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Rethinking Reading Comprehension Instruction: A Comparison of Instruction for Strategies and Content Approaches

Margaret G. McKeown, Isabel L. Beck and Ronette G.K. Blake
Reading Research Quarterly
Vol. 44, No. 3 (July/August/September 2009), pp. 218-253
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the International Reading Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/25655454
Page Count: 36
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Rethinking Reading Comprehension Instruction: A Comparison of Instruction for Strategies and Content Approaches
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Abstract

Reports from research and the larger educational community demonstrate that too many students have limited ability to comprehend texts. The research reported here involved a two-year study in which standardized comprehension instruction for representations of two major approaches was designed and implemented. The effectiveness of the two experimental comprehension instructional approaches (content and strategies) and a control approach were compared. Content instruction focused student attention on the content of the text through open, meaning-based questions about the text. In strategies instruction, students were taught specific procedures to guide their access to text during reading of the text. Lessons for the control approach were developed using questions available in the teacher's edition of the basal reading program used in the participating classrooms. Student participants were all fifth graders in a low-performing urban district. In addition to assessments of comprehension of lesson texts and an analysis of lesson discourse, three assessments were developed to compare student ability to transfer knowledge gained. The results were consistent from Year 1 to Year 2. No differences were seen on one measure of lesson-text comprehension, the sentence verification technique. However, for narrative recall and expository learning probes, content students outperformed strategies students, and occasionally, the basal control students outperformed strategies students. For one of the transfer assessments, there was a modest effect in favor of the content students. Transcripts of the lessons were examined, and differences in amount of talk about the text and length of student response also favored the content approach.

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