Skip to main content

Reading Strategies Revisited

William Grabe's Reading in a Second Language: Moving from Theory to Practice has proven to be a great resource to help update the curriculum at CESL.  It's helping to bust some myths about speed reading and to clarify the concepts behind reading strategies.  Part of Chapter 10 and all of Chapter 11 go into depth about reading strategies that support comprehension and becoming a strategic reader.

For those with access to the book, a quick look at tables 10.3, 11.1, 11.2, 11.3, and 11.6 will help language teachers get the gist about reading strategies.  I'd like to focus on table 11.1 (page 224), which lists the metacognitive processes for comprehension as it is most relevant for our upper-level students at CESL.  These processes help students develop autonomy concerning the improvement of their own reading strategies that, when mastered, become reading skills.

  1. Set (or reset) reading goals

  2. Expect to build a coherent interpretation of a text and establish the main ideas of a text

  3. Make inferences as necessary in line with our goals

  4. Monitor comprehension to maintain a coherent interpretation and awareness of main ideas

  5. Recognize when we are losing coherence of interpretation or the reading output does not match our reading goals

  6. Summarize the main ideas of a text

  7. Engage various strategies to help repair an incoherent interpretation

  8. Evaluate the reading input in various ways beyond simple understanding

      I believe it's important for upper-level students to understand the metacognitive processes before they enter university courses.  Even more important, I believe that language teachers should keep these in mind when helping students to develop reading strategies.
Some of these metacognitive processes overlap with the 20 major reading strategies listed in the appendix of Chapter 10.  These 20 major reading strategies should be more recognizable to English language teachers, and I think they should be introduced to students at lower levels.  Grabe divides these reading strategies into 2 categories: empirically validated reading comprehension strategies and indirectly supported reading strategies used in validated multiple-strategy instruction.

Empirically Validated

  1. Activating prior knowledge
  2. Answering questions and Elaborative Interogations
  3. Constructing mental images
  4. Forming questions
  5. Making associations (mnemonic support)
  6. Monitoring - related to metacognitive processes #4 and #5
  7. Previewing
  8. Summarization - related to metacognitive process #6
  9. Text-structure awareness and story grammars
  10. Using graphic organizers

Indirectly Supported

  1. Clarifying
  2. Establishing goals for reading - related to metacognitive process #1
  3. Inferencing (using context) - related to metacognitive process #3
  4. (Mental) translating
  5. Paraphrasing
  6. Predicting
  7. Rereading
  8. Reading aloud (for modeling, for fluency)
  9. Synthesizing information
  10. Taking notes
It is important to acknowledge that some students in a class may already be using these strategies without being fully aware of them.  It is more important that students become aware of and have greater control over these strategies in combination rather than using them separately.   Therefore, I believe we should assess upper-level students' awareness and demonstration of their preferred combination of reading strategies.

Grabe, W. (2009) Reading in a second language: moving from theory to practice.  Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.


Popular posts from this blog

What Is So Great About Extensive Reading?

I'm collaborating on a research and development project for integrating extensive reading into intensive English programs. After the initial review of the most recent literature, I was quite surprised at the overwhelming positive effects of extensive reading on reading proficiency, comprehension, and motivation. Although I'm still skeptical, I'd like to share the findings with you.

I looked at 17 articles published since 2012. Although this may not seem like much, 3 of these articles were meta-analyses, which investigated a much larger quantity of studies on extensive reading. Only one was not relevant to intensive English programs, bringing it down to 16 articles. Many of these articles came from the 2015 discussion forums in Reading in a Foreign Language. The majority of those discussion forum articles were not empirical studies, but they went in depth answering "What constitutes extensive reading?" After summarizing these answers, this blog post covers the res…

Are you an Open Educator?

Image from What is an Open Educator? According to a recently published article from the International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning (IRRODL):

An Open Educator chooses to use open approaches, when possible and appropriate, with the aim to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning. He/she works through an open online identity and relies on online social networking to enrich and implement his/her work, understanding that collaboration bears a responsibility towards the work of others.

Does this sound attractive for English language teachers? It seems to some who offer courses through or with YouTube. But what does it mean "to remove all unnecessary barriers to learning?" Working for free? Not necessarily. If you read the article, it seems you'd be working on a sliding scale depending on the socioeconomic status of the learners, but this sliding scale is a sliding slope. How can poor le…

The Tao of Praxis

Last week, I started reading The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff to my daughter as part of her bedtime regimen. I bought this book years ago after a colleague recommended it to me when he learned I was interested in Taoism. Since then I have embraced much of its philosophy, but I stop short of calling myself a Taoist. I didn't realize until now that Taoism has deeply affected my attitudes and beliefs towards English language teaching and scholarship, especially concerning the concept of praxis. Below are some examples.

The passage above comes from Chapter 3: Spelling Tuesday, page 26. It's not a subtle attack on academics, specifically those whose goals are to get published to be accepted among an elite circle of scholars. This is particularly striking to me because, at this point in my life, I would like to gain acceptance among this elite circle, which I perhaps naively equate to tenured professors. However, I strive to make my life's work beneficial to English language te…