Teaching Metacognitive Reading Strategies to Second Language Learners in a Classroom Setting

Term Paper (Advanced seminar) 2009 19 Pages

Didactics - English - Pedagogy, Literature Studies


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Metacognitive Reading Strategies
2.1. Pre-reading
2.2. While-reading
2.3. Post-reading

3. Metacognitive Reading Strategies Put to Practise
3.1. Lesson Plan I
3.2. Lesson Plan II

4. Works Cited

5. Appendix
I. The Story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears
II. “The Nutrients in Food”
III. Chart
IV. Grid

1. Introduction

Reading is an important skill which does not only provide the ability to gain new information but also acquires new language skills.[1] Grabe identifies effective approaches for reading and determines that good readers need “rapid and automatic word recognition skills”, “a large recognition of vocabulary”, “sound knowledge of syntactic structure and discourse organization”, and “metacognitive awareness of reading purposes and text comprehension”[2]. Successful readers are those who use learning strategies effectively.[3] Academic reading requires the development of strategic reading.[4] Readers have to be aware of their goals in reading and be able to administer strategies effectively. These strategies are to be chosen carefully, depending on their purpose in reading. Only then will the reader be able to check his/ her understanding of the text and solve comprehension problems successfully.[5]

Out of the various aspects of teaching reading to second language (L2) learners in a classroom setting, the present essay will focus on metacognitive reading strategies. First, the question will be answered what is meant by the term ‘metacognitive reading strategies’. A definition will be presented. Then, the essay provides a theoretic framework of metacognitive reading strategies before reading, while reading and after reading. Finally, there will be two examples of how metacognitive reading strategies can be taught in a classroom setting.

Reading strategy research became popular in the 1980’s and is a later development than skill research. Uruquhart and Weir define the difference between skills and strategies as follows: “Strategies are reader-oriented, skills are text-oriented.”[6] Pritchard refers to a strategy as a “deliberate action that readers take voluntary to develop an understanding of what they read”[7]. Moreover, strategies can be seen as a response to local problems in a text. But it is important that the response is a conscious one in a problem solving process.[8] “Cohen provides a comprehensive and clear cut account of strategies for using and learning a second language. A useful distinction can be made between cognitive and metacognitive strategies.”[9] Following Uruquart and Weir “cognitive strategies are the more familiar mental process that enables us to read, ranging from working out the meaning of words in context through to skimming a whole text quickly to extract the gist.”[10]

The term metacognition has been used to describe self regulatory utilization of thought processes since the late 1800’s.[11] Until today the idea sustains that students can be taught to independently employ specific reading strategies during the reading process. Hyde and Bizar write that “metacognitive processes are those processes in which the individual carefully considers thoughts in problem solving situations through the strategies of self-planning, self-monitoring, self-regulating, self-questioning, self-reflecting, and or self-reviewing.”[12]

2. Metacognitive Reading Strategies

A particular important aspect of strategic reading is metacognitive control. Applying metacognitive control, the reader consciously directs the reasoning process. If readers are conscious of the reasoning involved, they will be able to access and apply these processes to similar reading in future situations.[13] It is important that children learn to see reading as a problem-solving process. Teachers should encourage them to use strategies for solving difficulties and realizing the control which readers have in manipulating variables concerning self, task and text.[14] Research shows that metacognitive strategy training does enhance L2 reading when compared to non strategic training.[15]

Cohen stresses that metacognitive strategies are dealing with: Pre-assesement and pre-planning; on-line planning and evaluation; post-evaluation of language learning activities and of language use events.[16] These strategies allow students to control their own cognition by coordinating the planning, organization and evaluation of the learning process. Following Uruquhart und Weir, this essay adopts the distinction between pre-reading (planning) strategies, while-reading (monitoring) strategies and post-reading (evaluation) strategies.[17]

2.1. Pre-reading

Pre-reading strategies relate to Pearson and Fielding’s generative learning. Generative learning stresses that associations improve comprehension. When learners build relationships between parts of the text and the text and their background knowledge, comprehension occurs. Basically, pre-reading strategies are meant to activate schemata prior to the reading process and to contribute to the reading process. Pre-reading strategies can be subdivided into previewing and prediction.[18]

Previewing is especially helpful to decide whether to read a book, an article or a text. Depending on the text type, it might involve: Thinking about the title; checking the edition and date of publication; reading the table of contents quickly; reading appendices quickly; reading indices quickly; reading the abstract carefully; reading the preface, the foreword and the blurb carefully. In addition, previewing helps the reader to recognize the difficulty level of a text and its difficulty in comparison to other texts in the same field. Furthermore, previewing ought to help the student to judge the relevance/irrelevance of a text for a particular topic and to decide which book from a set of possibilities would be more appropriate to read for a special purpose.[19] “In the classroom context, previewing may be very useful, particularly for English for Academic Purposes Students.”[20] Useful practices for teaching in a classroom setting are for example provided by Grellet.[21]

Prediction is used to anticipate the content of a text. “It is a form of psychological sensitising, thinking about the subject and asking oneself related questions.”[22] The main idea is that establishing a macrostructure for a text provides an aid to more detailed comprehension. Activating relevant schemata and background knowledge helps the student to interact with a text. This pre-reading strategy has the potential to clarify what the purpose for reading a particular text might be. Different pre-reading activities can supply or activate appropriate background knowledge: Lectures, discussions, debate, real-life experiences, text previewing or introduction of vocabulary.[23],[24] Williams and Moran point out:

Perhaps the most effective of these activities are those which elicit factual information or a personal response and ask the students to pool such information in pair or group work. Preferably, this is followed by a task which relates the discussion to the first reading of the passage.[25]

Useful pre-reading strategies, which can be used in a classroom setting, are semantic mapping and the experience-text-relationship method (see chapter 2.3.). Research provides evidence that metacognitive-strategy training in these methods is helpful to enhance second-language reading.[26] Semantic mapping is described as embracing “a variety of strategies designed to display graphically information within categories related to a central concept”[27]. In other words, in a semantic map categories and associations are usually indicated visually in a diagram or ‘map’. Because of individual teacher objectives the process of producing a semantic map might vary in different classroom settings. In general, the procedure includes a brainstorming session.[28]

This phase of the semantic mapping procedure activates the students’ prior knowledge of the topic, and helps them to focus on the relevant content schema, thereby better preparing them to understand, assimilate, and evaluate the information in the material to be read.[29]

Furthermore, the semantic mapping procedure motivates students to read the selected text and provides the teacher with an assessment tool. The teacher can not only use the exercise to introduce key vocabulary, but also to gain information about the students’ prior knowledge or schema availability on the topic.[30]


[1] Cp. P.L. Carell, “Can Reading Strategies successfully be taught?” The Language Teacher Online (4 July 1998) <http://www.jalt-publications.org/tlt/files/98/mar carrell.html, accessed 29/12/08>.

[2] William Grabe, quoted in A. H. Uruquhart and C.J. Weir, Reading in a Second Language (London: Longman, 1998) 93.

[3] Cp. J.O. Aebersold and M.L. Field, From Reader to Reading Teacher: Issues and Strategies for Second Language Classrooms (New York: Cambridge, 1997).

[4] Cp. Grabe, W. and F. Stoller, Reading for Academic Purposes: Guidelines for the ESL/EFL teacher (Boston: Heinle& Heinle, 2001).

[5] Cp. Salim Razi, “The Impact of Learning Multiple Foreign Languages on Using Metacognitive Reading Strategies,” The Reading Matrix (8 (1) April 2008) 120.

[6] Cp. Uruquhart 94.

[7] R. Pritchard, “The Effects of Cultural Schemata on Reading Processing Strategies,” Reading Research Quarterly (25) 1990, 275.

[8] Uruquhart 95.

[9] Uruquhart 179.

[10] Uruquhart 179.

[11] Cp. James, 1890.

[12] A. Hyde and M. Bizar, Thinking in Contex. (New York: Longmann, 1998) 51.

[13] Cp. P.L. Carell, B.G. Pharis and J.C. Liberto, “Metacognitive Strategy Training for ESL Reading,” Tesol quarterly (23 (4) December 1989) 650. <http://edcat.unimuenster.de/bscw2/bscw.cgi/d5179836 /TESOL%20quarterly%2023%7c4%201989.pdf, accessed 29/12/08>.

[14] Cp. B.A. Brenna, “The Metacognitive Reading Strategies of Five Early Readers,” Journal of Research in Reading (18 (1) 1995) 61.

[15] Cp. Carell, Metacognitive Training 665.

[16] Cp. A.D. Cohen, Strategies in Learning and Using a Second Language (London: Longman, 1998) 7.

[17] Cp. Uruquhart 183.

[18] Cp. Uruquhart 184.

[19] Cp. Uruquhart 184.

[20] Uruquhart 184.

[21] F. Grellet, Developing Reading Skills: A Practical Guide to Reading Comprehension Exercises (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981) 58-61.

[22] Uruquhart 185.

[23] Cp. Uruquhart 185.

[24] For further exemplification of prediction see E.H. Glendinning and B. Holmström, Study Reading: A Course in Reading Skills for Academic Purposes (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1992) 20-24.

[25] C. Moran and E. Williams, Survey Review. “Recent Materials for the Teaching of Reading at Intermediate Level and Above” (ELT Journal (47/1) 1993) 66.

[26] Cp. Carell, Metacognitive Training 668.

[27] J.E. Heimlich and S.D. Pittelman, Semantic mapping: Classroom applications, (Newark: International Reading Association, 1986) v.

[28] Cp. Carell, Metacognitive Training 651.

[29] Carell, Metacognitive Training 651.

[30] Cp. Carell, Metacognitive Training 651.


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Didaktik Englisch Lesestrategien Teaching Metacognitive Reading Strategies Second Language Learners Classroom Setting

Title: Teaching Metacognitive Reading Strategies to Second Language Learners in a Classroom Setting