Academic journal article Reading & Writing

Reading Strategies Used by Grade 9 English Second Language Learners in a Selected School

Academic journal article Reading & Writing

Reading Strategies Used by Grade 9 English Second Language Learners in a Selected School

Article excerpt

Introduction

The literature has shown that awareness of the reading process and reading strategy use of readers can improve learners' reading comprehension (Porter 2010; Wessels 2007). According to Tercanlioglu (2004:12), reading strategies are specific actions, behaviours, steps or techniques learners use to improve their progress in comprehending, internalising and using a second language. The literature reveals that in order to improve reading proficiency and design reading skills development programmes in an informed manner, educators' knowledge of their learners' knowledge about reading and reading strategies must be increased (Sheorey & Mokhtari 2001:439). Thus, educators' knowledge about the reading strategies used by their learners is important for planning relevant lessons and also for making an informed decision about whether to teach reading strategies explicitly or implicitly. Such a decision could be taken in order to develop the learners' reading comprehension.

Many studies conducted in South Africa and in other countries reveal that reading with comprehension is difficult for learners (Dreyer & Nel 2003; Porter 2010; Sheory & Mokhtari 2001; Wessels 2007). Such studies reveal that this problem manifests itself at primary level and secondary level, as well as at university level. In a South African context, the high failure rate at matric (Grade 12) level is partly ascribed to the lack of reading comprehension, which is associated with the use of ineffective and inefficient reading strategies (Pretorius 2002). Some studies reveal that learners find it difficult to understand the examination questions and end up making wrong guesses that lead to incorrect answers (Madikiza 2011:3). In addition, Van Wyk (2001) points out that learners present low levels of reading strategy knowledge and lack the strategies needed to successfully comprehend expository texts; hence, they often select ineffective and inefficient strategies with little strategic intent. Subsequently, the use of a range of reading strategies has been seen as a solution in order to empower learners with the relevant tools to comprehend the printed text. In the literature there is a strong debate about the choice and use of reading strategies according to gender. Such studies have produced contradicting results. For example, in a study conducted by Monos (2004:149), female learners reported higher usage of reading strategies than male learners in all categories of strategies. However, a study conducted by Tercanlioglu (2004:14) found that boys were using more strategies than girls. Therefore, the current study seeks to make a contribution by exploring the reading strategies used by both boys and girls amongst the Grade 9 learners in a particular school and make recommendations on how the learners' reading strategy use could be improved or stretched so as to develop their reading comprehension.

Purpose of the study

The purpose of this study was to find out what reading strategies learners in the selected school used, and with what frequency, to approach English Second Language (ESL) texts and whether there were differences in strategy choice between boys and girls. Specifically, the study sought to address the following research questions:

1. What type and frequency of use of reading strategies do the learners use before, during and after reading?

2. Is there any significant difference between the perceived strategy use of girls and boys?

Theoretical perspective

Strategic awareness and monitoring of the comprehension process are critically important aspects of skilled reading (Sheory & Mokhtari 2001). Such awareness and monitoring is often referred to in the literature as 'metacognition', which entails knowledge of strategies for processing texts, the ability to monitor comprehension and the ability to adjust strategies as needed (Euerbach & Paxton 1997:239). According to Sheory and Mokhtari (2001:444), it is the combination of conscious awareness of the strategic reading process and the actual use of reading strategies that distinguishes skilled readers from unskilled readers. …

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