Awareness in reading: Hebrew day school students' metacognitive knowledge of Hebrew reading strategies in Chumash
Harris, Estelle Phillips
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Research literature suggests that successful readers apply a variety of metacognitive strategies in comprehension, use them more frequently than do less successful readers, and that strategy instruction improves reader comprehension. Much research is available on the instruction and use of metacognition in reading comprehension in one's native language (L1), and English as a second language (L2). Fewer studies concern other second or foreign language (L2) reading. Additionally, empirical studies in Hebrew language and literature are indeed sparse.;The present qualitative study is a pioneering effort to investigate the use of metacognitive strategies by students who are reading Chumash (the Five Books of Moses) for comprehension. This study asked the central question: "What metacognitive strategies do middle school (grades 6-8) Hebrew day school students use when comprehending narrative passages in Biblical Hebrew?";This qualitative inquiry involved sixth and seventh grade students (N=10) recruited from a Modern Orthodox Hebrew day school in Northern New Jersey. All participants had attended a Hebrew day school at least since first grade. Five subjects were selected as "successful" readers and five as "less-successful." Students were evaluated for selection based on a normed English comprehension exam, as well as the recommendations of their Bible and English teachers. The procedure included individual interviews and recorded think-alouds while students were reading.;Harris provides a comprehensive description of each subject's interviews and transcriptions of recordings. Results indicate that these particular Chumash students did use many of the same metacognitive strategies as readers of other first and second languages. However, even the "successful" readers favored local (bottom-up) over global (top-down) strategies. Furthermore, "successful" readers did not necessarily exhibit more strategies than "less-successful" students. The determining factors in comprehension of the presented texts appeared to be: (1) comfort with the Biblical Hebrew language; and (2) some background knowledge of the narratives. Numerous new questions arose concerning the teaching and learning of Chumash. Consequently, the author provides many opportunities for further research in this central focus of learning in Hebrew day schools.