The English Language Syllabus 2010 by the English Language Curriculum and Planning Division (CPDD) at the Ministry of Education (MOE), Singapore, has delineated in great detail the Skills, Strategies, Attitudes and Behaviour (SSAB) to guide teachers when teaching reading skills and strategies such as scanning, skimming, making inference, summarizing, predicting, critical reading and viewing.
One of the teaching processes in the syllabus involves Instructing Explicitly. For example, explaining and clarifying a skill, strategy or process directly and systematically, in addition to teaching it in contexts of meaningful use (CPDD, 2010).
Why is there a need to teach comprehension strategies explicitly? According to researchers, reading strategies can be taught explicitly and reading strategy instruction is beneficial to all students (Carol, 2002; Carrell, 1989; Janzen, 1996). Explicit teaching involves teaching comprehension strategies one at a time, allowing students to practise and apply the strategy while teachers provide explicit feedback and reviews, and allow for independent practice.
Research on Explicit Teaching of Reading Strategies in Singapore
A study on the explicit teaching of reading strategy was conducted by Ng (1999) who taught inferential strategies explicitly to a group of Secondary 5 Normal (Academic) students. These students showed improvement in inferential comprehension in the post reading test.
Explicit teaching of reading strategies has been researched in terms of Reciprocal Teaching (RT). Kow (2009) focused on the explicit teaching of reading strategies through RT to a class of 40 Primary 4 students in a neighbourhood school and found that the students understood the purpose of questioning, clarifying, predicting and summarizing, and that they were able to apply these strategies as a result of explicit teaching involving explaining, modelling, guided practice as well as independent practice. These RT strategies enabled students to have a more in-depth understanding of literature texts.
Png (2007) conducted a research study with 10 lower secondary teachers from two secondary schools to learn their views on RT before and after they were taught using the teaching package designed for them. Seventy-one per cent of the participants found the RT method useful. Not only did the teachers like the interactive nature of the strategy, they also saw the benefits for their students in terms of practising summarizing, a required examination skill.
Teaching Reading Comprehension Strategies Explicitly
For the explicit teaching of prediction, Farrell (2002) has offered the following steps:
In terms of Reciprocal Teaching, these are the five explicit teaching lessons from Png (2007): the teaching of think-alouds, predicting, clarifying, questioning and summarizing.
Carol, R. (2002). Mindful reading: Strategy training that facilitates transfer. Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy, 45(6), 498–513.
Carrell, P. L. (1989). Metacognitive awareness and second language reading. Modern Language Journal, 73(1), 20–133.
Curriculum Planning and Development Division (CPDD). (2010). English Language Syllabus 2010 Primary and Secondary (Express/Normal [Academic]). Retrieved from https://www.moe.gov.sg/docs/default-source/document/education/syllabuses/english-language-and-literature/files/english-primary-secondary-express-normal-academic.pdf
Farrell, T. S. C. (2002). A strategic approach to teaching reading, REACT, 21(2), 133–140.
Janzen, J. (1996). Teaching strategic reading. TESOL Journal, 6(1), 6–9.
Kow, H. M. (2009). Explicit teaching of reading strategies: an investigation of reciprocal teaching in a primary four class in Singapore (Unpublished master’s thesis). National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Ng, C. H. (1999). Effects of explicit teaching of comprehension strategies in a Singapore secondary school (Unpublished master’s dissertation). National Institute of Education, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
Png, L. H. J. (2007). Teachers’ views of reciprocal teaching as a tool for teaching reading comprehension. The English Teacher, 39(1), 179–193.