Increasing Reading Comprehension through the Explicit Teaching of Reading Strategies: Is There a Difference among the Genders?

Article excerpt

The relationship between the intentional teaching of reading strategies and the increase in reading comprehension was studied. The Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) reading pretest and posttest scores of 57 subjects were analyzed to see if there was a significant increase in performance after the reading strategies were taught. The study also analyzed the difference in how the boys performed in comparison to girls and the results were discussed to see if there was a correlation with gender and reading gains and losses. There was a significant increase in the NWEA post-test scores after the students had received specific reading strategy instruction.

Introduction

Teachers today are being called on to analyze and evaluate their teaching practices (Taylor, Pearson, Peterson, & Rodriguez, 2003). Due to the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, strict guidelines have been set that incorporate standardized testing to insure that all teachers are teaching what they are required to and that all children are learning what they need to learn (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000). Many educators have been caught up in the standardized testing craze and have lost sight of the fact that their primary goal is to increase children's literacy abilities and not just get them ready for the test (Jago, 2005). There is a plethora of research that teachers can use to strengthen and solidify the reading pedagogy in their classroom (Taylor et al., 2003).

In order to assure that the students under their care will receive the best possible instruction in the area of reading, teachers need to first understand and be knowledgeable of brain and gender-based research. This research states that there are significant differences in the way boys and girls learn how to read. Being aware not only of the differences, but the reasons why, can help teachers of reading become more effective and proficient in reaching all of the students in their classrooms (Gurian & Ballew, 2003).

According to the National Reading Panel (NRP, 2000), there are five specific practices that teachers should be using in their classrooms to help children become better readers: "(a) phonemic awareness instruction, (b) explicit, systematic phonics instruction, (c) repeated oral reading practice with feedback and guidance, (d) direct and indirect vocabulary instruction, and (e) comprehension strategies instruction" (Taylor et al., 2003, p. 4).

Focusing on the area of comprehension strategies instruction, teachers are discovering that reading comprehension is not something children acquire as they read (Harvey & Goudvis, 2000). Harvey and Goudvis (2000) note that researchers Linda Fielding and P. David Pearson espoused that comprehension is now understood to be a process that involves "knowledge, experience, thinking, and teaching" (p. 6). In order to help children become more proficient readers, certain reading strategies have to be explicitly taught in order to help students grow as readers. These specific strategies include (a) creating mental pictures of what they are reading; (b) using background knowledge to make connections; (c) asking questions before, during, and after they read; (d) making inferences during and after reading; (e) determining the most important ideas or themes; (f) synthesizing information; and (g) using "fix-up" strategies when something doesn't make sense (Zimmerman & Hutchins, 2003).

Purpose of the Study

The purpose of this study was to see if there was a significant difference between how students perform on reading tests after having received the same instruction in using reading strategies. Instilling the love of reading in a child can be an amazing accomplishment. Many teachers strive to provide a variety of materials that will interest their students and capture their curiosity (Parsons, 2004). They do all of this in an effort to get them hooked into reading. While many children will get captivated, if they are not able to begin to read and understand the text on their own, they will lose interest in reading. …