Improving Correct and Error Rate and Reading Comprehension Using Key Words and Previewing: A Case Report with a Language Minority Student

By O'Donnell, Patricia; Weber, Kimberly P. et al. | Education & Treatment of Children, August 2003 | Go to article overview

Improving Correct and Error Rate and Reading Comprehension Using Key Words and Previewing: A Case Report with a Language Minority Student


O'Donnell, Patricia, Weber, Kimberly P., McLaughlin, T. F., Education & Treatment of Children


Language-minority students are "non-native English speaking students who lack full proficiency in English" (Scarcella, 1990, p.181). Many language-minority students who might be considered fluent in their use of English for interpersonal communication are not proficient enough readers of English to succeed in school (Carey, 1987). Lack of reading proficiency could be a major factor in the over representation of language-minority students in special education classes (Miramontes, 1987; Chinn & Hughes, 1987).

Much has been written about the relationship between the rate at which a student reads and comprehension of the reading material. Perfetti and Hogaboam (1975) supported the view that links fluent decoding and comprehension:

   If a reader requires considerable processing capacity to decode a
   single word, his processing capacity is less available for higher
   order integrated processes--for example, memory of the just
   previously coded word may suffer, memory for the preceding phrase
   may decrease and the subject's ability to 'predict' what he is yet
   to encounter on the printed page may diminish. (p. 461).

The research literature cites numerous studies linking reading fluency and comprehension (Deno, Mirkin, & Chang, 1982; Fleisher, Jenkins, & Pany, 1979, LaBerge & Samuels, 1994; Shapiro, 1989; Skinner, Cooper, & Cole, 1997). For example, Harris (1970) noted that slow readers do poorly in comprehension due to the fact that their many repetitions and hesitations break up the continuity of thought. "Unless readers become automatic with the alphabetic code, the time and attention required to identify a word directly limits the cognitive resources available to process the meaning of the sentence in which the word appeared" (Kameenui, 1998, p.329).

Efforts to increase decoding skills and, as a result, comprehension skills, have included repeated readings (Dowhower, 1987; Gilbert, Williams, & McLaughlin, 1996; Samuels, 1979), neurological impress method (Heckelman, 1986), and precision teaching methods such as timed and charted measures of student performance (Downs & Morin, 1990). Repeated readings involve having students orally reread passages until a satisfactory level of fluency is reached. Neurological impress method involves having the student read aloud and simultaneously with the teacher. The precision teaching method provided one minute timed readings, charting the student's best daily reading, providing feedback and having the student compete with himself.

Previewing reading material has been shown to increase oral reading proficiency among low achieving students (Sachs, 1984; Skinner et al., 1997). Listening-previewing is defined as any method that provides an opporunity for a learner to read or listen to a selection or passage prior to instruction and/or testing (Daley & Martens, 1994; Rose, 1984a). This has been shown to be effective with elementary general education students as well as with students with disabilities (Rose, 1984a,b,c; Rose & Sherry, 1984).

Discussion of key words has also been effective in increasing both factual and inferential reading comprehension as this strategy provides the reader with relevant prior knowledge of the subject (Roberts, 1988; Rousseau, Tam, & Ramnarain, 1993). Discussion of key words is defined as the teacher's discussing the meanings of key words from the reading passage prior to the student's reading the passage aloud (Rousseau & Tam, 1991). Discussion of key words helps to expand the vocabulary and comprehension of the learners and enables them to grasp the meaning of the passage more readily.

The results of a study carried out by Rousseau and Tam (1991) showed that two treatments, discussion of key words and listening-previewing, when presented together were more effective than either treatment presented alone. This would suggest that a combination of two interventions should be used for increasing oral reading proficiency and reading comprehension in language minority students with speech and language deficits. …

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