Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Teachers' Perceptions of Word Callers and Related Literacy Concepts

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Teachers' Perceptions of Word Callers and Related Literacy Concepts

Article excerpt

Abstract. The purpose of the study was to investigate teachers' perceptions of word callers related to the concepts of reading fluency and reading comprehension. To this end, second-grade students (N = 408) completed a series of reading fluency and reading comprehension assessments, and their teachers (N = 31) completed word caller nominations and a questionnaire regarding their concepts related to these issues. Our findings suggested that teachers often overnominated children as word callers. Further, questionnaire data indicated a great deal of ambiguity and inconsistency exists regarding teachers' understanding and use of the term word caller. By contrast, teachers seemed to possess a veridical understanding of the related terms reading fluency ant reading comprehension.


Despite research supporting the utility of curriculum-based measurement in reading (CBM; Deno, 1985), some teachers have expressed concern that the use of CBM oral reading probes may overlook children for whom comprehension is the primary concern (Hamilton & Shinn, 2003; Shapiro, 2004). CBM oral reading fluency probes are used for a wide range of educational decisions, including screening, progress monitoring, goal setting, instructional planning, predicting performance on high-stakes testing, and even remedial and special education eligibility (Deno, 2003; Hintze & Silberglitt, 2005). Therefore, reading fluency is often utilized as a general indicator of reading competence because of its close relation with reading comprehension in early elementary school (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, & Jenkins, 2001; Jenkins, Fuchs, van den Broek, Epsin, & Deno, 2003; Schwanenflugel, Meisinger, Wisenbaker, Kuhn, Strauss, & Morris, 2006; Shinn, Knutson, Good, Tilly, & Collins 1992).

Word callers are children who efficiently decode words but do so without commensurate comprehension taking place (Stanovich, 1986)--in other words, they "call out" the words in a text without understanding the meaning of the text as a whole. It is a somewhat commonly used term among teachers and educational publications (e.g., Walczyk & Griffin-Ross, 2007). However, some researchers have questioned the validity of the word caller construct (Hamilton & Shinn, 2003; Nathan & Stanovich, 1991; Stanovich, 1986, 2000) and have called it one of the "red herrings" (Nathan & Stanovich, 1991, p. 177) of the reading literature. Although commonly used, there is almost no research to indicate how teachers conceptualize the term word caller or how it influences their instructional practices.

The Existing Word Caller Literature

Few studies to date have examined word callers, and findings from those studies lend little support to the validity of this construct (Hamilton & Shinn, 2003; Meisinger, Bradley, Schwanenflugel, Kuhn, & Morris, 2009). For example, Hamilton and Shinn (2003) asked 75 third-grade teachers across 20 elementary schools if they taught a student fitting the description of a word caller (i.e., a student who can read fluently but has difficulty with comprehension). Twenty-nine teachers (39%) indicated that they did and identified 33 students as word callers. These teachers were also asked to identify students whom they believed to have similar oral reading fluency as the word callers, but who read with comprehension. The teacher-identified word callers demonstrated weaker skills in both oral reading fluency and reading comprehension when compared to their peers. Students nominated as word callers averaged 89.1 words read correctly per minute on CBM reading probes whereas their peers averaged 116.2 words read correctly per minute. Moreover, despite several attempts using different criteria, Hamilton and Shinn were not able to identify any word callers in their sample.

Meisinger at el. (2009) found similar results in a two-part study examining the prevalence of word callers and the accuracy of teachers' word caller nominations. …

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