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2006Research Conference | June 15–16

This conference highlighted the work of invited speakers, independent researchers who have received grant funds from the Institute of Education Sciences, and trainees supported through predoctoral training grants and postdoctoral fellowships. The presentations are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. Department of Education or the Institute of Education Sciences.
Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill
400 New Jersey Avenue, N.W.
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Embedding Cause/Effect Text Structure Lessons into Social Studies: Content Instruction at the Elementary Level

Joanna Williams, Teachers College, Columbia University
Simonne Pollini, Teachers College, Columbia University
Abigail Nubla-Kung, Teachers College, Columbia University
Amaya Garcia, Teachers College, Columbia University
Anne Snyder, Teachers College, Columbia University

Abstract: We are in the process of developing a program for at-risk second-graders that embeds instruction in how to comprehend one type of expository text, cause/effect text, into social studies content. The program will teach strategies such as looking for clue words that will identify a text as cause/effect and answering a series of generic questions that will help identify the important information. It also involves the close analysis of well-structured paragraphs that become longer and more complex as the lessons proceed. The content goal of the program is to teach students about three historical U. S. communities: colonists, pioneers, and turn-of-the-century immigrants.

We have evaluated our program in two randomized studies, comparing the program to a more conventional program that teaches the same content and that does not emphasize text structure, and to a no-treatment control. The first study indicated that both instructional groups performed equally well, and significantly better than the no-treatment group, on content measures; this indicated that the text structure instruction embedded in the lessons did not detract from acquisition of the social studies content. The Text Structure group performed significantly better than the other two groups when reading paragraphs that contained content seen in instruction; however, we did not see evidence of transfer.

In order to help students to achieve transfer to untaught content, we have revised our instructional program, focusing more extensively on the sentence rather than the paragraph level. Our second study is currently underway. This presentation will describe the program and the two studies.