step to a deeper understanding of poetry. In the light of the above, this study is prompted to investigate the effects of instruction in figurative expressions on senior secondary school students’ achievement in literature in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State.

  • Statement of the Problem

            As one of the subjects offered in secondary schools, literature has been very beneficial to students. It is however, disheartening that the performance of students in this subject particularly in poetry has been very poor. This has been attributed to poor teaching of the subject especially devices which are the backbone of the subject. Students over the years have demonstrated poor attitudes towards poetry which in turn affects their academic performance in poetry. The research is triggered by the fact that poetry is wrapped in figurative expressions and the students might find it difficult to comprehend the peom if they are not properly taught figures of speech. It is on the basis of this problem that this study was premised to investigate improving students’ performance in literature through teaching of figurative expressions especially from the junior level to be conversant with them when they get to in senior secondary school to improve their performance in literature in English especially in Pankshin Local Government Area. The result of the findings will go a long way to help improve students’ academic performance in literature in English in general to enable them pursure literature courses of their choice.

1.3. Purpose of the Study

            The main purpose of this study is to investigate whether instruction in figurative expressions has any effect on senior secondary school students’ II achievement in literature. The specific objectives of the study include:

  1. To determine the differences in the performance of students who were exposed to figurative expressions and those who were not in literary themes.
  2. To measure the difference in the performance of students who were exposed to figurative expressions and those who were not in discussing setting.
  3. To discuss the difference in the performance of students who were exposed to figurative expressions and those who were not to it in literary diction.

1.4. Research Questions

The following research questions were formulated to facilitate the findings of this study:

  1. What is the difference in the performance of students who were exposed to figurative expressions and those who were not in literary themes?
  2. What is the difference in the performance of students who were exposed to figurative expressions and those who were not expposed to it in literary settings?
  3. What is the difference in the performance of students who were exposed to figurative expressions and those who were not to it in literary diction?

1.5. Hypotheses

H0: There is no significant difference between the performance of experimental and control groups in poetry in Pankshin Local Government Area.

1.6. Significance Of The Study

            The study is important because many students nowadays do not like to read and so finds it difficult to express themselves and interpret other writings. This has led to massive failure in literature in English which requires reading wide. Many students do not even know anything about figures of speech which are necessary ingredients for analyzing and evaluating literary texts. This research will open up a whole new horizon of studying literature to secondary school students and invariably help them improve their performance in literature in English. It will also make them develop reading habits as they get to understand literary texts better through analysis.

1.7. Delimitations of the Study

This research investigates improving students’ performance in literature through teaching of figurative expressions. The study is limited to students in senior secondary II section and will focus on the most frequently used figurative expressions by literary artists such as simile, metaphor, hyperbole, oxymoron, personification among others. The study will be carried out in two(2) secondary schools in Pankshin Local Government Area of Plateau State. Despite the fact that the study is limited to the selected local government, its findings will be generalized to other parts of the country as well.

1.8. Operational Definition of Terms

            The following terms are defined based on the context in which they are used in this research.

Figurative expressions: These are literary ingredients used in analyzing literature in English. They are otherwise referred to as figures of speech.

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