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Comprehension

Improving Reading Outcomes for Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities

Connor, C., Alberto, P.A., Compton, D.L., and O'Connor, R.E. (February 2014) Improving Reading Outcomes for Students with or at Risk for Reading Disabilities: A Synthesis of the Contributions from the Institute of Education Sciences Research Centers, U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Special Education Research.

This report describes what has been learned about the improvement of reading outcomes for children with or at risk for reading disabilities through published research funded by the Institute of Education Science (IES). The report describes contributions to the knowledge base across four focal areas: assessment, basic cognitive and linguistic processes that support successful reading, intervention, and professional development.

Is Google Making Us Stupid? The Impact of the Internet on Reading Behaviour

Hooper, Val and Herath, Channa (2014). Is Google Making Us Stupid? The Impact of the Internet on Reading Behaviour. BLED 2014 Proceedings. Paper 1.

This study explored the impact of the Internet on our reading behavior. Using an exploratory survey, it examined the online and offline reading behavior of individuals, and determined the underlying patterns, the differences between online and offline reading, and the impacts of the online environment on individuals’ reading behavior. The findings indicated that there were definite differences between people’s online and offline reading behaviors. In general, online reading has had a negative impact on people’s cognition. Concentration, comprehension, absorption and recall rates were all much lower while reading online than offline.

What Works to Improve Student Literacy Achievement? An Examination of Instructional Practices in a Balanced Literacy Approach

Bitter, C., O'Day, J., Gubbins, P., & Socias, M. (2009). What works to improve student literacy achievement? an examination of instructional practices in a balanced literacy approach. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 14(1), 17-44.

A core assumption of the San Diego City Schools (SDCS) reform effort was that improved instructional practices, aligned with a balanced literacy approach, would be effective in improving student outcomes. This article explores this hypothesis by presenting findings from an analysis of classroom instruction data collected in 101 classrooms in nine high-poverty elementary schools. The study found a prevalent focus on reading comprehension instruction and on students' active engagement in making meaning from text. Teachers' use of higher-level questions and discussion about text were substantially higher than that found by a prior study using the same instrument in similar classrooms elsewhere. Analyses of instruction and student outcome data indicate that teacher practices related to the higher-level meaning of text, writing instruction, and strategies for accountable talk were associated with growth in students' reading comprehension.

Relationships Between Inferential Book Reading Strategies and Young Children's Language and Literacy Competence

Dunst, Carl, Williams, A, Trivette, C, Simkus, A, Hamby, D. (2012). Relationships Between Inferential Book Reading Strategies and Young Children's Language and Literacy Competence. CELLreviews 5(10), 1-10.

This meta-analysis looks at how different types of inferential book reading strategies used by adults are associated with young children's language and literacy behavior and development. Results showed that parents' and teachers' use of different types of inferencing strategies were related to variations in the child outcomes, and that the effects of inferencing were conditioned on the children's ages.

Children's Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy

Dunst, C, Simkus, A, Hamby, D. (2012). Children's Story Retelling as a Literacy and Language Enhancement Strategy. CELLreviews 5(4). Asheville, NC: Orelena Hawks Puckett Institute, Center for Early Literacy Learning.

The effects of children's story retelling on early literacy and language development was examined in a meta-analysis of 11 studies including 687 toddlers and preschoolers. Results indicated that children's story retelling influenced both story-related comprehension and expressive vocabulary as well as nonstory-related receptive language and early literacy development. Findings also showed that the use of the characteristics that experts consider the important features of retelling practices was associated with positive child outcomes. Implications for practice are described.

Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology

Dunlosky, J., Rawson, K., Marsh, E., Nathan, M.J., Willingham, D. Improving students' learning with effective learning techniques: promising directions from cognitive and educational psychology. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, January 2013 vol. 14, 4-58.

In this monograph, the researchers discuss 10 learning techniques in detail and offer recommendations about their relative utility. The selected techniques are relatively easy to use and could be adopted by many students. Also, some techniques (e.g., highlighting and rereading) were selected because students report relying heavily on them, which makes it especially important to examine how well they work. The techniques include elaborative interrogation, self-explanation, summarization, highlighting (or underlining), the keyword mnemonic, imagery use for text learning, rereading, practice testing, distributed practice, and interleaved practice.

Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts

Adams, M.J. (2011). Advancing Our Students' Language and Literacy: The Challenge of Complex Texts. American Educator, Winter 2010-2011, American Federation of Teachers.

The language of today's twelfth-grade English texts is simpler than that of seventh-grade texts published prior to 1963. No wonder students' reading comprehension has declined sharply.

Beyond Comprehension: We Have Yet to Adopt a Common Core Curriculum That Builds Knowledge Grade by Grade, But We Need To

Hirsch, E.D., Jr. (2011). Beyond Comprehension: We Have Yet to Adopt a Common Core Curriculum That Builds Knowledge Grade by Grade — But We Need To. American Educator, Winter 2010-2011, American Federation of Teachers.

Most of today's reading programs rest on faulty ideas about reading comprehension. Comprehension is not a general skill; it relies on having relevant vocabulary and knowledge.

Early Executive Function Predicts Reasoning Development

Richland, L. E., & Burchinal, M. R. (2013). Early Executive Function Predicts Reasoning Development. Psychological Science, 24, 87-92.

New research findings from the University of Chicago and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill demonstrate that children begin to show signs of higher-level thinking skills as early as 4.5 years of age. Using large-scale longitudinal data from the Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development study, the authors examined tests children took at age 4.5, when they were in first grade, third grade, and at age 15. Findings showed a strong relationship between high scores among children who, as preschoolers, had strong vocabularies and were good at monitoring and controlling their responses (executive function) to later ability on tests of understanding analogies. Research suggests that executive function may be trainable through pathways such as preschool curriculum, exercise, and impulse control training.

Neural Activity Tied to Reading Predicts Individual Differences in Extended-Text Comprehension

Mossbridge JA, Grabowecky M, Paller KA and Suzuki S (2013) Neural activity tied to reading predicts individual differences in extended-text comprehension. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience 7:655.
This study looked at whether a reader’s level of comprehension can be quantified with brain imaging technology. Researchers designed an experiment in which participants were asked to read two versions of the same text. One version was an original story; the other was a scrambled version of the text. Both were presented one word at a time on a computer screen. As the subjects read the texts, the researchers used electroencephalography (EEG) to monitor their brain activity. Each subject was then asked to complete a comprehension quiz. The team theorized that in subjects with poor reading comprehension, brain activity should remain largely uniform throughout the test. Conversely, participants with high comprehension should exhibit a surge in activity while reading the original story. Their hypothesis was supported: brain activity could be used to predict comprehension quiz outcomes with almost 90 percent accuracy.

Teachers' Instruction and Students' Vocabulary and Comprehension: An Exploratory Study With English Monolingual and Spanish–English Bilingual Students in Grades 3–5

Silverman, Rebecca D. , Patrick Proctor, C. , Harring, Jeffrey R. , Doyle, Brie , Mitchell, Marisa A. , & Meyer, Anna G. (2013). Teachers' Instruction and Students' Vocabulary and Comprehension: An Exploratory Study With English Monolingual and Spanish–English Bilingual Students in Grades 3–5. Reading Research Quarterly, 49(1), 31–60.

This study explored the relationship between teachers' instruction and students' vocabulary and comprehension in grades 3–5. The secondary aim of this study was to investigate whether this relationship differed for English monolingual and Spanish–English bilingual students. The researchers investigated how the frequency of different types of instruction was associated with change in students' vocabulary and comprehension across the school year. Teachers' instruction related to definitions, word relations, and morphosyntax was positively associated with change in vocabulary; teachers' instruction related to application across contexts and literal comprehension was negatively associated with change in vocabulary; and teachers' instruction related to inferential comprehension was positively associated with change in comprehension. The findings also revealed an interaction between language status and teachers' instruction, such that instruction that attended to comprehension strategies was associated with greater positive change in comprehension for bilingual (but not for monolingual) students.

Repeated Book Reading and Preschoolers' Early Literacy Development

Trivette, C. M., Simkus, A., Dunst, C.J., Hamby, D.W. (2012). Repeated book reading and preschoolers’ early literacy development. CELL reviews, 5 (5).

The effects of repeated book reading on children's early literacy and language development were examined in this meta-analysis of 16 studies including 466 child participants. Results indicated that repeated book reading influenced both story-related vocabulary and story-related comprehension. Findings also showed that the adults' use of manipulatives or illustrations related to the story, positive reinforcement of children's comments, explanation concerning the story when asked, and open-ended questions to prompt child verbal responses were associated with positive child outcomes. Implications for practice are described.

Increasing Young Children's Contact with Print During Shared Reading: Longitudinal Effects on Literacy Achievement

Piasta, S.B., Justice, S. B., Justice, L. M., McGinty, A. S., & Kaderavek, J. N. (2012). Increasing young children's contact with print during shared reading: Longitudinal effects on literacy achievement. Child Development, 83(3), 810-820.

This study examined the impact of Project STAR (Sit Together and Read) on literacy skills of preschool students. Project STAR is a program in which teachers read books aloud to their students and use instructional techniques designed to encourage children to pay attention to print within storybooks. Results of the study indicated a causal relationship between early print knowledge and later literacy skills.

Print Books vs. E-books

Chiong, C., Ree, J., & Takeuchi, L. (2012). Print books vs. e-books. Joan Ganz Cooney Center.

This initial small-scale study explored parent–child interactions as they read print and digital books together. How do adults and children read e-books compared to print books? How might the nature of parent-child conversations differ across platforms? Which design features of e-books appear to support parent-child interaction? Do any features detract from these interactions?

Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten Through 3rd Grade

Shanahan, T., Callison, K., Carriere, C., Duke, N. K., Pearson, P. D., Schatschneider, C., & Torgesen, J. (2010). Improving reading comprehension in kindergarten through 3rd grade: A practice guide (NCEE 2010-4038). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Retrieved from whatworks.ed.gov/publications/practiceguides.

This practice guide focuses on three areas that current research on reading indicates are critical to building a young student's capacity to comprehend what he or she reads: knowledge and abilities required specifically to comprehend text, thinking and reasoning skills, and motivation to understand and work toward academic goals. Five recommendations: (1) Teach students how to use reading comprehension strategies; (2) Teach students to identify and use the text's organizational structure to comprehend, learn, and remember content; (3) Guide students through focused, high-quality discussion on the meaning of text; (4) Select texts purposefully to support comprehension development; and (5) Establish an engaging and motivating context in which to teach reading comprehension.

The Effectiveness of a Program to Accelerate Vocabulary Development in Kindergarten

Goodson, B., Wolf, A., Bell, S., Turner, H., and Finney, P.B. (2010). The Effectiveness of a Program to Accelerate Vocabulary Development in Kindergarten (VOCAB). (NCEE 2010-4014). Washington, DC: National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education.

REL Southeast conducted a randomized control trial in the Mississippi Delta to test the impact of a kindergarten vocabulary instruction program on students' expressive vocabulary — the words students understand well enough to use in speaking. The study found that the 24-week K-PAVE program had a significant positive impact on students' vocabulary development and academic knowledge and on the vocabulary and comprehension support that teachers provided during book read-alouds and other instructional time.

Reading Comprehension Instruction for Students with Learning Disabilities, 1995–2006: A Meta-Analysis

Berkeley, S., Scruggs, T. E., and Mastropieri, M., A. (2010). Reading comprehension instruction for students with learning disabilities. Remedial and Special Education, 31(6), 423-436

This meta-analysis of research conducted between 1995 and 2006 synthesizes findings of 40 studies for improving the reading comprehension of students with learning disabilities. Nearly 2,000 students participated in the interventions, which were classified as fundamental reading instruction, text enhancements, and questioning/strategy instruction (including those that incorporated peer-mediated instruction and self-regulation). Results showed that reading comprehension interventions are generally very effective. Higher outcomes were noted for interventions that were implemented by researchers than those implemented by teachers. Implications for practice and further research are discussed.

Reading as Thinking: Integrating Strategy Instruction in a Universally Designed Digital Literacy Environment

Dalton, B. and Proctor, C. P. (2007). "Reading as thinking: Integrating strategy instruction in a universally designed digital literacy environment." In D.S. McNamara (Ed.), Reading comprehension strategies: Theories, interventions, and technologies (423-442). Mahweh, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishers.

As reading content in a digital format becomes more important, a question emerges: How can digital reading environments be created to support all students? Here Dalton and Proctor discuss the variety of supports that could be included in designing a "Universal Literacy Environment" for students "in the margins." In particular, they focus on how to help build learners' comprehension.

Scaffolding English Language Learners and Struggling Readers in a Universal Literacy Environment with Embedded Strategy Instruction and Vocabulary Support

Proctor, C. P., Dalton, B., and Grisham, D.L. (2007). "Scaffolding English language learners and struggling readers in a universal literacy environment with embedded strategy instruction and vocabulary support." Journal of Literacy Research, 39, 71-93.

Today teachers are charged with including all students in literacy instruction, even those who have previously struggled in traditional school environments. One group that has struggled in the past is English Language Learners (ELLs). Proctor, Dalton, and Grisham discuss a 4-week study that used supported digital text to assist ELLs with reading comprehension. They found that embedding features did help promote learners' use of comprehension strategies.

The Efficacy of Electronic Books in Fostering Kindergarten Children's Emergent Story Understanding

De Jong, M., & Bus, A. (2004). The efficacy of electronic books in fostering kindergarten children's emergent story understanding. Reading Research Quarterly, 39, 378-393.

A counterbalanced, within-subjects design was carried out to study the efficacy of electronic books in fostering kindergarten children's emergent story understanding. The study compared effects of children's independent reading of stories electronically with effects of printed books read aloud by adults. Participants were 18 four- to five-year-old Dutch kindergarten children in the initial stages of developing story comprehension but beyond just responding to pictures.
Electronic reading produced experiences and effects similar to adult-read printed books. Children frequently interacted with the animations often embedded in electronic stories, but there was no evidence that the animations distracted children from listening to the text presented by electronic books, nor that the animations interfered with story understanding. Findings suggested that children at this stage of development profited from electronic books at least when electronic books are read in a context where adults also read books to children.

Procedural Facilitators and Cognitive Strategies:Tools for Unraveling the Mysteries of Comprehension and the Writing Process, and for Providing Meaningful Access to the General Curriculum

Baker, S., Gersten, R., & Scanlon, D. (2002). Procedural Facilitators and Cognitive Strategies: Tools for Unraveling the Mysteries of Comprehension and the Writing Process, and for Providing Meaningful Access to the General Curriculum. Learning Disabilities Research and Practice, 17, 65-77.

A solid, emerging research base exists to inform how we provide meaningful access to the general education curriculum for students with learning disabilities. For example, the presentation of challenging content to academically diverse learners can be demystified using content enhancement techniques. Additionally, a range of strategies can be taught to enhance reading comprehension and expressive writing abilities. Examples from several lines of research in comprehension and writing are used to highlight the underlying features of these empirically based approaches and to introduce the reader to the history of this expanding body of research.

Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension

Duke, N. K., & Pearson, P. (2002). Effective Practices for Developing Reading Comprehension. In Alan E. Farstrup & S. Jay Samuels (Eds.), What Research Has to Say About Reading Instruction (3rd ed., pp. 205-242). Newark, DE: International Reading Association, Inc.

This research article summarizes much of the research about reading comprehension and what good readers do when they read. While the article does not specify that it is intended for adults and draws from research in the K-12 field, it has the potential to be useful to adult educators. The article makes a strong case for balanced comprehension instruction (explicit instruction and time to practice) and the need for a classroom that supports reading, provides real texts, provides a range of different genres, and provides an environment rich in language experiences including discussion about words and their meanings and text (meaning and interpretation).

Comprehension Instruction: What Makes Sense Now, What Might Make Sense Soon

Pressley, M. (2001, September). Comprehension instruction: What makes sense now, what might make sense soon. Reading Online, 5 (2).

This article summarizes a variety of well-validated ways to increase comprehension skills in students through instruction, as well as new hypotheses about effective comprehension instruction. Although too little comprehension instruction is now occurring in schools, much is known that would enable such teaching to be done with confidence. More will be known as emerging issues, such as early teaching of comprehension skills, background knowledge, and use of diverse texts, are explored and evaluated in the years ahead.

Questioning the Author: A Yearlong Classroom Implementation to Engage Students with Text

Beck, I.L., McKeown, M.G., Sandora, C., Kucan, L., & Worthy, J. (1996). Questioning the author: A yearlong classroom implementation to engage students with text. Elementary School Journal, 96, 385-414.

This article describes the development and implementation of Questioning the Author, an instructional intervention that focuses on having students grapple with and reflect on what an author is trying to say in order to build a representation from it. The implementation involved a social studies teacher, a reading/language arts teacher, and their 23 inner city fourth-grade students in a small parochial school. Analyses of transcripts of videotaped lessons and classroom observations revealed that teacher talk decreased in quantity and increased in quality with more emphasis on questions focused on constructing and extending meaning and more skill in refining and using students' comments in discussion. Changes in the content of student talk were also documented. These included an increase in the number and complexity of student-initiated questions and evidence of the development of student collaboration. Teachers' journal entries and students' responses in interviews provided insights about their views of the implementation.

K-W-L: A Teaching Model That Develops Active Reading of Expository Text

Ogle, D. (1986). K-W-L: A teaching model that develops active reading of expository text. The Reading Teacher, 39, 564-570.

This simple procedure helps teachers become more responsive to students' knowledge and interests when reading expository material, and it models for students the active thinking involved in reading for information.

Repeated Reading and Reading Fluency in Learning Disabled Children

Rashotte, C. & Torgesen, J. (1985). Repeated reading and reading fluency in learning disabled children. Reading Research Quarterly, 20, 180-188.

This study investigated whether improved fluency and comprehension across different stories in repeated reading depend on the degree of word overlap among passages and whether repeated reading is more effective than an equivalent amount of nonrepetitive reading. Non-fluent, learning disabled students read passages presented and timed by a computer under three different conditions. Results suggest that over short periods of time, increases in reading speed with the repeated reading method depend on the amount of shared words among stories, and that if stories have few shared words, repeated reading is not more effective for improving speed than an equivalent amount of nonrepetitive reading.

A Schema-Theoretic View of Basic Processes in Reading

Anderson, R.C., & Pearson, P.D. (1984). A schema-theoretic view of basic processes in reading. In P.D. Pearson (Ed.), Handbook of Reading Research (pp.255-291). New York: Longman.

To characterize basic processes of reading comprehension, this report focuses on how the reader's schemata, or knowledge already stored in memory, function in the process of interpreting new information and allowing it to enter and become a part of the knowledge store. The paper first traces the historical antecedents of schema theory, then outlines its basic elements, pointing out problems with current realizations of the theory and possible solutions. Following a consideration of the interplay between the abstracted knowledge embodied in schemata and memory for particular examples, it "decomposes" the comprehension process in order to examine components of encoding (attention, instantiation, and inference) and retrieval (retrieval plans, editing and summarizing, and reconstructive processes). In conclusion, the paper evaluates the contributions of schema theory to the understanding of the comprehension process and speculates on the directions future research should take.

Reciprocal Teaching of Comprehension-Fostering and Comprehension-Monitoring Activities

Palincsar, A.S., & Brown, A.L. (1984). Reciprocal teaching of comprehension-fostering and comprehension-monitoring activities. Cognition and Instruction, 2, 117-175.

In these two studies, 7th graders with low reading comprehension were taught four study activities: summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting. Instruction was by reciprocal teaching, where an adult tutor and children alternately discussed the text. In Study 1, a comparison between the reciprocal
teaching method and a second intervention modeled on typical classroom practice resulted in greater gains and maintenance over time for the reciprocal procedure. Reciprocal teaching, with an adult model guiding the student to interact with the text in more sophisticated ways, led to a significant improvement
in the quality of the summaries and questions. It also led to sizable gains on criterion tests of comprehension, reliable maintenance over time, generalization to classroom comprehension tests, transfer to novel tasks that tapped the trained skills of summarizing, questioning, and clarifying, and improvement in standardized comprehension scores. Many of these results were replicated in Study 2. In contrast to Study 1, which was conducted by an experimenter, Study 2 examined group interventions conducted by volunteer teachers with their existing reading groups.

QAR: Enhancing Comprehension and Test Taking Across Grades and Content Areas

Raphael, T.E., & Au, K.H. (2005). QAR: Enhancing comprehension and test taking across grades and content areas. The Reading Teacher, 59, 206-221.

The authors describe how Question Answer Relationships (QAR) can provide a framework for comprehension instruction with the potential of closing the literacy achievement gap. The vocabulary of QAR — In the Book, In My Head, Right There, Think & Search, Author & Me, and On My Own — gives teachers and students a language for talking about the largely invisible processes that constitute listening and reading comprehension across grades and subject areas. Students recognize that they must first consider the question before developing an answer.

Realizing That You Don't Understand: Elementary School Children's Awareness of Inconsistencies

Markman, E.M. (1979). Realizing that you don't understand: Elementary school children's awareness of inconsistencies. Child Development, 48, 643-655.

These studies investigated elementary school children's awareness of their own comprehension failure when presented with inconsistent information. Study 1 showed that children were more likely to notice explicit than implicit contradictions. However, even 12-year-olds judged as comprehensible a sizable proportion of essays with seemingly obvious inconsistencies. Yet, the children had good probed recall of the information, the logical capacity to draw the inferences, and were not generally reluctant to question the experimenter. In subsequent studies children were (a) asked to repeat sentences in order to guarantee that the two inconsistent propositions were concurrently activated in working memory, and (b) warned about the existence of a problem in order to promote more careful evaluation. Taken together, the results suggest that to notice inconsistencies children have to encode and store the information, draw the relevant inferences, retrieve and maintain the (inferred) propositions in working memory, and compare them. Third through sixth graders do not spontaneously carry out those processes that they are capable of carrying out.

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"Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them." — Lemony Snicket