Applying Literature Vocabulary to Increase Reading Comprehension, Krystle Williams

Cunningham, J. W., & Moore, D. W. (1993). The contribution of understanding academic vocabulary to answering comprehension
questions. Journal of Reading Behavior, 25(2), 171-180.

What this study was about: This study analyzed test results of 106 fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade students from a rural midwestern elementary school. The study was conducted to determine whether academic vocabulary is a factor in determining students’ reading comprehension performance. Researchers chose two narrative passages from a third-grade basal reader that was unfamiliar to the students. They then developed two sets of comprehension questions, one set contained at least one academic term in each question, and the other contained everyday vocabulary in each question. An informal measure of academic vocabulary was also constructed. All questions were open-ended. Data results suggest, “that academic vocabulary in comprehension questions significantly decreased question-answering performance.” Interesting beliefs of these researchers is that questions affect reading comprehension, and that academic vocabulary poses challenges for students. These are the same beliefs that I have as I prepare to conduct my action research project.

Why this is Relevant to my Study: This article reports that there is a correlation between performance on comprehension questions and academic vocabulary, and that academic vocabulary can pose problems for students. Based on the findings of this study, researchers suggest, “the vocabulary of comprehension questions deserves the attention of practitioners and researchers.” A question is posed at the end of this study, “How do teachers who are sensitive to the demands of academic vocabulary terms present them to student,” and the researchers note multiple times that being able to answer questions affects reading comprehension. Based on this ideas, my research will serve a purpose as I will determine if directly instructing students on how to apply their literature vocabulary knowledge will increase reading comprehension. Also, the study suggests that it is important for teachers to ensure their students understand the academic vocabulary they use in comprehension questions, which is what the intervention portion of my research will be focused. Overall, the data, questions, and beliefs presented in this article directly supports my action research project.

Edwards, S. A., Malov, R. W., & Anderson, G. (2009). Reading coaching for math word problems. Literacy Coaching
Clearinghouse. Retrieved August 1, 2014, from the ERIC database.

What this study was about: This article was written by “a college faculty member who coordinates a literacy tutoring program, and a computer scientist who works on the design of intelligent tutoring systems,” both of whom had former teaching experience. The article focuses on strategies to address the challenges faced by fourth graders when understanding and solving word problems on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), and they note that these strategies can be applied to other grade levels as well when comparing the complexity of questions. The authors note that not much research has been completed on math and literacy learning. They also suggest that students may know how to do the correct math operations, but cannot answer the word problems correctly because they do not comprehend what the questions are asking of them. I found that them modeling and using questions that directly reflect their states test was interesting because this is what I will be doing with the question stems that I use to provide intervention during my research project.

Why this is Relevant to my Study: This article provides strategies to increase comprehension of math word problems (questions) by teaching students how to read and understand the questions “by using novelty, flexibility, and creativity.” Several of the strategies that are used to increase student’s ability to comprehend and correctly answer math word problems are similar to the strategies that I plan on using within my research study on how to increase comprehension through explicitly teaching students to apply their literature vocabulary knowledge to specific ELA question types. For example, in this article it is suggested to teach students math terminology in word problems so that they may understand and recall the terms when answering questions, much like my focus on students being able to apply their literature vocabulary knowledge in ELA. I also plan to incorporate other strategies recommended in this article: substituting information, changing text in questions, and using visuals to answer questions.

Horn, M., & Feng, J. (2012). Effect of focused vocabulary instruction on 7th graders’ reading comprehension. Online submission.
Retrieved August 1, 2014, from the ERIC database.

What this study was about: This study collected pre-test/post-test data from 58 generalized cross-section seventh grade students, who made up two classes (control and experimental). At the beginning of the experiment, researchers determined the Lexile reading level of each student, and collected scores from a teacher-made reading comprehension test to serve as a baseline for comparison between the two groups. The control group received no specific instruction and the experimental group received eight lessons focused on vocabulary. At the end of the study, both groups took the comprehension test as the post-test. The results of the study indicated that direct (focused) vocabulary instruction did not significantly impact reading comprehension or vocabulary acquisition between the two groups. However, the results did indicate that for the experimental group, the vocabulary intervention did impact student growth from pre-test to post-test. The most interesting finding from this study was the significant increase in individual student test scores of the experimental group when compared to the control group.

Why this is Relevant to my Study: This article reports that there was no significant difference in reading comprehension between the control group and the experimental group who received direct vocabulary instruction. The study did, however, identify significant score gains of the students in the experimental group, nearly double what the control group achieved, showing that direct vocabulary instruction did impact the reading comprehension of these students. The significant student growth from the pre-test to the post-test, indicates to me that direct vocabulary instruction did impact students, which is the ultimate goal. This is relevant to my study because my study will consist of seventh grade students and explore how explicit (direct) instruction of how to answer reading comprehension questions by learning to apply their literature vocabulary knowledge will increase reading comprehension. I plan to use a pre-test and post-test to assess my students, but unlike this study, I will use a pre-made test. My study will also be more broad, 60-70+ students, ranging in ability levels (inclusion, regular, above average).

Olvera, G. W., & Walkup, J. R. (2010). Questioning strategies for teaching cognitively rigorous curricula. Online submission.
Retrieved August 1, 2014, from the ERIC database.

What this study was about: This article discusses the four depth-of-knowledge (DOK) levels when addressing multiple cognitive levels at any age level, which is similar to the Revised Bloom’s Taxonomy (RBT) model. The levels include: “DOK-1, recalls facts, information, or procedures; DOK-2, uses information or conceptual knowledge, two or more steps, etc.; DOK-3, requires reasoning, developing a plan or a sequence of steps, involves some complexity, more than one possible answer; DOK-4, requires investigation, time to think, and processing of multiple conditions.” The authors breakdown each level in detail to ensure that teachers understand their role and can successfully serve as facilitators as students learn to be independent, critical thinkers. There are three specific steps that are addressed in order for each of the four DOK levels to be successfully implemented, (1) “ask the entire class the question”, (2) “choose an effective grouping method,” and (3) “choose an adequate wait time.” One interesting idea was that the authors of this article state that in order for students to be ready for the twenty-first century, they must be able to think critically and creatively, and that if teachers learn to facilitate this learning (as through the use of the four DOK levels) then we will be adequately preparing each student.

Why this is Relevant to my Study: This article focuses on suggested grouping and wait time strategies to successfully facilitate learning for students at each DOK level, and is based on the cognitive complexity of each activity. The authors provided specific examples of prompt types that would be appropriate for each level and demonstrated the thought processes that a teacher should employ when deciding on appropriate wait time and grouping strategies, which is very useful as an educator. The strategies presented in this article are relevant to my study because the intervention that I will be implementing during my research study involves explicitly teaching students how to answer different questions. To do this, I will have multiple activities for each question type, and these strategies will enable me to cognitively challenge and meet the needs of my students as I prepare them to be critical thinkers. This article is an excellent guiding tool to help me as I prepare my lessons to complete my research project, and other classroom activities.

Reference (APA format):
Yildirim, K., Yildiz, M., & Ates, S. (2011). Is vocabulary a strong variable predicting reading comprehension and does the prediction
degree of vocabulary vary according to text types. Educational Sciences: Theory and Practice, 11(3), 1541-1547.

What this study was about: This study collected data from 120 fifth grade students in Turkey during the 2008-09 school year. Researchers were trying to determine if there was a correlation between vocabulary and narrative and expository text comprehension. This study was conducted using the correlational method to relate variables, instead of providing an intervention like in an experimental research study. Comprehension tests were reviewed by teachers and chosen for comparison within the study and consisted of twenty-eight questions, and the vocabulary test consisted of sixty questions. They compared the results from the two to reach their findings, which was that there was a significant correlation between vocabulary and being able to comprehend expository and narrative texts. The data also showed that vocabulary is an even stronger predictor for comprehending expository texts.

Why this is Relevant to my Study: This article focuses on how vocabulary impacts the reading comprehension of students when reading both narrative and expository texts. The results imply that vocabulary heavily impacts student’s comprehension of expository texts. This directly relates to my study because the majority of the passages that students will encounter through my research will be expository and this supports the idea that they must understand the vocabulary being used to comprehend what they are being asked to do. Also, the reading comprehension test that was used for this study was made-up of twenty-eight questions, which helps to give me insight as to how many questions I should have on my pre-test and post-test. This study also noted the work of others, “if students choose important words and try to learn their meanings, monitor their learning’s, and make some connections on their own, they can improve their vocabulary while they read.” This relates to my research because I am going to be teaching students strategies that they can use to monitor their knowledge of literature vocabulary and apply that knowledge to create meaning of what they read.

Big Take-aways: Overall Conclusions to Inform my Project
(What have you learned from these articles you have read that is relevant to you and your work?)
1. From my research, I have solidified my idea of administering a pre- and post- comprehension test to track student learning, as many of the articles I reviewed mentioned doing this in some form.
2. One article in particular noted how comprehension questions do have an impact on the reading comprehension of students, which supports the ideals behind my research project.
3. Before conducting my research, I knew that I wanted to improve the critical thinking skills of my students. From my research, I have decided not to measure whether critical thinking skills improve, but to provide instruction based on the four depth-of-knowledge levels.
4. Another important idea that I was able to take away from my research is that teaching students academic vocabulary has a substantial impact on individual student scores when reading texts. This also directly supports my research, as I will be teaching my students how to apply their literature (academic) vocabulary knowledge.