Reinforcing expository reading and writing skills a more versatile sentence completion task


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Reinforcing expository reading and writing skills a more versatile sentence completion task

  1. 1. 538 © 2007 International Reading Association (pp. 538–546) doi:10.1598/RT.60.6.4 JOSÉ A. MONTELONGO ANITA C. HERNÁNDEZ Reinforcing expository reading and writing skills: A more versatile sentence completion task A variation of the sentence completion task can be used to reinforce students’ reading, writing, and higher order categorization skills for dealing with the different types of textbook structures. I n the last two decades, educators have displayed an acute interest in the teaching of information- al text in elementary schools (e.g., Moss, 2004). This imperative reflects the increasing awareness that most of the materials a person reads beginning in middle school and continuing throughout the lifespan are informational (Snowball, 1995). For students to be successful in today’s “Information Age,” they must be able to comprehend the infor- mation in their textbooks (Moss, Leone, & Dipillo, 1997) and on the Internet (Schmar-Dobler, 2003). Furthermore, in an era of high-stakes testing for stu- dents, teachers, and schools alike, 70–80% of the reading content on standardized tests is informa- tional (Daniels, 2002). Informational text is expository text that is en- countered in the science, history, and mathematics textbooks in today’s classrooms. There are different types of expository structures. These structures in- clude descriptive, comparison and contrast, se- quence, and cause and effect, among others (Piccolo, 1987). Examples of these text structures are includ- ed in Table 1. Informational text and performance in reading and writing Empirical research has determined that students’ ability to process and remember informational text is correlated with the ability to recognize text struc- tures. The recognition of an organizational pattern fa- cilitates memory for textbook information because it enables the reader to form a mental representation of the information and to see the logical relationships advanced by the author (Ogle & Blachowicz, 2002). Like chess masters who use structure to remember the positions of each piece on the chessboard, good readers employ text structure to help them recall what they read (Taylor & Samuels, 1983). Most research efforts in this area have been de- voted to demonstrating the relationship between structural knowledge and reading comprehension. There is also evidence that suggests that text-struc- ture knowledge affects the writing process as well (Rubin & Hansen, 1986). Armbruster, Anderson, and Ostertag (1989), for example, reported the re- sults of a study demonstrating that students who were taught to deconstruct text structures in read- ing passages improved both in reading comprehen- sion and in writing summaries. Students’ metacognitive knowledge of paragraphs and the sentence completion task Garner et al. (1986) asked third-, fifth-, and seventh-grade students to identify paragraphs on pages of text. They also asked their participants to differentiate between topically related and unrelat- ed sentences in a paragraph and to arrange several sentences in a coherent manner. Several trends were uncovered. First, while almost all students were able to identify the paragraphs on the page, they differed in their explanations for selecting paragraphs. While the youngest groups circled
  2. 2. Reinforcing expository reading and writing skills: A more versatile sentence completion task 539 paragraphs because they were indented, only the seventh graders were able to explain that para- graphs were groups of sentences revolving around a central topic. All levels of students were adept at including sentences that were related to the topic, but only the seventh graders were able to exclude those sentences that were unrelated to the topic. Finally, the ability to arrange sentences cohesively was correlated with grade level. We used the Garner et al. (1986) study as a start- ing point because it focused on the inability of ele- mentary school students to deal with expository structures at the level of the individual paragraph. Young students possess only a graphic representation of a paragraph. They don’t realize that supporting de- tailsarerelatedtoparagraph’smainidea,andtheycan- not arrange sentences in some logical order. Thus, classroom exercises that constantly reinforce the de- velopment of these abilities are needed to remedy the situationwithrespecttoinformationaltext.Unlikelyas it may seem, the sentence completion task, otherwise known as the “fill-in-the-blanks” task, may become one of the instruments teachers have to do just that. The sentence completion worksheet is ordinar- ily used to reinforce vocabulary in almost every subject and grade level in the elementary through high school curriculum. In its usual form, the work- sheet consists of incomplete sentences and a set of vocabulary words. The student’s task is simply to complete the sentences with the appropriate vocab- ulary words. An example of such a worksheet is shown in Table 2. In a recent article, Montelongo (2004) suggest- ed simple modifications to the usual form of the sen- tence completion worksheet that serve to qualitatively increase the power of the task. He rec- ommended embedding the individual sentences of a cohesive expository paragraph among unrelated sentences so that students not only had to complete the activity by filling in the blank with the appropri- ate vocabulary word, but they also had to abstract the hidden paragraph. This makes the task more chal- lenging because students must entertain questions about text structure, topic relatedness, and paragraph cohesiveness—those very abilities that the elemen- tary school students need to develop. To illustrate, the exercise shown in Table 2 has been adapted so TABLE 1 Types of text structures and corresponding examples Type Example Sequence Lee Trevino began his golfing career as a humble caddie and became a winner on the professional golfing circuits. His first major victory came at the 1968 U.S. Open at the plush Oak Hill golf course. He continued his fast rise by winning many tourna- ments during the 1970s. After he was struck by lightning in 1975, many observers believed that he would never regain the strength to challenge the great players again. He surprised them all, however, by continuing to collect many more victories on the PGA tour. Comparison and contrast Crocodiles and alligators are similar in many ways, but different in others. Both have tough hides, which are wanted by manufacturers of leather. They both prey upon fish and small mammals that they swallow whole. The crocodile seems the more menacing of the two because it shows more teeth when its mouth is closed. Still, no- body would want to encounter either one of these creatures alone. Cause and effect The North’s victory over the South in the U.S. Civil War resulted in many hardships for the losers. Industry and the Southern way of life were casualties of the war. The fierce hatred between the North and South peoples continued for generations after the war. The South lost its voice in the social, political, and cultural affairs of the country. Not all of the results of the war were negative because slavery was abol- ished. Generalization Franklin Roosevelt’s early life was a privileged one. His father, James Roosevelt, was a wealthy official of a railway. His mother, Sara, came from a rich family and was younger than her husband. He accompanied his parents on their yearly trips to Europe. He was educated by private tutors until the age of 14. He learned to speak and write both German and French fluently as a youngster.
  3. 3. The Reading Teacher Vol. 60, No. 6 March 2007540 that several of the sentences form a sequence/order paragraph. The modifications are shown in Table 3. The exercises in Table 3 make use of exactly the same vocabulary words as those used in Table 2. The student’s first task is to choose the correct vocabulary word to complete each sentence. The second part of the task, however, requires the stu- dent to abstract the paragraph from the corpus of sentences. In the example, there are six sentences about the assassination of U.S. President Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth. Grouped together, these sentences form a cohesive sequence exposi- tory paragraph dealing with events surrounding the assassination of Lincoln. (The correct answers for this exercise are provided in italics.) Because the sentences are in a scrambled order, the third part of the task requires the student to order the sen- tences from the abstracted paragraph in a logical manner. Finally, teachers may have the students rewrite the paragraph in their own words. Various reading and writing skills are treated in the tasks that comprise this activity. First, the use of an embedded paragraph provides students with the exposure to the different types of expository struc- tures. A sequence paragraph was used in the ex- ample, but other text structures might also be used. The inclusion of the embedded paragraph also af- fords students the opportunity to develop their no- tions of what paragraphs are, as well as to give them the chance to practice ferreting out main ideas. Students are also challenged to separate the related details from the unrelated ones. Furthermore, the activity allows students the op- portunity to hone their writing and thinking skills as they arrange the scattered related sentences into a logical paragraph. The activity can also be modified in many ways to develop the categorization abilities of students. One of the ways in which the degree of difficulty of the task may be manipulated is by creating unre- lated items or “foils” that are difficult to differenti- ate from the related items. Using our John Wilkes Booth example, some of the unrelated sentences might have discussed Lincoln’s boyhood or the is- sue of slavery. Another way in which the task could be modified is to embed more than one paragraph. Students would need to decide which sentences be- long to each of the two main ideas. For teachers, the use of an embedded para- graph affords them a window into their students’ thought processes. Teachers can use these exercis- es to pinpoint and correct problems with reading skills such as finding main ideas and noting im- portant details. With these exercises, a teacher may also show students how to logically order the re- lated sentences to form a paragraph. TABLE 2 Prototype of a sentence completion worksheet Directions: Fill in the blanks with an appropriate word. companions fashioned gorge iron ledge occurred profits refused retreat skeptic scurried shroud 1. When Harry S. Truman was President, a war between North and South Korea (occurred). 2. The boxer (refused) to admit that he had lost the boxing match. 3. The mouse (scurried) into the hole as soon as the light was turned on. 4. Soon, however, the enemy sniper was shot by the soldiers in a farmhouse. Also, many of his (companions) were captured and hanged. 5. After spying the rabbit among the bushes, the mountain lion jumped from a (ledge) in the canyon and pounced on the defenseless creature. 6. The (profits) from the bake sale will be used to buy books for the new library. 7. Even though the fireman broke his leg in his jump from the balcony, he was able to (retreat) to safety. 8. The baby gorilla and its mother were kept in a large (iron) cage. 9. The word, “(gorge)” is a synonym for “overeat.” 10. Brutus and his friends (fashioned) a plan to kill Caesar as he attended a session in the Senate. 1 1. In cold weather, women cover themselves with a (shroud) to keep themselves warm.
  4. 4. Experimental investigation: Reinforcing instruction for locating the main idea In order to investigate the utility of this modi- fied fill-in-the-blanks task, the authors conducted an investigation of a group of schoolchildren enrolled in summer school. The specific purpose of the in- vestigation was to study the various teacher–student interactions in a classroom situation. The student participants were students who had just completed the fourth and fifth grades and were attending sum- mer school to prepare for the next grade level. There were 21 students enrolled in the fourth-grade class and 22 students in the fifth-grade class. The first author (Montelongo) spent eight class sessions with the fifth-grade students and nine ses- Reinforcing expository reading and writing skills: A more versatile sentence completion task 541 TABLE 3 Sentence completion task modified to a sequence paragraph format together with the hidden paragraph (paragraph sentences in italics) Directions: Fill in the blanks with an appropriate word. companions fashioned gorge iron ledge occurred profits refused retreat skeptic scurried shroud 1. When Abraham Lincoln was President, a war between the North and South (occurred). 2. John Wilkes Booth (refused) to admit that the South had lost the Civil War. 3. The mouse (scurried) into the hole as soon as the light was turned on. 4. Soon, however, he was shot in a farmhouse by the U.S. Army. Also, many of his (companions) were captured and hanged. 5. After shooting the President in the theater, Booth jumped from a (ledge) and yelled, “Death to all tyrants!” 6. The (profits) from the bake sale will be used to buy books for the new library. 7. Even though Booth broke his leg in the jump from the stage, he was able to (retreat) to safety. 8. The baby gorilla and its mother were kept in a large (iron) cage. 9. The word, “(gorge)” is a synonym for “overeat.” 10. So, he and his friends (fashioned) a plan to kill Abraham Lincoln as he attended a play. 11. In cold weather, women cover themselves with a (shroud) to keep themselves warm. Directions: Cut each sentence out. Which sentences are related? Sort them into two groups: related sentences and unrelated sentences. Then, arrange the sentences in a logical order. Read them to your partners or teacher to make sure that the related sentences form a paragraph (correct ordering in italics). When Abraham Lincoln was President, a war between the North and South occurred. John Wilkes Booth refused to admit that the South had lost the Civil War. So, he and his friends fashioned a plan to kill Abraham Lincoln as he attended a play. After shooting the President in the theater, Booth jumped from a ledge and yelled, “Death to all tyrants!” Even though Booth broke his leg in the jump from the stage, he was able to retreat to safety. Soon, however, he was shot in a farmhouse by the U.S. Army. Also, many of his companions were captured and hanged. Directions (optional): Rewrite the paragraph in your own words. John Wilkes Booth ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________ ____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
  5. 5. sions with the fourth-grade students. These ses- sions were conducted on consecutive school days during the last two weeks of summer school. The first two formative sessions for both groups of stu- dents were those in which the students worked in groups. The final session was devoted exclusively to testing the students. During the intervening formative sessions, the students worked individual- ly. The sessions were 50 minutes in length. The fifth-grade class was observed during the time allo- cated for language arts instruction immediately be- fore the recess break. The fourth-grade class was observed following the recess break. During the first session, the first author provid- ed direct instruction of the terms topic, main idea, and supporting details. A topic was defined as “what a paragraph is about.” The main idea was de- fined in relation to the topic as “what the author is trying to say about the topic. The supporting details were taught as “the facts, reasons, examples, or opinions used by an author to explain or prove the main idea.” The presenter provided several illus- trations to ensure that the learners understood the relationships among these three terms. The first two formative sessions were designed to acquaint the students with the activity. The first author informed the students that they were going to participate in a vocabulary activity, specifically a fill-in-the-blanks task. The vocabulary words used for creating the stimulus materials for these two sessions were those provided by the homeroom teachers. The students were acquainted with the words, having been introduced to them prior to the training sessions. The following were the instruc- tions given to the students: You are going to use the vocabulary words from your readings to fill in the blanks. Just to make sure you know what the words mean, let’s review them. After the review of the vocabulary words, the fol- lowing were the instructions given: Now that you are familiar with the meanings of these words, you should be able to use them to complete the sentences. Work with your partners to complete the task. If you have any problems, raise your hand and we [teacher or investigator] will assist you. After the students had finished with the initial task of filling in the blanks completely and correctly, the following instructions were delivered: As some of you might have noticed, some of the sen- tences talk about the same topic. Your next job is to cut out all of the sentences and to sort the sentences into two piles. One pile should include the sentences that talk about the same topic. The other pile should include the sentences that are not related. After the students had correctly finished sorting the sentences, the following instructions were given: The five related sentences form a paragraph. Your job now is to arrange the sentences in a logical order to form a paragraph. When you have decided on the or- der of the sentences, paste them onto this piece of pa- per. The scissors and glue and a sheet of paper contain- ing directions to order the sentences into paragraph form were provided to the students as they decided upon the order of the sentences. A step-by-step out- line for introducing the activity is provided inTable 4. The remaining formative sessions encouraged individual performance on the part of the partici- pants. Even though the students were seated in groups, each received either a different version of the same expository selection or a completely dif- ferent paragraph to deconstruct. The students were allowed to either ask their teacher or the investiga- tor for assistance or to avail themselves of help from a student peer if necessary. Final feedback from the teacher or investigator was provided when the student turned in his or her paper. At the end of every formative session, all students had succeeded in sorting the sentences, choosing the main idea, and arranging the sentences in a cogent manner. The stimulus paragraphs and the vocabulary words required for both the formative and testing sessions were drawn mainly from commercially produced skills books appropriate for students in grades 4 through 6. The different types of text structures used included sequence, cause and ef- fect, comparison and contrast, and generalization. A short review of the lesson on finding the main idea was given prior to the third formative session. The students were reminded that every paragraph consisted of a topic (what a paragraph was about), a main idea (what the author is trying to say about the topic), and supporting details The Reading Teacher Vol. 60, No. 6 March 2007542
  6. 6. (facts, reasons, examples or opinions that prove or explain the main idea). Various examples of para- graphs were also given during this session, which lasted approximately 20 minutes.A quick review of the terms topic, main idea, and supporting details preceded the next three formative sessions. A new wrinkle in the activity was introduced in session six. Instead of including five related sen- tences and five unrelated sentences, it was decided to include two embedded paragraphs, each com- prised of five related sentences. The inclusion of another paragraph allowed the students the extra practice using the various skills while affording the teacher and the first author the chance to both fortify the teaching for locating the main idea and arranging the related sentences in order. Direct instruction on using signal words indi- cating time and importance (first, next, finally) was also provided during this sixth formative session. The purpose of this instruction was twofold. The first of these was to introduce signal words as a means for differentiating between a supporting de- tail and a main idea sentence. Because signal words often indicate a supporting detail, then sentences including signal words may likely be eliminated from consideration as main idea sentences. The second reason for introducing signal words was to aid students in the ordering of sentences. Various examples of paragraphs using such signal words were provided in the 15-minute lesson. Further instruction on signal words was also provided during this last formative session. This time, signal words such as because, since, and also were taught. These were used to reinforce the no- tion that such signal words indicated the presence of a supporting detail and not a main idea. On the last day, the students were tested in groups of four while monitored by the first author. The students were instructed to complete all work on their own without the help of their schoolmates or the experimenter. In an effort to protect against cheating, the students were given stories different from their neighbors. Assignment of stories was random. The fifth graders were presented with a sentence completion task that included one embed- ded five-sentence paragraph mixed in with five un- related sentences. The fourth graders, who were given an extra formative session prior to the test, had the more difficult task of trying to find two dif- ferent embedded five-sentence paragraphs. Two different stories were used to construct the stimuli for the older students, while six different stories were used for the fourth graders. Reinforcing expository reading and writing skills: A more versatile sentence completion task 543 TABLE 4 Procedure for introducing the modified sentence completion task Materials needed: A sentence completion exercise sheet containing an embedded paragraph with the sentences com- prising it scrambled among unrelated sentences and scissors and paste. Preactivity: Students are introduced to the new vocabulary words and have a working knowledge of the words. Step 1: Arrange students into groups of two to four. Step 2 (vocabulary reinforcement): Ask students to complete the individual sentences by filling in the blanks with the correct vocabulary words. Teacher imparts needed instruction. Step 3: After they have finished the sentence completion task, the students should cut out the individual sentences. Step 4 (categorization): The students should arrange the sentences into two stacks, one for the relat- ed sentences, the other for the unrelated sentences. Step 5: The students should decide on the main idea of the paragraph and arrange the sentences in a logical order. Once a consensus has been reached, students should paste the items in the form of a paragraph. Step 6: The students should discuss the process as a class. The teacher should pro- vide constructive feedback. Step 7 (optional): Students should be asked to edit their paragraphs by rewriting the paragraph in their own words.
  7. 7. Results There were three critical measures of student performance: (a) categorization—the number of related sentences correctly sorted by the student, (b) selection of the main idea, and (c) correct or- dering of the sentences. The mean number of sentences (out of a possi- ble 5) correctly categorized as paragraph-related by the fifth-grade students was 4.63 (83.6%). Seventeen of the 19 students correctly categorized at least 4 of the sentences, and 15 correctly identi- fied all of them. Including only the performances of the 17 students who were able to correctly cate- gorize at least 4 of the related sentences, 15 of the 17 (88.2%) students were able to correctly identify the main idea. Of the 15 students who correctly lo- cated the main idea, 13 (86.7%) ordered the sen- tences correctly. The mean number of sentences (out of a possible 10) correctly categorized as paragraph-related by the fourth-grade students was 8.95 (89.5%). Sixteen of the 19 (84.2%) students correctly categorized at least 8 of the 10 sentences they were presented with, and 12 participants (63.1%) correctly identified all of them. Including only the performances of the 16 stu- dents who were able to correctly categorize at least 8 of the related sentences, 15 (93.8%) were able to lo- cate at least 1 of the 2 main ideas they were present- ed with. Eight of these 15 students (53.3%) were successful in finding the main idea for both of the paragraphs. Of the 15 students who were able to cor- rectly identify at least 1 main idea, 13 (86.7%) were able to correctly order at least 1 of their 2 paragraphs. These descriptive statistics capture only a snapshot of the learning that was observed. The modified sentence completion task proposed here permits teachers and investigators an opening into the thinking processes of the students and thus represents a significant improvement over the tra- ditional fill-in-the-blanks activity. Teacher–student interactions during the com- pletion of this task uncovered significant differ- ences in the way individual students responded to the different tasks. For instance, some students confidently sorted the related sentences from the unrelated ones. Others meekly asked for confir- mation from either the teacher or the investigator. Such need for reassurance was also in evidence from some students selecting the main idea and those arranging the sentences in order. There were also many opportunities for teach- able moments for each phase of the activity. Examples of such instances are included in Table 5. In the case of those students needing help com- pleting the sentences with the appropriate vocabu- lary word, the teacher and the investigator modeled the use of context clues to arrive at the answer. For students requiring assistance with locating the main idea sentence, the teacher and investigator constant- ly reinforced the notion that the main idea is that which is defended or explained by the supporting details. Students having problems arranging the sentences in order were advised to use signal words and logic to settle upon an arrangement. While the present results and observations are limited in generalizability to the students in these two summer school classes, the stimulus materials used, and the boundary conditions under which the investigation was conducted, they suggest that this modified fill-in-the-blanks activity may be used to reinforce main idea instruction when it is coupled with lessons on signal words. Because the typical fill-in-the blanks exercises cannot be used to reinforce reading skills such as those just examined, educators might consider the potential for gains afforded by this fortified activity. A comparison of this activity with other tasks is also in order.When students are faced with having to locate the main idea in this activity, they are forced to consider each individual sentence prior to choos- ing the main idea. This is because the main idea sen- tence is mixed in among other sentences. The students must know what a main idea sentence is in order to arrive at the correct answer. This is a radi- cal departure from what usually occurs in the read- ing classroom. When faced with having to locate the main idea in exercises found in the typical read- ing workbook, students commonly adopt the strate- gy of selecting the first sentence of the paragraph without a real understanding of what a main idea is. Pointing to the first sentence does not necessarily re- flect an understanding of the relationship between the main idea sentence and the supporting details. The Reading Teacher Vol. 60, No. 6 March 2007544
  8. 8. Reinforcing expository reading and writing skills: A more versatile sentence completion task 545 TABLE 5 Examples of teachable moments observed in empirical study Category Examples of teachable moments Vocabulary Student: I can’t figure out which of these words (intrepid, pitiful) completes the sen- tence, “During the war, the ___________ Hale served as a spy for George Washington’s army.” Teacher: Well, what does intrepid mean? And pitiful? Student: “Intrepid” means “brave.” “Pitiful” means “pathetic.” Teacher: Which one of those best describes a spy? Student: You have to be brave to be a spy! So, it’s “intrepid!” Categorization Student: Are these the ones that go together? Teacher: You have this one on Nathan Hale. Does this sentence about a sculptor go with Nathan Hale? Student: No! Teacher: How about this one about being captured by the British? Student: Yes! Teacher: And this one about sunglasses? Student: No! I get it, now. Main idea for enumeration Student: I can’t figure out which sentence is the main idea! Teacher: Well, you have this sentence about young people and hip-hop music and one about classical music. Is the author trying to tell us something about hip-hop music? Classical music? Student: No! Teacher: Then you have this sentence about opera and this one about people enjoying all kinds of music and this one about country music. What is the author trying to tell you with these examples? Student: (pointing to sentence) There are many kinds of music for people to enjoy. Teacher: That’s right! Do you see that the supporting details are facts or examples that prove or explain the main idea? Main idea for sequence Student: I can’t figure out which one of the sentences includes the main idea. using signal words Teacher: Well, you have this sentence that says: “Third, it [smoking] affects the way people smell.” What does the word third tell you about what follows? Student: It’s a detail. Teacher: That’s right! It’s a detail. Now, look at this other sentence: “Finally, it [smok- ing] is a habit that costs a lot of money to maintain.” What does the word fi- nally tell you? Student: That “it is a habit that costs a lot of money to maintain” is a detail. Teacher: So, what’s the main idea? Student: (pointing to sentence) “Smoking has many serious effects.” Teacher: That’s right! Do you see how signal words indicate that the information that follows is a supporting detail? Ordering Student: I can’t figure out the order in which to arrange these events. I know all of the related sentences are about Marian Anderson. Teacher: Well, you’ve got some signal words that should help. Student: Yes, I know that this one, “First, she sang with the New York Philharmonic,” goes after the main idea sentence. And the sentence that begins with the sig- nal word, Finally, goes last. But what about the others? Teacher: Do you know what the main idea sentence is? Student: Yes, it’s “Marian Anderson had a great career!” But, this sentence begins with next and this one with then. Teacher: There are also other clues. Look at the dates, for example. Student: Yes. The sentence beginning with next is about her singing at Carnegie Hall in 1928. It goes before the one beginning with then is about Marian Anderson singing at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. Teacher: That’s right!
  9. 9. Situating the task in the curriculum Elementary school students are presented with a steady dosage of new vocabulary words to learn throughout the school year in their language arts and content area classes. Furthermore, teaching and reinforcing knowledge of expository text struc- tures is an endeavor that should also be pursued year round. Ideally, then, this more potent version of the sentence completion task might be used throughout the year in place of the more common version whenever a new set of vocabulary words is introduced. Teachers must compose their own exercises because commercially produced materials are cur- rently not available. However, the exercises are not difficult to create. The first step is to write out a complete paragraph including half of the targeted vocabulary words. The next step is to create the nonrelated sentences with the other half of the vo- cabulary words. The composer should then mix the related sentences and nonrelated sentences and type these on a word processor. The final step is to create an organizer that corresponds to the text structure. Some teachers may view having to generate their own materials as a barrier to using this activi- ty, while others will find that it is easier to create good examples of the various text structures than it is to search for examples from extant textbooks. As pointed out by Flood, Lapp, and Farnan (1986), McGee and Richgels (1985), and Piccolo (1987), it is crucial to use good text structure models when working with elementary school students. Final remarks The purpose of this article was to introduce a variation of the sentence completion task that can be used to reinforce students’ reading, writing, and higher order categorization skills for dealing with the different types of textbook structures. When an embedded paragraph is included in the exercises, students are challenged to infer a topic for these related items, separate the related items from the unrelated ones, and locate the main idea, all while choosing the appropriate vocabulary words. In ad- dition to reinforcing emergent reading and writing abilities, these exercises have the potential to fa- miliarize students with expository structures neces- sary for reading informational texts. Montelongo teaches at the California Polytechnic State University (Robert E. Kennedy Library, San Luis Obispo, CA 93407, USA). E-mail Hernández teaches at the same university. References Armbruster, B.B., Anderson, T.H., & Ostertag, J. (1989). Teaching text structure to improve reading and writing. The Reading Teacher, 43, 130–137. Daniels, H. (2002). Expository text in literature circles. Voices From the Middle, 9(4), 7–14. Flood, J., Lapp, D., & Farnan, N. (1986). A reading–writing procedure that teaches expository paragraph structure. The Reading Teacher, 39, 556–562. Garner, R., Alexander, P., Slater, W., Hare, V.C., Smith, T., & Reis, R. (1986). Children’s knowledge of structural prop- erties of expository text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 78, 411–416. McGee, L.M., & Richgels, D.J. (1985). Teaching expository text structure to elementary students. The Reading Teacher, 38, 739–748. Montelongo, J.A. (2004). Reinforcing students’ knowledge of expository paragraph structure through sentence completion exercises. New Mexico Journal of Reading, 24, 14–22. Moss, B. (2004). Teaching expository text structures through information trade book retellings. The Reading Teacher, 57, 710–718. Moss, B., Leone, S., & Dipillo, M.L. (1997). Exploring the lit- erature of fact: Linking reading and writing through in- formation trade books. Language Arts, 74, 418–429. Ogle, D., & Blachowicz, C.L.Z. (2002). Beyond literature cir- cles. In C.C. Block & M. Pressley (Eds.), Comprehension instruction: Research-based best practices (pp. 259–274). New York: Guilford. Piccolo, J.A. (1987). Expository text structure: Teaching and learning strategies. The Reading Teacher, 40, 838–847. Rubin, A., & Hansen, J. (1986). Reading and writing: How are the first two “R’s” related? In J. Orasanu (Ed.), Reading comprehension: From research to practice (pp. 163–170). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Schmar-Dobler, E. (2003). Reading on the Internet: The link between literacy and technology. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 47, 80–85. Snowball, D. (1995). Building literacy skills through nonfic- tion. Teaching PreK–8, 25(8), 62–63. Taylor, B.M., & Samuels, J. (1983). Children’s use of text structure in the recall of expository material. American Education Research Journal, 20, 517–528. The Reading Teacher Vol. 60, No. 6 March 2007546