Sustaining content through literacy instruction to improve reading comprehension outcomes in the early grades (Best Evidence in Brief)

While I was on a break from blogging, The Best Evidence in Brief newsletter kept coming. This study is one that a lot my readers will enjoy learning about:

A recent longitudinal randomized controlled trial (RCT) by Kim and colleagues evaluated the effect of the Model of Reading Engagement (MORE) intervention on the reading comprehension of early elementary students. The MORE intervention consisted of providing students in Grade 1 with 20 content literacy lessons in science, providing related nonfiction texts to read during the summer, and then building on the same thematic content with 45 additional lessons in Grade 2. The intervention was developed to expose students to increasingly complex information about a topic over time. Thus, students develop schemas, or ways of storing and retrieving knowledge, to comprehend new topics.
The RCT was conducted over 12 months in 30 elementary schools with a sample of 1,176 students receiving the MORE intervention and 980 students assigned to business-as-usual literacy instruction. Teachers in the treatment condition received professional development and ongoing support from site-based literacy facilitators. Using audio recordings of lessons and teacher surveys, fidelity was found to be high, almost 100% among Grade 1 teachers and between 87% and 94% among Grade 2 teachers.
The study found students who received the MORE intervention outperformed the control group students on a researcher-developed science reading comprehension assessment (ES = +0.18). Findings from this study highlight the importance of using literacy instruction to provide students with thematically-connected content that becomes more complex over time. Elementary schools have become increasingly focused on English and math, limiting student access to science and social studies content. A robust vocabulary is essential to understanding texts that become more complex as students progress through elementary school. Thus, students who gain repeated exposure to related vocabulary terms within the context of science and social studies can apply their background knowledge and comprehend new topics. Teaching thematically aligned content through literacy instruction and aligning it with resources students can access at home presents a scalable approach to help students develop comprehension skills for reading nonfiction texts.


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