How can we develop metacognitive awareness of reading strategies in our learners? #ELTchat summary 02/03/2016

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How can we develop metacognitive awareness of reading strategies in our learners? #ELTchat summary 02/03/2016




Original drawing from

Metacognitive Reading Strategies – the summary 

Summary written by Rachel Appleby alias  @rapple18 on twitter


We had a cosy group of eight or nine participants for this chat – on Metacognitive Reading Strategies. What do you think we discussed? What do you already know about reading strategies, or what metacognitive means? Can you guess? Would a picture help? How do you read in your own language?

These questions belong to the first stage of metacognitive reading strategies: planning, where your own background knowledge is activated. We also call these “top-down” reading strategies. We use this subconsciously in our own language. But how can we promote this – and other strategies – in the classroom?



My own very mini-investigative work in advance brought up “thinking about thinking”, “knowing about knowing”, but this doesn’t help us in the classroom.


@Marisa_C, running late, kindly sent through an article to keep us busy, but it was already 1pm CET.


In a smaller starting group, we came up with the following: @angelos_bollas mentioned strategies which are transferable from text to text, genre to genre and context to context; @Juliacphang added that students need reading skills they can use regardless of text type; this then developed towards ensuring students are aware of how they read, and how to approach a text.



The issue of different strategies at different LEVELS also emerged but it seemed to be more a question of the extent to which we use meta-language, perhaps to give students more understanding, and control over their learning, and promote autonomy (@angelos_bollas). I feel that all students, regardless of level, need to consciously employ a series of strategies in order to read a text well; working on this with lower level students will no doubt help them later on. Over-using meta-language at lower levels may not be necessary, although for any student interested in the learning process, this pays off (@Juliacphang).


GENRE in itself is important, as one of the first things students need to be able to do before getting stuck into a text is to identify the genre. This automatically sparks off schemata (the knowledge one brings to a text) of the genre itself (e.g. an advert; a letter of complaint; an online chat post, etc.), and set the ball rolling to help readers anticipate what they might expect to come up. @Juliacphang suggested that once genre has been identified, a text can be read in a number of different ways: course books generally promote first skimming – to get a general idea, or scanning – to pick out key details. The latter I find particularly useful at lower levels, as it enables students to find information and ‘get through’ a text without getting caught up on sentence complexity or difficult words. Skimming can be more difficult, as in doing this you’re getting the cream of the text, the key meaning, which can be more difficult to extract. (I know I find this difficult when reading a text in Spanish or Hungarian, and while sometimes I can understand most of the words, I just don’t get the overall meaning.) Good readers – and writers – for example, will know that key information is often at the end of a paragraph; that is, you don’t need to read every word or sentence. Nevertheless, as @Marisa_C pointed out, process is vital, and in terms of language teaching, focusing on process, and not product, will help ‘train’ students to read effectively.


Under PROCESS, @MsKirstenFoti posted a useful list, a “metacognitive bookmark” which students can use to help reflect on how they read. This includes such ideas as: In the next part I think …; Could this mean …; I got confused when …; I think the point is … . If each student were to complete just half a dozen of the 18 included in this sample list, and then share their findings in small groups, it could become not only an extremely useful discussion activity, but one where they could come up with tips and strategies for helping each other read more effectively, – and then try them out on another text. Another list, used as part of a survey was provided by @rapple18. This relates more to a student’s general approach to reading, but, used sparingly, it could be useful for raising students’ awareness of how they read. Example statements (to circle on a scale of 1-5) included: I ask myself questions I like to have answered in the text. and I check to see if my guesses about the text are right or wrong.

⚡Presentation Editing A method of expanding improving and supporting students’ writing.


It was also agreed that it’s helpful to focus on what students find difficult; this can come up in the sort of ‘bookmark’ list mentioned above, and @Marisa_C also suggested that we don’t spend enough time on addressing why things go wrong, or what students find difficult: doing this can lead to solutions!


The issue of L1 TRANSFER – being aware of what you do in your own language when you read, and being able to use those same strategies in another language – also came up. There was some doubt as to how aware readers are in their first language, and a few of us felt we read – because we’ve now been trained! – better in a second language.  Helping to raise awareness of L1 strategies, however, can only help in applying these with L2! (@Getgreatenglish)


Once students have an understanding of the main content of a text, they can start looking at detail: “bottom-up” reading strategies include such things as finding and understanding reference words, noticing near-synonyms and paraphrasing, anticipating content from a heightened awareness of linkers, and so on. At higher levels, breaking down complex sentences, and appreciating an author’s stance (through use of, e.g. modals), can also be included.


Developing effective metacognitive reading strategies is a challenge, and can be a long process. Start young (or early!), and do little and often, as agreed by @TalkenEnglish. I find it useful to try out different prediction strategies with students, and then focus on just one aspect of language (in terms of detailed reading, e.g. reference words). This latter work can be quite taxing, but manageable if done in bite-sized chunks.  Nevertheless, the more students become aware of how they read, the more autonomous they will become, and with any luck, the more they’ll learn and enjoy reading in English!


For a brief summarizing definition, @Marisa_C’s article (thanks!) is a great help. I’ve extracted and edited part of it below:

  1. Planning strategies are used before reading; activating learners’ background knowledge, etc.
  2. Monitoring strategies occur during reading. Some examples of monitoring strategies are comprehension of vocabulary, self-questioning (reflecting on whether they understood what they have read so far), etc.
  3. Evaluating strategies are employed after reading. For example, after reading a text, learners may think about how to apply what they have read to other situations, and so on.


Thanks to everyone who joined in – it was great to have so much keen participation!






You can read the full transcript here 





@angelos_bollas, @ELTchat, @Getgreatenglish, @Juliacphang, @Marisa_C, @MsKirstenFoti, @rapple18, @TalkenEnglish, @Teacherules, and … @SueAnnan tweetarchivist


Other Helpful Links 

metacognition map


Metacognition – a definition from wikipedia


This higher-level cognition was given the label metacognition by American developmental psychologist John Flavell (1979).

The term metacognition literally means cognition about cognition, or more informally, thinking about thinking. Flavell defined metacognition as knowledge about cognition and control of cognition. For example, I am engaging in metacognition if I notice that I am having more trouble learning A than B; [or] if it strikes me that I should double check C before accepting it as fact. J. H. Flavell (1976, p. 232). Andreas Demetriou, in his theory, one of the neo-Piagetian theories of cognitive development, used the term hypercognition to refer to self-monitoring, self-representation, and self-regulation processes, which are regarded as integral components of the human mind.[6] Moreover, with his colleagues, he showed that these processes participate in general intelligence, together with processing efficiency and reasoning, which have traditionally been considered to compose fluid intelligence.[7]

Metacognition also thinks about one’s own thinking process such as study skills, memory capabilities, and the ability to monitor learning. This concept needs to be explicitly taught along with content instruction. Metacognitive knowledge is about our own cognitive processes and our understanding of how to regulate those processes to maximize learning.


Collection of quotes on the topic