Effect of fluency on reading comprehension


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Effect of fluency on reading comprehension

  1. 1. The Effect of Fluency on Reading Comprehension A Dissertation Presented to the Faculty of the College of Education University of Houston In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Education by Beth Egmon May, 2008
  2. 2. UMI Number: 3309545 Copyright 2008 by Egmon, Beth All rights reserved. INFORMATION TO USERS The quality of this reproduction is dependent upon the quality of the copy submitted. Broken or indistinct print, colored or poor quality illustrations and photographs, print bleed-through, substandard margins, and improper alignment can adversely affect reproduction. In the unlikely event that the author did not send a complete manuscript and there are missing pages, these will be noted. Also, if unauthorized copyright material had to be removed, a note will indicate the deletion. ® UMI UMI Microform 3309545 Copyright 2008 by ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved. This microform edition is protected against unauthorized copying under Title 17, United States Code. ProQuest LLC 789 E. Eisenhower Parkway PO Box 1346 Ann Arbor, Ml 48106-1346
  3. 3. Copyright By Beth Egmon May, 2008
  4. 4. The Effect of Fluency on Reading Comprehension A Dissertation for the Degree Doctor of Education by Beth Egmon Approved by Dissertation Committee: t (f&£^Dr. Richard F. Abrahamson, Chairperson £±1 erine Horn/Committee Member Dr. Lane R. Gauthier, Committee Member It UCr^, r> Dr. Peter J. Gingiss, Committee Member Dr. Lee Mountain, Committee Member Dr. R Colle May 2008
  5. 5. Acknowledgements Harold R. McAlindon once said, "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." I would like to thank all of those who helped me leave a trail where there was no path - family, friends, coworkers, and especially all those who served on my committee - without the support of all these, this endeavor would not have been possible. Thank you. iii
  6. 6. The Effect of Fluency on Reading Comprehension An Abstract Presented to the Faculty of the College of Education University of Houston In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Doctor of Education by Beth Egmon May, 2008
  7. 7. Egmon, B. "The Effect of Fluency on Reading Comprehension." Unpublished Doctor of Education Dissertation, University of Houston, May, 2008. Abstract The purpose of the study was to describe the relationship between the reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students. The current literature on fluency indicated that there is a positive relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension (Stecker, Roser, & Martinez, 1998). A formal study examining the relationship between fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students was needed at this time as the most recent studies combining fluency with comprehension have focused on third and fifth graders (Rasinski, 1990) as well as second graders (Stahl & Heubach, 2005). The results of the both studies indicated that fluency is a reasonable predictor of comprehension. However, this relationship must be established in first grade students. The study addressed the following research question: What is the relationship between the reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students? This question was answered using a multivariate correlational research design examining first grade students in a rural school district in the southwestern United States. The instrumentation used was the Texas Primary Reading Inventory as it measured both comprehension and fluency. The study was able to establish a strong positive relationship between fluency and comprehension in first grade students. Furthermore 17% of the variance in reading comprehension was explained by fluency while 35.6% of the variance was explained by
  8. 8. the other controlling variables. The regression coefficents indicated that at-risk and fluency are the greatest contributing factors to the changes in reading comprehension. These findings indicated that indeed fluency instruction must be an integral part of the first grade curriculum in order to enhance comprehension. Future research should be conducted to determine which methods of fluency instruction make the most impact in first graders. Meanwhile, first grade practitioners should be engaging in activities such as buddy reading, choral reading, and repeated reading activities. It is hoped that these findings will lead to greater awareness amongst practitioners about the importance of fluency instruction in first grade as well as greater awareness amongst the research community to provide evidence-based instructional methods specific for first grade classrooms. VI
  9. 9. TABLE OF CONTENTS Chapter Page I. INTRODUCTION 1 Need for the Study 2 Statement of the Problem 6 Purpose of the Study 6 Research Question 6 Hypothesis 7 Definition of Terms 7 Summary 8 II. REVIEW OF THE LITERATURE 11 Reading in the Twentieth Century 11 Theoretical Framework 15 History of Comprehension 20 Reading Policies 24 Current Research in Comprehension 26 Current Research in Fluency 40 Intersection of Fluency and Comprehension . 53 Research on First Grade Students 58 III. METHODOLOGY 62 Research Design 62 Participants 62 Instrumentation 63 Data Collection Procedures 67 Data Analysis Procedures 67 Limitations of the Study 72 IV. RESULTS 75 Descriptive Statistics 75 The Relationship Between Fluency and Comprehension 81
  10. 10. V. DISCUSSION 86 Significant Findings of the Study 86 Implications for Current Research 87 Implications for Future Research 87 Implications for Practice 88 REFERENCES 96 APPENDIX A TPRI STUDENT RECORD SHEET 119 APPENDIX B TPRI CLASS SUMMARY SHEET 131 Vlll
  11. 11. LIST OF TABLES Table Page 1 Chall's Stages of Development 18 2 First Grade Student Population 2006-2007 64 3 Variables 68 4 First Grade Student Sample 76 5 Descriptive Statistics 78 6 Frequencies for Beginning of Year 79 7 Frequencies for End of Year 80 8 Correlation Matrix for Difference in Total Reading Comprehension, Age, Educational Status, Economic Status, and Difference In Fluency 81 9 Ethnicity by At-Risk Cross Tabulation 82 10 Multiple Regression Analysis of the Relationship Between Reading Comprehension, Gender, Ethnicity, Age, Educational Status, Migrant, At-Risk, LEP, Economic Status, and Fluency 84 11 First Grade Oral Reading Fluency Norms 89 12 Oral Reading Fluency Scale 91 IX
  12. 12. LIST OF FIGURES Figure Page 1 The gradual release of responsibility model of instruction 37 x
  13. 13. Introduction. Chapter One Introduction In 1967, Bond and Dykstra published their landmark First Grade Studies where they determined that the key factor to a first grader's reading success was his/her teacher. They did not find one specific method for the classroom teacher to utilize. Since then, many studies have been done in an effort to find the key to reading success. However, as the International Reading Association acknowledged in its 1999 position statement, no one method of reading instruction is guaranteed to work with every child (Rasinski & Padak, 2000). When examining the best methods of reading instruction, a savvy instructor first examines the purpose of reading. The purpose of reading is comprehension (Bender & Larkin, 2003) and like any other skill, it must be taught and must be practiced. Inasmuch as the purpose for reading is comprehension, instructors seek to find the most effective methods for improving comprehension. The National Reading Panel (2000) concluded that fluency was closely associated with comprehension. In fact, Pikulski and Chard (2005) defined fluency and pointed out its link to comprehension when they stated reading fluency refers to efficient, effective word-recognition skills that permit a reader to construct the meaning of text. Fluency is manifested in accurate, rapid, expressive oral reading and is applied during, and makes possible, silent reading comprehension. (Pikulski & Chard, 2005, p. 510) Thus, to improve comprehension, one must increase fluency. Rasinski and Padak (2000) pointed out that "reading fluency is a significant obstacle to proficient reading for elementary students and many older readers experiencing difficulty in learning to read"
  14. 14. 2 (Rasinski & Padak, 2000, p. 104). In 1983, Richard Allington published "Fluency: The Neglected Reading Goal" in The Reading Teacher where he contended that reading fluency as a skill was not being taught. Thirteen years later in 1996, Rasinski and Zutell looked at current reading programs and discovered that Allington's warnings about fluency being overlooked had not been heeded. Fluency was being ignored as part of the reading instructional process. Need for the Study Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001(2002), students must be reading on grade-level by third grade. Thus it is incumbent upon the first and second grade teachers to have the students reading on grade level at those respective primary grades as well. It is evident, however, that not all students are reading on grade level at this time; in fact, not even a majority are reading on grade level. The Nation's Report Card for Reading is based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) which is given to grades four and eight. The NAEP measures reading comprehension in three contexts of reading: reading for literary experience, reading for information, and reading to perform a task (Lee, Grigg & Donahue, 2007). The NAEP achievement levels are basic, proficient, and advanced. The Nation's Report Card for Reading in 2007 indicated that only 41 percent of fourth graders and 34 percent of eighth graders were reading at proficient or advanced levels. 67 percent of fourth graders and 74 percent of eighth graders were reading at or just above basic level. "Basic denotes partial mastery of prerequisite knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work at a given grade" (Lee, Grigg & Donahue, 2007, p. 6). (Note: Percentages do not equal 100 percent because of rounding.) Furthermore, Juel (1988) found that "a child would remain
  15. 15. 3 a poor reader at the end of fourth grade if the child was a poor reader at the end of first grade" (Juel, 1988, p. 437). The problem becomes further complicated when examining the National Endowment for the Arts' (NEA) Research Report entitled To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence (2007). In this report, NEA pointed out three alarming conclusions: (1) "Americans are spending less time reading. (2) Reading comprehension skills are eroding. (3) These declines have serious civic, social, cultural, and economic implications" (NEA, 2007, p. 7). The NEA report discussed the implications of these trends and pointed out that "employers now rank reading and writing as top deficiencies in new hires" (NEA, 2007, p. 16). With that many students reading below grade level and less and less time being devoted to reading, the question becomes what can be done instructionally to help the nation's students become better readers. The National Reading Panel (2000) cited five components of reading that need to be in place in order for reading to occur: phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, comprehension, and vocabulary. Of these five components, "fluency has been shown to have a 'reciprocal relationship' with comprehension, with each fostering the other" (Stecker, Roser, & Martinez, 1998, p. 306). This reciprocal relationship between fluency and comprehension has brought these reading components to the forefront of the literacy community. Beginning in 1997, Jack Cassidy, former president of the International Reading Association, has led the annual publication of a survey in Reading Today entitled "What's Hot, What's Not." His team continues to survey twenty-five notable literacy leaders throughout the world to determine the hot topics in the field of literacy. When the survey was first released in
  16. 16. 4 1997, fluency was not even considered a topic and comprehension was considered to be "not hot" (Cassidy & Wenrich, 1997, p. 34). By 2000, the survey indicated that comprehension was "not hot" but "should be hot" (Cassidy & Cassidy, 2000, p. 28). It wasn't until 2003 that fluency arrived on the scene. In 2003, survey respondents indicated that fluency was a "very hot" topic and comprehension was a "hot" topic as well (Cassidy & Cassidy, 2003, p. 18). From 2004-2006, both fluency and comprehension were "very hot" topics (Cassidy & Cassidy, 2004, p. 3; Cassidy & Cassidy, 2005, p. 8; Cassidy & Cassidy, 2006, p. 8). The 2007 survey indicated that fluency was still a "very hot" topic and comprehension was a "hot" topic. Furthermore, respondents for the 2007 survey indicated that fluency "should be very hot" and comprehension "should be extremely hot" (Cassidy & Cassidy, 2007, p. 10). Respondents for the 2008 survey indicated that fluency was again a "very hot" topic and comprehension was not only "hot" but "should be extremely hot" (Cassidy & Cassidy, 2008, p. 10). Comprehension continues to be an extremely hot issue due to the evolving needs of literacy. Coiro and Dobler (2007) discussed this new literacies perspective. According to this new literacies perspective, reading comprehension becomes an important issue to study (Coiro, 2003a) because new comprehension skills, strategies, and dispositions may be required to generate questions, and to locate, evaluate, synthesize, and communicate information on the Internet (Leu et al., 2004). Similarly, this perspective posits that traditional reading skills are necessary, but not sufficient, to read and learn from information on the Internet. (Coiro & Dobler, 2007, pp. 217-
  17. 17. 5 218) The necessary traditional reading skills referenced above include those reading skills that allow students to comprehend, generate questions, locate, evaluate, synthesize, and communicate information. In order to comprehend, the current literature on fluency indicated that there is a positive relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension. In a 1990 study, Rasinski used a correlational research design to examine that relationship between fluency and comprehension in seventy-seven third grade students and sixty-five fifth grade students in a large Midwestern city. His findings indicated that fluency is a reasonable predictor of comprehension in third and fifth graders (Rasinski, 1990). A study by Stahl and Heubach (2005) indicated that fluency- oriented reading instruction leads to gains in comprehension in second grade students. Using a pretest-posttest design, researchers discovered that students who received fluency-oriented reading instruction made "significantly more than 1 year's reading growth in one school year" (Stahl & Heubach, 2005, p. 190). At this time, the research indicates there is a relationship between the reading fluency and reading comprehension of students and the Rasinski (1990) study along with the Stahl and Heubach (2005) study are indicative of the nature of that relationship in second, third and fifth grade students. A formal study indicating the nature of the relationship between fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students is needed at this time as the most recent studies combining fluency with comprehension have focused on second, third and fifth graders. However, at this critical juncture it is imperative that the nature of the relationship between the reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students be determined. This information is crucial for
  18. 18. 6 practitioners who are developing instructional plans that will most significantly impact reading comprehension of first graders. Statement of the Problem The National Reading Panel (2000) cited numerous studies throughout its report indicating that there is a positive relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension, especially in upper elementary, secondary and adult readers. However, no studies were cited in their report specific to first grade. Furthermore, in order to determine how much instructional time should be devoted to reading fluency instruction, one needs to know how strong the relationship is between reading fluency and reading comprehension. The relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students is unclear. This study determined that relationship and will thus allow first grade practitioners to make essential instructional decisions that will impact student reading. Purpose of the Study The purpose of the study was to describe the relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students. Research Question As stated earlier, the purpose of the study was to describe the relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students. Given this purpose, the study addressed the following research question: What is the relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students?
  19. 19. 7 Hypotheses Null Hypothesis. The research question posed in the previous section of this paper is the basis for the following null hypothesis: There is no statistically significant relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students. Directional Research Hypothesis. In April 2000, the Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read was released in which the panel concluded that fluency was closely associated with comprehension and teachers needed to be aware of this so that they could teach for fluency to improve comprehension (National Institute of Child Health & Human Development - Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read website, Fluency subsection). The National Reading Panel cited a study by Pinnell, Pikulski, Wixson, Campbell, Gough, and Beatty (1995), which indicated that 44% of the fourth and fifth grade students sampled were dysfluent readers. Furthermore, this dysfiuency resulted in students having difficulty with comprehending the text that they were reading (Fluency subsection). Grace Oakley concurred with the findings of the panel but reported that the nature of the relationship between fluency and comprehension remained unclear (Oakley, 2003, Fluency section). Inasmuch as the aforementioned literature in this proposal suggests that there is a positive relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension, this study will test the following directional research hypothesis: There is a statistically significant positive relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students. Definitions of Terms Automaticity. The word "automaticity" is defined as "fluent processing of information that requires little effort or attention, as sight-word recognition" (Harris &
  20. 20. 8 Hodges, 1995, p. 16). This occurs when a reader can read so well he or she does not have to think about the individual words. The reader can then think about other things, such as comprehension of text. Decoding. The word "decoding" is defined as "to determine what sounds particular letters make to decipher words" (Bender & Larkin, 2003, p. 212). Decoding is very prevalent in beginning readers who are trying to decide what a word is by sounding it out. Prosody. The word "prosody" is defined as "the pitch, loudness, tempo, and rhythm patterns of spoken language" (Harris & Hodges, 1995, p. 196). Prosody is more commonly referred to as reading with expression. Reading Fluency. The phrase "reading fluency" is defined as involving "accurate reading of connected text at a conversational rate with appropriate prosody or expression" (Hudson, Lane & Pullen, 2005, p. 702). Thus, when considering a reader's fluency, one looks at accuracy, rate (speed), and prosody (expression). Reading Comprehension. The phrase "reading comprehension" is defined as "the process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning" (Snow & Sweet, 2003, p. 1). Reading comprehension is actually thinking about the text and making meaning out of it. Summary The Nation's Report Card for Reading in 2007 indicated that the reading comprehension of a majority of 4l and 8th graders was below grade level. Educators must look to research to see how best to improve the comprehension of the nation's
  21. 21. 9 readers. Research indicated that there is a positive relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension in students as young as second grade. According to the world's literacy leaders, fluency and comprehension not only continue to be very hot topics in the field of literacy, they should be very hot topics. With the increasing demands in the field of informational literacy, reading comprehension is more important than ever. As mentioned earlier, this study described the relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension in first grade students. From this, educators will be able to determine whether or not fluency has a significant impact upon reading comprehension in first grade students. Furthermore, as Shanahan (2002) points out, the value in the research is also the ensuing discussion. Once the research is complete, there will be more empirical data for first grade teachers to formulate their thoughts and language arts curriculum decisions. If the empirical evidence holds, and there is indeed a significant relationship between reading fluency and reading comprehension the implications for first grade language arts curriculum are exciting. With proper alterations in curriculum and appropriate focus on increasing reading fluency, reading comprehension will increase as well. First grade students will be on their way to reading on grade level and being successful life-long learners. This chapter has outlined the need for the study, the statement of the problem, the purpose of the study, as well as stated the research question, the null hypothesis, the directional research hypothesis, and provided definitions of key terms. The next chapter, Chapter Two, will review the literature in terms of historical background of reading education, theoretical framework of comprehension and fluency, historical background of
  22. 22. 10 comprehension and fluency, reading policies, current research developments in reading comprehension and fluency, the intersection of fluency and comprehension, as well as the need for the study with first grade students.
  23. 23. Review of the Literature. Chapter Two Introduction The purpose of the study was to describe the relationship between the reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students. Given this purpose, the study addressed the following research question: What is the relationship between the reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students? This study tested the following directional research hypothesis: There is a statistically significant positive relationship between the reading fluency and reading comprehension of first grade students. Chapter One introduced the research question and directional research hypotheses as well as outlined the need for the study. Chapter Two will review the literature in terms of historical background of reading education, theoretical framework of comprehension and fluency, historical background of comprehension and fluency, reading policies, current research developments in reading comprehension and fluency, the intersection of fluency and comprehension, as well as the need for the study with first grade students. Reading in the twentieth century The so-called reading wars are not new. In fact, debate about reading instruction occurred throughout the twentieth century in the United States. During the 1920s, the controversial topics included the value of silent reading over oral reading. Another controversial topic was whole word instruction as opposed to phonics instruction. Educators also warned about the dangers of teaching the alphabet before teaching words. A strong testing movement and development of standardized reading assessments to determine reading readiness for formal instruction marked the period from 1920 to 1940.
  24. 24. 12 During the 1930s and 1940s, whole word instruction (also known as "look-say") was prevalent in many American classrooms. "By repeatedly encountering the same words in text, children were expected to learn to recognize entire words without attending to phonics or decoding strategies" (Quick, 1998, p. 255). During the 1930s, reading instruction was considered its own discipline, little or no effort was made "to relate instruction in reading to other curriculum fields or indeed to provide guidance in the reading activities carried on in them" (Brueckner, 1939, p. 284). Prior to 1960, the primary method of reading instruction in the United States was the basal reader approach. In response to a national survey of instructional practices in reading conducted by Ralph Steiger (1958), 69% of the respondents reported using one basal series, 20% reported using two basals, and 11% reported using three or more basals. That, as you can see, adds up to 100% of the respondents reporting that they used basals. (Graves & Dykstra, 1997, p. 342) However, in 1955, Flesch published Why Johnny Can't Read and attacked the basal approach to reading instruction. He challenged whole word instruction indicating that sight reading methods were not helping children read. Rather, he advocated a return to a phonics approach (Graves & Dykstra, 1997). In the 1960s, Chall began analyzing reading programs and teacher performance as well as surveying the research on reading. The result was Learning to read: The great debate (1967). Chall examined two schools of thought in reading instruction: whole word instruction and phonics instruction. Chall's research indicated that for long-term results, phonics instruction is clearly better than whole word instruction. Phonics
  25. 25. 13 instruction resulted in better word attack skills that were beneficial to students as they faced unknown words in later years. While whole word instruction was beneficial in the early years, students lacked the word attack skills necessary to transition to independent reading. As mentioned in Chapter One, Bond and Dykstra (1967) published their landmark First Grade Studies where they determined that the key factor to a first grader's reading success was his/her teacher. They were unable to isolate any specific teaching methodologies that were preferable in aiding reading instruction. Bond and Dykstra concluded that children learn by a variety of methods of instruction and a combination of approaches developed by a child's teacher is best. The 1970s brought the whole language philosophy of teaching reading. Whole language advocates believed that "critical skills like phonemic awareness, phonics, vocabulary, reading fluency, and comprehension strategies can be learned through exposure to reading and writing activities, not through systematic instruction" (Blaunstein & Lyon, 2006, p. 5). The role of the whole language teacher was to provide discovery learning opportunities for the students. Basically, children are expected to learn phonics and other basic reading skills on their own with only minimal guidance from the teacher. Many advocates of whole language actually believe that too much phonics instruction is harmful to children, that it will turn them into "word callers" and will destroy their love for reading. The role of the whole language teacher is to help students "discover" how our writing system works without providing systematic instruction. Their goal for reading instruction
  26. 26. 14 is to instill a love of reading, not the ability to read, seemingly without the realization that the latter is the pathway to the former. (Blaunstein & Lyon, 2006, p. 5) Whole-language became the primary focus of reading instruction by the 1990s. California and Texas were the two largest states adopting basal readers. Because of the move towards whole language, these two states insisted that textbook publishers begin publishing books with literature components (Pressley, Allington, Wharton-McDonald, Block & Morrow, 2001, p. 18). However, during the 1990s, the reading wars erupted pitting whole language against basic skills instruction. What emerged was a call for balancing skills instruction and whole language components. In addition, there was increasing appreciation that the most respected and respectable of the scholars documenting the need for skills instruction argued that such instruction should be accompanied by immersion in literature and composing, with Marilyn Adams (1990) and Jeanne Chall (1967/1983) both making such a case. A recent National Research Council panel, which argued in its final report, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children (Snow, Burns, & Griffin, 1998), that the scientific literature favored skills instruction in beginning reading, also made the case that such instruction should occur in the context of extensive reading of real literature and writing. (Pressley et al., 2001, p. 25) In summation, reading instruction in the twentieth century has been marked by controversy. The 1920s saw the debate over silent reading versus oral reading. During the 1920s to 1940s the debates raged over whole word instruction ("look-say") versus
  27. 27. 15 phonics instruction. Prior to the 1960s basal readers became popular. During the 1970s whole language became popular, despite the cries for a phonics approach; but by the 1990s balanced literacy emerged, balancing skills instruction and whole language components. Theoretical Framework Fluency "The word fluency comes from the Latinfluens, meaning to flow. Hence, oral reading fluency is generally described as flowing, smooth, and effortless" (Moskal & Blachowicz, 2006, pp. 2-3). There are two major theories used to describe fluency's role in reading: the theory of automatic information processing (or automaticity) and the theory of prosody. Automaticity occurs when a reader is able to decode to a high enough level of automatic information processing that he or she can focus on creating meaning from text (LaBerge & Samuels, 1974). Nicholson and Tan (1999) provided the example of walking. Anyone who has watched 2-year-olds walking knows that they have definitely not yet overlearned this skill. They still put mental effort into walking. They look where they are walking, learn to adjust their pace, and so on. But walking, for the adult, requires no conscious attention - except as Samuels (1976) pointed out, when the ground is icy and attention must be used to avoid falling. In addition, while walking, the mind can be thinking about something else other than the process of walking. This is another aspect of automaticity. The mastery of one skill to the point of
  28. 28. 16 effortlessness enables you to do something else at the same time. (Nicholsan & Tan, 1999, pp. 151-152) Automaticity is emphasized because it is the key to comprehension. "Humans have only so much cognitive capacity to devote to a particular task. In cognitive psychology, this is known as the assumption of limited processing capacity, or limited cognitive resources" (Nathan & Stanovich, 1991, p. 176). "When children learn to recognize many words automatically and to read grade- level text at a reasonable rate, their oral reading still many not sound 'natural,' because they do not yet read with expression - or prosody" (Osborn, Lehr, & Hiebert, 2003, p. 5). Prosody occurs when a reader can read with appropriate expression and phrasing (Rasinski & Hoffman, 2003). There are six basic components of prosodic reading: "pausal intrusions, length of phrases, appropriateness of phrases, final phrase lengthening, terminal intonation countours, and stress" (Kuhn & Stahl, 2002, p. 5). Another important model is Keith Stanovich's Interactive-Compensatory model where Stanovich (1986) describes the number of interactions a reader has with text. The effect of reading volume on vocabulary growth, combined with the large skill differences in reading volume, could mean that a "rich-get-richer" or cumulative advantage phenomenon is almost inextricably embedded within the developmental course of reading progress. The very children who are reading well and who have good vocabularies will read more, learn more word meanings, and hence read even better. Children with inadequate vocabularies - who read slowly and without enjoyment - read less, and as a result have slower development of vocabulary knowledge, which inhibits further growth in reading
  29. 29. 17 available. Walberg (Walberg et al., 1984; Walberg & Tsai, 1983), following Merton (1968), has dubbed those educational sequences where early achievement spawns faster rates of subsequent achievement "Matthew effects," after the Gospel according to Matthew: "For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath (XXV:29)." (Stanovich, 1986, p. 381) The Matthew effect becomes more pronounced when one takes into account the difference in reading volume between avid and reluctant readers. Students who read on average ninety minutes per day, read 4.7 million words annually as opposed to students that read on average two minutes per day. Their annual number of words read amounts to 51,000 (Anderson, Wilson, & Fielding, 1988, p. 292). Vaughn and Linan-Thompson (2004) contended that fluency is a key element of reading for primary students (p. 50). According to Minskoff (2005), fluency refers to "both a stage of learning to read and a distinct set of reading skills" (p. 122). Chall (1978) best described this stage of learning. Chall based her work on the work of Piaget as she proposed the stages of reading development described in Table 1. While confirmation and fluency is stage two of Chall's model, Fountas and Pinnell (2006) pointed out that fluency is more than just a stage or a label. Rather, it is a "characteristic of effective reading at every level" (p. 74) and in fact changes depending upon the context. To review, in terms of fluency, the theory of automaticity by LaBerge and Samuels (1974) and the theory of prosody as described by Rasinski and Hoffman (2003) are key. In order for one to become fluent, one must spend time with text. This is
  30. 30. addressed by Stanovich's (1986) Interactive-Compensatory model. Fluency is a developmental process as described by Chall's stages of reading development. Table 1 Chall's Stages Of Development Stage Title Age Description Prereading Birth to Age 6 Initial Reading, or Grades 1, Ages 6-7 Decoding Confirmation and End of Grade 1 to Fluency end of Grade 3, Ages 7-8 Learning the New Grades 4-8, Ages 9-13 Multiple High School, Viewpoints Ages 14-18 Construction and College, Reconstruction Ages 18 and above Phonemic awareness, print concepts, letter knowledge, vocabulary and syntax Sound - symbol correspondence Decodes fluently, moves to more complex text, confirms what is already known Students are reading to learn rather than learning to read Synthesizing Weigh and add information from text to world view Note. Adapted from Chall (1978).
  31. 31. 19 Comprehension One major theoretical framework applied to reading comprehension is schema theory. Reading comprehension depends on acquired knowledge and how it fits into one's schema (Duffy, Roehler & Mason, 1984). Reading is seen as an active process of constructing meaning by connecting old knowledge with new information encountered in text. Readers build meaning by engaging in a series of recursive interactions. In each interaction readers generate a model that provides the best possible fit with the data perceived to be in the text . . . . Gradually, iteration by iteration, readers construct their own meaning. (Pearson, Roehler, Dole, & Duffy, 1992, p. 149) A study led by Stahl (1989) addressed the issue of prior knowledge when the reader encounters difficult vocabulary in unfamiliar text. "According to schema theory, the reader's background knowledge serves as scaffolding to aid in encoding information from the text. Thus, a person with more background knowledge is able to comprehend better than a person with less knowledge" (Stahl, Jacobson, Davis, & Davis, 1989, pp. 284-285). Louise Rosenblatt (1978) described her transactional theory of literacy work wherein the reader actually has a transaction with the text. The foundation of her theory is that a "text, once it leaves its author's hands, is simply paper and ink until a reader evokes from it a literary work . . . " (p. ix). Rosenblatt further contended that reading processes, such as comprehension, occur during this transaction. A person becomes a reader by virtue of his activity in relationship to a text, which he organizes as a set of verbal symbols. A physical text, a set
  32. 32. 20 of marks on a page, becomes the text of a poem or of a scientific formula by virtue of its relationship with a reader who can thus interpret it and reach through it to the world of the work. (Rosenblatt, 1978, pp. 18-19) To conclude, two major theoretical frameworks are important when discussing reading comprehension. One is schema theory and how prior knowledge fits into one's schema. The other theory is Rosenblatt's transactional theory of literacy work. History of Comprehension Prior to 1826, an early view of the reading process followed what is known as the memoriter model. In this model, decoding was the focus of beginning reading instruction. Meaningful text was not introduced to the reader until decoding was mastered. The only text considered to be comprehensible text for the student was decodable text. The memoriter model also involved the acquisition of a sight vocabulary. This facilitated comprehension. Comprehension was also aided by the rote memorization of text. Comprehension mastery by the student was indicated when the student could communicate the written text effectively through oral reading (Robinson, Faraone, Hittleman, & Unruh, 1990). The interlocking and step-by-step models of reading comprehension marked the mid-nineteenth century. The interlocking model described three stages of reading: mechanical reading (sight words, decoding, oral reading exercises), intellectual reading (reading fast for meaning), and rhetorical reading (expressive reading). The interlocking piece that made the entire process work was comprehension. Preparation for the meaning of the text not only assisted in one's mastery of the mechanics of reading, but also enabled the reader to comprehend the text through
  33. 33. 21 independent silent reading, culminating eventually in expressive reading - the final goal of the reading act. (Robinson, et al., 1990, p. 23) The step-by-step model was similar to the interlocking model. It included the same three stages of reading (mechanical, intellectual, and rhetorical). However, under the step-by- step model, the components of reading and learning occurred one step at a time. First one learned mechanical reading, then one could engage in intellectual reading. Finally, one could read rhetorically (Robinson, et al., 1990). The pendulum swung towards the end of the nineteenth century, which was marked by the thought-getting model of the reading process. In this model (1) reading presupposes life experiences; (2) reading is primarily a receptive process (i.e., silent reading) with thought-getting (i.e., thinking) as its goal - a process that involves perceiving text instantaneously (i.e., written or printed words arranged in sentences), associating text with spoken words, and relating these ideas into thought; and (3) reading becomes an expressive act (i.e., oral reading) through thought-giving, when the thought acquired is shared with others. (Robinson, et al., 1990, p. 48) By 1917, Gray indicated that the way to improve reading comprehension was through silent reading. Gray suggested that prior knowledge improves comprehension along with knowledge of the elements upon which meaning depends, such as syntax. Gray also contended that fast readers are usually better at comprehension than slow readers (Gray, 1917). The debate in the 1970s and early 1980s centered around whether or not reading comprehension was a "top down" or "bottom up" process. Those that contended that
  34. 34. 22 reading comprehension was a "top down" process believed that the reader relied on his or her background knowledge and ability to make decisions about the meaning of text. Those that contended that reading comprehension was a "bottom up" process believed that the reader relied on visual data for comprehension, focusing on letters, words and sentences (Samuels, & Kamil, 1984). In the late 1970s, Rumelhart introduced the interactive model of reading, blurring the distinction between decoding and comprehension, indicating that each interacts with the other. In Rumelhart's model, the reader processes factors like letter features and sounds (referred to as bottom-up factors) at the same time as factors like his or her knowledge of the topic of the text and the situation in which it is read (referred to as top-down factors). This interactive model, therefore, suggests that reading involves simultaneous parallel processing of both bottom-up and top-down factors. The model proposes that the weight given to particular factors, whether top-down or bottom-up, will depend on characteristics of the reader (such as decoding ability), the text (such as familiarity of topics), and the context or environment in which the reading takes place. Thus, the importance of top-down and bottom-up factors will differ from reader to reader, text to text, and situation to situation. (Maria, 1990, p. 5) Another interactive model was introduced in 1979 by Kintsch. The Kintsch model assumed that comprehension was a complex process and that these processes could operate either in serial or parallel. It specified three types of operations.
  35. 35. 23 First, the meaning elements of a text are organized into a coherent whole. During this stage of processing, some elements are subjected to multiple processing which, in turn, leads to better differential retention among the text elements. Second, another set of operations compresses the full meaning of the text into its gist. The third component generates new texts from the memorial consequences of the comprehension processes. The ultimate goal of this model is to be able to specify how a text is processed sentence by sentence and to specify the outputs of the various stages of comprehension. (Samuels & Kamil, 1984, p. 216) By 1980, Stanovich introduced his interactive-compensatory model of reading. The compensatory assumption states that a deficit in any knowledge source results in a heavier reliance on other knowledge sources, regardless of their level in the processing hierarchy. Thus, according to the interactive- compensatory model, the poor reader who has deficient word analysis skills might possibly show a greater reliance on contextual factors. (Stanovich, 1980, p. 64) Through this process, a reader can compensate for their deficiencies by applying "top down" processing and "bottom up" processing. That is, if a person were reading a particularly difficult text that challenged his ability to decode, but he had a great deal of background knowledge about the topic, he could compensate for his decoding deficiencies by relying on top-down processes to successfully comprehend the text. (Almasi, 2003, p. 74)
  36. 36. 24 To sum up, prior to 1826, it was believed that the only comprehensible text was decodable text. This was known as the memoriter model. By the mid-nineteenth century, the interlocking and step-by-step models took hold. By the end of the nineteenth century the thought-getting model of the reading process was becoming popular and involved reading as a receptive process. By 1917, Gray suggested prior knowledge improved comprehension. But the debate by the 1970s and 1980s centered around "top down" and "bottom up" models. A combination of the two found its way into three interactive models by Rumelhart, Kintsch and Stanovich. Reading Policies In 1967, Bond and Dykstra published their landmark First Grade Studies where they determined that the key factor to a first grader's reading success was his/her teacher. They were unable to isolate any specific teaching methodologies that were preferable in aiding reading instruction. From that time forward, there were a plethora of government acts and actions that impacted reading instruction - ranging from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) in 1971 to the federal reports of the early 1980s knows as A Nation at Risk and Becoming a Nation of Readers (Allington & McGill-Granzen, 2000). But historically, fluency has been overlooked. Fluency did not receive enough attention for several reasons, including the prevalence of strategies designed for individual instruction (Kuhn, 2003), an assumption that increased amounts of decoding instruction would automatically lead to improved fluency, (Allington, 1983; Fleisher, Jenkins, & Pany, 1979/1980), and reliance on round-robin reading as one of the primary approaches for oral reading instruction. (Ash, Kuhn, & Walpole, 2003, p. 338)
  37. 37. 25 This was true until the Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read was issued in April 2000 and found that fluency and comprehension were uniquely tied together and were key factors in determining reading success (National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), 2000, p. 3-3). Further research by Kuhn and Stahl (2003) pushed fluency to the forefront. In examining the research on fluency, the National Reading Panel examined both guided oral reading procedures and repeated readings to ascertain their effectiveness on fluency development. "These two procedures have been widely recommended as appropriate and valuable avenues for increasing fluency and overall reading achievement" (NICHD, 2000, p. 3-28). The Panel further found that "comprehension is critically important to the development of children's reading skills and therefore to the ability to obtain an education" (NICHD, 2000, p. 4-1). In examining the research on comprehension, the National Reading Panel focused on 205 studies in sixteen categories of instruction. They concluded that only seven strategies appear to have a scientific basis upon which one can reasonably conclude that with proper instruction the comprehension of "normal" readers will improve. These strategies include: comprehension monitoring, cooperative learning, use of graphic organizers, question generation, question answering and summarization, and multiple strategies (NICHD, 2000). While the Report of the National Reading Panel has come under much criticism, the sections on fluency and comprehension have remained relatively unscathed (Garan, 2002). Hiebert and Fisher (2005) did point out, however, that 75% of the texts used in the fluency studies utilized controlled vocabulary, as opposed to current basals that have "substantially more rare
  38. 38. 26 words, and approximately 70% of these words appear a single time" (Hiebert & Fisher, 2005, p. 443). As a result of the work of the National Reading Panel, Congress enacted the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), which emphasized reading instruction. Under NCLB, Congress mandated "access of children to effective, scientifically based instructional strategies and challenging academic content" (115 STAT. 1441). NCLB also mandated that schools must meet adequate yearly progress, and the law delineated the conditions under which each school could meet adequate yearly progress. Another key initiative of NCLB was the Reading First grants which were developed to provide assistance to State educational agencies and local educational agencies in establishing reading programs for students in kindergarten through grade 3 that are based on scientifically based reading research, to ensure that every student can read at grade level or above not later than the end of grade 3. (115 STAT. 1535) In summation, prior to 2000, fluency was largely overlooked in the reading policies of the United States. However, the Report of the National Reading Panel: Teaching Children to Read found that fluency and comprehension were uniquely tied together. Because of the work of the National Reading Panel, Congress enacted NCLB mandating scientifically based instruction. Fluency and consequently comprehension were coming to the forefront of American education. Current Research in Comprehension In 2000, the RAND Reading Study Group (RRSG) was formed to make recommendations about how the Department of Education might make better decisions about the research it funds. The RRSG focused on reading comprehension and suggested
  39. 39. 27 that future research should focus on instruction, teacher preparation and professional development, and assessment. Furthermore, the RRSG recommended a "targeted research agenda that is sustainable, sizable, and cumulative" (Sweet & Snow, 2002, p. 46). The RRSG defined reading comprehension as the process of simultaneously extracting and constructing meaning through interaction and involvement with written language. In brief, understanding comprehension requires these elements: the reader, the text, and the activity, or purpose for reading. These elements define a phenomenon - reading comprehension - that occurs within a larger sociocultural context that shapes and is shaped by the reader. The broader context infuses each of the three elements. (Snow & Sweet, 2003, p. 10) There are three levels in the hierarchy of comprehension: literal comprehension, interpretation, and critical evaluation. Literal comprehension involves comprehension of the specific details of the text and comprises the lowest level in the hierarchy. The middle level is interpretation and involves thinking about what is implied in the text. Skills in this level include inferencing, generalizing, drawing conclusions, predicting, and perceiving relationships (Schwartz, 1988). The highest level in the hierarchy of comprehension is critical evaluation and occurs when "the reader evaluates written material by measuring it against some evidence or standard and then making a judgment about its veracity, accuracy, and quality" (Schwartz, 1988, p. 184). The purpose of reading is comprehension (Bender & Larkin, 2003) and like any other skill, it must be taught and must be practiced. In determining how to teach comprehension skills, it is useful to examine the comprehension skills of good readers.
  40. 40. 28 Block and Israel (2005) reported on six research-based findings that describe the thinking processes used by expert readers when comprehending. First, good readers not only set a purpose for reading but they also apply what has been read to their own lives. Second, good readers use their own comprehension process when faced with textual confusion. These processes include predicting, drawing conclusions, summarizing, and inferring. Third, good readers make inferences, draw conclusions, create visual images, and engage in metacognition. Fourth, good readers rely on prior knowledge to help make meaning when encountering unfamiliar text. Fifth, good readers use text features, story structure and graphic organizers to help make meaning. Finally, good readers generate and answer questions to help with meaning-making (Block & Israel, 2005). All of these mean that good readers monitor their comprehension when reading (Pearson, Roehler, Dole & Duffy, 1992). Applegate, Quinn, and Applegate (2006) described the profiles of eight cognitive approaches students utilize when discussing what they have read. Literalists believe that the answers to all questions will be found in the text. Fuzzy Thinkers answer all questions but their reasoning is often vague and ambiguous. Left Fielders have unpredictable responses and those responses will often seem incoherent or illogical. Quiz Contestants tend to rely on their background knowledge to answer questions but will not utilize any information from the text that was just read. Politicians will answer questions by providing the answer they think the teacher wants to hear, even if it has little to do with the text. Dodgers actually avoid answering the question and will change the question to something that they prefer answering. Authors will add more details to the story than was actually in the text, as they prefer their own version of the story.
  41. 41. 29 Minimalists provide short responses and are unwilling to elaborate and explain their thinking (Applegate, et al., 2006). By understanding the profiles of the eight approaches readers utilize when comprehending text, teachers can begin to make sound instructional decisions about methodologies to use in teaching comprehension strategies. Barton and Sawyer (2003) point out that "given the great diversity of written materials available to readers, the act of comprehension is by nature so sophisticated that no single instructional method can be sufficient for all readers with all texts in all learning situations" (p. 334). Barton and Sawyer described six instructional touchstones that could be used to aid in a student's comprehension development. These include providing repeated exposure to a variety of texts, helping the student make reader / text connections, providing opportunities for focused student responses through writing, talking, and drawing, directly teaching the various comprehension strategies, providing visual structures, and assisting students in developing their metacognition when reading (Barton and Sawyer, 2003). There are a plethora of strategies that can be used to aid in the development of comprehension. One such strategy is the teaching of story grammar, which provides a cognitive structure for helping student identify the important parts of a story. In a study by Williams (2005), the researcher found that when primary students were given explicit, direct instruction about text structures, gains were made in comprehension. A second strategy involves the use of student think-alouds that helps readers monitor their thinking and thus improve their comprehension. Other strategies involve question answering, summarization, and improvisational drama (Bender & Larkin, 2003). Teachers can also ask strategic questions about context clues thus helping students begin to self-monitor
  42. 42. 30 when encountering unfamiliar text. Teachers should also model using textual and visual clues to make predictions about the text. Activating prior knowledge, also known as frontloading, can help students identify a schema in which to put the new knowledge gleaned from the text. Students should also be taught to skim texts strategically (Bishop, Reyes & Pflaum, 2006). Minskoff (2005) pointed out that some basic guidelines should be followed when providing reading comprehension instruction. Explicit instruction should be provided at pre-reading, actual reading and post-reading phases and a multisensory approach should be used. Reading comprehension should be fun and motivating and as such, different formats should be used for teacher questions and student responses. When providing strategy instruction, teachers should instruct students to become actively engaged with the reading material (Minskoff, 2005). In the primary grades, the goal of comprehension instruction is to "build readers' thinking processes so that they can read a text with understanding, construct memory and metacognitive representations of what they understand, and put their new understandings to use when communicating with others" (Block, Rodgers & Johnson, 2004, p. 4). One of the ways this can be done is through the Talking Drawings strategy. This strategy allows primary children to draw pictures of their current content knowledge about a particular topic prior to reading. Then, after reading a given text and discussing with a partner, the children are allowed to revise their drawing. By examining the pre-and post- reading artwork, the teacher can see what advances were made in student knowledge (Paquette, Fello, & Jalongo, 2007). Another strategy helpful for primary students is a manipulation strategy. "Having young readers manipulate objects to correspond to the
  43. 43. 31 characters and actions in a text greatly enhances comprehension as measured by both recall and inference tests" (Glenberg, Brown & Levin, 2007, p. 389). Comprehension instruction is not unique to primary students however; it is an integral part of the curriculum throughout a student's education, especially as reading demands increase in the upper grades (Duffy, 2003). "Research has shown that many children who read at the third grade level in grade 3 will not automatically become proficient comprehenders in later grades. Therefore, teachers must teach comprehension explicitly, beginning in the primary grades and continuing through high school" (Bishop, Reyes & Pflaum, p. 66). Dymock (2007) and Pressley (2002) agreed that comprehension must be explicitly taught. Furthermore, "comprehension abilities are not skills that, once mastered, never need to be relearned. Rather, comprehension is an ability that, with high-quality instruction, constantly deepens and broadens over time, enabling students to appreciate more sophisticated and subtle meanings" (Block & Israel, 2005). Comprehension strategies must be modeled and taught. They should be integrated throughout the curriculum and used in the content area classes as well (Duffy, 2003; Lapp, Fisher & Grant, 2008; Ness, 2007). Students should engage in self-directed learning as it has been found to improve their motivation to read and thus their reading comprehension. Cooperative learning can also improve reading comprehension, especially when it is text-based and utilizes open-ended questions. Students should be exposed to wide variety of diverse texts and should engage in meaningful writing activities to solidify their reading comprehension (Biancarosa, 2005, pp. 17-19). "Comprehension lessons should include modeling, think-alouds, scaffolding, guided
  44. 44. 32 practice, and independent silent-reading opportunities to use comprehension processes independently" (Block & Israel, p. 96). Think alouds occur through read-alouds during which time the teacher models his or her thinking orally to illustrate comprehension processing while reading (Davey, 1983). There are a number of strategies that appear to improve comprehension. These include monitoring students' understanding and making adjustments as needed; activating and applying relevant prior knowledge (for example, by making predictions); generating questions; thinking aloud; attending to and uncovering text structure; drawing inferences; constructing visual representations; and summarizing. With each strategy, explicit teaching should include information about what the strategy is, when it is used, how it is used, and why it is worth using. (Duke, 2004, p. 41-42) Furthermore, struggling readers will need additional support, especially in the area of expository text. Many struggling readers actually "prefer information texts and view the act of reading as one of 'work' to learn information rather than one of recreation to 'enjoy' a story" (Reutzel, Camperell, & Smith, 2002, p. 337). In this technological age, more support will also be needed to help students comprehend and evaluate Internet content (Coiro, 2003). Context clues become very important at this point. They are useful for "broadly comprehending text as well as for specifically learning new words. Instruction in context problem solving pays great dividends" (Greenwood & Flanigan, 2007, p. 249).
  45. 45. 33 In addition to context clues, the types of activities that can support struggling readers with their comprehension include: (1) elaborative interrogation, where students ask "why" questions; (2) text organization instruction, where students learn to use graphic organizers; and (3) social and self-regulatory process instruction, where students develop self-efficacy in order to impact achievement and learn to self-regulate their comprehension processes (Reutzel, Camperell, & Smith, 2002). Communicative reading strategies have also been shown to help struggling readers. With the use of communicative reading strategies, the instructor provides "contextually supported feedback to help children reconstruct the author's message" (Crowe, 2005, p. 34). Liang and Dole (2006) described five research-based comprehension instructional frameworks that focused on either understanding the text or utilizing comprehension strategies. These frameworks included the Scaffolded Reading Experience (SRE), Questioning the Author (QtA), Collaborative Strategic Reading (CSR), Peer-Assisted Learning Strategies (PALS) and Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction (CORI). SRE involves the use of prereading and postreading activities that will scaffold the individual reader and promote comprehension. QtA involves the use of teacher and student generated questions about the author's ideas. In CSR, students collaboratively move through four processes - previewing, monitoring, summarizing, and wrapping up. PALS pairs a high and low reader together and they each take turns reading, developing main ideas, and predicting. CORI is used with content area subjects and allows students to ask questions, gather information, comprehend and integrate, and then communicate their learning (Liang & Dole, 2006).
  46. 46. 34 Another framework or technique in developing a reader's comprehension is story retelling. In a story retelling, the reader can either verbally or in writing tell what he or she remembers about a given story. Retelling requires the child to construct a personal text, making inferences based on original text as well as on prior knowledge. Research demonstrates that instruction and practice in retelling usually result in the development of comprehension, a sense of story structure, and oral complexity in a child's use of language. (Morrow, 1989, p. 54) In a 1994 study, researchers found that middle school students were particularly successful with story retelling when they used advance organizers as a prereading activity and combined the organizers with prereading discussions (Rinehart, Barksdale-Ladd, Paterson, 1994, p. 244). Research has also shown that i^ciprocal teaching will aid in the development of comprehension. Through the use of four strategies - summarizing, questioning, clarifying, and predicting - the teacher and students engage in discussion. The teacher models the use of the strategies and then the students use the strategies in a small group format (Stahl, 2004). Studies by Van Keer (2004) and Van Keer and Verhaeghe (2005) indicated that explicit modeling, followed by a whole group discussion and then cross- age peer tutoring will also improve reading comprehension. One of the factors that impacts a student's reading comprehension is their vocabulary development. "One of the longest, most clearly articulated lines of research in literacy education describes the strong connection between readers' vocabulary knowledge and their reading comprehension" (Blachowicz & Fisher, 2004, p. 66). As
  47. 47. 35 Boulware-Gooden, Carreker, Thornhill and Joshi (2007) pointed out, "students need vocabulary knowledge and metacognitive skills so they can monitor their understanding and reflect on what has been read" (Boulware-Gooden, et al., 2007, p. 71). Children who come from homes that do not have print-rich environments and do not engage in shared reading experiences with adults tend to have poorly developed oral language. "Limited vocabulary knowledge is a major contributor to the oral language deficits that diminish young children's comprehension" (Reutzel, Camperell, & Smith, 2002, p. 323). Juel and Deffes (2004) report, "research suggests that the vocabulary of entering 1st graders predicts not only their word reading ability at the end of 1st grade but also their 11th grade reading comprehension" (Juel & Deffes, 2004, p. 31). It is important to note that while the focus in improving reading comprehension has been through the use of reading strategies, writing can also help as well. Reading and writing are integrated processes. After all, "opportunities to respond in writing allow students to think again about their reading, this time on paper" (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000, p. 30). In a 2007 study, researchers reported on four writing strategies that teachers can use to improve reading comprehension. These include About/Point (a summarizing strategy), Cubing, (a strategy for asking questions from multiple perspectives), Four Square Graphic Organizer (a strategy for organizing thoughts) and Read, Respond, Revisit, Discuss (an interactive journaling strategy) (Wallace, Pearman, Hail, & Hurst, 2007). Yet another significant factor in comprehension development is that of motivation. Not only must students have the skill to read, they must have the desire to read as well. "As individuals read more, they read better and learn more about the world.
  48. 48. 36 The result is better comprehension ..." (Gambrell, Block & Pressley, 2002, pp. 7-8). Duffy (2003) concurred with the aforementioned and stated that "oral language and vocabulary are the basis of comprehension ... [and] comprehension is enhanced when students are engaged and motivated" (Duffy, 2003, pp. 5-6). Tied in with motivation is engagement. A study by Lutz, Guthrie and Davis (2006) found that reading comprehension increased when students were engaged in learning and there was a "high complexity of literacy tasks in which students are engaged" (Lutz, et al., 2006, p. 13). Pardo (2004) agreed that a strong vocabulary, motivation and engagement are key to developing readers with good comprehension. She also pointed out the students must have good decoding skills and must be fluent readers. If students are no longer working on decoding issues, and "as word reading becomes automatic, students become fluent and can focus on comprehension" (Pardo, 2004, p. 273). One way to support students' comprehension is through instructional scaffolding (Duffy, p. 55). Clark and Graves (2004) reported that scaffolding is useful in several ways in that it can "aid students by helping them to better complete a task, to complete a task with less stress or in less time, or to learn more fully than they would have otherwise" (Clark & Graves, 2004, p. 571). Scaffolding is perhaps best understood by examining the gradual release of responsibility model (Pearson & Gallagher, 1983) shown in Figure 1. In this gradual release of responsibility model, students gradually progress from situations in which the teacher takes the majority of the responsibility for successfully completing a reading task, to situations in which students assume
  49. 49. 37 increasing responsibility for reading tasks, and finally to situations in which students take all or nearly all the responsibility for reading tasks. At any point in time, teachers should scaffold students enough so that they do not give up on the task or fail at it but not scaffold them so much that they do not have the opportunity to actively work on the problem themselves (Clark & Graves, 2004, p. 571). Figure 1. The gradual release of responsibility model of instruction. The gradual release of responsibility model of instruction Proportion of responsibility for task completion All teacher Joint responsibility All student Retrieved October 13, 2006 from http.7/home.earthlink.net/~ihholly/gradualrelease.htm Effective comprehension instruction utilizes this gradual release of responsibility and utilizes strategies to teach students to have a plan of action. It does not involve merely reading a passage and answering a few questions. These strategies include the ability to "self-monitor, summarize, use graphic organizers, ask questions, use semantic organizers, identify story structures, relate reading material to prior knowledge, and use mental imagery" (Minskoff, 2005, p. 138). These strategies must be taught. As Carnine et al. (2006) pointed out, "good instruction is the most powerful means of promoting
  50. 50. 38 proficient comprehension and preventing comprehension problems" (p. 209). Furthermore, this instruction must begin in the primary grades (Vaughn & Linan- Thompson, 2004). However, a study done in 1978 by Dolores Durkin indicated that comprehension was not being taught - it was being tested but not being explicitly taught. As Vaughn and Linan-Thompson (2004) reported, Durkin found that in a study of over 4000 minutes of 4l grade reading instruction, only 20 minutes of comprehension instruction was recorded. These findings shocked researchers and teachers at the time. More recent studies reveal that explicit comprehension instruction is still not being provided as often as it should be. (Vaughn & Linan-Thompson, 2004, p. 100) Durkin (1978) described classroom after classroom that was focused on volumes of ditto sheets. This proved problematic for comprehension as the sheer magnitude of ditto sheets often meant that several days intervened between the time a story was read by children and the time their teachers queried them about it. With the delay, it was impossible to ascertain whether the questions were assessing the ability to comprehend or the ability to recall what had been comprehended. (Durkin, 1978, p. 524) Durkin (1983) indicated that part of the problem was that teacher's manuals provided a great deal of comprehension assessment with little accompanying comprehension instruction. "Why comprehension is constantly tested but rarely taught has no obvious
  51. 51. 39 explanation. Perhaps as more is learned about the comprehension process, more suggestions for teaching it will get into manuals" (Durkin, 1978, pp. 280-281). Pressley (2002) pointed out that education is still focusing less on comprehension instruction and more on word recognition skills (p. 388). In a 1998 study, researchers discovered that not much progress had been made in comprehension instruction since the Durkin study in 1978. ... despite a great deal of research in the past two decades on how to promote children's comprehension of what they read, we observed only rare instances of explicit comprehension instruction. Indeed, the situation still seems to be much as Durkin described, with a great deal of testing of comprehension but very little teaching of it. (Pressley, Wharton- McDonald, Mistretta-Hampston, & Echevarria, 1998, pp. 186-187) A study by Wendler, Samuels and Moore (1989) found similar results. Further, they found that much of the comprehension instructional time was actually comprehension assessment with the teacher asking the students questions. Twenty-two years later, however, some of Durkin's concerns were addressed. Dole (2000) reported about a paper presented to the American Educational Research Association wherein Rosenshine (1997) discussed the extent to which cognitive strategy instruction has been implemented in recent basal reading programs . . . . Developers of basal programs have paid attention to the research on comprehension strategies and now include these strategies as part of their instructional program. (Dole, 2000, p. 62)
  52. 52. 40 While comprehension and comprehension strategy instruction are vital, Nelson- Herber and Johnston (1989) pointed out that teachers should not lose sight of the ultimate goal of reading - enjoyment of literature. All children should have access to whatever skills they may need to help them understand and enjoy stories. Our mistake in teaching is that we sometimes focus so hard on the skills and strategies that we (and the children) lose sight of the goal. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that one way children learn to read better is by reading more. There needs to be a time for teaching and a time for reading for pleasure. (Herber & Johnston, 1989, p. 269) As seen in the aforementioned studies, the purpose of reading is comprehension and it is a skill that must be taught and practiced. There are a variety of strategies to be taught including teaching students cognitive structures for identifying story grammar and using think-alouds to model the comprehension strategies. Comprehension must be explicitly taught, especially in the primary grades. Scaffolding, such as through the gradual release of responsibility model, can be useful. Comprehension instruction is beginning to occur more in classrooms and it is vital that this trend continue. Current Research in Fluency Fluency is a key to reading instruction. One text described it as the "bridge between word recognition and comprehension" (Carnine, Silbert, Kame'enui, Tarver, & Jungjohann, 2006, p. 141). In fact, the reader must indeed use comprehension in order to support fluency (Fountas & Pinnell, 2006; Daly, Chafouleas & Skinner, 2005). But, as Topping (2006) pointed out "fluency is of little value in itself- its value lies in what it
  53. 53. 41 enables" (Topping, 2006, p. 106). Fluency is important because fluent readers are more likely to comprehend and thus are more likely to choose to read. Fluent reading also requires less effort than decoding (Daly, Chafouleas, & Skinner, 2005). "Fluency enables students to focus on constructing meaning from text" (Walley, 1993, p. 526). However, it is important to note that a reader can be fluent without comprehending. Cole (2004) described a group of English language learners who could read English fluently with absolutely no comprehension. They had mastered decoding but not comprehension. Research has shown that most children develop into fluent readers by third grade. Approximately 75 percent of students who are poor readers in third grade continue to be lower achieving readers in ninth grade and, in essence, do not recover their reading abilities even into adulthood. (Corcoran & Davis, 2005, p. 105) Cole (2004) described the attributes of a fluent reader. First, they have a large sight vocabulary. Second, a fluent reader effectively uses decoding strategies. A fluent reader also reads audibly and in phrases or chunks. When reading a rehearsed text, a fluent reader can read at a smooth, steady pace. Fluency is impacted by variables such as type of text being read, purpose for reading, and prior knowledge about the topic of the text (Johns, 2005). It is noteworthy that students will have different needs in regards to the amount of practice time they will require in improving both their fluency and accuracy (Carnine et al., 2006). Reading fluency is impacted by the different demands text features place on readers. For example, familiarity with a genre type will facilitate fluency, as will prior knowledge about text structures, content, themes and ideas, language and literary features, vocabulary and words. The complexity of sentences will
  54. 54. 42 also impact a reader's fluency (Fountas & Pinnell, 2006). Worthy and Broaddus (2002) compared reading fluency to being a musician. Just as musicians learn common chords and melodic sequences, fluent readers must have a vocabulary of high-frequency words, graphophonic skills, and strategies for accurately decoding new words. Frequent opportunities to practice identifying words through meaningful reading and writing experiences help the reader to achieve automatic word identification or automaticity, just as practicing scales and favorite pieces helps the musician to develop technical expertise. (Worthy & Broaddus, 2002, p. 335) O'Connor, Bell, Harly, Larkin, Sackor, and Zigmond (2002) conducted a fluency intervention study on upper elementary students, specifically third through fifth grade students. O'Connor et al. found that those who were the farthest behind in terms of fluency made the greatest gains if they were continuously given books to read that were on their reading level (Rasinski, 2003). Stahl and Heubach (2005) conducted a similar study on second grade students with similar results. Further research reported that explicit fluency instruction should begin no later than second grade (Moskal &Blachowicz, 2006) with some contending that fluency measures should actually begin during the middle of first grade (Chard, Pikulski, & McDonagh, 2006, p. 56). Block and Israel (2005) pointed out that students actually needed to practice with materials both below their level, on their level, and occasionally above their level. They used the following analogy. Fluency development is analogous to learning to play tennis. A tennis player is tested to determine her level of play and then placed in a
  55. 55. 43 category with players at this same level. On occasion she'll play down a level to get in a quick game without the need to exert a lot of effort, or play up a level in order to challenge herself and determine where she needs practice. To be the best one can be and to develop skill level most efficiently, one needs to play (or read in this case) within the range of skill level where frequent successes will be obtained. Repeated reading - repeated tennis, read a lot at the right level - play a lot at the right level. (Block & Israel, 2005, pp. 82-83) As in tennis, the amount of practice needed in order to become a fluent reader varies with each individual. It becomes the role of the instructor to determine who needs the most practice and develop a practice schedule for those needing a more intense workout (Carnine, et al., 2006). Allington (1999) stated "research has shown that kids with a low degree of fluency are less likely to understand what they read" (Allington, 1999, p. 12). Archer, Gleason, and Vachon (2003) provide the following example to illustrate this point. A recent incident with a young friend provided the perfect analogy. He had just obtained his driver's permit at age 15-1/2 and begged to drive to the store. As drivers, our cognitive resources must respond to two aspects of driving: the mechanics of driving (brakes, gas, windshield wipers, etc.) and road hazards. As a new driver, Matt was deeply engrossed in the mechanics of driving. As he searched for the windshield wipers, he pulled into the wrong lane, and we were faced with a semi-truck. After one of us grabbed the wheel and pulled us back to safety, Mart's gift to us became evident: the perfect fluency analogy. Attend to the mechanics and face a
  56. 56. 44 semi. Attend to decoding and miss the gist. (Archer, et al., 2003, p. 96) Bender and Larkin (2003) described the areas of the brain that are involved in fluent reading versus decoding. If the brain of a student reading a particular passage tends to be more active in Broca's area ... than in the visual cortex or Wenicke's area ..., that student is concentrating on the meaning .... The student would more than likely demonstrate very fluent reading skills on that particular passage. (Bender & Larkin, 2003, p. 124) Fluent reading does not just mean fast reading. Allington (2001) described other features that must be considered as well. Clay and Imlach (1971) conducted the classic study on the development of reading fluency. They examined the reading behaviors of 100 beginning readers and noted that those early readers making the greatest progress not only read faster and more accurately but also with better phrasing and intonation. While the lowest-progress readers read aloud in one and two word segments, the highest-progress readers read in five to seven word phrases. Of course, reading in phrases produced faster reading as well. The high-progress readers also spontaneously self-corrected four and five times as many of their word pronunciation errors as did the lower-progress readers. Thus, these two characteristics, phrase reading with appropriate intonation and spontaneous self-correction of many misread words, were clearly associated with those children making better progress in learning to read. (Allington, 2001, p. 71)
  57. 57. 45 The importance of fluency cannot be overstated. In a study of struggling older readers by Archer et al. (2003), fluency was determined to be a foundation skill. Students who did not become fluent readers in primary grades, grew further and further behind as they advanced in years. Archer et al. (2003) recommended that struggling older readers receive reading practice in the areas of guided reading, choral reading, partner reading, and repeated reading activities to enhance fluency development. Garriot and Jones (2005) stated "building fluency is a major issue with struggling middle grade readers, who may have done well in elementary school but find themselves stymied by more demanding middle school texts" (Garriot & Jones, 2005, p.67). Blau (1999) recommended that students in second through fifth grades receive fluency instruction through the following strategies: modeling of fluent reading, repeated readings in class, use of phrased reading in class, use of tutors in class, and use of reader's theater in class. Bullion-Mears, McCauley and McWhorter (2007) recommended some of these performance techniques, such as reader's theater and poetry, not only for fluency practice but also to build comprehension. They recommend taking nonfiction text and turning it into poems and reader's theater. This allows the students to work on both fluency and comprehension, while navigating the more difficult nonfiction text. Allinder, Dunse, Brunken, and Obermiller-Krolikowski (2001) studied fluency in at-risk readers and students with learning disabilities. The treatment group was taught with specific oral reading fluency strategies. Teacher-student conferences were held with the control group during which time students were instructed to do their best while reading. Results indicated that "all students improved on a standardized norm-referenced test of comprehension, but students who used a specific oral reading strategy made
  58. 58. 46 significantly greater progress in reading, as measured by curriculum-based measurement maze procedures" (Allinder et al., 2001, p. 48). Conderman and Strobel (2006) recommended that students with disabilities utilize a guided repeated oral reading technique to promote oral reading fluency. This technique allows for an initial reading, or cold read, of a passage on Monday, and then multiple opportunities to practice the same passage throughout the week. Finally, on Friday, the student reads the passage for the final time, or the hot read, and data is again collected. The student's progress is noted. This data provides the framework for future interventions. Begeny and Martens (2006) also looked at low-performing readers by establishing reading fluency interventions with a group of third graders. Like the Allinder et al. study, Begeny and Martens found that students made greater progress in reading when measured by maze comprehension passages. Begeny and Martens also found that oral reading rates improved as well with the introduction of reading fluency interventions These interventions included word-list training, listening passage preview, and repeated reading instruction. The National Reading Panel (2000) also found that the analysis of guided oral reading procedures led to the conclusion that such procedures had a consistent, and positive impact on word recognition, fluency, and comprehension as measured by a variety of test instruments and at a range of grade levels (NICHD, 2000, p. 3-3). Repeated readings is a method developed by Samuels (1979). "The method consists of rereading a short, meaningful passage several times until a satisfactory level of fluency is reached. Then the procedure is repeated with a new passage" (Samuels, 1979, p. 403). Repeated readings combined with word boxes, a phonics technique, have
  59. 59. 47 also proved useful in increasing the fluency rates of high school students that had severe reading delays. Devault and Joseph (2004) studied three high school students who were severely delayed readers. Their research indicated that all three students increased their fluency rates when presented with the instructional techniques of repeated reading coupled with word boxes. Samuels, Schermer and Reinking (1992) warned although it (repeated reading) is a useful technique for nonautomatic decoders, it is not recommended for students who are already reading fluently. The method is satisfying because it works, and students who have had histories of reading failure can experience the feeling of being able to read with expression and understanding. (Samuels, et al., 1992, p. 138) Therrien and Kubina (2006) describe repeated reading as an efficient technique for helping students to gain reading fluency. Repeated reading directly targets oral reading fluency and can easily be integrated in an existing reading program. Previous research has shown that repeated reading is effective with a variety of students, including students with disabilities. Using essential instructional components and selecting appropriate materials maximizes the effectiveness of repeated reading. (Therrien & Kubina, 2006, p. 159) Yurick, Robinson, Cartledge, Lo, and Evans (2006) furthered this notion with their study on repeated readings. Yurick et al. conducted three experiments focusing on the effects of peer-mediated repeated readings on reading fluency and comprehension. Their findings indicated that oral reading rate, reading accuracy and comprehension improved more during peer-mediated repeated reading than during silent sustained reading.
  60. 60. 48 Samuels (2002) reported in the two decades since the method (repeated readings) was first introduced, more than 100 studies have been published that have tested the repeated reading method. A consistent finding from these studies is that repeated reading practice produces statistically significant improvement in reading speed, word recognition, and oral reading expression on the practice passages. (Samuels, 2002, p. 179) Readers' theater is a form of repeated readings done in a "meaningful and purposeful context" (Strecker, 1999, p. 329). The scripts are adapted from a piece of prose or poetry so they are suitable for oral reading (Hertzberg, 2000, p. 22). Corcoran and Davis (2005) conducted a study assessing the effects of readers' theater on second and third grade special education students' fluency. The results from this study indicated both reading attitudes and confidence levels of these struggling readers improved as they repeatedly practiced these readers' theater scripts in their groups. Furthermore, their fluency rates improved as well: "the number of words read correctly per minute increased overall as a class by an increase of 17 additional words read correctly in spring versus winter" (Corcoran & Davis, 2005, p. 110). Griffith and Rasinski (2004) reported students in Griffith's classroom made 2.3 years reading growth in terms of comprehension and increased their reading rate by 47.4 words per minute as a result of the use of readers' theater in the classroom throughout the year. Keehn (2003) conducted a readers' theater study wherein one treatment group received readers' theater intervention and the other treatment group received readers' theater intervention plus explicit instruction. Both groups made "statistically significant growth in oral reading
  61. 61. 49 fluency during the nine-week Reader's Theater intervention ... but there was no significant difference in growth made by the two treatment groups..." (p. 49). Yet another intervention that appears to improve fluency is paired reading (Mastropieri, Leinert, and Scruggs, 1999). In paired reading, a strong reader is paired with a struggling reader. In a case study by Ferrara (2005), a struggling reader was instructed with paired reading. The struggling reader's fluency was then examined pre- and post- paired reading. Her pre-intervention reading rate was 84 words per minute and post-intervention reading rate rose to 140.6 words per minute. Nes (2003) found similar results in a paired reading study. Her results indicated that "reading fluency improved substantially for all participants, while accuracy and comprehension remained stable and high throughout the study" (Nes, 2003, p. 179). Dowrick, Kim-Rupnow, and Power (2006) describe a process known as video feedforward which also improves reading fluency. The principle behind video feedforward is to video the child reading fluently, show the child the video, thus encouraging the child to read more fluently. The images of fluent passage reading were achieved mostly by capturing the child's echo reading, editing out the tutor's modeling, and interspersing glimpses of the tutor's face as cutaways. The accurate recognition of sight words was achieved by taking advantage of the improvements that occurred by the sixth or seventh time through the flashcards. On the feedforward principle, it was important to select and repeat the rare successes of individually difficult words rather than make the easier choice of selecting better known words .... (Dowrick, et al., 2006, p. 198)
  62. 62. 50 Lionetti and Cole (2004) found that listening while reading also increased reading fluency. Researchers tried adjusting the rate at which students were listening while reading, one rate resembling the reader's natural oral reading rate, and one rate approximately 20% above the reader's current oral reading rate. "Results indicated that both rates increased words correct per minute and a high level of accuracy was maintained ... neither intervention had any effect on comprehension" (Lionetti & Cole, 2004, p. 114). Explicit timing also seems to have had an impact upon students' fluency scores. In a study by Cates and Rhymer (2006), students who knew they were being explicitly timed when they were reading improved their reading rate over times when they did not think they were being timed. Moskal (2006) discovered that timing of students during repeated readings did in fact improve their time. In this study, the researcher also found that students could self-manage their repeated readings; the teacher did not have to conduct all the timings. The students were self-directed and still made the fluency gains. Evidence-based literacy practices have impacted fluency scores as well. In a study by Greenwood, Tapia, Abbott, and Walton (2003), teachers formed cohorts and engaged in evidence-based literacy staff development. These evidence-based literacy practices included: shared book experience, phonemic awareness, repeated reading, initial reading blending, early intervention reading, partner reading, word family books, dolch words, writer's workshop, reading class-wide peer tutoring, spelling class-wide peer tutoring, partner reading questions, and reciprocal teaching. As a result of the implementation of these evidence-based literacy practices, overall fluency scores improved 58.3 words per minute. Welsch (2006) listed many of these evidence-based
  63. 63. 51 literacy practices as well. He also added repeated reading with teacher/peer/audiotape/ CD modeling; choral reading, use of praise; use of appropriate-level text, use of predictable or patterned text, use of word/phrase/letter-naming drills, use of computer programs, and use of parent/school reading programs. Blevins (2000) described the types of direct instruction and feedback that students need in regards to fluency instruction. Students should be explicitly taught the sound- spelling correspondences and should practice new or difficult words. Teachers should explain the return-sweep eye movement and should also teach appropriate phrasing and intonation. Motivation is also key and can be done with incentives, charting and rewards. Hasbrouck and Tindal (2006) offered a cautionary note about reading fluency and the recent push to increase fluency scores. ... there appears to be a tendency among some educators to believe that raising a student's fluency score is "the" main goal of reading instruction. As important as fluency is, and as valuable as the information obtained from fluency-based assessments can be for instructional decision making, we caution teachers and administrators to keep fluency and fluency-based assessment scores in perspective. Helping our students become fluent readers is absolutely critical for proficient and motivated reading. Nonetheless, fluency is only one of the essential skills involved in reading. (Hasbrouck & Tindal, 2006, p. 642). Johns (2005) echoed this point when discussing the factors that impact fluency. A student's fluency is affected by the type of text being read - either narrative or informational. It can also be affected by the purpose for reading, as well as prior knowledge. Simply put, "fluency norms give no attention to these important
  64. 64. 52 considerations, so it is up to teachers to be mindful of these variables when assessing oral reading rate and using oral reading fluency norms" (Johns, 2005, p. 5). Torgeson and Hudson (2006) indicated that reading fluency is influenced by the following: proportion of "sight" words in a passage; variations processing speed of "sight" words, decoding fluency of unknown words, use of context clues to facilitate word identification, speed with which word meanings are determined, speed with which overall meaning is determined, and differences in the value the reader places on speed versus accuracy in reading. Rhodes and Dudley-Marling (1996) further stated no one is always a fluent reader; each of us can think of situations in which our reading was or could be less fluent. Thus we cannot set as a goal helping students to become fluent readers in all situations. Our goal instead must be to help them become fluent readers in an increasingly wider range of reading situations (Rhodes & Dudley-Marling, 1996, p. 154). Fluency research was brought to the forefront with an examination of the research by Kuhn and Stahl (2003). Their pivotal work examined the significant pieces of research on fluency. They found that (a) fluency instruction is generally effective, although it is unclear whether this is because of specific instructional features or because it involves children in reading increased amounts of text; (b) assisted approaches seem to be more effective than unassisted approaches; (c) repetitive approaches do not seem to hold a clear advantage over nonrepetitive approaches; and (d) effective fluency instruction moves beyond automatic word recognition to include rhythm and
  65. 65. 53 expression, or what linguists refer to as the prosodic features of language. (Kuhn & Stahl, 2003, p. 3) The aforementioned studies indicated fluency is a key component of reading instruction. Most children are fluent by third grade. Those who are not yet fluent need to be given books on their reading level. Those that read dysfluently are likely to not comprehend what they read. Fluent reading is more than reading fast; it also is reading with phrasing and intonation. Techniques for improving fluency include repeated readings, readers' theater, paired reading, video feedforward, listening while reading, explicit timing, shared book experience, phonemic awareness, partner reading, and reciprocal teaching. Fluency is impacted by the type of text being read, purpose for reading and the reader's prior knowledge. Intersection of Fluency and Comprehension "Fluency has been shown to have a 'reciprocal relationship' with comprehension, with each fostering the other," (Stecker, Roser, & Martinez, 1998, p. 306). Pressley, Gaskins and Fingeret (2006) stated "fluency and comprehension are not so much linear processes but are interdependent in a 'blurry' sort of way" (Pressley, et al., 2006, p. 62). They further contended that "comprehension strategies should be taught to all readers from the beginning of reading instruction, even if they have not yet become fluent" (Pressley, et al., 2006, p. 62). The link between fluency and comprehension was best described by Allington (1999). Research has shown that kids with a low degree of fluency are less likely to understand what they read. The skills of summarizing, analyzing, and synthesizing material - essential for high-level thinking - seem to require
  66. 66. 54 fluent reading. When kids read fluently, paying attention to phrasing and intonation, it's obvious that they understand what they're reading. But when kids read word by word, syllable by syllable, or even phrase by phrase in that familiar monotone, it's a signal that their attention is not directed at making sense out of the text. Instead, they're spending their cognitive energy on decoding. (Allington, 1999, p. 12) In two studies by Berninger, Abbott, Vermeulen, and Fulton (2006), researchers examined at-risk second grade readers. Both studies found a relationship between fluency and comprehension. In Study 1, "both accuracy and rate of word-level and text- level oral reading were correlated significantly with and contributed unique variance to reading comprehension in at-risk second-grade readers" (Berninger, et al., 2006, p. 348). Study 2 "also demonstrated that instruction that integrated phonological decoding, real- word reading, text reading, and reading comprehension improved reading fluency in at- risk second-grade readers" (Berninger, et al., 2006, p. 348). A study by Bryant, Vaughn, Linan-Thompson, Ugel, Hamff & Hougen (2000) examined the reading outcomes for middle school students with and without reading disabilities. Researchers examined average achievers, low achievers, and students with reading disabilities. The fluency results were particularly encouraging for all three groups of students. Data showed that with intensive practice, students with reading disabilities in particular gained from the program, which consisted of two to three 30-minute fluency training sessions per week. These data suggest that students with reading disabilities can benefit from a fluency-building