Utilizing cognitive reading strategies to improve English reading comprehension of Spanish-speaking bilingual students



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There is some evidence that understanding the cognitive strategies that students use during reading helps teachers adapt instruction to the needs of students (Armbruster & Brown, 1984: Baker & Brown, 1984; Palincsar & Brown, 1984; Johnston & Byrd, 1983). Although several studies have identified specific cognitive strategies that are used by monolingual Engl ish-speaking.students (Chou Hare & Smith, 1982; Alvermann & Phelps, 1983; Alvermann, 1984), there has been little research has focused on the processes that Spanish-speaking bilingual students use to obtain meaning from printed materials written in their second language. The purposes of the present study were to investigate: (1) the cognitive strategies that bilingual students use during the reading process (2) whether or not these strategies significantly differ by gender, grade, and ability level in reading, and (3) the extent to which instruction in these strategies enhances English reading comprehension. This study employed a randomized control group pretest-posttest design which examined the effects of the intervention (i.e, the teaching of cognitive strategies). Ninety-two Hispanic bilingual students ranging from eight to twelve years of were the participants in the present study. The cognitive reading strategies used by bilingual students were identified using an interview form adapted from other studies (Alvermann, 1984; Chou Hare & Smith, 1982). The strategies were categorized according to number and type (Chou Hare & Smith, 1982). Subsequent to the interviews, students were stratified by ability level and randomly assigned to four groups: (a) Experimental Group 1 were taught how to monitor employ cognitive strategies using the reciprocal teaching approach (Palincsar & Brown, 1984, 1985); (b) Experimental Group 2 students were taught how to locate information in the text (Raphael, Winograd, & Pearson, 1980); (c) Control Group 1 students read stories independently and answered questions; (d) Control Group 2 students did not receive any additional instruction. Instruction was designed twice a week for 30 minutes for a period of a month. The results indicated that bilingual students used the same types of strategies as monolinguals. Thirteen strategies were identified. On the average, students use about two strategies. There is inconclusive evidence about whether there are differences by gender in the use of cognitive strategies. The findings, however, revealed that those students who are in higher grades and who are higher achievers use a greater number of strategies. Furthermore, students in higher grades used more of the higher-level cognitive strategies while this was not the case for higher-ability students. Instruction in the use of cognitive strategies did not improve students' overall reading comprehension. The instructional program, however, was beneficial for male students, lower achievers, and students' in lower grades. This suggests that any additional instruction may be beneficial for low achievers. The findings of the present study have implications in the teaching of cognitive strategies for bilingual students. The present investigation suggests that the instruction of cognitive reading strategies should take place in the early stages of the reading process. Such instruction would assure that students develop appropriate thinking skills. In addition, future research needs to examine the cognitive strategies that are specific to Spanish reading material and whether the length of instruction in Spanish reading affects the cognitive strategies employed. Other variables, such as teacher's self-fulfilling expectations, must also be addressed in developing programs which are more appropriate to the bilingual student and which will aid in increasing the student's cognitive growth.



Reading comprehension, Cognition in children, Latin Americans--Education, Education, Bilingual--United States