Academic journal article Reading Improvement

"Do I Have to Leave?" beyond Linear Text: Struggling Readers' Motivation with an Innovative Musical Program

Academic journal article Reading Improvement

"Do I Have to Leave?" beyond Linear Text: Struggling Readers' Motivation with an Innovative Musical Program

Article excerpt


In this mixed method research, we examined the effects of reading and singing software program (RSSP) as a reading intervention on struggling readers' reading achievement as measured by the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, the high stakes state test administered in the state of Florida, at one elementary school. Our team defined struggling readers as students who performed below grade level on the FCAT in the previous year. We investigated student engagement with the program and teacher support and guidance through quantitative and qualitative methods. From our observations, we synthesized and describe our findings below into two over categories: program implementation and student motivation and engagement.


"I can do better!" Raymond, a struggling reader in fifth grade, reported with confidence. He sat at the computer using a reading and singing software program (RSSP) designed to improve reading fluency and comprehension. At Raymond's school, fifth grade students, who were reading below grade level, utilized a reading and singing software program (RSSP). The principal of the elementary school had the following to say about the program:

   As one walks through the computer
   lab, it is a somewhat strange sight
   and sound. Students are observed to
   be clearly engaged as they sing along
   with the program ... or is that reading
   they find so engaging? At any rate,
   the students clearly enjoy the experience
   they are having ... not only have
   these students benefited academically,
   they have developed an enjoyment
   of reading and increased self esteem.
   For some of them, it is the first time in
   their school careers that their interest
   has been sparked and that they have
   felt the pride and enjoyment of being a
   successful reader.

Our team conducted research about the implementation of this particular reading and singing software at several different school sites with mixed results, but after analysis, we found the elementary school in this study demonstrated notable achievement gains and high-quality implementation. Therefore, our research team chose to examine the effects of RSSP on struggling readers' reading achievement, as well as student engagement with RSSP, at this elementary school where RSSP had been used for one school year prior to the onset of our study.

Motivation and Engagement

A critical issue in the literature regarding struggling readers is how to increase their motivation and engagement in literacy tasks (Alvermann, 2002; Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000; Kamil, 2003; Marinak & Gambrell, 2008; Melekoglu, 2011). Educators face the challenge to foster motivation in students that becomes intrinsic and drives them to independent learning (Alderman, 2013). One approach suggested teachers move beyond the linear world of printed text and incorporate specific strategy instruction with engaging tasks that simultaneously increase students' reading motivation (Marinak & Gambrell, 2008). In an extensive review of how instruction influences students' engagement, Guthrie and Wigfield (2000) concluded the level of student engagement in reading influences student outcomes. To facilitate reading engagement for struggling readers, they suggested the use of their instructional model of engagement. In this model, two characteristics of classroom instruction that influence reading engagement and motivation are the use of interesting texts and provision of social collaboration opportunities for students during reading.

Interesting texts to some students might include media text. Students who appear most at-risk for failure on traditional academic literacy tasks are often more adept in media text, which motivates, engages, and connects them to real-world interactions (Alvermann, 2003). Most content area instruction in reading is textbook-centered, which presents a formidable task for students who struggle in reading. …

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