Comprehension, Text Difficulty, Background Knowledge, and Talk: A Comparison of KWL and Listen Read Discuss

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Lupo, Sarah, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Invernizzi, Marcia, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Kibler, Amanda, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

Current controversy surrounding the optimum level of text difficulty to maximize literacy growth indicates that more research is needed to determine whether adolescent readers benefit from reading easy or more challenging texts during literacy lessons. Further, investigating the type of scaffolding that will best assist readers in improving comprehension of texts at varying levels of difficulty is necessary. This mixed methods study investigated 318 ninth graders’ comprehension during a 12-week intervention under one of four conditions: easier texts paired with KWL or Listen Read Discuss (LRD) and more challenging texts paired with KWL or LRD. Students’ comprehension was measured before and after the intervention using the GMRT-4 as well as after each of the 24 lessons implemented using a researcher-created comprehension quiz. Two-way ANCOVA tests were used to investigate the interaction and any main effects between factors of text difficulty and comprehension strategy. One-way nonparametric tests were used to analyze differences based on students’ English language proficiency status, disability status, and reading ability. Qualitative methods were used to analyze the classroom talk to explore differences between student and teacher talk features across the treatments and between subgroups of students.
Findings did not reveal an interaction between text difficulty and comprehension strategy on students’ comprehension; however, a main effect for comprehension strategy favoring KWL was found associated with students’ comprehension of texts. Analyses revealed that regardless of English proficiency levels or reading ability, students performed significantly better on the quizzes when participating in KWLs. However, students with disabilities performed similarly on quizzes in KWL and LRD treatments. Results did not reveal a main effect for text difficulty on students’ comprehension, indicating that the difficulty level of the text was not associated with students’ comprehension. However, a main effect for text difficulty was found for English Language Learners (ELLs), indicating that ELLs did better on comprehension quizzes when they read easy texts.
Fidelity of implementation observations revealed that teachers spent the majority of the lesson building or activating knowledge before reading in both KWL and LRD lessons, although KWL lessons offered a better balance between the amount of time spent before, during, and after reading. Analysis of amount of student and teacher talked indicated that students spoke more frequently during KWL lessons than during LRD lessons. Teachers asked more questions in KWL lessons and analysis of teacher questioning techniques indicated that the teachers more frequently used questioning techniques to assist students in elaborating or evaluating their own responses in KWL lessons than in LRD lessons

Analysis of student talk indicated that students asked more questions, discussed the text, made analogies and connections with other texts, speculated, and shared stories more often during KWL lessons than in LRD lessons. In particular, these types of talk occurred after reading more often in KWL lessons than in LRD lessons when the benefits to comprehension may have been greater. Further, differences were noted in how students discussed knowledge between the two treatments. Inherent to KWLs, students shared more background knowledge and more incorrect knowledge during KWL lessons. Students discussed knowledge frequently in LRD lessons but knowledge discussions included both students sharing their own background knowledge as well as discussing knowledge presented by the teacher during the lesson. Irrelevant knowledge was shared equally between both treatments. ELLs and below grade level readers talked more often during LRD lessons than KWL lessons and were most likely to talk about knowledge presented by the teacher. Implications for instruction are discussed.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
adolescents, text difficulty, background knowledge, high school, comprehension instruction, KWL, Listen Read Discuss, classroom talk, ELLs, students with disabilities, struggling readers, below grade level readers, Newsela
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