Factors Which Make Expository Reading Difficult

By Ediger, Marlow | Journal of Instructional Psychology, December 2002 | Go to article overview
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Factors Which Make Expository Reading Difficult

Ediger, Marlow, Journal of Instructional Psychology

Expository reading materials, such as textbooks used in class, need careful reviewing by teachers. If, for example, there are too many new words on a page, these need to be clarified so meaningful reading occurs. Adequate time then needs to be given each new word so that pupils understand what is read. Merely being able to pronounce each new word correctly is not enough. A new word, in particular, needs to possess a contextual meaning so that pupils reading meaningfully. Meaning theory is important to stress in all learning opportunities for children. Factors making reading material too complex to understand need analyzing and remedying so that each pupil achieves optimally.


When supervising university student teachers in public school classrooms, the author's attention was brought, by the cooperating teacher, to selected pages in a social studies textbook. These pages had a plethora of new concepts. On one page, for example, sixth graders were to experience reading the following new terms: meridians, parallels, latitude, longitude, degrees, and polar regions. The cooperating teacher told about the difficulties pupils experienced in being able to identify each word in print, let alone knowing the meaning of these words.

The complexity of expository reading materials does increase tremendously in difficulty when an excessive number of new words are placed on a single page of print discourse. Teachers need to write to the publisher to state how textbooks may be improved so that more optimal pupil achievement is possible. To omit those pages of complexity does not work since future references are made sequentially to previous pages of, content in the textbook (See Ediger, 1978, 412-416).

Introducing New Words in Reading

The manual section of a basal text may list the new words for pupils to read and understand in print. These can be a valuable resource for teachers to use in selecting new words to introduce to pupils prior to reading a selection. However, pupils are at different levels of achievement and important adjustments need to be made in which words to introduce. Thus, the teacher needs to study and attempt to realize at which level each pupil is reading. The teacher needs to list words, in a notebook, which pupils have difficulty with in identifying and provide needed help here.

The new words need to be printed in manuscript style on the chalkboard for all to see clearly. The teacher should point to each new word as it is being pronounced clearly. The new word may be printed within a sentence or in isolation. The latter helps pupils to focus upon the individual word only, whereas the former assists pupils to notice that words are used contextually. The author has noticed teachers who even have one new word visible at a time, printed on the chalkboard, to avoid pupils having too many stimuli to look at when being introduced to a new word! Selected teachers here would cover all new words on the chalkboard with the pull down map located directly above and then lift the map for the next word to be introduced. The point being, and wisely so, that pupils view a word carefully so that it will be identified accurately while reading the expository text. Learners may then make discoveries of selected phonics elements. These elements include noticing words which begin alike and/or end alike. How much time to take in teaching phonics at this point depends upon the needs of the learner (Ediger, 2000, Chapter Seventeen).

Phonics and Reading in the Content Areas

Reading expository materials should be done to secure ideas, vital facts, concepts, and generalizations. However, pupils may fail to glean important subject matter due to the inability to recognize words independently. Thus, not being able to identify words may hinder comprehension. This is true also if a pupil reads haltingly and struggles to make sense of the abstract symbols or graphemes.

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Factors Which Make Expository Reading Difficult


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