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IES Grant

Title: Teaching Elementary Students To Comprehend Expository Text
Center: NCER Year: 2003
Principal Investigator: Williams, Joanna Awardee: Teachers College, Columbia University
Program: Literacy      [Program Details]
Award Period: 3 years Award Amount: $779,623
Type: Development and Innovation Award Number: R305G030283

Purpose: In this project, the researchers developed and pilot tested instructional practices designed to improve early elementary students' knowledge and use of expository text structures. In the early 2000s, research suggested that students' lack of exposure to and instruction in such expository texts slowed their progress in reading as they moved into fourth grade and beyond and that a lack of understanding of the structures of such texts frequently contributed to their difficulties. The researchers hoped that improved instructional practice would better prepare young students to comprehend expository text in the content textbooks they would encounter as they progressed through school.

Structured Abstract


Research Design and Methods: The first activity carried out by the research team will be to develop instructional strategies to teach students how to identify and understand compare/contrast text structures and cause/effect structures. The research team will then carry out three studies designed to examine the effects of integrating explicit instruction about text structures into regular teaching.  The study will take place in classrooms of second grade students of mixed abilities in urban schools with large proportions of minority students. The first study focuses on compare/contrast text structures, using content drawn from the social studies. Classrooms of students are randomly assigned to receive instruction according to one of three different approaches: (1) instruction in which explicit instruction about the compare/contrast text structure is embedded into the social studies content, (2) instruction using the same reading materials as in the first approach, except without the emphasis on the compare/contrast text structure, or (3) instruction unaltered from the teachers' normal educational practice. The second and third studies use the same design except that they focus on instruction in cause/effect text structures rather than compare/contrast structures.  The research team will compare student performance from the various groups of students using a variety of measures designed to assess their learning of both the content and their understanding of the text structures and then use the data to further revise and improve the instructional approaches.

Related IES Projects:  An Intervention to Enhance Expository Test Comprehension Via Text Structure Instruction for Primary-Grade At-Risk Students (R324G060039), An Intervention to Improve the Comprehension of Primary-grade At-risk Students by Providing Text Structure Instruction Embedded in Social Studies Content (R324A110095)


ERIC Citations:  Find available citations in ERIC for this award here.

WWC Review:
Williams, J. P., Nubla-Kung, A. M., Pollini, S., Stafford, K. B., Garcia, A., & Snyder, A. E. (2007). Teaching cause—effect text structure through social studies content to at-risk second graders. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40(2), 111-120. [WWC Review]


Book chapters
Williams, J.P. (2007). Literacy in the Curriculum: Integrating Text Structure and Content Area Instruction. In D.S. McNamara (Ed.), Reading Comprehension Strategies: Theories, Interventions, and Technologies (pp. 199–219). Mahwah, N.J.: Erlbaum.

Journal articles
Williams, J.P., Nubla-Kung, A.M., Pollini, S., Stafford, K.B., Garcia, A., and Snyder, A.E. (2007). Teaching Cause-Effect Text Structure Through Social Studies Content to At-Risk Second Graders. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 40(2): 111–120.