Document Type : Original Article

Authors

Department of English language, Malayer Branch, Islamic Azad University, Malayer, Iran.

Abstract

This qualitative study investigated EFL young learners’ responses to reading activities in reading sessions. It was an attempt to examine students’ responses towards the implementation of individual and collaborative reading activities in teaching reading as a foreign language in reading sessions. To this purpose, 16 Iranian EFL young learners at a primary bilingual school in Tehran together with their English teachers contributed to the study. They were both randomly selected from available teachers and students in Tehran. The learners were around eight years old. The study lasted for 12 weeks. The method used in this study was qualitative. Teachers’ reflective journals, some participant observations, and face-to-face interviews with teachers were the instruments used in this study. The data elicited from the interview transcripts and observations transcription were analyzed inductively. The narrative analysis of interview transcription was coded into themes. The results indicated that collaborative and individual reading activities in reading sessions have a positive effect on young learners’ reading comprehension. Moreover, the students showed noticeable responses to the implementation of collaborative reading activities in reading sessions.

Keywords

  1. Introduction

Collaborative and individual reading is one of the features of reading that has been examined by researchers. Teacher-student reading sessions and student-student reading sessions at school are the most important activities for improving EFL young learners’ language abilities needed for reading in a foreign language. Consequently, it is important to determine how working with the teacher and peer activities promotes young learners’ reading skills. During reading sessions, teachers read the texts aloud to improve their learners’ reading.

In these sessions, teachers have a key role to play in their learners’ reading. The attention that EFL young learners get from their teacher has a powerful influence on their reading in a foreign language. Furthermore, by taking a few simple steps at school and using suitable reading programs, the teacher can help their students to enhance their reading in a foreign language. Teachers’ support has an important impact on EFL young learners’ reading in English. This is related to the teachers’ participation and presence in teacher-student reading activities at school.

During the reading sessions, teachers provide a channel for EFL young learners to improve their reading. Furthermore, there is a positive correlation between EFL young learners’ reading improvement and their teachers’ support in reading (Fotovatian & Shokrpour, 2007). Those EFL young learners who are supported by their teachers through suitable curriculum and reading programs are more successful than other ESL young learners who are not supported by their teachers in reading.

In the Iranian educational system, EFL young learners need to enjoy reading in a foreign language. It is not easy to get Iranian young learners to be interested in reading English; Therefore, students are unwilling to participate in reading activities. As a result of this, students cannot acquire early reading experiences. Inadequate early reading experiences in a foreign language create long-term negative consequences for EFL young learners. Coltrane (2003) found that ESL young learners who have no early reading experiences need more instructional reading programs and strategies at school compared to ESL young learners who have early reading experiences. Chou et al. (2012) considered that elementary students’ reading difficulties and barriers are probably attributable to inappropriate instructional strategies employed by teachers when teaching reading.

There are several reading activities that teachers use in reading sessions at school to improve their students’ reading in a foreign language. In this study, collaborative reading activities are the important action for building the knowledge needed for final achievement in reading in a foreign language. This study wanted to find out what young learners’ responses to the implementation of reading activities in a foreign language. Many language researchers have conducted studies on students’ responses to the implementation of collaborative reading activities in a foreign language. For example, Gani et al. (2016) examined students’ responses to the implementation of collaborative strategic reading in a foreign language. Their findings showed that students replied positively toward the use of Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR) to help them promote their reading comprehension. Besides, Fan (2010) and Novita (2012) conducted a study on CSR and they concluded that CSR has an effective impact on the reading comprehension of EFL students. Moreover, CRS offers the chances and opportunities for students to apply most of the strategies needed for reading skill.

In this study, the response is an action in the form of a reply or an answer to some actions and solutions. Language researcher considered that responses generally involves several details that analyze, interpret, and make connections to the text that was read. Borich stated that there are two kinds of students’ responses in the classroom. Borich )1996) has divided responses into two types or kinds of responses: desired responses and undesired responses. He indicated that the students who have desired responses will have better understanding, comprehension, and knowledge rather than those who have undesired responses. He considered that based on the influence on the teaching and learning process desired response can support the teaching and learning process and undesired responses can destruct the teaching and learning process. It is considered that the positive responses or desired responses are crucial for the students in the process of learning.    

 

  1. Literature Review

Several language researchers considered that students’ responses towards reading are related to students’ perception, motivation, attitude, and comprehension. Among various factors contributing to foreign language learning to read, affective variables such as motivation, attitudes, perception, and anxiety are of paramount importance. Many researchers have conducted studies on the relationship between motivation, attitude, and reading achievement in a foreign or second language. For example, the relationship between motivation for reading and reading success was investigated by Grabe (2009). He stated that “students with high motivation and interest are more involved in reading activities” (p.181). Moreover, Harmer (2001) conducted the study and his findings showed that motivation plays an important role in reading improvement and reading achievement. He indicated that motivation is a key aspect and crucial factor in language learning.

EFL learners’ early interest in reading is very important to their subsequent success in reading. By taking a few steps at school teacher can provide the situation which makes the student interested in the reading process. It should be mentioned that attitudes towards the learning position influence the learners’ level of motivation to learn another language; in other words, they serve as foundations for motivation (Masgoret, Bernaus, & Gardner, 2001). Attitude towards language learning is considered as one of the important factors in encouraging the students to learn that language. According to Johnson (2012), attitudes are important in language development. Attitudes are internal and inner states that influence what the learners are likely to do. The internal state is some degree of positive/negative or favorable/unfavorable reaction towards an object. He stated that attitude is one of the key issues that impact foreign language learning since how much attempt learners put into language learning depends on attitude. Learners with a positive attitude towards reading English will be more engaged in reading activities and might effort to make use of further approaches that support them deal with their problems in the processes of reading and learners with a negative attitude will be less eager to cooperate in reading activities.

Moreover, a negative attitude towards reading will bring problems for the learners in learning the reading process in a foreign language. However, a positive attitude boosted motivation, input, and finally successful attainment of ability in the reading process. In this study teachers used group work reading activities in the class. It is considered that using group work activities decreases worry in the classrooms and allows students to improve positive attitudes towards reading in a foreign language. Additionally, teachers used collaborative strategic reading techniques for foreign language learners to examine students’ responses to the implementation of collaborative reading activities. This technique is believed to propose opportunities for foreign language young learners to be involved and engaged in the discussion process.

Khonamri and Karimabadi (2015) examined the effect of CSR instruction on EFL students’ reading attitudes. They had tried to investigate the attitudes of students toward collaborative strategic reading. The results showed that students had a positive attitude toward CSR in a foreign language. Furthermore, in 2010 Fan considered the students’ perception of CSR in group argument. The finding of the study revealed that learners gave positive responses to collaborative strategic reading. In another study by Hsu (2009)  the effect of CSR on reading comprehension and learning interest was examined. In the qualitative aspect of her study, an interview on learners’ perception of CSR instruction was examined. He concluded that CSR has a positive effect on learners’ reading comprehension.

From a theoretical perspective, the present study was based on sociocultural theory. The underlying implication of the theory was integrated into the development of teacher-student interaction and peer interaction to improve students’ reading in a foreign language. Socio-cultural theory practically highlights the role of social interaction and language as key mediators of the learning process (Vygotsky, 1980). The theory presented above was the basis of this study because they highlight numerous details and reasons that may help to investigate students' responses toward the implementation of collaborative and individual reading activities in teaching reading as a foreign language in reading sessions.

 

Figure 1. Implementation of reading activities and students’ responses in Teaching Reading in a foreign language (Vygotsky, 1980)

 

Based on what was stated above, this article is going to answer the following research question:

RQ: What are the students' responses to the implementation of collaborative and individual reading activities in teaching reading as a foreign language in reading sessions?

 

  1. Methodology

3.1. Design and Context of the Study

This study employed a qualitative research design. According to Denzin and Lincoln (2008), qualitative research seeks to provide an understanding of human experience, perceptions, motivations, intentions, and behaviors based on description and observation and utilizing a naturalistic interpretative approach to a subject and its contextual setting. In the current study, this methodology provides the details and richness needed to describe the students’ responses to the implementation of collaborative and individual reading activities in teaching reading as a foreign language in reading sessions. Furthermore, it helps to develop and promote the evaluation and gives a better report of what and why the problems occurred. It should be mentioned that the research design allows the researcher to investigate the reading sessions across collaborative and individual reading activities with a focus on barriers, interaction, and students’ responses.

 

3.2. Participants        

The participants of this study were twofold: two well-educated Iranian teachers selected from a primary school in Tehran, and 16 Iranian primary school students in grade two. Only educated teachers participated in this study. Several considerations were taken on the selection of teachers such as the level of education of teachers and the mother tongue of participants. All the participants of this study were educated teachers and their mother tongue was Persian. The two groups of participants were both randomly selected from availabale teachers and learners (i.e., 10 teachers and 38 students). The sixteen Iranian students selected are in grade two in primary school in Tehran. The researcher selected students who are eight years old because in the Iranian educational system in private school, children begin English class at the age of eight and it is a common practice for teachers to read with their students to prepare them for secondary school and life in general. Furthermore, improving EFL young learners’ reading in a foreign language is easier by teachers when their students are eight years old than EFL learners’ who are above eight years of age.

 

Table 1.

Demographic Background of the Participants

Teachers

Teacher 1

Teacher 2

Age

27

33

Level of Education

Master

Master

Job

English teacher

English Teacher

Nationality

Iranian

Iranian

The number of Students

8

8

 

3.3. Instruments

The instruments used in this study were face-to-face interviews, teachers’ reflective journals, and participant observation in some sessions. These instruments were applied in a triangulation manner to collect and analyze the data. To come at an acceptable validity of these instruments, a pilot study was conducted in one session; that is, the researcher observed the participants (teachers and students) during the session, and the teachers were given a notebook to write their reflections. Then, observations were logged as field notes, and after the session, one of the teachers was interviewed. It is important to state that in qualitative research a researcher should not use a single source of data. So, the strength of qualitative research is based on its multi-instrument approach or triangulation. Qualitative research is a method of investigation that includes patient interviews and detailed case studies (Stake, 2005). The data gathering methods resulted in a rich narrative explanation of data which were drawn from the face-to-face interview, reflective journal, and participant observation in some parts of sessions.

The face-to-face interview in the current study provided an opportunity for both the researchers and the participants to clarify the questions asked and responses given by the participants. This was to make sure the participants (teachers) could express their views and perception about the learners’ English reading skills. In the face-to-face interview, both close-ended questions and open-ended questions were used. The original questions were adapted from a thesis and redesigned to suit the purposes of the present study. At the same time, to observe their validity and the feasibility of the data collection tools as a whole, they were checked by two academicians of the ELT department at a university and their expert opinions were obtained.

Observation, as an instrument of the current study, was used to observe any interest, such as conversation, among the participants, clarification, and relating personal experiences during the sessions.

Fieldnotes included descriptions of how the participants started and ended reading sessions in the class, and to determine the strategies and activities that teachers used in reading sessions to deliver the reading points in the foreign language.

Through the reflective journal, teachers recorded what happened in the class between them and their students in every session and they reported weekly to the researcher. In this study, an opportunity is provided for both the teachers and the writer to evaluate students’ reading improvement.

 

3.4. Data Collection Procedure

In this study, qualitative data are filed-notes of observation, teachers’ reflections towards students’ reading in a foreign language, and face-to-face interviews. The interview and reflection transcripts were actual words of the teachers. The first stage of this research began with the data collection in which coding and increasing themes for qualitative data were done. Then, the data was displayed in a form of charts, tables, and other graphic types, and some data from interview transcripts and reflective journal transcripts were transformed into narrative form. After transforming the data from the interview, teachers’ reflections and observations were compared and were later linked. The elicited data formed the main part of concentration in this study. To ensure that the teachers use reading activities appropriately in the class audiotape instrument was used to record their sessions.

In this study, teachers used collaborative strategic reading to the students. After assigning the roles by the teacher, students started the collaborative strategic reading activity. At the begging phase, the teacher started the preview strategy, the first stage in collaborative strategic reading, by asking questions about the topic to brainstorm and make them ready for the reading activity. The preview stage aimed to activate learners’ prior knowledge and promote the prediction about what they read. Therefore, students talked to the whole class about their thoughts, ideas, knowledge, and experience on the topic. After that students did a silent reading by themselves. Then one of the students (the leader of the group) read the text aloud to other students. After reading the text by the leader students had time to discuss and reflect on the text collaboratively.

Two Iranian educated teachers were selected. From the beginning of the study, the questionnaire was given to two Iranian teachers to estimate their level of education. After collecting the data and analyzing the data, those Iranian teachers who are high education were selected to participate in this study. Teachers signed a consent form approving to participate in the study. Students are also involved in conducting the research. Reading activities were used by teachers in class. The actual framework took 12 weeks. The period included 16 sessions. Reflections by teachers, interviews with teachers, and participant observation in some reading sessions by the researcher. The whole process of 16 sessions took 12 weeks. Each session started with a set of awareness of reading simple vocabulary which students must learn in a foreign language. In every session, the teacher reads with their students. Students encountered storybooks and flashcards in every session. Teachers read aloud short stories to students to provide a base of knowledge and expectation in their quest for improving students’ reading in a foreign language. Then the students read the words alone while the teachers listen. If the student made the mistake, at first, the teacher did not have to correct their mistake. Teachers provided an opportunity for the students to think and then correct his or their mistake. Also, teachers read aloud to their students to provide a valuable window into their growing conceptions of literacy.

Teachers of students were interviewed after the last session and the interview was conducted individually. Teachers’ comments, perceptions, and experiences were recorded from a face-to-face interview. The questions used in the interview were close-ended questions and open-ended questions. Furthermore, these questions allow the researcher to sift ineffective issues or extreme answers. Audiotape recording was used to ensure that teachers do the reading activities and apply the reading activities appropriately.

 

3.5. Data Analysis Procedure

The procedure of analyzing the data was to catch meaning in data and this was done through systematically organizing and presenting the information. It is considered that in qualitative study data arise in a diversity of forms such as transcribed recordings from interview transcribes, teachers’ journals, and fieldnotes observations. Narrative analysis of interview transcriptions and teachers’ reflective journals and participant observations were coded into themes. The process of coding involved defining codes, revising them. The purpose of doing this is to ensure consistency in coding the transcripts. The coding themes enabled the writer to explore, identify and describe students' responses to the implementation of collaborative and individual reading activities in teaching reading as a foreign language in reading sessions. Content from the participants’ reflective journals, face-to-face interviews, and participant observations in some sessions was categorized according to similar themes.

 

  1. Results

4.1. Enhancing Students’ Reading Comprehension            

The analysis of the data revealed that the students’ reading comprehension was improved through collaborative and individual reading activities. Firstly, based on the observations, collaborative strategic reading and reading aloud were applied to help the students improve their reading achievement. Both collaborative and individual reading activities had a positive effect on the students’ reading comprehension.

Secondly, the teachers in their journals stated the following:

  1. Reading activities like asking and answering questions, guessing the meaning, and discussion in collaborative and individual reading are very useful for my students to improve their reading comprehension. Because my students get involved in the learning process indirectly. And they showed desire responses to the implementation of these reading activities. Also, collaborative reading can be a good way to get my students involved in reading comprehension without any limitations.
  2. Collaborative activities provided necessary context and help my students to focus on the context. Reading activities help my students to make a connection between their experience and the topic discussion.

Furthermore, observations showed that reading activities were brainstorming, pre-questioning, guessing the meaning, and discussion. Brainstorming was a very good reading activity in improving students’ reading comprehension during reading sessions.

 

4.2. Creating Positive Attitudes

Another significant result of the data analysis was that collaborative and individual reading activities in reading sessions create positive attitudes. The observations showed that the students were willing to follow the collaborative reading activities in reading sessions. They felt happy with collaborative and individual reading activities, meaning that they showed noticeable responses to reading activities during reading sessions.

In the interviews, the participants admitted that,

  1. Collaborative reading activities created positive attitudes which led my students to have good behavior which was exploring their idea. In my idea. Attitude is one of the main factors that influence foreign language learning because how much attempt students put into language learning depends partially on attitude.
  2. In reading sessions individual and collaborative reading activities gave a positive impact on my student's attitudes. While I explore and discuss the topic, my students’ positive attitude was observed. For example, they actively participate in reading activities. It means students had shown positive attitudes toward reading activities. In my own idea learners' attitude towards language learning is considered as one of the crucial factors in motivating the learners to learn that language.

All in all, during reading sessions; that is, individual reading and collaborative activities, the students showed considerable responses to the implementation of reading activities during reading sessions.

 

4.3. Enhancing Students’ Motivation

Based on the observations, the students’ participation in collaborative reading activities was quite noticeable. The results showed that the students were motivated to read more after doing reading activities. Reading activities such as asking, answering questions, and discussing encouraged them to involve themselves in the reading process and to read more. Thus, teacher-student reading and student-student reading can be a good way to provide the necessary practice needed to encourage the student to read. In this study, the interaction between teachers and students at school can establish a friendly class environment that motivates students to read. Using picture books and flashcards encourages the students to read when they. It creates a positive reading experience for them.

Teachers in their journals stated the following:

  1. Interaction with my students in the class can establish a friendly class environment that motivated my students to read. Reading with my students and taking turns with pages and paragraphs in reading sessions can make them involved in the reading process and give them a strong motivation to read better. It should be mentioned that students are more likely to read in collaborative reading activities. Preparing my students before the reading session begins can create a friendly environment to motive them to read more. Using picture flashcards and picture books encouraged them to practice reading more and enjoy reading.
  2. 2. Collaborative reading activities are fun and beneficial for my students in reading sessions. Group discussion makes students feel more comfortable and confident in comprehension and motivation plays an important role in students’ learning process. Collaborative and individual reading activities make students curious about the content of the book. Reading activities make students are interested to read.

In general, based on the findings of the study, collaborative reading activities seem to play a crucial role in encouraging students to become interested in the reading process.

 

  1. Discussion

This study examined students’ responses to the implementation of reading activities in teaching reading as a foreign language in reading sessions. The results of the qualitative analysis showed that students showed craving responses to the implementation of collaborative and individual reading activities in a foreign language. Here, the answer to the posed research question can be given concerning three themes as follows: increasing students’ comprehension, creating positive attitudes, and increasing students’ motivation. The results revealed that asking and answering questions in collaborative reading activities have a positive effect on students’ reading comprehension in a foreign language. This is in line with Chalak (2015), Chalak, and Nasri (2012), Chalak and Tahmasebi (in press), and Tembe (2008) who found that that asking and answering questions in reading provide a structure for the student to get involved in reading and improve their reading comprehension. Fitri (2010) too discovered that CSR was effective in increasing the students' reading comprehension. The results also revealed that teacher-students reading and collaborative reading by using appropriate reading activities like asking answering questions, discussion, brainstorming can make students become good readers.

As for the second theme, which creates positive attitudes in the process of reading, the results indicated that through collaborative and individual reading, the students showed a willingness to follow the reading activities, and displayed positive feedback toward the implementation of collaborative reading activities. At the same time, teachers increased students’ positive attitudes towards reading by providing sufficient support and instruction through the implementation of reading activities. This is in agreement with Logan et al. (2011) and Maulana et al. (2016) who stated that teachers can also foster students’ positive attitudes toward reading by providing adequate support, aid, and instruction for students' reading, such as giving some suggestions when choosing reading tasks and materials, providing guidance in the reading process, and motivating young learners to express and share what they have learned.

It should be mentioned that in the current study, the implementation of collaborative reading activities influences students’ attitudes.  This is in the line with Khonamri and Karimabadi (2015) who examined the attitudes of students toward collaborative strategic reading in a foreign language. The results of the self-designed questionnaire and interview revealed that students had a positive attitude toward CSR in a foreign language.

In connection with giving motivation, the teacher encouraged their students to participate in reading activities and provide a friendly environment for students to read more. Thus, the results showed that motivation plays a crucial role in reading development and reading achievement. This is in accord with Grabe’s (2009) and Hamer (2001) who investigated the relationship between motivation for reading and reading success. They stated that students with high motivation and interest are more involved in reading activities and tasks. Moreover, Saville-Troike and Barto (2016) and Capen (2010) too discovered that motivation is a key aspect and crucial factor in language learning. Furthermore, motivation plays a crucial role in reading development and reading achievement. The analysis of the data obtained from the teachers’ reflective journal, writer's observations, and teachers’ interviews indicated that at the beginning of the reading sessions some students were not motivated to read. It should be noted that in this study, teacher-student interaction and peer interaction in reading activities could help students to become more interested in reading. Making students interested in reading provides a wide range of learning experiences that help students to read better and acquire particular knowledge which can help them to enhance their reading in a foreign language. In the same line, Wang and Eccles (2013) found that interactional support from teachers and peers can have a profound influence on students’  reading success.  It should be mentioned that in the current study teachers have an important role in improving young learners’ reading. Besides, Hu et al., (2018) conducted the study and they found that students whose teachers make them interested in reading activities in the class are more likely to promote their reading. Teachers’ participation and teachers’ support in young learners’ reading with appropriate reading strategies are necessary and it has an impact on students’ reading. Furthermore, teacher's emotional support had a positive effect on children's reading attitudes, which in turn had a positive effect on their reading and vocabulary learning outcomes

 

  1. Conclusion

As was mentioned, this qualitative study was conducted to investigate students’ responses to the implementation of collaborative and individual reading activities in teaching reading as a foreign language. Based on the findings of the study, it can be concluded that collaborative and individual reading activities have a positive effect on students’ reading comprehension in a foreign language. Asking and answering questions, as well as, discussing collaborative reading can promote both EFL young learners reading comprehension skills and the enhancement of their vocabulary. Therefore, reading activities can be a good way to get the students involved in reading comprehension without any limitation. The findings also showed that collaborative and individual reading activities in reading sessions, create positive attitudes. In fact, the students felt happy and fine in collaborative and individual reading activities They showed craving responses to the implementation of reading activities during reading sessions. It means that collaborative and individual reading activities had a positive impact on student's attitudes. The findings of the study also reveal that collaborative and individual reading activities play a crucial role in encouraging students to become interested in reading.  As a final word, the findings of the present study have practical implications for other researchers and instructors to improve young learners’ positive attitudes towards reading in a foreign language.

 

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