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IES Grant

Title: An Intervention to Enhance Expository Test Comprehension Via Text Structure Instruction for Primary-Grade At-Risk Students
Center: NCSER Year: 2006
Principal Investigator: Williams, Joanna Awardee: Columbia University, Teachers College
Program: Reading, Writing, and Language Development      [Program Details]
Award Period: 6/1/2006 to 5/31/2009 Award Amount: $1,117,665
Goal: Development and Innovation Award Number: R324G060039

Purpose: The purpose of this project is to develop and evaluate an intervention to improve the expository text comprehension of second-grade students at high risk for reading disabilities.

Project Activities: The two main goals of this project are to improve (a) the reading comprehension of expository text, and (b) acquisition of social studies content for second-grade students at high-risk for reading disabilities. The researchers are developing a supplemental program that teaches the five major types of text structure embedded in social studies content. It will conform to the New York State Standards in language arts and social studies. The researchers will compare the pre-and post-intervention scores of individual program segments and conduct analyses of classroom observations and teacher interviews.

Products: The expected outcomes from this study include:

  1. An intervention to improve expository text comprehension of second-grade students at high risk of developing reading disabilities, and
  2. Published reports and presentations evaluating the potential efficacy of the intervention and the extent to which the intervention differentially affects different types of students.

Setting: The elementary schools are located in New York.

Population: The sample used to test the potential efficacy of the intervention will consist of 15 second-grade inclusion classrooms across 4 to 6 elementary schools. Fifteen students will be randomly selected from each classroom for testing (N=225). The students are largely Hispanic and African-American and are from low-income homes. Most students are considered at high risk for reading disabilities.

Intervention: There are two interventions in the study: the Text Structure program and the Content-oriented program. The two interventions use the same trade books and target texts as materials. Lessons will consist of trade book reading and discussion; target reading (text-oriented or content-oriented); a graphic organizer (text-oriented or content-oriented); vocabulary development; general content discussion; summary; and lesson review.

The Text Structure intervention emphasizes teaching text structure strategies, which include the use of (a) cue words that signal the presence of a specific text structure; (b) generic strategy questions to guide the reader to identify the important parts of the text; and (c) a graphic organizer.

The Content-oriented program will be designed to correspond closely to more conventional social studies instruction and is intended to be a viable program that teachers would want to use. Participating students are expected to learn important content that will help them to comprehend novel texts about similar content.

Research Design and Methods: Fifteen classrooms will be randomly assigned to the two treatment conditions and one control condition. The ten classrooms in the two treatment conditions will be given 60 lessons, two per week, each about 40 minutes long. Between-group differences will be assessed with analysis of covariance (ANCOVA). Individual data will also be considered. Based on the score distributions of the outcome measures of the posttest, individual nonresponders will be identified. Student characteristics significantly associated with nonresponding will be explored.

Control Condition: The control condition consists of "business as usual" and will not include any instruction on text structure.

Key Measures: Measures will be administered to assess reading ability and affective factors that influence reading.

Reading ability will be assessed with the DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency (DORF). The DORF assesses accuracy and fluency and has well-documented reliability and validity estimates. The Woodcock Reading Mastery Test - Revised (WRMT-R) will also be used to assess reading. Four subtests will be given; scores of the Basic Skills Cluster (Word Identification and Word Attach subtests) and the Reading Comprehension Cluster (Word Comprehension and Passage Comprehension subtests) will be examined separately. The WRMT-R also has well-documented reliability and validity estimates.

The Motivations for Reading Questionnaire - Primary version (MRQ-P) will be used to assess the effects of instruction on attitudes and engagement as well as on knowledge of reading. The MRQ-P is a self-report measure consisting of four subscales: self-efficacy, interest, social interactions around reading, and recognition for reading.

Data Analytic Strategy: The mean score for each classroom will be used as the unit of analysis. Differences in posttest performance among the two treatment conditions and control condition will be evaluated by an ANCOVA in which pretest score will be the covariate. Also, separate ANCOVAs will be done on high, average, and low students.


Book chapter

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.

Williams, J.P., and Atkins, J.G. (2009). The Role of Metacognition in Teaching Reading Comprehension to Primary Students. In D.J. Hacker, J. Dunlosky, and A.C. Graesser (Eds.), Handbook of Metacognition in Education (pp. 26–44). Mahweh, NJ: Erlbaum.

Williams, J.P., and Pao, L. (2011). Teaching Narrative and Expository Text Structure to Improve Comprehension. In R. O'Connor, and P. Vadasy (Eds.), Handbook of Reading Interventions (pp. 254–278). New York: Guilford Press.

Book chapter, edition specified

Williams, J.P. (2008). Explicit Instruction Can Help Primary Students Learn to Comprehend Expository Text. In C.C. Block, and S. Parris (Eds.), Comprehension Processes: Research-Based Best Practices (2nd ed., pp. 171–182). New York: Guilford Press.

Journal article, monograph, or newsletter

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.

Williams, J.P., Pollini, S., Nubla-Kung, A.M., Snyder, A.E., Garcia, A., Ordynans, J. G., and Atkins, J.G. (2014). An Intervention to Improve Comprehension of Cause/Effect Through Expository Text Structure Instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 106(1): 1–17. doi:10.1037/a0033215

Williams, J.P., Stafford, K.B., Lauer, K.D., Hall, K.M., and Pollini, S. (2009). Embedding Reading Comprehension Training in Content-Area Instruction. Journal of Educational Psychology, 101(1): 1–20. doi:10.1037/a0013152