Using Story-Grammar Instruction and Picture Books to Increase Reading Comprehension

Article excerpt

Abstract

This study investigated the effects of story-grammar instruction on the reading comprehension of narrative text by 26 first-grade students (six with disabilities) in general education classes. The instruction consisted of two different approaches: 1) basic story-grammar instruction, and 2) story grammar integrated with the students' personal experiences. The narrative texts used were 20 popular children's picture books. A comparison-group design (n=13) was utilized. Results indicated improvement of the experimental subjects' abilities to retell stories, recall and retain information from the stories, and answer story-grammar questions. The effects were maintained over time.

Introduction

By the time children enter kindergarten, many enjoy listening to stories and are eager to learn how to read. For them, reading instruction focuses on phonological awareness and rules of print. By the time children enter the first grade, they still love listening to stories and are even more determined to read independently. However, as they progress through the elementary grades, they are faced with more complex reading material. There is a shift from rule-based phonological text (e.g., She pat the cat on the hat) to narrative text. They are exposed to irregular words that do not follow phonological rules or sentences that do not follow patterns. Additionally, the academic demands placed on the student switch from decoding and learning to read to comprehension and reading to learn (Gardill & Jitendra, 1999).

This shift in complexity of reading material may account for the significant problems that students with learning disabilities (LD) experience during the elementary grades (Swanson, 1999). Indeed, Bryan, Bay, Lopez-Reyna, and Donahue (1991) reported that a deficiency in reading skills is a primary reason for referral to special education. In fact, 75% of all students with LD have a reading disability as their primary disability (Kavale & Forness, 1985). These effects can persist through high school where students with LD are able to read only at a fourth-grade level (Deshler & Schumaker, 1988) on average. Another contribution to the reading difficulties experienced by students with LD is their limited knowledge of text structure, the organizational features that serve as a frame or pattern to help readers identify important information, make logical connections between ideas, facilitate understanding, and summarize text (Englert & Thomas, 1987).

One narrative text structure that has been successfully used to increase reading comprehension is story grammar. Story grammar evolved from studies by anthropologists and cognitive psychologists who discovered that retellings of stories follow a very distinct pattern (Dimino, Taylor, Gersten, 1995). In its simplest form, the story grammar pattern consists of the main character, his/her problem, his/her attempts to solve the problem, and the chain of events that lead to a resolution (Mandler & Johnson, 1977; Stein & Trabasso, 1982; Thorndyke, 1977).

There is empirical evidence showing that story-grammar instruction is effective in improving reading comprehension of narrative text for students with and without LD at most grade levels (e.g., Carnine & Kinder, 1985; Dimino, Gersten, Carnine, & Blake, 1990; Gurney, Gersten, Dimino, & Carnine, 1990; Idol, 1987; Idol & Croll, 1987; Short & Ryan, 1984; Singer & Donlan, 1982). However, there are no studies to support its usage with students in the first grade. The first grade is considered by many educators to be the critical year for reading instruction. It is also the grade level in which students are faced with increasingly complex and irregular narrative text.

Purpose of Study

The purpose of the study was to investigate the effects of two approaches to story-grammar instruction on the reading comprehension of first-grade children with and without LD enrolled in a general education setting. …