“Jigsaw” is a peer learning procedure derived from social interdependence theory, which suggests that individuals positively linked by a common goal can benefit from positive and promotive social interactions (Aronson & Patnoe, 2011). Although jigsaw has often been presented as an efficient way to promote learning, empirical research testing its effect on learning remains relatively scarce. The goal of the present research is to test the hypothesis that a jigsaw intervention would yield a meaningful effect size (d = .40) on learning outcomes, in 5 randomized experiments conducted among sixth-graders. The jigsaw intervention was compared to an “individualistic” or a “teaching as usual” approach on the same pedagogical content. Across the 5 experiments, we did not find empirical support for this hypothesis. Internal meta-analytic estimates showed that, overall, the jigsaw intervention did not produce the expected positive effects on learning. The reasons why jigsaw classrooms may not always prove beneficial for learning are discussed.
Do jigsaw classrooms improve learning outcomes? Five experiments and an internal meta-analysis.
Stanczak, A., Darnon, C., Robert, A., Demolliens, M., Sanrey, C., Bressoux, P., Huguet, P., Buchs, C., Butera, F., & PROFAN Consortium. (2022). Do jigsaw classrooms improve learning outcomes? Five experiments and an internal meta-analysis. Journal of Educational Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1037/edu0000730
What Does “Below Basic” Mean on NAEP Reading?
White TG, Sabatini JP, White S. What Does “Below Basic” Mean on NAEP Reading? Educational Researcher. September 2021. doi:10.3102/0013189X211044144
The fourth-grade 2019 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Reading assessment shows that 34% of the nation’s students perform below the NAEP Basic level. However, because there is no achievement-level description for below Basic, educators and policymakers lack information on the nature of the reading difficulties that these students face. To help fill this gap, we analyze data from the 2018 NAEP Oral Reading Fluency study. We find that, compared with students who perform at the NAEP Basic level and above, students who perform below NAEP Basic level are much more likely to have poor oral reading fluency and word reading skills.
An Examination of Low-Level Questions in Informational Read Alouds
Elizabeth Hale and James S. Kim, Providing Platforms: An Examination of Low-Level Questions in Informational Read Alouds, The Elementary School Journal 120, no. 4 (June 2020): 555-579. https://doi.org/10.1086/708665
This study examined teachers’ spontaneous low-level comprehension questions in script-supported informational read alouds, with a secondary analysis on the relationship between low- and high-level comprehension questions. Participants included 34 teachers and 824 third-grade students. Results revealed notable variation in the type and function of low-level questions, with some offering support for high-level questions or content learning. Although the predominance of low-level questioning patterns continues to be a challenge in many elementary classrooms, this study’s findings suggest some low-level questions play important, complementary functions in text discussions, particularly with informational text.
Near- and far-transfer effects of an executive function intervention for 2nd to 5th-grade struggling readers
Kelly B. Cartwright et al. Near- and far-transfer effects of an executive function intervention for 2nd to 5th-grade struggling readers. Cognitive Development, October-December 2020. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cogdev.2020.100932
Executive function intervention improves cognitive flexibility and reading comprehension for struggling readers. This study assessed the impact of a teacher-delivered, small-group reading-specific executive function (EF) intervention on reading performance in a sample of 57 teacher-identified struggling readers in 2nd to 5th grades at a public elementary school in the Mid-Atlantic U.S. The reading-specific EF intervention produced medium to large effects on reading-specific and domain-general EF skills as well as on reading comprehension tests.
The Effects of Writing on Learning in Science, Social Studies, and Mathematics: A Meta-Analysis
Steve Graham, Sharlene A. Kiuhara, and Meade MacKay. The Effects of Writing on Learning in Science, Social Studies, and Mathematics: A Meta-Analysis. March 2020. Review of Educational Research 90 (2), pages 179-226. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654320914744
This meta-analysis examined if students writing about content material in science, social studies, and mathematics facilitated learning. Studies in this review were conducted with students in Grades 1 to 12 in which the writing-to-learn activity was part of instruction. As predicted, writing about content reliably enhanced learning (effect size = 0.30). It was equally effective at improving learning in science, social studies, and mathematics as well as the learning of elementary, middle, and high school students. Writing-to-learn effects were not moderated by the features of writing activities, instruction, or assessment. Furthermore, variability in obtained effects were not related to features of study quality. Directions for future research and implications for practice are provided.
Building Content Knowledge to Boost Comprehension in the Primary Grades
Cabell, S.Q., & Hwang, H.J. (2020). Building content knowledge to boost comprehension in the primary grades. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(1), 99-107.
The potential of background knowledge to support linguistic and reading comprehension has been a relatively neglected topic in the science of reading. The authors clarify why knowledge building in English language arts instruction (i.e., content‐rich instruction) can support language and content knowledge, leading to better linguistic and reading comprehension, based on theoretical arguments and empirical studies. The authors review the evidence on this claim, paying special attention to experimental trials conducted in K–2 settings. The authors also share preliminary findings from a novel intervention study testing the example of a widely used content‐rich English language arts curriculum. While a growing literature base demonstrates evidence of promise, additional rigorous trials are needed to examine the effectiveness of this integrative approach to teaching reading for understanding.
Beyond Decoding: A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Language Comprehension Interventions on K–5 Students’ Language and Literacy Outcomes
Silverman, R.D., Johnson, E.M., Keane, K., & Khanna, S. (2020). Beyond Decoding: A Meta-Analysis of the Effects of Language Comprehension Interventions on K–5 Students’ Language and Literacy Outcomes. Reading Research Quarterly, 55(S1), S207– S233. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.346
The debate over the science of reading has focused primarily on decoding (i.e., connecting letters and sounds to read words) and whether to use phonics to teach it. However, research on reading has included much more than decoding. Language comprehension, which allows readers to derive meaning from text, is an equally critical component of reading. Research has suggested that explicit instruction on the components of language comprehension—vocabulary and semantics, morphology, and syntax—can support language and reading comprehension. To inform the field on the science of reading as it pertains to language comprehension, in this meta-analysis of recent language comprehension interventions (n = 43) in U.S. elementary schools, the authors examined whether effects vary depending on participant and intervention characteristics. Findings suggest positive effects on custom measures of vocabulary, listening comprehension, and reading comprehension but not on standardized measures of these outcomes. Results also indicate positive effects for English learners and promise for multicomponent interventions and those that include technology. Much more research is needed on how best to support language comprehension for underserved populations (e.g., students from low-income backgrounds) and how interventions can be optimized to support generalizable language and literacy outcomes. Implications for policy and practice are discussed.
Beyond the Simple View of Reading: The Role of Executive Functions in Emergent Bilinguals’ and English Monolinguals’ Reading Comprehension
Barber, A.T., Cartwright, K.B., Hancock, G.R., and Klauda, S.L. (2021). Beyond the Simple View of Reading: The Role of Executive Functions in Emergent Bilinguals’ and English Monolinguals’ Reading Comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 56(S1), S45– S64. https://doi.org/10.1002/rrq.385
The simple view of reading describes reading as the product of decoding (D) and listening comprehension (LC). However, the simple view of reading has been challenged, and evidence has proved it to be too simple to explain the complexities of reading comprehension in the elementary school years. Hypotheses have been advanced that there are cognitive-linguistic factors that underlie the common variance between D and LC, which are malleable, although there is no clarity at this point regarding what these are. We propose that one such group of malleable cognitive factors is executive function (EF) skills. Further, we posit that EF skills play equally strong roles in explaining reading comprehension variance in emergent bilinguals and English monolinguals. In this study, results show that the indirect effect of cognitive flexibility through LC on reading comprehension was considerably larger for emergent bilinguals than for English monolinguals. Considerations for a more nuanced view of the simple view of reading and its implications for practice are discussed.
The Problem with Finding the Main Idea
The Problem with Finding the Main Idea (January 2019). Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy and Learning First.
This report shows how systemic assessments of student learning that isolate skills like “finding the main idea” encourage teachers to place an unhelpful emphasis on the teaching of these “skills”. Drawing on examples from the United States, the report explains why this approach fails to lead to improvements in student learning. Nevertheless, student assessment can be both aligned with high standards and help to encourage the kinds of effective teaching practice that support student learning. The report concludes by suggesting what a more productive approach to curriculum-aligned student assessment would look like.
Teachers’ use of questions during shared book reading: Relations to child responses
This study examined the extent to which preschool teachers used different types of questions during classroom-based shared book reading. The goals were to describe the question wording teachers use to elicit child responses and to consider sequential relations between types of question wording and student responses. Only 24 percent of what teachers said outside of reading the text were questions – and those that they did ask were usually too simple. Most teacher questions were easy for children to answer accurately or with a single word, indicating that teachers are not adjusting their questioning techniques to a level of challenge that is just above children’s overall level of mastery. Important implications of these findings are discussed for educators as well as curriculum developers.
Reading from paper compared to screens: A systematic review and meta‐analysis
Clinton, V. Reading from paper compared to screens: A systematic review and meta‐analysis. Journal of Research in Reading, 13 January 2019.
The purpose of this systematic review and meta‐analysis is to consolidate the findings on reading performance, reading times and calibration of performance (metacognition) between reading text from paper compared to screens. Based on random effects models, reading from screens had a negative effect on reading performance relative to paper. Based on moderator analyses, this may have been limited to expository texts as there was no difference with narrative texts. The findings were similar when analysing literal and inferential reading performance separately. No reliable differences were found for reading time. Readers had better calibrated (more accurate) judgement of their performance from paper compared to screens.
How Much Knowledge Is Too Little? When a Lack of Knowledge Becomes a Barrier to Comprehension
Tenaha O’Reilly, Zuowei Wang, John Sabatini. How Much Knowledge Is Too Little? When a Lack of Knowledge Becomes a Barrier to Comprehension. Psychological Science, 2019; 095679761986227 DOI: 10.1177/0956797619862276
Previous research has shown that students who lack sufficient reading skills, including decoding and vocabulary, fare poorly relative to their peers. However, this study suggests that a knowledge threshold may also be an essential component of reading comprehension. A sample of students took a background-knowledge test before working on a reading-comprehension test on the topic of ecology. Results revealed a knowledge threshold: Below the threshold, the relationship between comprehension and knowledge was weak, but above the threshold, a strong and positive relation emerged. Further analyses indicated that certain topically relevant words (e.g., ecosystem, habitat) were more important to know than others when predicting the threshold, and these keywords could be identified using natural-language-processing techniques. The findings underscore the importance of having reached a basic knowledge level to be able to read and comprehend texts across different subjects:
Self-regulation and the development of literacy and language achievement from preschool through second grade
Lori E. Skibbe, Janelle J. Montroy, Ryan P. Bowels, and Frederick J. Morrison. Self-regulation and the development of literacy and language achievement from preschool through second grade. Early Childhood Research Quarterly (April 2018). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2018.02.005
This study found that children who demonstrated self-regulation earlier had higher language and literacy skills throughout preschool to second grade. More specifically, earlier self-regulation trajectories were associated with both higher levels and earlier development of both decoding and reading comprehension, but not faster development. Children with early self-regulation trajectories developed phonological awareness earlier than those with late self-regulation trajectories. Finally, children with early self-regulation trajectories had higher levels of vocabulary than children with intermediate trajectories, but did not differ on the rate or timing of vocabulary development. Findings point to the enduring and interconnected nature of self-regulation and children’s language and literacy development.
Reading and Writing Instruction in America’s Schools
David Griffith and Ann Duffett. Reading and Writing Instruction in America’s Schools (July 2018). Washington, DC: Thomas B. Fordham Institute.
This nationally representative survey of some 1,200 teachers looks at whether the Common Core State Standards have improved reading and writing instruction, eight years after implementation. Results indicate that the Common Core State Standards have encouraged a number of big changes, including a shift to more complex texts, particularly nonfiction, and content-rich curriculum. The standards are more rigorous, but can present challenges for teachers, particularly the tenet of having students of all reading abilities grapple with grade-level texts.
Structured Literacy and Typical Literacy Practices: Understanding Differences to Create Instructional Opportunities
Swerling, Louise Spear. Structured Literacy and Typical Literacy Practices: Understanding Differences to Create Instructional Opportunities (January 23, 2018). Teaching Exceptional Children: Volume: 51 issue: 3, page(s): 201-211. https://doi.org/10.1177/0040059917750160
A key feature of structured literacy (SL) includes, “explicit, systematic, and sequential teaching of literacy at multiple levels — phonemes, letter–sound relationships, syllable patterns, morphemes, vocabulary, sentence structure, paragraph structure, and text structure. SL is especially well suited to students with dyslexia because it directly addresses their core weaknesses in phonological skills, decoding, and spelling. If implemented in Tier 1 instruction and tiered interventions, SL practices may also prevent or ameliorate a wide range of other reading difficulties.
Ending the Reading Wars: Reading Acquisition From Novice to Expert
Castles, A., Rastle, K., & Nation, K. (2018). Ending the Reading Wars: Reading Acquisition From Novice to Expert. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 19(1), 5–51. https://doi.org/10.1177/1529100618772271
A comprehensive tutorial review of the science of learning to read, spanning from children’s earliest alphabetic skills through to the fluent word recognition and skilled text comprehension characteristic of expert readers. The authors explain why phonics instruction is so central to learning in a writing system such as English. They also review the research on what else children need to learn to become expert readers and considering how this might be translated into effective classroom practice. The authors call for an end to the reading wars and recommend an agenda for instruction and research in reading acquisition that is balanced, developmentally informed, and based on a deep understanding of how language and writing systems work.
The effects of dyad reading and text difficulty on third-graders’ reading achievement
Lisa Trottier Brown, Kathleen A. J. Mohr, Bradley R. Wilcox & Tyson S. Barrett (2017): The effects of dyad reading and text difficulty on third-graders’ reading achievement, The Journal of Educational Research, DOI: 10.1080/00220671.2017.1310711
This study replicated, with modifications, previous research of dyad reading using texts at various levels of difficulty (Morgan, 1997). The current project measured the effects of using above-grade-level texts on reading achievement and sought to determine the influences of dyad reading on both lead and assisted readers. Results indicate that weaker readers, using texts at two, three, and four grade levels above their instructional levels with the assistance of lead readers, outscored both proficient and less proficient students in the control group across multiple measures of reading achievement. However, the gains made by assisted readers were not significantly different relative to the various text levels. When all assessments were considered, assisted readers reading texts two grade levels above their instructional levels showed the most robust gains in oral reading fluency and comprehension. Lead readers also benefited from dyad reading and continued their respective reading developmental trajectories across measures.
An Investigation of the Role of Sequencing in Children’s Reading Comprehension
Gouldthorp, Bethanie & Katsipis, Lia & Mueller, Cara. (2017). An Investigation of the Role of Sequencing in Children's Reading Comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly 53 (1), p91-106.
The study aimed to investigate whether children with high, compared with low, reading comprehension differ in their sequencing skill, which was defined as the ability to identify and recall the temporal order of events in narratives. A novel age-appropriate reading and recall measure was developed to assess sequencing in typically developing primary school students. Sixty-four students between the ages of 8 and 11 years read short narratives containing either a forward or backward temporal shift and then placed a set of cards depicting the scenario in either picture or text format in the correct chronological order that the events occurred. Participants also completed measures of verbal and visuospatial working memory to investigate potential relations between working memory and sequencing ability. High comprehenders were found to produce more accurate sequences than low comprehenders in all conditions of the sequencing task, suggesting that sequencing ability may be important for facilitating comprehension. Additionally, participants produced more accurate sequences in the forward condition than the backward condition, indicating that sequencing is facilitated by chronological presentation of events in text. Measures of working memory were unrelated to sequencing ability or comprehension. The results of this study provide preliminary evidence that sequencing is an important skill for children's comprehension of narrative texts and have implications for reading education and intervention programs.
The Right Tool for the Job: Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom
Melody Arabo, Jonathan Budd, Shannon Garrison, and Tabitha Pacheco (March 2017). The Right Tool for the Job Improving Reading and Writing in the Classroom. Washington, DC: The Thomas Fordham Institute.
This report presents in-depth reviews of nine promising online reading and writing tools for ELA classrooms. Overall, reviewers found these new resources mostly reflect the instructional shifts called for by Common Core (such as including a balance of text types and text-dependent questions for reading and writing). They also lauded the innovative nature and usefulness of text sets as instructional tools, as well as online resources’ student assessment and data reporting capabilities. However, our reviewers cite a lack of information regarding accessibility and accommodations for students with learning disabilities.
Comparing and validating methods of reading instruction using behavioural and neural findings in an artificial orthography
Taylor, Joanne; Davis, Matthew; Rastle, Kathleen. Comparing and validating methods of reading instruction using behavioural and neural findings in an artificial orthography (April 20, 2017) Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
This study showed that learning to read by sounding out words (a teaching method known as phonics) has a dramatic impact on the accuracy of reading aloud and comprehension. Researchers tested whether learning to read by sounding out words is more effective than focusing on whole-word meanings. In order to assess the effectiveness of using phonics the researchers trained adults to read in a new language, printed in unfamiliar symbols, and then measured their learning with reading tests and brain scans. The results were striking; people who had focused on the meanings of the new words were much less accurate in reading aloud and comprehension than those who had used phonics, and the MRI scans revealed that their brains had to work harder to decipher what they were reading. Results suggest that early literacy education should focus on the systematicities present in print-to-sound relationships in alphabetic languages, rather than teaching meaning-based strategies, in order to enhance both reading aloud and comprehension of written words.
Web-Based Text Structure Strategy Instruction Improves Seventh Graders' Content Area Reading Comprehension
Reading comprehension in the content areas is a challenge for many middle grade students. Text structure-based instruction has yielded positive outcomes in reading comprehension at all grade levels in small and large studies. The text structure strategy delivered via the web, called Intelligent Tutoring System for the Text Structure Strategy (ITSS), has proven successful in large-scale studies at 4th and 5th grades and a smaller study at 7th grade. Text structure-based instruction focuses on selection and encoding of strategic memory. This strategic memory proves to be an effective springboard for many comprehension-based activities such as summarizing, inferring, elaborating, and applying. Results from this study showed that ITSS classrooms outperformed the control classrooms on all measures with the highest effects reported for number of ideas included in the main idea. Results have practical implications for classroom practices.
Improving Content Area Reading Comprehension of Spanish Speaking English Learners in Grades 4 and 5 Using Web-based Text Structure Instruction
The text structure strategy has shown positive results on comprehension outcomes in many research studies with students at Grades 2, 4, 5, and 7. This study is the first implementation of instruction about the text structure strategy expressly designed to accommodate the linguistic and comprehension needs of Spanish speaking ELs in Grades 4 and 5. Strategy instruction on the web for English learners (SWELL) was designed to deliver instruction about the text structure strategy to Spanish speaker English learners. Results show moderate to large-effects favoring the students in the SWELL classrooms over the control classrooms on important measures such as a standardized reading comprehension test and main idea and cloze tasks. This research has practical implications for the use of web-based tools to provide high-quality and supportive instruction to improve Spanish speaking ELs reading comprehension skills.
From word reading to multisentence comprehension: Improvements in brain activity in children with autism after reading intervention
Murdaugh, D. L., Deshpande, H. D., & Kana, R. K. (2017). From word reading to multisentence comprehension: Improvements in brain activity in children with autism after reading intervention. Neuroimage, 16, 303-312. doi:10.1002/aur.1503
Children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) show a unique reading profile characterized by decoding abilities equivalent to verbal abilities, but with lower comprehension skills. The purpose of this study was to assess brain changes associated with an intense reading intervention program in children with ASD using three reading tasks: word, sentence, and multisentence processing, each with differential demands of reading comprehension. Our results provide evidence for differential recruitment of brain regions based on task demands, and support the potential of targeted interventions to alter brain activation in response to positive gains in treatment. Children with ASD have a different reading profile from other reading disorders that needs to be specifically targeted in interventions.
Job One: Build Knowledge. ESSA Creates an Opportunity— and an Obligation — to Help Every Child Become a Strong Reader
Hansel, L., Pondiscio, R. (May 2016) Job One: Build Knowledge. ESSA Creates an Opportunity— and an Obligation — to Help Every Child Become a Strong Reader. Knowledge Matters, Issue Brief #4.
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), policymakers have the flexibility to incentivize districts and schools to make long-term investments in building students’ knowledge and vocabulary. This brief offers seven flexible, adaptable recommendations that will lead to better reading comprehension. With ESSA, states have the flexibility to rethink how reading test results are used, and to support schools in developing children with both strong word-reading skills (e.g., decoding) and a substantial foundation of academic knowledge and vocabulary. Given the large knowledge and vocabulary gaps that already exist when children enter school, systematically building skills, knowledge, and vocabulary throughout the elementary grades is our best hope for closing the reading achievement gap.
Knowledge and Practice: The Real Keys to Critical Thinking
Willingham, D. (May 2016). Knowledge and Practice: The Real Keys to Critical Thinking. Knowledge Matters, Issue Brief #1.
A strong body of evidence shows that analysis requires deep knowledge of the topic, and therefore critical thinking can’t be reduced to a set of skills and strategies. In short, to “think like a scientist,” a student must know the facts, concepts, and procedures that a scientist knows. Background knowledge is absolutely integral to effectively deploying important cognitive processes. What this means for teachers: (1) facts should be meaningful; (2) knowledge acquisition can be incidental; and (3) knowledge learning should start early.
How Listening Drives Improvement in Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension
Kylie Flynn, Bryan Matlen, Sara Atienza, and Steven Schneider. How Listening Drives Improvement in Vocabulary and Reading Comprehension: A Study of Promise Using Tales2Go (March 2016). San Francisco: WestEd.
WestEd, an educational research nonprofit, conducted this study on the use of audio books in a San Francisco Bay area school district. Students using Tales2go audio books attained 58% of the annual expected gain in reading achievement in just ten weeks, putting them three months ahead of control students. The increase in annual gain corresponds to a 33% improvement in the rate of learning for the period. The study evaluated the effect of just listening (i.e., no paired text). The treatment group outperformed the control group across all measures, by 3.0x in reading comprehension, nearly 7.0x in 2nd grade vocabulary, and nearly 4.0x in reading motivation. Greater impact on reading achievement is possible if Tales2go is used on a regular basis, both in a classroom literacy rotation and at home.
Early-adolescents’ reading comprehension and the stability of the middle school classroom-language environment
Gámez, P. B., & Lesaux, N. K. (2015). Early-adolescents’ reading comprehension and the stability of the middle school classroom-language environment. Developmental Psychology, 51(4), 447–458. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0038868
This study examined teachers’ language use across the school year in 6th grade urban middle-school classrooms (n = 24) and investigated the influence of this classroom-based linguistic input on the reading comprehension skills of the students (n = 851; 599 language minority learners and 252 English-only) in the participating classrooms. Analysis of speech transcripts revealed substantial variability in teachers’ use of sophisticated vocabulary and total amount of talk and that individual teacher’s language use was consistent across the school year. Analyses showed that when controlling for students’ reading comprehension and vocabulary knowledge at the start of the year, teachers’ use of sophisticated vocabulary was significantly related to students’ reading comprehension outcomes, as was the time spent on vocabulary instruction. These findings suggest that the middle school classroom language environment plays a significant role in the reading comprehension of adolescent learners.
Mobilizing Volunteer Tutors to Improve Student Literacy: Implementation, Impacts, and Costs of the Reading Partners Program
Jacob, R.T., Armstrong, C., and Willard, J.A. Mobilizing Volunteer Tutors to Improve Student Literacy: Implementation, Impacts, and Costs of the Reading Partners Program (March 2015) New York, NY: MDRC.
This study reports on an evaluation of the Reading Partners program, which uses community volunteers to provide one-on-one tutoring to struggling readers in underresourced elementary schools. The study showed that after one year of implementation, the program significantly boosted students' reading comprehension, fluency, and sight-word reading — three measures of reading proficiency. These impacts are equivalent to approximately one and a half to two months of additional growth in reading proficiency among the program group relative to the control group.
Home Reading Environment and Brain Activation in Preschool Children Listening to Stories
John S. Hutton, Tzipi Horowitz-Kraus, Alan L. Mendelsohn, Tom DeWitt, Scott K. Holland. Home Reading Environment and Brain Activation in Preschool Children Listening to Stories, , August 10, 2015. doi: 10.1542/peds.2015-0359
Functional magnetic resonance imaging was used to study brain activity in 3-to 5-year-old children as they listened to age-appropriate stories. The researchers found differences in brain activation according to how much the children had been read to at home. Children whose parents reported more reading at home and more books in the home showed significantly greater activation of brain areas in a region of the left hemisphere called the parietal-temporal-occipital association cortex. This brain area supports mental imagery and narrative comprehension. Children who were exposed to more books and home reading showed significantly more activity in the areas of the brain that process visual association, even though the child was in the scanner just listening to a story and could not see any pictures.
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
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.
Simultaneously Uncovering the Patterns of Brain Regions Involved in Different Story Reading Subprocesses
Wehbe L, Murphy B, Talukdar P, Fyshe A, Ramdas A, et al. (2014) Simultaneously Uncovering the Patterns of Brain Regions Involved in Different Story Reading Subprocesses. PLoS ONE 9(11): e112575. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0112575
Story understanding involves many perceptual and cognitive subprocesses, from perceiving individual words, to parsing sentences, to understanding the relationships among the story characters. In this study, researchers constructed the first integrated computational model of reading, identifying which parts of the brain are active when breaking down sentences, determining the meaning of a text and understanding the relationships between words. Researchers used a functional MRI to document what happened in the brains of participants while they read a chapter from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. This approach is promising for studying individual differences: it can be used to create single subject maps that may potentially be used to measure reading comprehension and diagnose reading disorders.
On the Importance of Listening Comprehension
Hogan TP1, Adlof SM, Alonzo CN. (2014) On the importance of listening comprehension, International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology June 16 (3):199-207.
The simple view of reading highlights the importance of two primary components which account for individual differences in reading comprehension across development: word recognition (i.e., decoding) and listening comprehension. This paper reviews evidence showing that listening comprehension becomes the dominating influence on reading comprehension starting even in the elementary grades. It also highlights a growing number of children who fail to develop adequate reading comprehension skills, primarily due to deficient listening comprehension skills (i.e., poor comprehenders). Finally we discuss key language influences on listening comprehension for consideration during assessment and treatment of reading disabilities.
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
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.
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.
Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge — of Words and the World
E.D. Hirsch, Jr. Reading Comprehension Requires Knowledge — of Words and the World. American Educator (2013) 27, 10-29.
Research indicates that the chief cause of the achievement gap between socioeconomic groups is a language gap. Much work on the subject of language and vocabulary neglects a fundamental element of word acquisition that is so basic as to be almost invisible: The relationship between language and the world knowledge to which language refers is extremely strong — there is evidence that by teaching solid content in reading classes we increase students’ reading comprehension more effectively than by any other method. A good, effective language-arts program that is focused on general knowledge and makes effective use of school time will not only raise reading achievement for all students, it will also narrow the reading gap — and the achievement gap — between groups.
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.
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.
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.
How to get recreational reading to increase reading achievement
Kamil, M. (2008). How to get recreational reading to increase reading achievement. In Y. Kim, V. J. Risko, D. L. Compton, D. K. Dickinson, M. K. Hundley, R. T. Jiménez, & D. Well Rowe (Eds.), 57th Yearbook of the National Reading Conference (pp. 31–40). Oak Creek, WI: National Reading Conference.
The conclusion from these studies is that recreational reading by itself has no effect on reading achievement — teachers and instruction are the critical variables in the relationship of recreational reading to reading ability. The current research provides a strong test of the notion that having students read a lot will produce reading achievement gains. This holds true for the entire range of measures used from alphabetics to comprehension. However, instruction can leverage recreational reading to produce some gains in reading achievement, most notably in fluency and comprehension. When recreational reading is encouraged in the context of improved instruction, there are improvements in fluency and comprehension, although not in vocabulary.
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
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.
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.
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.
Reading Comprehension Instruction for Students With Autism Spectrum Disorders
The authors reviewed studies on teaching reading comprehension to students with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) with a focus on text (academic reading) comprehension and sight word (functional) comprehension. Eleven of 754 studies met the inclusion criteria: participants with ASD, published in English in a peer-reviewed journal, and use of an experimental design. Participants, setting, academic or functional reading comprehension, and instructional methods across studies were summarized and examined. Instructional methods employed were compared to those identified by the National Reading Panel as effective for students without disabilities. Suggestions for future research and practice are discussed.