The "RAP" on Reading Comprehension

By Hagaman, Jessica L.; Luschen, Kati et al. | Teaching Exceptional Children, September/October 2010 | Go to article overview

The "RAP" on Reading Comprehension


Hagaman, Jessica L., Luschen, Kati, Reid, Robert, Teaching Exceptional Children


Many teachers have encountered similar issues with reading comprehension in their classrooms. In fact, reading problems aie one of the most frequent reasons students are referred for special education services (Miller, 1993) and the disparity between students with reading difficulties and those who read successfully appears to be increasing (U.S. Department of Education, 2003). As a result, there is now an emphasis on early intervention programs such as RTl. In many cases, early intervention in reading instruction focuses primarily on foundational reading skills, such as decoding. These foundational skills allow the reader to read fluently (i.e., with speed and accuracy; National Reading Panel, 2000). However, with much of the focus on fluency, reading comprehension may be overlooked. It's true that reading fluency is necessary for comprehension. Students who are able to decode and recognize words effortlessly are able to devote more of their cognitive resources to reading comprehension. As a result, readers who are fluent are more likely to have better comprehension skills (Fuchs, Fuchs, Hosp, & Jenkins, 2001). This link between fluency and comprehension can lead teachers to assume that if students can read fluently they should also be able to comprehend what they read.

For many students, this assumption is correct; however, there are students who are fluent readers who experience difficulties with reading comprehension. Up to 10% of students are fluent readers who struggle to understand what they read (Meisinger, Bradley, Schwanenflugel, Kuhn, & Morris, 2009; Shankweiler, Lundquist, Dreyer, & Dickinson, 1996). These students are able to successfully decode text in specific content areas, such as sciences and social studies, but are unable to process and comprehend what they read (Caccamise & Snyder, 2005). One way to improve these students' comprehension skills is by teaching them effective comprehension strategies. Research shows that explicit instruction of reading comprehension strategies can significantly improve students' comprehension skills (Gajria, Jitendra, Sood, & Sacks. 2007; Pressley, Brown, El-Dinary, & Allferbach, 1995). Unfortunately, research also shows that comprehension instruction is often rudimentary and instruction in actual comprehension strategies (i.e., specific procedures students can use to increase their comprehension) is rare (Vaughn, Levy, Coleman, & Bos, 2002). As a result many students do not improve their ability to comprehend text. In addition, few teachers are knowledgeable about how to effectively teach a strategy (Reid & Lienemann, 2006) - and unless all the critical instructional elements are included, students are unlikely to benefit from a strategy.

How can special educators implement an effective reading comprehension strategy with young students who exhibit reading comprehension problems? We taught the RAP strategy (Read-Ask-Paraphrase; Schumaker, Denton, & Deshler, 1984) to Gary, Betty, and Jean, third-graders with reading comprehension problems. The results of our Tier II intervention (Hagaman, Casey, & Reid, in press) demonstrate that teaching young students such a strategy can markedly improve their reading comprehension.

The RAP Strategy

RAP (Schumaker et ah, 1984) is a simple strategy that is easily incorporated into existing curriculum without taking time away from critical content instruction. This three-step strategy (see Figure 1) can improve the reading comprehension of students with and without disabilities and is extremely flexible. It can be used for elementary, middle, and high school students across many different content areas (Hagaman & Reid, 2008).

The strategy requires students to engage in reading materials through questioning and paraphrasing to increase their comprehension of the material. From the questioning and paraphrasing, students process information for better understanding of what they read. …

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