debbie by wanghonghx



Deborah Elliott
Seminar 5710
Comprehensive Exam #1
Fall 2009

What are effective strategies for teaching struggling readers in the upper
elementary grades?
The research says struggling readers have difficulties in the upper grades because they are not
fluent and they do not comprehend the text. I have often wondered how so many students end up
in the upper grades and struggle with reading. When they struggle with reading, they struggle
with everything. After considering the research, I now have a clue as to the possible reason why I
see so many struggling readers in the fifth grade. Another aspect of struggling readers that I
question is what to do with them. In other words, what are best practices to help struggling
readers close the gap?

 Current research is both voluminous and diverse, but it reveals several consistent approaches. In
several of the articles the two main problems that upper-elementary students face are fluency and
comprehension. In Katz and Carlisle’s (2009) research, they state that struggling readers make
slow progress in their ability to read fluently and with comprehension. In the Musti-Rao,
Hawkins, and Barkley’s (2009) study, the authors discuss the concept of repeated reading to
assist with fluency and comprehension. Again in Masnet-Williamson and Nelson’s (2005) study,
the research points out that the students who are referred to special education are referred due to
difficulty with fluency and comprehension. After reading all this research on the problem of
struggling readers and every one of the research studies having the theme of fluency and
comprehension, I now have a clearer understanding of the reason I have students every year who
struggle with reading.

Lubliner (2004) worked with upper-elementary students, focusing on comprehension. As she
conducted trial and error strategies, she found that the students comprehended text better when
they began to understand the main idea of text and were asked to generate higher-level-thinking
questions about the text. As I considered this technique and my own students who struggle, I
began asking them about the main idea of the text. I realized that students struggle with finding
the main idea. As I researched in what grade students are introduced to the concept of the main
idea, I found that this skill is first taught in the third grade. This is also the grade that students
begin to “read to learn.” Obviously, students did not grasp the concept of the main idea in either
third or fourth grade if they are coming to fifth and have no clue as to the main idea of a passage.
In the article, Helping Older, Struggling Readers, Salinger (2003) points out that it is important
for all teachers at all grade levels to be conscious of each student’s reading acquisition and teach
them in such a way that it enables them to grow. If every teacher in every school knew what the
research says with regard to teaching reading and were able to assess students to find their
instructional level and teach them according to best practices, I believe we would see more
successful students in the upper-elementary years.

The other question I pondered was what could I do to assist the students I encounter close their
gap in reading acquisition. Schorzman and Cheek (2004) investigated intervention programs to
help struggling readers in the upper grades. Their focus was on a sixth-grade class. This study
gave some strategies such as cloze activities that showed some improvement, and teaching
students to use context clues to figure out unfamiliar words in the text, which also led to some
improvement. The conclusion left me with the impression, which was loosely stated in the
article, that student behavior and teaching styles also played an important role in assisting
students who struggle with reading. Teachers can have the best programs and the appropriate
knowledge, but if teachers cannot manage their classrooms with respect to behavior, then they
will have a difficult time teaching students the necessary strategies to succeed.

The article, Implementing Readers Theatre as an Approach to Classroom Fluency Instruction,
gave me a comprehensive layout of how to implement Readers Theatre in my classroom on a
weekly basis (Young & Rasinski, 2009). Readers Theatre has been proven to assist students in
their endeavors to become more fluent readers. My struggle has been not really knowing the best
way to use Readers Theater. After reading this article, I have begun to use Readers Theatre in my
classroom. The students love being part of this activity and look forward to the performance each

Transitional and reciprocal teaching are two strategies that DeCorte, Verschaffel and DeVen
(2001) explained in their article, Improving Text Comprehension Strategies in Upper Primary
School Children: A Design Experiment. Reciprocal teaching is very natural for me because it is
the way I was taught to teach. I am finding it interesting that not all teachers teach this way. I
can relate this to students who have limited life experiences and think everyone does things the
same way they do. Using reciprocal teaching, my students and I gain insight into each other’s
worlds. As students ask questions and bring in their own backgrounds, it helps to expand my
students’ knowledge.

Duffy-Hester (1999) points out that there are many effective researched-based strategies that
teachers can implement in their classrooms to assist struggling readers. She discusses six
effective strategies, some of which have been around for a long time. As she mentions, part of
the problem is that after teachers complete their education, they teach from what they know. I see
this in the teachers around me. I have only had one teacher tell me about a great journal, which
was The Reading Teacher, in all the years I have been around schools. The only magazine I see
teachers read is The Mailbox. Duffy-Hester points out that teachers must attend staff
development and implement some of the strategies in their classroom in order to reach these
struggling readers. I have to agree with her statement that good teachers base their instruction on
reading research and theory along with their own personal experiences. Teachers who are
informed about current research give their struggling students the best opportunity to succeed.

Young, C., & Rasinski, T. (2009, September). Inplementing readers theatre as an approach
to classroom fluency instruction. The Reading Teacher, 64(1), 4-13.

This study explored the impact of having a consistent Readers Theatre program as an effective
fluency program. The premise was based on previous research conducted by Rasinski that
increasing fluency helps with students’ comprehension. The method used in this study was a
comprehensive and consistent use of Readers Theater on a daily basis. Students spent the entire
week practicing the scripts to perform on Fridays. The result of this study demonstrated the
impact that such a program had on a second-grade classroom of 29 students in Dallas, Texas.
Various contexts were used as a means of creating a well-balanced literacy program. At the
conclusion of the year, Young noticed that the students who were previously unmotivated were
motivated and the struggling readers began to thrive.

Using Readers Theatre in the classroom is an easy program that can be implemented to enhance
comprehension for upper elementary students. Students enjoy getting up in front of their peers
and doing plays. The use of weekly Readers Theatre allows students to be in front and also
assists in their development of fluency. Students are motivated to read and rehearse if there is a
tangible purpose behind the rehearsing. Students who are fluent are better readers and have better
comprehension of what they read.

Katz, L., & Carlisle, J. (2009). Teaching students with reading difficulties to be close
readers: a feasibility study. Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 40, 325-340.

Students in the upper grades who are struggling readers make slow progress in their ability to
read text fluently and with comprehension. The design of this study was to develop a program to
help upper elementary students read text and comprehend what they are reading independently.
The Close Reading program was developed to not only give students the morphological-analysis
but also the context-analysis they need. The study suggested guiding students through the
process of deriving meaning from unfamiliar words. In this, students learned how to decode
words and derive meaning from the roots of words. This in turn showed a pattern of
improvement in the students’ reading and language skills. This article does, however, mention
there is more to be studied about this subject.

The study suggests that at about fourth grade, the words in text become more difficult to
comprehend because of the base word and affixes. If students are poor readers, they do not
encounter these types of words when placed in an appropriate reading level such as third grade.
Struggling readers may gain the best reading instruction to enable them to become more
proficient readers, but that does not help with understanding words that are on the state-
mandated test.

This study was conducted on three fourth-grade girls. The program consisted of standardized
pre-tests and posttests that measured language and reading skills. The girls participated in a 12-
week program with assessments before, during and after instruction. All three of the girls
demonstrated improvements in comprehension and the ability to read words. This was done on a

small effect size. The authors suggest that a more extensive experimental investigation be
executed on this topic.

This study points out how teaching word enrichment could enable students to become more
proficient at higher level text. Students may be behind in their ability to comprehend and read on
a grade level test, but those same students must take the end-of-grade test on their current grade
level instead of where they are instructionally. Teaching them the vocabulary that they may
encounter will aid them in taking the mandated tests. Having a limited vocabulary can be part of
the reason behind difficulties with students who struggle and their ability to comprehend what
they read. In the upper grades, it is important to teach students about roots of words and the
affixes that are associated with them in order to give them a chance to succeed.

Musti-Rao, S., Hawkins, R., & Barkley, E. (2009, Fall). Effects of repeated readings on the
oral reading fluency of urban fourth-grade students: Implications of practice. Preventing
School Failures, 54(1), 12-23.

Several studies have shown that repeated readings help struggling readers to become more fluent
readers. The reasoning behind this, as this article points out, is that the students stop struggling
with how to read and can concentrate on what they are reading. This improves their fluency and
comprehension of the text. In this study, several modes of repeated readings were tested. Peer-
mediated repeated reading is a strategy in which students choral read with the teacher then
follow it with students alternating repeated reading the passage to each other several times. The
students who participated in this strategy had a mean increase of 68wpm. Another experiment
was that as a class they did repeated reading, but also were tested weekly on an unpracticed
passage to measure generalities. This also showed an increase. In the third study students were
pulled out of the classroom for repeated reading instruction and implementation. These students
were also given unpracticed passages to read which showed an increase in fluency.

The conclusion describes the benefits of repeated reading for building fluency. The authors also
pointed out that the increase was not enough for the students to reach the benchmark goals for
fourth grade. The result does, however, suggest that inclusion is the best format for teaching
repeated reading. This allows students to engage in meaningful reading at their instructional
level. As students become more fluent readers, they comprehend the text better.

Repeated readings are an avenue to reading fluency and leads to comprehension. Students who
are struggling to read often have trouble with decoding the words or understanding what
particular words mean. As students become fluent, they no longer concentrate on decoding the
words, but spend the time working on reading smoothly. Students who are in the upper grades
often find themselves to be struggling readers. Teachers must examine each student and
determine what they need in order to be successful readers.

Ivey, G., & Fisher, D. (2005, October). Learning from what doesn't work. Educational
Leadership, 8-14.

This article is not research, but the topic lends itself to struggling readers. The authors of this
article have examined five commonly-used techniques that are being practiced in schools to
teach upper elementary and beyond literacy. These particular techniques are examined as a “this
does not work” technique along with strategies that do work. The statement is made that there is
no one technique that works for all students, but each student has to be continually assessed to
create an effective program. The five ineffective strategies are: Not letting students read in such
programs as sustained silent reading, making students read what they do not know anything
about or even care about, making students read books that are too difficult such as making them
read on their grade level, interrogating students about what they read, and using a computer
program that promised to do the work for you.

Alongside the ineffective practices, the authors give strategies that work. Allowing students to
read 20 minutes a day for sustained silent reading showed reading levels to climb in some cases
from 4.3 to 7.2. This is a dramatic increase. This increase was not entirely due to sustained silent
reading; however, the increase from adding this program was substantial. Effective strategy
number two was to allow students to choose from a content area in which they were interested,
and learn from the books they choose to read. For example, the class is studying the Civil War
and a student wants to explore plantation life during the Civil War. An effective strategy is to
allow them to research and read about that particular topic and create a report. Effective strategy
number three states that students should be reading on their grade level and not above it.
Effective strategy number four states that students in small groups are asking higher-level
questions such as “I wonder….,” instead of a scripted; What was the main idea of this passage?”
Effective strategy number five is allowing students the opportunity to read at a comfortable level
and the teacher being involved in the gathering of information.

Students in upper elementary schools seem to struggle with reading. Comprehension has been
examined for several years, yet the problems still exist. As this article mentions, there are
strategies that work and strategies that hinder. If the goal is to assist struggling readers in every
way possible, then teachers must implement some of the techniques, setting aside time for silent
sustained reading and giving students choices in what they read. Students who are able to make
choices are more motivated and willing to take action to improve their reading ability.

Guthrie, J., H., A. Laurel., Wigfield, A., Tonks, S., Humenick, & Littles, E. (2007). Reading
motivation and reading comprehension growth in late elementary. Contemporary
Educational Psychology, (32) 282–313.

Teaching students to comprehend text in various genres is a goal for upper elementary school
teachers. At this age, students are reading a variety of text and attempting to comprehend what
they are reading. This study shows a correlation between reading comprehension and reading

Interviews were conducted with the children, asking questions about how much they were
motivated and understood the text. The method for these questions was the use of a student
questionnaire. Particular interest was about various genres and their motivation to read genres
such as fiction, informational books such as science or history books. Throughout this research,
there were nine motivating factors noted: curiosity or interest, preference for challenge,
involvement, self-efficacy, competition, recognition, grades, social interactions and word

The study demonstrated that when children are engaged, they comprehend the text better.
Allowing students to choose their own book is an important factor in their engagement to the
text. Some students preferred to rely on others they trust to choose books because they were not
confident in their ability to make good choices. Students also enjoyed reading with other
students, as this gave them some motivation to read. Interestingly, students were motivated to
read because they wanted to learn more about topics in which they were interested.

Students are often told what to read in school. This study revealed that students are more
motivated when given a choice in what they read. Students become more engaged which
increases comprehension. Students who struggle in the upper grades need to feel free to find
books they are interested in reading. As students find areas of interest, they read more and can
become better readers.

Masnet-Williamson, G., & Nelson, J. (2005, Winter). Balanced, strategic reading
instruction for upper-elementary and middle school students with reading disabilties: A
comparative study of two approaches. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 28, 59-74.

A systematic approach to teaching phonemic awareness in the primary grades has been
implemented for a long enough time that we should not be seeing students with problems in
reading. The majority of students referred for special education are referred for reading
difficulties. In the upper elementary grades, students with reading difficulties also have problems
with fluency and comprehension. This study focused on instruction for phonemic awareness,
analysis, decoding, fluency, and improving comprehension. There has been some debate as to
whether explicit instruction or implicit instruction is best for struggling readers. The purpose of
this study was to examine whether a balanced systematic and intense program is best or a greater
degree of explicit instruction in comprehension is best.

The method utilized was using students entering 4th to 8th grade who scored at least two years
below reading level on the Woodcock-Johnson test for Achievement, 3rd edition and who were
not reading fluently above a 3.5 grade level in fluency. They excluded students for whom
English was their second language. Two groups were formed and both were taught using guided
reading and explicit comprehension instruction. The study was conducted in 20 sessions over a 5
week time span.

The study showed that individual students responded to the interventions differently, thus the
interventions were effective for some and not so effective for others. This tells teachers they

must take each student and assess them for their particular needs and develop a program that
would best teach each student. A combination of word study along with comprehension building
may be the best approach to teach students with reading difficulties. At the conclusion of the
article, the author made a statement that teachers should look at what is possible for the child to
accomplish instead of what is likely that the child will accomplish.

Students respond to instruction differently. For some, explicit instruction is what works while for
others a systematic approach works best. Teachers must ascertain how their students best learn
and teach them the way that is most effective for them. This study relates to the question about
struggling readers because it demonstrates that teachers must determine how their students best
learn and teach them in that way.

Lubliner, S. (2004, February). Help for struggling upper-grade elementary readers. The
Reading Teache , 47(2), 430-438.

This article explores one of the possible reasons behind poor comprehension in upper elementary
grade students. The authors states that in the upper grades, students read to acquire knowledge
that is necessary for academic success. Students learn how to decode text in the primary grades,
and only after they decode can they make sense of what they read. This is the area where most
struggling readers are falling short—comprehension of grade-level text. An assessment was
given to the entire class. Three students failed in the attempt to answer the questions, which
demonstrated their lack of ability to comprehend the text. This study examines these three

Interventions were attempted on the students to find a way to increase their comprehension of the
text. The author’s first attempt was to use the strategy of questioning, clarifying, summarizing
and predicting. She found this did not work as well as she had predicted. As she researched
further, she tried the strategy of self-generating questions based on the main idea of the selection.
As the students began to understand the main idea and develop a question, they began to
progress in their comprehension of text. After working with these students for 25 minutes a day
for three weeks, she tested them again and saw a dramatic improvement in their comprehension
of text. The premise behind this thinking is that generating main-idea questions requires the
students to concentrate on the text and therefore understand what they are reading.

Struggling readers in the upper grades have difficulty with comprehending the text. When
teachers concentrate on allowing students to construct their own questions about the text, they
begin to comprehend what they are reading better. As teachers teach students how to generate
questions and focus on the main idea of the text, they grow in their ability to comprehend.

Liben, D., & Liben, M. (2005, January). Learning to read in order to learn: Building a
program for upper-elementary students. Phi Delta Kappan, 401-406.

This is not a research paper but rather an article based on the author’s research. The authors of
this article developed a successful program for K-2 instruction in reading. They began to see a
problem with comprehension in the upper grades and decided to research ways to increase
comprehension in the upper grades. They began by examining what types of questions were on
the standardized tests that students must take at the end of each year. Their discovery led them to
develop a program that taught students how to understand the types of questions that were being
asked. They found that most of the questions were inferential questions instead of detail
questions. Students were taught to go back into the text to find the answers to questions, but
when they were inferential questions, the students got lost. They began to work on making an
inference about something based on what they were reading. During the course of working with
the students, they also found that students’ lack of background knowledge and vocabulary
hindered them in their ability to comprehend the text. They were unable to find the answers to
the inferential questions when they did not understand the vocabulary.

The authors began to teach students to ask questions about what they read every time they read a
book. The other aspect of the program was the expectation that students must read one book a
week. They point out that it took a few years to develop this program, and not all the students
accomplished the goal of reading one book a week, but those that did expanded their vocabulary
and knowledge of things in the world around them.

This study relates to my question because the authors examined the reason behind the struggling
readers in the upper grades. He states that they are lacking the background knowledge and
vocabulary necessary to comprehend text. When students read more, they develop a better
understanding of the world and the knowledge necessary to understand a wide variety of topics.
Also, when students read more it increases their vocabulary.

Allington, R. (2001). Where to begin: Instructions for struggling readers. In A. Martinez
(Ed.), What really matters for struggling readers: Designing Research-Based Programs (pp.
111-145). New York: Longman.

This section of Allington’s book lays out a plan to develop a comprehensive program for
assisting struggling readers. As the book suggests, there is no quick and easy method to assist
struggling readers. Allington does point out that students need improved classroom instruction,
expert instruction, the time for the teacher to teach, and the span of time. Allington takes the time
to spell out what is necessary in each of these areas. The first area of improving classroom
instruction clearly states that to improve students’ performance, there must be quality classroom
instruction. Remedial programs and resource rooms are not the way to improve students. The
section also mentions that socioeconomic status and parents were not as powerful as quality
teaching. It is the teacher’s responsibility to become better at his or her job each year. By
furthering their education, teachers become better equipped and therefore are better able to teach
their students. An aspect of good classroom instruction is finding books that fit the students so
that they are reading on their individual levels. Instructional time is another important aspect to
the day. If the teacher continually has to stop his or her lessons because of various reasons, the
students suffer.

It is important to have expert instruction through the use of intense instruction, such as student-
pupil ratio, scheduling and pacing. This can be accomplished through small group instruction
such as guided reading groups that meet with the teacher on a routine basis. Being able to expand
the available instructional time is another factor in improving the ability for struggling reader to
improve. There are three components to this philosophy which are adding a second reading
lesson each day, offering before or after-school programs where students get an extra lesson and
extending the week through the use of Saturday or extending the school year.

There is a list of six researched based programs for effective classrooms. Word identification,
comprehension and vocabulary instruction are among the six strategies, along with authentic
reading and writing. This coincides with the other research about helping struggling readers. This
chapter in the book does not specifically mention that these programs are designed for upper
elementary students, but by all indications it appears to be targeted toward them. It is a fact that
students lose some ground during the summer. Having a summer reading program can help
diminish the loss students will experience. Supporting students across their entire school career is
an important aspect for struggling readers. The help and assistance cannot stop when the student
enters middle school. This article mentions that the focus on middle school students may be
motivation to read instead of struggling to read.

In order to assist struggling readers, teacher must be able to teach. Often students go to remedial
programs and resource rooms, which leaves the teacher unable to adequately teach these
students. Blame is often placed on students having a lower SES or their parents not working with
them as to the reason for their struggles. This study states that students need to be supported
across their entire school career through expert intense instruction and not to blame their home

Salinger, T. (2003, Winter). Helping older, struggling readers. Preventing School Failures
42, 79-85.

This article is not research, but the author has a lot to say about struggling readers. Students in
the upper grades often have more difficulty with reading than they do in the K-3 grades due to
their inability to comprehend text. This article gives the reader some insight into some of the
struggles students in the upper grades face. Teachers focus instruction on teaching students to
read, but fail to carry that instruction throughout the school years, including upper grades.
Teachers must use interventions that are different than what students have previously been
exposed to in order to assist them in filling in the gap of their reading difficulty.

The key components to reading acquisition are phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency,
vocabulary, and text comprehension. All of these areas are a part of the cognitive puzzle students
must put together in order to become competent and engaged readers. Many poor readers
experience difficulty with accurately and fluently decoding words in the text, and that leads to
poor comprehension. Students are so busy trying to decode difficult words that it hinders their
comprehension. Poor readers may lack background knowledge to be able to decode words, and

that presents another difficulty. Teachers must identify the area of the “cognitive puzzle” that
these students are deficient in and instruct them in those specific areas. In order to assist students,
teachers must also be aware that students may possess difficulty in the basic understanding of the
English language. Students gain the ability to understand how English works from being exposed
to diverse, engaging and challenging text. This does not mean they have to read the text
themselves, but that they are exposed to it in the context of the teacher reading aloud, or even
hearing books on tape. Teachers must develop a program that is focused on each student. This
program should include a study in the “roots” of words, vocabulary enrichment in a meaningful
and productive way (not a drilling of vocabulary words), prior knowledge of reading, using the
before, during and after techniques of reading instruction, and giving students instruction about
idioms, phrases, and colloquial expressions. Students also need to develop fluency while reading
aloud. Another area that helps students develop comprehension strategies is the knowledge of
text features. Text features give the students the ability to use these features to learn note taking,
skimming, scanning, and previewing text, which is an important aspect of reading in the upper
grades. Taking all this information and allowing students to develop their writing skills is the
final step in helping students to become better readers in the upper grades. Teaching them to
write and make a connection between the spoken and written words enable students to put the
puzzle pieces together.

It is important for teachers in the upper grades to be able to develop a program that enables
students who are struggling readers to gain the tools necessary to improve their reading ability.
Comprehension is a problem for students beyond the third grade, and teachers must be able to
assist their students or they will fail. Comprehension can be taught, but it has to be developed on
an individualized level for students. Teachers must assess students in order to know their
weaknesses and develop a program specific to their needs. Vocabulary, fluency and
comprehension all work together in the upper grades, and must all be addressed and taught in a
manner that students can learn from instead of getting frustrated.

De Corte, E., Verschaffel, L., & De Ven, A. V. (2001). Improving text comprehension
strategies in upper primary school children: A design experiment. British Journal of
Educational Psychology, 71, 531-559.

The increasing need to develop a comprehensive program that addressed the needs of upper
elementary students to comprehend text is the focus of this research. Reading comprehension
depends on a variety of factors. The text in itself can contain factors such as the amount of
information involved, the type of text, and the complexity of various structures. For students
factors may include decoding skills, prior knowledge of the subject, and motivation to read the
text. One of the reasons students struggle with comprehension is that teachers do not model
useful strategies for text comprehension nor do they explain strategies for students to use in
comprehending text.

Reciprocal teaching is a strategy that has been used to teach students to comprehend text. This
strategy includes summarizing content, asking questions, seeking clarification and making
predictions. These strategies are first modeled by the teacher in a small group, and then the
teaching is shared by the students as they work with their group. Another strategy students can

use for comprehension is to construct meaning of the text. This enables students to link the text
to prior knowledge, and while in a group, the discussion enables the group as a whole to
construct meaning together. Using this approach, the conversation can take various avenues
depending on what the groups brings in the way of prior knowledge and insight.

Transitional strategies instruction is similar to reciprocal teaching but has more direct instruction
by the teacher and has been used for a longer period of time than reciprocal teaching. Both of
these strategies were used in this study. Specifically, these four reading comprehension strategies
were used: activating prior knowledge, clarifying difficult words, making schematic
representations of text, and formulating the main idea of text. Metacognitive strategies that were
used included regulating one’s own reading process (De Corte, Verschaffel, & De Ven, 2001).
Informative text of one-half to one page in length was used. There were a number of difficult
words in the text.

The implementation of this study was conducted with four experimental fifth-grade classes, and
eight comparable control groups. All the groups had a mix of males and females with a mix of
SES from neighborhoods in the city of Leuven, Belgium. A pre-test was given to all students
using a Reading Comprehension Test, a Reading Attitude Scale, and a Reading Strategies Test.
An interview was also conducted with nine pupils of each group. Interventions were instituted
and the students again tested. There were three tests administered which tracked their progress.
The interventions consisted of 24 lessons with monitoring along the way.

The result of the study indicated the experimental groups showed a marked improvement over
the control group in the mid and post tests with the exception of the Reading Attitude Scale. The
authors noted that this test was timed and therefore possibly more stressful. They also noted that
the students had done well on the pre-test given at the beginning of the study.

This study was done over a very short period of time, with limited materials, and they only used
informative text. The results showed growth on an overall scale. The authors noted that while
improvements were noted, if this type of teaching strategy were implemented over a year
teachers should see a marked improvement in their students. Taking this further, teachers could
implement such a plan in all area of their curriculum not limited to the language arts aspect. As
students begin to foster the skills to comprehend text, it would create a learning environment in
all subject areas, not just reading.

Therrien, W. (2004, July/August). Fluency and comprehension gains as a result of repeated
reading: A meta-analysis. Remedial and Special Education, 25(4), 252-261.

Reading for some children is very difficult. This study states that one in every five students
struggles with reading in some area or another. Approximately 37% of the nation’s fourth-
graders did not demonstrate basic reading skills on a national test. In 2000 the National Reading
Panel stated that there are five basic areas of reading skills that students need: phonemic
awareness, phonics, vocabulary instruction, text comprehension strategies and reading fluency
(Therrien, 2004). This article examines procedures that teachers can use to increase reading

fluency. Some theories about why students are not fluent are that it is due to students’ inability to
decode words, the text is too complex, or a lack of prosody.

This study was conducted to answer three questions: “Is repeated reading effective in increasing
reading fluency and comprehension? What components within a repeated reading intervention
are critical to the success of the program? Do students with cognitive disabilities benefit from
repeated reading?” (Therrien, 2004, p. 253)

The method of this study was a six-step process. The first step was to form eligibility
requirements that would be respected for review. Second, the author found studies in the
Educational Resources Information Center and Psychological Information databases. In addition
to these, the author conducted searches using the references from the electronic resources found
and the fluency chapter of The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development
report. Third, the author reviewed the articles to determine if they met the criteria set out which
was meta-analysis methodologies. Fourth was a review of the effect size, specifically examining
the research that would allow for as many articles as possible to be studied. Of these, eighteen
provided the information needed to calculate a standard mean gain effect size. Fifth, fluency and
comprehension effect sizes were studied. Sixth, the effect sizes were coded so they could be

It was determined that repeated reading helped both non-learning disabled students as well as
learning disabled students. All of the students gained in both, comprehension and fluency, with a
larger gain in fluency. Transfer results showed that students were not only better able to
comprehend repeated text, but also text that they had read for the first time.

A few limitations were found in this study, including the fact that reading levels were not
determined, types of text were not mentioned, there was no chart to follow the reading
comprehension, and unknown variables may have influenced the study.

This study indicates that repeated reading does help with fluency and comprehension. As stated,
there are still some questions as to the best way to implement a program focused on fluency and
comprehension, but the studies show that these skills are necessary for students to be able to
comprehend text.

Schorzman, E. M., & Cheek, E. H. (2004). Structured strategy instruction: Investigating an
intervention for improving sixth-graders' reading comprehension. Reading Psychology, 25,

Reading comprehension in the upper grades continues to be an area in which researchers are
striving to find strategies teachers can use to increase their student’s ability to understand what
they read. This study was conducted to test the effectiveness of the Directed Reading-Thinking
Activity, the Pre-reading Plan, and graphic organizers (Schorzman & Cheek, 2004). The study
was conducted using the Gates-MacGinitie Reading Test and an informal cloze procedure. Two
middle schools in a southern suburban school district were the locations of the study. There were

103 sixth-grade students from three classrooms in each of the schools. The study was conducted
for 28 days. For the Strategy Interveintion Group, the three strategies used were Pre-reading
Plan, Directed Reading-Thinking Activity, and graphic organizers. These were implemented for
four days per week with Fridays reserved for Sustained Silent Reading. Each class period was a
duration of 45 minutes in length. The control groups taught from the district curriculum using
materials and worksheets that targeted particular skills that were found on the standardized state
test. Each lesson introduced the skill, and conducted guided practice followed by independent
practice. An Accelereated Reader program was included as well as vocabulary workbooks and
daily homework, including reading monitored by a reading log.

The results did not show a significant difference between the two groups, although the mean
scores for the experimental group were higher than that for the control group. The cloze
procedure did, however, show a significantly higher score. This gives a mixed score between the
cloze procedure and the standarized reading test. The cloze test showed significant increase
whereas the standardized test showed very little difference. The hypothesis for the variations and
the inability to determine if this strategy works better is the difference in the students’ behavior
and the teaching styles of the teachers. The control students were skilled at test-taking strategies.
The lessons focused on explicit instructions for strategies to help with taking tests. The
experimental teachers focused their instruction on the strategy of using context clues to aid them
in comprehension.

While this study did not show a significant difference between the two strategies, the cloze
procedures did prove to be an effective strategy in increasing the students’ ability to comprehend
the text. It also increased the students’ ability to use context clues to answer questions, but lacked
the skills necessary to gave them the ability to use test-taking strategies.

This study should be of interest to teachers because there is an ongoing debate as to the best
strategies to use to increase comprehension in the upper-elementary students. Teachers must
examine their students, and their own teaching style to be able to adequately teach the skills
necessary to comprehend the text found in the standardized test students must take. Perhaps a
study will be conducted that encompasses a combination of both strategies.

Schmidt, R., Rozendal, M., & Greenman, G. (2002, May/June). Reading instruction in the
inclusion classroom: Research based practices. Remedial and Special Education, 130-138.

This study reviews instructional strategies that are specific to supporting the reading
development of students in both general and special education. This study specifically targets
successful literacy learning in inclusive classrooms. There is a strong connection between
students who have difficulty reading and students who fail in school. Struggling readers make up
75% of all fourth and eighth graders. Numbers this high suggests that teachers are not taking
advantage of the research available regarding reading curricula and instructional strategies that
would help these students. The main focus of this study is instructional strategies that are
effective for students in an inclusion setting with serious reading problems. The method that was
used was a review of literature targeted toward instructional strategies in reading that enhanced

achievement for students with learning disabilities (reading problems) that are in the mainstream
classroom. Search engines such as ERIC and Expanded Academic were utilized, using such
words as inclusion, reading strategies, teachers collaboration and peer instructional interactions
(Schmidt, Rozendal, & Greenman, 2002). In addition to this, the authors read abstracts from
journals and reviewed the references in articles that were related to the topic. The studies used
were limited to studies about elementary school children, enrolled in public schools. The studies
included students with learning disabilities and had to have been done within the last 15 years
with instruction conducted in English and in the area of reading/language arts.

The results of the study revealed that strategies must focus instruction on teaching students skills
that are metacognitive, including monitoring and evaluating themselves. In teaching these
strategies, students begin to comprehend text. The classroom setting must engage all learners in
contstructing their own knowledge. Teachers must be willing to modify their instruction and
materials in order to accommodate these students. The readings pointed out that when teachers
focused on a single strategy, fewer gains were noted. The most important aspect of the studies
were teacher beliefs and the collaboration that existed between the students and the teacher.
Teachers must be willing to take the time to develop a program that meets the specific needs of
all students. Most teachers are hesitant to implement programs that require modification if it does
not benefit the entire class as a whole. Another factor is that teachers are not taught how to
modify instruction for small groups instead of teaching in whole class, teacher-led instruction.

The authors do mention some limitiations to this study, which were the small number of findings
that they were able to access. Reasons for this may include limiting the research to elementary
school children with disibilities who were in a mainstream classroom. The search was limited to
studies that described specific strategies used for these students. The effect size was not always
noted in the articles, which may have its limitations. There are some strategies that teacher could
use that are very effective and powerful, however some of these strategies are not supported by

Teachers in the upper grades struggle with the task of teaching students who have learning
disabilities. These students deserve the same chance for an appropriate education as the students
who are on-grade-level in reading. The only way that the students who struggle will have a
chance is for classroom teachers to take the time to learn the effective strategies and implement
them in their classrooms. It takes time and effort to reach and teach these students, but it is vital
for them that teachers take the time to work with them in an effective, collaborative way.

Duffy-Hester, A. (1999). Teaching struggling readers in elementary school classrooms: A
review of classroom reading programs and principles for instruction. The Reading Teacher,
(52) 480-495.

This article is not reasearch, but is based on research and personal experience. The purpose of the
is to explain six programs that teachers can implement in their classroom that enhance reading
growth of struggling readers in elementary school. The author describes struggling students in a
regular classroom in four categories. First, many students who struggle with reading do not

qualify for support services due to discrepancies that are set by the local school district. Second,
even when support services are available, students spend the majority of their time in the
mainstream classroom. Third, most remedial and special education programs struggle to
accelerate the reading growth of struggling readers. Fourth, support programs are designed to
support limited numbers of students, such as small group instruction. Struggling readers need an
effective reading program in the classroom as well as support services they may receive, if they
qualify. Another factor for classroom teachers is many are unsure of how to implement a
program to meet the needs of struggling readers. Teachers do not receive the necessary training
in how to design a program to utilize in their classroom to support struggling readers.

The six programs for teaching reading in the elementary classroom are Book Club Program,
Concept-Oriented Reading Instruction, Fluency-Oriented Reading Instruction, the Four Blocks
Approach, the Kamehaceha Early Education Program Whole Literacy Curriculum, and Success
for All. The Book Club Program has four components, Community Share, Writing, Reading, and
Book Club. These four components work together as students respond to various text in different
ways with the teacher, with other students, and independently. The Concept-Oriented Reading
Instructions is a teaching approach that includes reading, writing and science. It has four phases
observe and personalize, search and retrieve, comprehend and integrate, and communicate to
others. In this program, students observe occurances in nature and ask questions. They follow the
question with using various strategies to discover the answer to the question. Students then take
notes and learn various comprehension strategies to help them understand their research.Students
then share what they have learned with their fellow classmates.

A Fluency-Oriented Reading Program is designed to assist students with becoming fluent readers
so they can then tend to the text and comprehend what they are reading. The three aspects of this
programs are redesigning the basal lesson to re-reading the selection in several different ways
such as working on fluency through home readings and repeated readings. Independent reading
is also incorperated in this program. This is an easy program for elementary teachers to

The Four Blocks Approach is utilizing four blocks of time to performguided reading, self-
selected reading, writing, and working with words. This program teaches reading in several ways
under one program and attempts to teach struggling readers in a diverse way. The Kamehameha
Early Program Whole Literacy Curriculum has six aspects which are ownership of reading and
writing, reading comprehension, writing process, language and vocabulary knowledge, word-
reading strategies and spelling, voluntary reading (Duffy-Hester, 1999). This program is a
Hawaiian program designed to assist students who are native Hawaiians develop higher levels of
literacy. Success for All is a program that is comprehensive. It includes tutoring, family support
services, and instruction in all content areas of school. The program has four components that
include story telling and retelling, emergent writing, rhyme and reason, shared book experience,
Peabody Language Development kit, Alaphabet activities, and Showtime.This program is
designed to be an all-inclusive K-5 program.

The author’s review of these programs demonstrated they were successful. The programs had
both strengths and weaknesses. Teachers must design and implement a reading program that

supports struggling readers. The program must be balanced; however, teachers do not have to
follow one specific program. They can develop their program based on research of best practices.
Teachers must justify each component of the program based on research and experience, and the
program must have explicit instruction in word identification, comprehension, and vocabulary
instruction. Teachers must attend staff development to keep on top of strategies that work in
helping struggling readers in their classroom. Good teachers base their instruction on reading
research, theory and personal experience.


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Duffy-Hester, A. (1999). Teaching struggling readers in elementary school classrooms: A review
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Guthrie, J., H., A. Laurel., Wigfield, A., Tonks, S., Humenick, & Littles, E. (2007). Reading
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      study of two approaches. Learning Disabilities Quarterly, 28, 59-74.

Musti-Rao, S., Hawkins, R., & Barkley, E. (2009, Fall). Effects of repeated readings on the oral
      reading fluency of urban fourth-grade students: Implications of practice. Preventing
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