Applying Literature Vocabulary to Increase Reading Comprehension, Krystle Williams

Area of focus statement

The purpose of this study is to strengthen reading comprehension and critical thinking skills through explicit instruction of how to answer reading comprehension questions. Students in seventh grade struggle to apply their literature vocabulary knowledge to questions and this study seeks to determine if explicitly teaching students strategies to answer specific questions types will increase their reading comprehension and critical thinking skills.

Context of study

I am a seventh grade English Language Arts teacher and have been teaching for six years in rural Gates County, North Carolina. My school is the only middle school in the county and has approximately 400 students. I have been teaching seventh grade and the seventh grade inclusion class since the beginning of my teaching career. During the 2014-2015 school year, I taught inclusion, regular, and honors for the first time and used one class of each (a total of 39 students) to complete this research project. I teach a diverse population of students who require many different accommodations to meet their learning needs, but being from a rural area we are disadvantaged to having many resources available to us.

Purpose of the project

What I hoped to accomplish

From this research project, my goal was to help my students take the knowledge they have of literature vocabulary and apply it to comprehension questions as a way to increase their overall reading comprehension. Over the years, I have noticed that my students knew their literature vocabulary, but did not know how to apply it to questions, often becoming confused by the wording and in turn getting the answers wrong. By providing them with strategies to apply to these questions, I hoped to see an improvement in understanding of what was being asked and growth on standardized reading comprehension assessments.


Since students struggle to apply literature vocabulary knowledge to questions, which in turn affects their performance on reading comprehension standardized tests, this intervention is important. I want to strengthen the reading comprehension of students through explicit instruction of how to apply literature vocabulary knowledge to reading comprehension questions by explicitly teaching how to answer specific question types and providing modeling and independent practice. Not only does giving students strategies to use when applying their literary knowledge to questions aide in improving reading comprehension, but students also learn strategies they can apply to other questions, and within other content areas to improve comprehension.

The activity

To produce the desired change, I did the following:
  • Determined which standards students were weakest in using a pre-assessment.
  • Used a pre/post quiz to monitor growth of each standard.
  • Designed explicit instruction that focused on question stems within each standard and taught students to apply literature vocabulary knowledge to the questions.
  • Scaffolded instruction by using close notes for direct instruction, practicing learned skills through independent activities, and the use of class reading to tie learned skills into a culminating group folder activity designed for students to practice the learned strategy.

Problem of practice questions

  1. Can reading comprehension be strengthened by teaching students how to answer comprehension questions?
  2. Can explicitly teaching students to apply their literature vocabulary knowledge increase students’ abilities to answer comprehension questions?
  3. Does explicit instruction in applying literature vocabulary knowledge to questions improve student’s feelings towards standardized testing?