Strategy-Based Reading Instruction

(Reading time: 5 - 9 minutes)



Theoretical Framework

Defining Learning Strategies

Learning strategies can be defined as “the thoughts and actions that students use to complete a task successfully” (Chamot, 2009 as cited in Taguchi, 2017, p. 63).

The word “strategy” comes from the ancient Greek word “strategia”, which means steps or actions taken for the purpose of winning a war. The modern version of the word has eclipsed the warlike meaning of strategia and currently reflects the control and goal-directedness manifested in the language classroom (Oxford, 2003, p. 1)

by Evangelia Vassilakou: MA in Applied Linguistics, Hellenic American University, Educational consultant in Deportivo Publishing, Head Director of Academic Department, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Basic features that language learning strategies (LLS) share

Several features that characterize (LLS) have been proposed by numerous scholars (Cohen, 1998, 2003; Dörnyei &Skehan, 2003; Ehrman & Oxford, 1996; Oxford, 2011 as cited in Psaltou-Joycey, 2015, p. 17) which are as follows:

  • Strategies are activities, actively controlled by the learner
  • Strategies are purposeful, goal- directed
  • Strategies are employed to facilitate learning and language use across all skills
  • Strategies are consciously applied to the learning situation, and as the learner becomes more experienced, they may become more automated
  • Strategy choice depends on the needs of the task in hand and on individual characteristics of the learner.
  • Strategies often appear in groups called strategy chains, and work together to produce better results for the learner

Considering all the above information, it can be argued that such features are a part of the learner-centered approach which is geared towards facilitating second language acquisition.

Research on models of learning strategy instruction

Learning strategy instruction can be divided into separate instruction and integrated instruction (O’Malley & Chamot, 1990 as cited in Chunmei & Xiaowu, 2014, p. 189). Separate strategy instruction is one type of strategy training in which all learning strategies are taught separately. Integrated strategy instruction is another type in which strategy training is combined with an ordinary language classroom teaching. Although in the former type of strategy training learners are benefited from the deep and systematic knowledge they receive, it does not provide them with contextual support and practical assistance on dealing with the right strategy in a particular task.

Classroom models

TEACHABILITY of learning /reading strategies

A plethora of classroom models for teaching language learning strategies have been put forward in the literature (Chamot et al. 1999; Cohen, 1998; Grenfell & Harris, 1999; Macaro, 2001 as cited in Psaltou-Joycey, 2015, p. 37). All the models share a sequential syllogism which is as follows:

Preparation: the teacher raises learners’ awareness of the strategy/strategies they use by using a short introduction on strategies

Presentation: the teacher names the strategy/strategies, models (demonstrates) and explains strategic use since strategies may seem abstract (especially to young learners) by using the think aloud process along with strategy tables classifying and naming strategies for students to identify them (see Table 1)

Table 1 Classification of empirically validated reading strategies and indirectly supported reading strategies used in validated multiple strategy- instruction

Global reading strategies


Monitoring reading strategies /problem-solving strategies


Support reading strategies


Identifying goals for reading (purposes)

Monitoring main- idea comprehension

Using the dictionary


Identifying difficulties

Taking notes


Taking steps to repair faulty comprehension


Checking predictions

Judging how well objectives are met

(Mental) translating

Forming questions


Underlining or highlighting

Answering questions

Reflecting on what has been learned

Using graphic organizers

Connecting text to background knowledge



Paying attention to text structure



Connecting one part of the text to another



Making inferences



Creating mental images



Recognizing discourse organization



Using discourse markers to see discourse relationships



Guessing meaning from context



Critiquing the author, the text




Source: Grabe and Stoller, 2013, p. 226

Practice: the learners are given a difficult task/tasks to make them practice the strategy/strategies by using another recommended technique - the Guide-O-Rama questions- and help them deeply comprehend a text while reading (these questions do not function as the traditional warm-up or post-reading clueless questions)

Evaluation: the learners reflect on their strategy use  to assess its usefulness (via questionnaires)

Expansion: the learners transfer the strategy to new tasks


Practical Framework


This article adopts integrated strategy instruction for the implementation of two of the best known techniques to teach reading strategies in literary texts of upper intermediate (B2) and advanced (C1) CEFR level.




Text Private and Public Battles.

Think-aloud [This is a title about battles at the top of the page. I have heard of battles before. (strategy1) I know that they require a lot of character strength. I also observe that they can happen both at a personal and a wider spectrum.]

Text Mr. Sedley’s fortune had gone, and this broke Amelia’s heart. But she already knew it was going to break. How many suspicions had she had of George’s selfishness and indifference?

Think-aloud [What does the word ‘indifference’ mean? I had better look up the word in my dictionary but if I tried to (strategy 2) reread this word and predict its content using the co-text, the word selfishness which has to do with people that do not care about their fellows and show an egocentric attitude. It has a negative meaning and since the conjunction ‘and’ joins similar ideas the unfamiliar word appears to be negative, too.]

Text With her father’s bankruptcy came the inevitable; the match between Amelia and George was broken off.


Think-aloud [The match? This word must have a metaphorical meaning and refer to human relations. I had better continue reading (strategy 3) to check if my prediction is true.]

Text George’s father also broke off relations with Mr. Sedley. Everything was broken, but Amelia took the news calmly.

Think-aloud [So, I was right since reference is made to the word ‘relations’.]

Text She changed from a large house to a small one without any noticeable difference in her manner. But how could anyone know what she felt inside? She remained in her room most of the time. Her father ordered her to send back all the gifts that George had given her. She did her best, but could not part with the letters. How excited she had been to receive them. If they were cold, short or selfish, how many excuses had she made up for the writer? She read the letters often. Through them she lived in her past life.

Think-aloud (strategy 4) [What inferences can I make by considering the last sentence? That probably her mind is full of memories that are engraved in her mind and is not willing to ignore.]



Note 1: After the think-aloud the teacher holds a whole-class discussion of the process asking learners to remember what actions the teacher took first, second, third, and why. Then the teacher names the strategy, saying, for example, “I used the strategy of ‘predicting’ (GLOB) to understand what the story is about”. For younger learners the teacher can use simplified names and transform Table 1 into a simplified strategy poster. Alternatively, teachers can videotape modelling of think aloud so that students can figure out what the teacher said and why. After modelling, teachers in turn listen to their students as they think aloud. In this way, teachers can diagnose their students’ strengths or weaknesses in reading comprehension.

Note 2: It is essential that the following phraseology be used by students while thinking out loud: “So far, I have learned…”, “This made me think of…”, “That didn’t make sense…”, “I think (x) will happen next”, “I reread that part because…”, “I was confused by this so I had better…”, “I think the most important part was…”, “That is interesting because…”, “Ah! It’s a word given in the glossary.”, “This word might have to do with…”, “What does this picture depict?”, “This is a useful piece of information for later use.”, “This title has to do with (x) and I know that…”.




SAMPLE TEXT: MOBY DICK by Herman Melville


pp. 6-7 & CHAPTER 1 p. 10


Section 1

Pages 6-7              



You really need to look at these preliminary pages—but they do provide some ‘context’ (Strategy 1 = previewing and activating background knowledge) about the main characters of the plot.


How many characters appear? Why all of them are men? Is this because of the nature of the job, being a sailor on a whaling ship, and the dangers of the wild and distant seas? How do you know? Have you ever heard stories of whaling voyages?

Section 2

 Page 10



Feel free to skim this part. This section establishes some ‘starting points’ that will need consideration. For example, Melville introduces the protagonist, Ishmael. The section also tries to establish the reason (strategy 2 = main-idea comprehension) why the main character likes being a sailor.


What do you think is his main reason?

Section 3

Page 10


In section 3 the writer contrasts “passengers going to sea” and “sailor going to sea”. (strategy 3 = recognizing discourse organization = CONTRAST)


What is the difference?

How much does that align with your current thinking?


Elaboration on the material presented in the article

The Academic Department of Deportivo Publishing can organize a two-hour seminar on Strategic Reading including a workshop. Participants will be awarded a certificate of attendance.


Chunmei, Y., & Xiaowu, L. (2014). Vocabulary learning strategy nstruction with Chinese EFL learners: An intervention study. International Review of Social sciences and Humanities, 6(2), 187-200.

Grabe, W., & Stoller, F. L. (2013). Teaching and researching reading. New York: Routledge.

Oxford, R. L. (2003). Language learning styles and strategies: An overview. Retrieved from:

Psaltou-Joycey A. (Ed.). (2015). Foreign language learning strategy instruction: A teacher’s guide.Greece: Saita publications

Taguchi, K. (2017). Metacognitive listening strategy instruction for EFL learners. The Bulletin of the Institute of Human Sciences, Toyo University, 19, 63-83.•

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