The impact of text structure reading strategy instruction in a second language: Benefits across languages

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Ana Isabel Schwartz, Laura Mendoza & Bonnie Meyer (2017) The impact of text structure reading strategy instruction in a second language: benefits across languages, The Language Learning Journal,45:3, 263-281, DOI: 10.1080/09571736.2013.837092


The goal of the present study was to examine the efficacy of learning a text structure strategy (TSS) for improving reading comprehension and recall for second language (L2) learners, as well as to test for transfer of the strategy to the native language (L1). University L2 learners of English completed a five-session course on using the TSS to improve recall and comprehension of expository texts. All instructions and materials were in English, the L2. As part of learning the structure strategy, participants practiced identifying key words that signal the structure of text being read (called ‘signal words’). At no point were these signal words ever translated into Spanish (L1) for the participants. At pre-test and post-test participants read and recalled two texts, one in Spanish and the other in English, while underlining areas of text that they deemed important. After completing strategy instruction, participants made significant gains in their ability to recall information from text in both English and Spanish, despite the fact that all instructions and practice were in English only. Analyses of underlining revealed an overall decrease in use of underlining at post-test for both English and Spanish texts, coupled with an increased tendency to underline signal words in both texts. Together the increases in recall and detection of signal words across languages indicate automatic transfer of the strategy across the learners' two languages.