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Graded Reading Passages
Prerequisites: The instruction, as it is described in the manual, is best suited for students reading at the fourth-grade level or above, but it can be adapted/simplified for nonreaders who are listening to a story being read to them or for beginning readers. Teaching the Word Identification Strategy before this strategy can be very helpful to students with regard to helping them use this strategy on grade-level materials.
|Other Materials Needed||
Graded Reading Passages
This study investigated the effects of instruction of the Visual Imagery and the Self-Questioning Strategy. Six students with LD in grades eight through 12 participated, and a multiple-probe across-strategies design was used for each student. Some students were taught the Visual Imagery Strategy first; others were taught the Self-Questioning Strategy first. However, all the students received instruction in both strategies.
Several measures were used, including a measure of student use of each strategy while they were reading a passage as well as a measure of reading comprehension after the students had read the passage. Two levels of 100- to 200-word passages were used to gather these measures: those written at the student’s reading level and those written at the student’s actual grade level. In order to gather the strategy-use measures, five dots were marked in the passage at relatively equally spaced intervals. The student was asked to read until he/she reached a dot and then to tell the researcher about the picture he/she had in his/her mind of the passage (visual imagery) or to tell the researcher about any questions he/she had asked him/herself about the passage (self-questioning), depending on which strategy was being tested in a given test session. The researcher scored each student response according to a written set of objective guidelines.
Results showed that all six students mastered both strategies with regard to applying them to ability-level materials. Five of the six students learned to apply both strategies to grade-level materials within four practice trials and did so in such a way as to improve their performance on the comprehension tests. During baseline, the mean percentage of comprehension questions answered correctly on grade-level passages was 42%, even after the students were prompted to use visual images. After instruction, the mean percentage of comprehension questions answered correctly on grade-level passages was 82% when they were prompted to use the Visual Imagery Strategy. Follow-up tests conducted after instruction was terminated showed some decrease in mean comprehension scores (down to 78% for Visual Imagery).
Thus, these results show that after relatively small amounts of instructional time (5 to 7 hours per strategy) students with LD can learn to apply reading comprehension strategies to materials written at their grade level in such a way that their comprehension of those passages increases substantially.
Clark, F. L., Deshler, D. D., Schumaker, J. B., Alley, G. R., & Warner, M. M. (1984). Visual imagery and self-questioning: Strategies to improve comprehension of written material. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 17(3), 145 – 149.
Jean B. Schumaker, Ph.D.
My Background and Interests
I grew up with a concern for children who need special help. One of my earliest experiences was organizing birthday parties for children with disabilities at the Matheny Medical and Educational Center in New Jersey. After the birthday parties were over and all the decorations had been cleaned up, I spent additional time with those children, putting them to bed, reading to and talking with them, and singing to them. Through those experiences and others as a camp counselor, I found that I loved being with children and teaching them. Eventually, I decided that I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, and I went to college and graduate school with that goal in mind. However, along the way, I got hooked on doing research! In particular, I got hooked on research related to ensuring that children learn. I’ve worked with children in schools, group homes, camps, hospitals, and clinical settings. Across all those experiences, I’ve learned that all children can learn. I’ve learned that, if we hold high expectations for them and use special teaching methods, they usually meet those expectations. I continue to do research with the goal of helping teachers teach and students learn.
The Story Behind the Visual Imagery Strategy
At the beginning of our work at the Institute for Research on Learning Disabilities in the 1970s, we did a descriptive study where we tested the academic skills of two groups of students at the junior high and high school levels: students who had been diagnosed as having learning disabilities (LD), and students who were receiving failing or barely passing grades on their report cards in subject-area classes (low-achievers). We learned that both groups of students had severe reading deficits. The students with LD were reading on average at the fourth-grade level in seventh grade. The low achievers were reading on average at the fifth-grade level in seventh grade. What was even more distressing is that these groups of students did not make progress in reading skills across the remaining grade levels. As twelfth graders, the students with LD were still reading at the fourth-grade level, and the low achievers were reading at the fifth-grade level on average.
Our research team was charged with developing instructional materials that could be used to improve the reading skills of these students dramatically within a relatively short period of time. As a result, we designed and empirically tested the effects of a number of instructional packages for teaching students cognitive reading comprehension strategies. The Visual Imagery Strategy was specifically designed with the goal of improving student comprehension of narrative text. It is comprised of a number of cognitive steps that students can use to key in on the “picture words” in text, discriminate picture words related to the setting from picture words related to the characters and action, and elaborate on the information they have gathered to bring color, texture, sights, and sounds into a movie that they make in their minds.
My Thoughts about Strategic Reading Instruction
Strategic instruction is one of the few instructional methods that have been shown to be effective through empirical research to produce improvement in the learning and academic performance of at-risk students. The study conducted on the Visual Imagery Strategy showed that students can gain several grade levels in reading within a few weeks of instruction when the strategy is taught with fidelity. Thus, instruction in this strategy can be used to “close the gap” between students’ skills and what they are required to do in their required secondary courses. This is an instructional package that can be used in triage situations where secondary students need to learn skills quickly so that they can succeed in required high school courses. An important caution is that Visual Imagery Strategy instruction produces the best results when the strategy is taught to small groups of students and when students are required to meet mastery within materials written at the students’ grade level.
Teacher and Student Feedback on the Visual Imagery Strategy Program
This program and the other reading strategy programs have been very popular with both teachers and students. Literally thousands of teachers have learned to teach the Visual Imagery Strategy across the nation, and they have reported that students’ reading skills have improved dramatically. Research has shown the effectiveness of this strategy with students as young as fourth graders. Teachers have used the program in a variety of settings including resource rooms, reading classes, tutoring settings, summer school programs, and after-school programs.
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