Reading strategies as a part of a learning stratergy

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Reading strategies as a part of learning strategies have been become the interests of many researchers for many years. Many types of reading strategies are introduced to guide students of all different levels. For many students, Reading is the most difficult skill to master because they could not make meaning from texts - which is the key goal of Reading - reading comprehension. According to Oxford (1990), Applying appropriate learning strategies help students improve their proficiency and self - confidences. She assumed that students who are well - equipped with the strategies, their comprehensibility can be improved. At HETC, reading has a key place in any English courses when students study English not only as their interest but also their demand for improving their study and promoting in their career to achieve the long - term goals, especially, some of them were assigned to live and work abroad. In their learning process, the students meet great challenges when dealing with the reading texts. Students face lots of difficulties when they read. Reading word by word, translating into Vietnamese, answering the given comprehension questions are students' activities in their while reading activities. When they met unknown - words, they always looked up in the dictionary. It took them lots of time to complete their reading text and comprehend not a very long text. Even when they could understand the meaning of all the words, they seemed not to meet the "right- point" of the answer. Some students had difficulties with making inferences from reading texts. That's why they could not summarize what they have read or find out the best summarize of their reading texts. So what's the main reason of the current situation? The teacher decided the start a survey of the students' reading comprehension strategies use in her previous research. She also had a reading test to classify the students into 4 groups. As indicate in the result of the researcher's previous study, "Reading strategies and reading comprehension abilities of students at HETC", the higher profiency students knew how to help them read better than lower profiency students. And observation also showed that the teaching reading process has focused much on providing students with reading passages, asking them to read (both in silent and a loud) then answer the questions. However, they don't pay enough attention to instruct learners how to read effectively.

By reviewing the previous studies and finding out the reading and teaching reality at HETC, the researcher teacher an understand more the important of reading strategy instruction to the reading comprehension and the effect of reading strategy instructions on students' reading comprehension, as well.


2.1. The relationship between reading strategies and reading comprehension

Reading comprehension must occur rapid in almost any purposeful context, and the more rapidly a text is read, the better reading processes are to effect. Those specific processes must be implemented effectively in combination to ensure the reading comprehension. Reading comprehension requires the reader be strategic. The reader needs to identify processing difficulties, address balances between text information and background knowledge, decide for monitoring comprehension, and achieving goals for reading. When a good reader uses strategies, they can read fluently, flexible in line with changing purpose and then continue monitoring the comprehension. Similarly, reading is a process that evaluating the reader, who must decide if the reading information is coherent and finds out the purpose for reading. Alderson (2003) said reading as the interaction of four things. He claimed that the reader and the text together must be fluent reading or " the ability to reach at an appropriate rate with adequate comprehension", or " the ability of the reader to use a wide variety of reading strategies to accomplish a purpose for reading" (p.149). So discovering the best methods and strategies are the way that a good learner apply during a reading process.

2.2. Reading strategy instruction

2.2.1. Impact of reading strategies training on reading comprehension

Wenden (1985, cited in Griffiths, 2004) mentions the old proverb: " Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime." When he talking about the importance of Language Learning Strategy Instruction. Griffiths (2004) explains this proverb may mean: "if students are provided with answers, the immediate problem is solved. But if they are taught the strategies to work out the answers for themselves, they are empowered to manage their own learning" in language teaching and learning field.

Some research has shown that there are still students who are just able in reading the words, but face much difficulties in "expressing their comprehension of the main ideas". They rely much on the reading text, always try to understand every words and sentence structures then translate the text into their first language . They would not reach "the satisfactory interpretation of the text" if they did no do like that. According to Kern(1989, as cited in Farrell, 2001) it was because these students did not have the reading strategies, that's why they did not know how to read in an effective way. As Farrel(2001) and Duke & Pearson (2002) reported in their researches that reading strategies should be taught to help students' profiency improved. This comes from an assumption that successful readers often use appropriate strategies when they read so strategies should be taught to poor ones.

The idea of "teaching students how to use strategies helps them can have a full comprehension" was mentioned by lots of researchers (Palinscar & Brown,1984; zhang ,1993; Song ,1988,Farrell,2001;Duke % Pearson, 2002; Cotterall, 2003; Pesa & Somers,2007 ;MCKown& Barnett, 2007; Cahoon,2007). When students become more strategic, they have strategies for "what to do when they do not know what to do ",'they think strategically ,plan ,monitor their comprehension and revise their strategies' (Knuth&Jones,1991,p.3),then they will be able to read the text and have a better understanding of the context matter(Cahoon,2007).The reading strategies training will actually help students to facilitate their comprehension of the reading texts as Duke and Pearson(2002) claimed students would benefit in terms of strategy acquisition, text comprehension, or even standardized test achievement.

2.3. Model and strategy of the innovation:

From the result of the previous research, which stated that the students had quite low preferences for reading strategies, and students did not deposit much time for reading activities, the researcher wanted to try the solution to improve students' reading strategies use. If the solution came up with an improvement in the students' motivation and strategies use in their language class, i.e. the students' awareness of using strategies in theire reading process, it might be adopted by other teachers in HETC and adapted suitably in other classroom culture. In order to solve the problem, the teacher decided to choose Problem-solving model.

This innovation could be considered as Immanent change because the researcher recognized the problem and then found out and developed possible solutions inside her teaching and learning context

In this innovation, the teacher acted as the change agent and implementer who took responsibility for managing the change and then implemented it. The 38 students who were the clients who received the innovation. Some good students who were able to use the strategies in their reading process would act as early adopters to encourage the other students in adopting and applying strategies while reading.

Markee said that "a problem-solving model coupled with a normative-reeducative strategy of change is theoretically the most popular approach to promoting change in education." (Markee, N., 1997). He also added: "Change becomes a bottom-up, not a top-down phenomenon." (Markee, N., 1997). Another researcher - White, R.V. confirmed "If an innovation is indigenous to an institution, the process will tend to be from the bottom-up." (White, R.V., 1988)

In this approach, teachers were the change agent who decided to use action research to make a problem clear. The teachers want to improve our reading class and engage students in using strategies in their reading process of our class room. We can innovate by ourselves without the help of other teachers or the outsiders.

According to White (1988), in the Normative-Re-educative approach, the teachers are involved in "planning and introducing change" and "the change agent must learn to intervene mutually and collaboratively along with the clients into efforts to define and solve the clients' problems". This innovation research completely followed this strategy and was thus described as the Normative - Re-educative strategy.


3.1. Participants:

3.2. Institutional and classroom culture

The teaching context in this innovation is HETC. HETC is a language center which was established 15 years ago. HETC has trained students to improve their foreign language. HETC has many key training areas are: Business English, Information Technology and Marketing. With the growing needs of the learners, especially after Vietnam joined the WTO, English became an important subject at schools and universities in Vietnam.

   Most teachers who are teaching in HETC have worked on the short-term contract (about 6 months - 1 year). The teachers only work part time when they have different jobs in other places. Teaching in various places and different working environment, teachers will have more social interaction and chances to exchange teaching experiences with other colleagues both insides and outsides HETC. These help teachers improve their teaching methods. Even teachers in HETC teach in different classes at different time, 15 - 20 minutes of breaking time between two classes gives them a good opportunity to meet and ask others at the staff room and discuss about teaching together. New ideas are discussed with the administrators through e-mail and will be put in the calendar of quarterly meetings if those are useful comments. This certainly raises the social relations in the transmission and implementations of the innovation.

The students in the HETC always work with all the high motivation (though they always have to study at university or work in their offices all the day) but they always have a strong motivation to enhance the English better to achieve higher degrees and applications or better position in their jobs. In HETC, students are always encouraged to express their own opinions and desires in their learning process through the surveys at the end of each course.

3. Plans of introducing the innovation

However, there are some research methods offered to be used to apply linguistics such as experimental method, case study, the researcher decided to select Action Research (AR) as the research method for this study. In the following section, the definitions of AR, the rationale for choosing AR as a research method for this research and the AR procedure will be explain in details.

3.1.1. Definition of action research

In literature, the definition of action research (AR) is provided by many scholars, and a selection of them is as follows:

Action research can be defined as a combination of the terms "action" and "research." AR puts ideas into practice for the purpose of self-improvement and increasing knowledge about curriculum, teaching, and learning. The ultimate result is improvement in what happens in the classroom and school (Kemmis & McTaggert, 1982).

A form of self-reflective enquiry undertaken by participants in social situations in order to improve the rationality and justice of their own practices, their understanding of these practices, and the situations in which these practices are carried out (Carr & Kemmis, 1986).

AR is the reflective process whereby in a given problem area, where one wishes to improve practice or personal understanding, inquiry is carried out by the practitioner --; first, to clearly define the problem; secondly, to specify a plan of action --; including the testing of hypotheses by application of action to the problem. Evaluation is then undertaken to monitor and establish the effectiveness of the actions taken. Finally, participants reflect upon, explain developments, and communicate these results to the community of action researchers. AR is systematic self-reflective inquiry by practitioners to improve practice." (McKernan, 1996)

AR was defined by Wallace (1998) as a procedure of systematically collecting data on teachers' everyday practice then analyze them to come to some decision about what teachers' future practice should be. Wallace assumed action research can be helpful because of two reasons:

it can have the specific and intermediate outcome which can be directly related to practice in the teacher' own context

the findings of such research might be primary specific, that means it is not claimed that they are necessarily of general application and therefore methods might be actually more free-ranging than those of conventional research.

(Wallace, 1998)

In 1992, David Nunan suggested that in order for language teachers to understand the classroom in which they work, they need to systematically observe and investigate these classrooms. Additionally, he suggested that such investigations should grow out of the problems and issues which confront teachers in their daily work. The outcome of such research should be intended to be fed back into the classroom, rather than simply becoming part of the pool of knowledge on a particular aspect of language learning and teaching.

The main purpose of AR is to identify "problematic" issues or situations that all the participants think worth investigating and to make the interventions to bring informed changes in practice. It also should be carried out by all teachers at any times it is necessary.

3.1.2. Process of action research

Different authors have established and proposed different models of AR. Some of them coincide in the number of stages whereas others include different stages and even number of research cycles. In the end, all the authors agree on the fact that it is the researcher herself who needs to choose the best model, the number of stages and research cycles according to his needs, context and available time and resources. In this innovation, the researcher decided to choose a typical action research consists of the cycle of activities demonstrated in Figure 3.1 which is adapted from Somekh in Mc Bride & Sckotak (1989) as below:

Figure 3.1: Action Research Cycle

Adapted from Somekh in Mc Bride & Sckotak (1989)

The AR of this innovation was done in a circle step by step from the late of January to mid-April. Basing on the principles and the procedures of AR that mentioned above, the AR was carried out by the following steps:

Identifying a problem:

Researcher gave her student a text and asked them to read it immediately. She sat beside the student and had some notes about her student' activities during their reading process, which strategies the students used and which strategies that learner did not use. At that time, the student had the "think-aloud" reading so teacher could recognize which strategies he/she was using. Because of limited time, two teachers at HETC would have the "think-aloud" reading with some other students to help the researcher find out the students' problems sooner. After having the "think-aloud" reading with students, the researcher discussed with the whole class and found out that they always met difficulties when they read. One the their biggest problems was that they did not have the real comprehension and read correctly. And the students knew that using reading strategies would help them improve their problems. Therefore, this aspect was selected to be the focus in this innovation.

Collecting data

A pre-test was used to adjust the level of the students and the students' strategies uses in their reading process. (More detailed …..)

Analyzing data:

The information collected from the Observation form, pre-test was analyzed to form the hypothesis, which will be describe in "Data collection instruments".

Planning action:

Basing on the findings from the initial data, the literature review on ways to help students enhance reading comprehension, the solution chosen in the case was explicit reading strategy training. The teacher decided to instruct her students the strategies they did not use or rarely use that she collected from her notes in the "think-aloud" reading. The strategies are: predicting, questioning, guessing unknown words from context, clarifying, summarizing.

Implementing the action plan:

The plan was carried out in half and a month. The classes met three times a week and 90 minutes each. The class should involve some reading strategies.

Selecting the materials: Materials is one of the most important factors which determined this innovation would be successful or not. In the context of the class, the students had just finished the text book New Headway Pre-intermediate, the researcher decided to choose the text about one or two pages long (about from 450 words in length) for students to make sure that reading materials were suitable for the students' profiency level. The materials were adopted and adapted from different resources by researcher, either expository texts or narrative texts with many kinds of exercises to check students' reading comprehension.

Handling out the materials: Each text was copied and given to students in class.

Following up activities:

+ First, the teacher and her class discussed about reading strategies. The discussion helped students to know why learning and applying strategies in their reading process was important and the benefit of using strategies in reading. Being aware of the importance and value of what they should do while reading so that the learners would take part in the course with high motivation.

+ Then the reading strategies were instructed separately to the students during a week. For each strategy, the teachers started instructions with an explicit explanation of the strategy, when and how it should be used. Next the teacher as change agent and her clients worked together to use the strategy which discussed above. After that, the teacher guided students to practice the strategy and required them to use it independently.

+ The stages of teaching strategies were modified in Song (1998) study and also based on the lesson plans of Dade Moore Teacher Education Center:

Pre - reading activities were conducted to activate the students' background - knowledge. Related to the topic and content of the reading passage.

The teacher asked students to read silently the assigned section of the passage.

In modeling the strategy, the teacher decided to have think aloud technique to ask students some questions for clarifying comprehension difficulties, summarize and predict what would happens in the next part. Some important reading were sometimes modeled when they were actually relevant to the text. Teacher also gave students examples to help students to find out "which strategies are useful, how they are used, and why they are useful".

The class was then divided into group five. Each student received a worksheet. The worksheet would show the roles of students in their group. The group leader acted as a teacher, the groups followed the described procedure. Of course, each part of the text, students took turn of different roles. All groups were asked to fill in the worksheet. Then all the worksheet were collected by the teacher. The worksheet would help teacher to understand more about her students' strategies use.

The teacher observed the students, explained about the strategies (if necessary ) and encouraged students to take part in activities and keep their role with motivation.

The teacher asked students to summarize the text or answer the questions.

The worksheet was given to the students to encourage them to use the strategies in their homework

Teacher evaluated the students learning by observation form. The teacher asked students to write reading journals after each lesson. The students can also be encouraged to share their results of their reading with each other in other groups, not just in their groups.

Collecting post data: A post - test was used to collect date to find out whether graded reading increased learners' reading comprehension and improve attitude toward English language learning in general and reading strategies in particular.

Analyzing post data

The action research was evaluated based on the results collected from the post data. From the findings of the action research evaluation, some recommendations for further research were made.

3.2. Data collection instruments:

To answer the research questions of the study, the data was collected through tests, reading journals and observation form.

3.2.1. Observation:

Teacher followed the students' reading progress and decided whether they were using reading strategies or not. Teacher observed each group from 10 - 15 minutes, complete the observation form.

She did her observation mainly while students were reading in group. Sometimes, the teacher jotted things down when she was checking students' work or explaining things to them individually. She was clear that she was observing and she was not supposed to assess or evaluate what she saw. Sometimes, she wrote down some comments or questions which she called "sampling" in the class.

3.2.2. Reading journal.

The second tool used in this study was reading journal. ( Appendix - ). The reading journals were delivered to the students, the learners would complete at their homework. The form aimed at getting concrete information on their opinion about the content of the material, their attitude towards reading strategies as well as the difficulties they met when the read the materials. It helped the researcher monitor learners' reading to she could offer orientation, guidance and then decided what needed to be modified in the next circles of the action. Furthermore, this documentation also gave ample material for the teacher to access learners' a achievement over period and enabled them not only to record their ideas but also to see their own progress.

3.2.3. Tests

Brown (1995) called a test as "a good instrument to get data" because "it can provide information about general ability level of the students about specific problems that the students may be having with the language, and about their achievement in previous programs" (p.48). In this innovation, the teacher decided to use the same pre-posttest to ensure there were no differences between the difficulties of two tests. The test was divided into 5 passages. Each passage consists multiple choice questions: 21 inferences questions that requires students to choose words that can be best replace the words or predict what will happen in the text, 5 main idea questions that forces students to choose the main idea of the reading text, 24 detailed questions in which students have to use to factual information given in the text. At the beginning of this study, the students were given a pre-test. Then the post - test was carried out after the time of action plan implementation with the researcher's presence. The purpose of the post - test was to measure the students' reading comprehension from which the researcher could see whether any significant progress. All the test papers were collected and marked by the teacher. After that, the data were analyzed to determine whether the differences between the test scores are statistically significant.


4.1. From observation:

Table 1: Students' reading activities in the first two week


Week 1

Week 2

Translate into Vietnamese and write down whatever they read

Underline unknown words and look up in the dictionary

Make story prediction based on the title, the first sentence of each paragraph or an illustration

Asking right-there questions

Asking think and search questions

Summarize after each paragraph

Write down the key words, the main idea on the margin while reading

Underline the names of the people, places and dates


Mark the difficult part, pass and turn back

One of the most time-consuming habits of the students is writing down in Vietnamese when they read. It took them lots of time on doing that. Instead of understand the content of the stories, they translate into Vietnamese and that was their ways to get the comprehension. Their only one purpose was translating and translating. It seemed that they did not know any other ways to comprehend the story. In the first week, teacher found out that students using their dictionary a lot. Whenever they met a new word, they looked up its meaning immediately. Looking at the table 4.1, it showed that clearly.

In the second week, when being instructed strategies, they seemed to have some clarifying when they read the stories. Underlining the places, people and dates helped them get some question connected with the stories (although they still ask more "right-there" question than "think and search question". It was absolutely the fact that, students did not like summarizing strategy. And they also reported this in the reading journal. It helped teacher focused on this strategy more in the next class. That showed in the last week, they summarized more and the number of students were interested in using this increased (see reading journal). The students actually had some improvement in strategies using habits. They had some prediction before they read the story or a paragraph. They also used guessing unknown words strategies when they read instead of finding their meaning in the dictionary. They did not write Vietnamese story by translating in their notebook . That was a good sight!

Table 2: Students' reading activities in the last week


Week 5

Translate into Vietnamese and write down whatever they read

Underline unknown words and look up in the dictionary

Make story prediction based on the title, the first sentence of each paragraph or an illustration

Asking right-there questions

Asking think and search questions

Summarize after each paragraph

Write down the key words, the main idea on the margin while reading

Underline the names of the people, places and dates


Mark the difficult part, pass and turn back

4.2. From test:

The test results will be analyzed to find out: the number of students falling in different score levels; then the mean and SD of the test results and 3 questions categories: detailed, main and inference. Subjects were divided into 3 groups: weak (under 25 correct answers), average level (from 25 to 34 correct answers) and good (those who can give 35 correct answers and above). Mean here is average of numbers of the correct answers that students could get. The results of these test were analyzed using t-test analysis.

Table 1 shows the number of students falling in 3 groups. It is noticeable that there were changes between the pre - test and post - test result. If in the pre - test, there was 9 students falling in weak level making up 36%, this number decreased to 5 (20% ) changes also happen to the medium level , in which number of students in post - test increases (18 students compared write 14 students in pre - test). However, the good level students remained unchanged, there was still 2 students in post - test. It is easy to see that more weak students became medium ones.

Table 3: Numbers of students in score levels according to pretest and posttest results

Score level

Pre- test

Post - test

Number of students


Number of students






















The changes can be seen more clearly when looking at the results of pre -test and post - test in terms of categories item. Table 2 shows the increase in means of all 3 categories of the test: inference (M = 11.72 compared with M = 12.8). Main idea (M = 1.68compared with M = 2.64) and Detailed (M = 11.36 versus M = 12.92) The reading ability of students improved in the post - test.

Table 4: Mean and Standard Deviation of pretest and posttest according to categories of test items and overall results of students.


Pre - test

Post - test











Main idea
















Overall tests








To sum up, the comparison between the pretest and posttest results showed an increase in ability to get full understanding of the reading texts. Although the result of the posttest was higher than pretest, this improvement was not significant.

4.3. From reading journals:

4.3.1 Students' self - assessment to the level of difficulty of the stories:

Figure 4.1 : Students' self - assessment to the level of difficulty of the stories

As looked at figure 4.1, in the first week nearly two thirds of the learners thought that the story was suitable with their level. However, there were 10 students who found it difficult even every difficult. The teacher looked for the cause of problem. They told that there were some new words that they did not know the meaning and they spent much time looking up them in the dictionary. This made their reading speed slow down and took them lots of time to finish the story. This absolutely fit to with what teacher observed. The students used dictionary a lot. Nutall (1982) described a weak reader who "Read slowly", "Doesn't enjoy reading", "Doesn't read much", "Doesn't understand", "Read slowly"… She called those are "the vicious circle of the weak reader". She also confirmed that speed, enjoyment and comprehension are closely linked with another. Therefore, the teacher guided them again how to read the story effectively. They shouldn't depend so much on dictionary but they should use vocabulary guessing strategies to guess the meaning from context and grasp the main idea. She advised them to have a habit of strategies use and this would help them much in their reading progress.

The advice gave positive results in the next weeks. The number of students who found story very difficult decreased. At the fourth week, learners thought the story was easy. The reason was partly because of familiar story "Cinderella" which is much loved by Vietnamese children.

At last week, a longer story with 800 words was introduced to students. It was really surprising that, students came to grade 5 with out complaining about the difficulties.

4.3.2 Students' opinion on the length of the story

Figure 4.3: Students' opinion on the length of the story

None of the students thought that the story was short. But the number of students decreased significantly week by week and at the last week only 2 students found that this story was short.

4.3.3 Students' attitude towards reading strategies.

Figure 4.3: Students' attitude towards reading strategies

As can be seen in Figure 4.3, in only in the first weeks just 9 and 10 learners had negative attitude towards reading strategies use. That might be in the first 2 weeks, they were still fresh in learning strategies. But in week 3, there were 16 learners really agree that they felt more self - confident when they use strategies to read better. This was the time students were quite good at using vocabulary guessing strategies and questioning.

Number of students who little agreed with using strategies would help them building up the motivation in reading went down from 5 students at first week to 4 weeks later. This proved that the students were gradually acquainted with reading graded reader and strategies application.

The students added that they were no longer to write the Vietnamese translation down and read in Vietnamese to get the comprehension. This was a good sight! Figure 4.4 showed that the number of students who had good attitude towards reading strategies use week by week.

4.3.4. Students' favorite strategies.

Figure 4.5: Students' favorite strategies

Looking at this figure, we can easily find that the students' most favorite strategy was Vocabulary guessing. This was the reason why strategy in their reading process. That was right with teacher's observation. She found that students used dictionary less and less. Summarizing was the strategy that students like least. That doesn't mean they didn't include this strategy in their reading. They still give the summary after each story.

Based on the analysis of data collected during five weeks it is noticed that action research has a little success despite of some difficulties.

In preparation for this, the researcher as change agent had to sit together with the two participant teachers to discuss the potential advantages of the negotiation of form in comparison with other types of error treatment and how to conduct it smoothly in class. Then the researcher arranged to meet each class for some time before implementing the plan. According to Markee (1997), "change agents should use different resources to communicate with adopters, so that adopters may receive the same basic message from different sources and may discuss this message in different forums and at different times." Therefore, this was the time for the researcher to communicate with the potential adopters (the students) to get the idea through so that they could understand what was going to happen in their classes and why it was conducted. (Through the initial survey, the students had already had a preliminary view of the situation).

The early adopters were identified from the pre-questionnaire result. They were those students who opted for the negotiation of form (clarification request, meta-linguistic feedback and repetition) and who learnt well and were quite active in the class activities. These students would be selected as group leaders in group work activities and be called to speak more often in class at the beginning as the models for other students to see how to respond to the teacher's corrective feedback. These students, in case of the plan going effectively, would also help in encouraging other students to actively engage in the tasks proposed.

The resisters would be those who refuse to speak or to follow what the teacher expected them to do in dealing with errors. The implementing teachers should try to identify the problems, work out the reasons and together with the change agent think of any possible solutions.

As for secondary innovation, the change agent just needed to provide the two participant teachers with documents about explanations and examples of the negotiation of form so that they could have a clear view of this. In order for the potential opinion leaders to fulfill their tasks, they were given some instructions of how to invite others to speak out in groups. In addition, the two implementing teachers would be prepared to create rapport in their classes, minimizing the possibility of students' losing face and encouraging them to speak in English and to respond to the teacher's feedback when errors arose.