Reading Comprehension in the Middle Grades
Reading comprehension refers to a complex, active process that incorporates reader-related (linguistic awareness), activity-related (studying for the purpose of keeping information in mind for retrieval in future) and text-related (high-level vocabulary) variables, all of which are correlated in a broader socio-cultural context. However, studies on development of reading comprehension have, thus far, been typified by focus on student traits and/or specified instructional systems (Carnegie Council on Advancing Adolescent Literacy [CCAAL], 2010). This comprehensive literature base clearly demonstrates that oral language proficiency (such as vocabulary, print-independent aspects, and listening comprehension) and decoding abilities (print- dependent aspects) are significantly linked with reading comprehension. This link is proven through strong theoretical as well as practical evidence (Ouellette & Beers, 2010). Furthermore, although decoding abilities continue to account for unique reading comprehension variations, even in cases of adults, oral language proficiencies assume a more predictive role as children mature (Gamez & Lesaux, 2015).
Reading comprehension results from the interaction of a reader's previous knowledge with the tactics and procedures for coordinating it, and with textual information utilized to fulfill text requirements (CCAAL, 2010). This constant reader-text interaction fosters awareness, and enables readers to set up a comprehension strategy on the basis of his/her goals (Echevarria, 2006). Reading comprehension construction denotes the organization of a text's explicit propositions, micro-structure, as well as of the global text, i.e. macro-structure. The construction endorses a representation that supports active adoption of strategies for literal comprehension (Ouellette & Beers, 2010). Comprehending a given text's key idea(s) enables readers to relate textual information to information they already possess. This creates a situational representation in their minds, wherein the interpretations involve their metacognitive control and active work on the text's meaning, through specific approaches (Gayo, Deano, Conde, Ribeiro, Cadime & Alfonso, 2014).
According to theory, reading comprehension may be affected by reading fluency. The reading theory known as Lexical Quality Hypothesis and Automatic Theory (LQHAT) indicates that, if sub-skills processing takes up too much of a reader's attention, most of the reader's intellectual resources are consumed in low-level processing and word decoding. This leaves only some intellectual resources for higher-level skills, such as reading comprehension, interpretation, and information integration. However, if sub-skills processing becomes an automatic process, more attention, and more resources could be available for the higher-level reading components. Therefore, quick and accurate word-reading should logically lead to reading comprehension improvement (Li & Wu, 2015).
Honchell and Pittman, in a 2014 study, attempted to determine how participating in discussions on literature effects struggling readers in middle school. Three primary data sources were used for amassing information: surveys, conversations recorded on audio, and student-made pamphlets. As the research's focus was struggling readers, information on 16 middle-students who struggled with reading was employed, although data was accumulated from all those engaged in the literature discussion groups (LDGs). Data for this study was organized beginning with an initial survey. Any topic noted two or more times in the 3 sources was color-coded; patterns emerging from analysis of each source were identified and analyzed for addressing research question. This study's findings demonstrate that students could better understand text during LDGs when previous information and experiences were used for connecting text with self. Sharing their inferences and connections in the group also assisted in understanding. Both audio-recorded exchanges between students and surveys proved to be particularly useful to the study (Pittman & Honchell, 2014).
While attempting to understand the optimal classroom background to foster reading comprehension for early adolescent language-minority (LM) and English-only (EO) learners, Gamez & Lesaux conducted a study that assessed the impact of one classroom language setting aspect- the teacher's language usage- on reading comprehension improvements over a single school year. The research specifically delved into teachers' language stability (i.e. total quantity of talk and high-level vocabulary usage), and examined vocabulary instruction methods across the academic year. In order to accomplish this, the research made use of a two-step analytic process to address two procedural issues concerned with time. The research findings depicted a positive correlation...
This correlation was in keeping with developmental reading theories that commonly find that comprehension of text largely depends on depth of language comprehension (e.g., vocabulary) employed in that particular text. This implies that reading to comprehend necessitates that readers have knowledge of spelling, word-meanings and pronunciations (i.e., their vocabulary representations' quality). This means that developing a profound word-understanding requires different experiences with different words (e.g., through being acquainted with teachers' high-level vocabulary). Therefore, every student, particularly those who struggle with reading, should regularly stay in touch with a high-quality vocabulary (Gamez & Lesaux, 2015).
In view of the above research findings regarding teachers' stability of language usage, combined with recent study findings that reveal that language use by teachers varies depending on their own language knowledge (Corrigan, 2011), the methods by which teachers can use language to facilitate change should be given crucial empirical consideration. There may, indeed, be numerous possible means and tools for investigations in this regard. These may include working along with teachers to recast and rephrase the teachers' language; as well, developing and adopting schoolroom-based interventions and programs for reading comprehension should increase high-level vocabulary usage in classrooms by teachers and students. Any approach of the two is suitable for empirical research, demonstrating a relationship between student learning and increased classroom time given to discussions. Enhancing schoolroom language complexity could, undeniably, be a highly promising opportunity for strengthening student reading. A new meta-analysis that investigated diverse classroom discussion techniques proved that student engagement in schoolroom discussions, through raising open-ended questions which allow students to give extended replies, furthers text comprehension (Gamez & Lesaux, 2015).
The "Aprender a Compreender" (translated into English as Learning to Understand) initiative was effectual for 5th graders. Post-intervention outcomes portrayed significant differences in comprehension test scores of intervention students, which were initially equal to comparison group scores. This proves that strategic instruction generates sizeable improvements in 5th graders' reading comprehension. In case of 6th graders, both groups showed significant improvements in their post-test scores; however, those participating in the program had differential score increases compared to comparison group. The effect size was large for the intervention group, i.e. their improvement was more pronounced than the comparison group's improvement (Gayo et al. 2014).
Previous findings reveal that morphological (Kieffer, Biancarosa & Mancilla-Martinez, 2013), orthographical, and phonological awareness could impact reading. An extensive literature reservoir can be found on the correlation between word reading and meta-linguistic awareness (Xue. Shu, Li, Li & Tian, 2013) as morphology, phonology, and orthography were taken to be three key lexical components. Normal reading was dependent on activation of word representation for accurate identification of words; therefore, lexical components proved to be essential for reading. Little research has dealt with the association of reading comprehension with metalinguistic awareness, particularly the correlations among reading comprehension, phonological and orthographical awareness. For the Chinese language, reading comprehension is deemed to be a complex, advanced process, which deals with different lexical elements (Li & Wu, 2015).
Honchell and Pittman's post-survey indicated that students valued discussions, as they facilitate understanding of content read. As a matter of fact, when they were asked the reasons for enjoying these literature discussions, several students responded that it helped them understand the text better. Some students responded that discussions helped them discover previously-unknown information, assisted them in clarifying ideas and concepts which were earlier incomprehensible, and enabled them to express their views and ascertain other's views as well. Even those who stated that their reading interests did not change through increased literature discussions, asserted that their understanding and enjoyment in reading enhanced due to an increased comprehension of the books' contents. The adolescents studied showed behavior characteristic of a typical teen. The adolescents enjoyed social interactions with friends; however, discussing text read by them enhanced their understanding of the subject matter, as well as enriching their experience with reading (Pittman & Honchell, 2014).
Thus, research questions identified are:
1. How does the schoolroom language environment relate to reading comprehension improvements in middle school?
2. What link can be found between language usage by teachers and early teens' reading comprehension? Also, does language status lead to any variations in this regard?
Constructivist learning theories are grounded on the assumption that learners fashion meanings out of texts, and integrate newly obtained knowledge into these mental constructs. Constructivism, in the United States (U.S.) and elsewhere, is taught extensively to teachers-in-training as the ideal teaching technique. Constructivists support learning through practical action, and encourage students to develop their knowledge base by themselves. Those who oppose this form of learning include conservative or orthodox parents, policy makers, and some researchers and teachers who, instead, support a more direct method of instruction, wherein teachers directly convey knowledge to students.
Constructivism represents a broad idea, and encompasses numerous theories that all consider students to be active in learning or constructing their knowledge base. Several conceptual perspectives are adopted…
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