In a study by Shore, Ray, and Gooklasian (2012), they compared traditional vocabulary learning techniques with two strategies that are more constructive and interactive, drawing pictures and talking about the definitions of the terms and the impact on reading comprehension. “Because understanding terms and definitions is a first step in learning science, we hypothesize that the inability to grasp content vocabulary could create a barrier to further understanding of science concepts.” (Shore, R., Ray, J., & Gooklasian, P. 2015). The study involved 223 seventh grade students enrolled in twelve different classes at two different schools using the same science curriculum and three units of study were chosen. Students were divided into three groups determined by the type of vocabulary instruction: the Dictionary (the control, as it is the traditional method), the Pictionary, the Conversational, and each group contained low, middle, and high skilled readers.
Each class learned and used each of the three student-centered strategies once. The dictionary and conversational strategies took about 10 to 15 minutes to administer in class, while the Pictionary strategy took between 15 and 20 minutes. As each teacher taught their classes, they used different strategies for each class. If Teacher #1 taught Pictionary to class #1, then class #2 received lessons over the dictionary, while class #3 received lessons covering conversation. At the end of the first unit, the teacher rotated the strategies so that each class was learning a new strategy. Each rotation lasted approximately three weeks.
The results of this study somewhat surprised me. I had originally thought that the dictionary strategy would have the lowest results; however, that was not the case. First, the Pictionary strategy was shown to be most beneficial for low, middle, and highly skilled readers. Next, the dictionary strategy was second; however, the results showed that the dictionary strategy had a marginally significant effect for low and middle-level readers. Last listed was the conversational strategy. I believed that this method would result in more benefits than the dictionary method mainly because the students were able to interact with the teacher and their peers. The only time that the conversational strategy resulted in higher scores was when the students were tested immediately after their review.
A review of the results showed that the Pictionary strategy was more beneficial for low and mid-level readers. When surveyed, the low and mid-level readers said that they enjoyed the Pictionary strategy and that it was more fun. Because the students had to read the definition, figure out what to draw and how to draw it, deciding what colors to use, and drawing the image this Pictionary strategy allowed for more time to encode and record new information.
The International Reading Association’s Common Core State Standards Committee (IRA-CCSSC, 2012) stated that students must be able to engage in attentive reading based on the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The committee believes that based on the CCSS students must be able to “engage independently in critical reading, determine what a text says explicitly, making logical inferences, and analyzing a text’s craft and structure to determine how those affect the text’s meaning and tone, evaluating the effectiveness or value of the text, and using the information and ideas drawn from texts (often referred to as ‘evidence’) as the basis of one’s own arguments, presentations, and claims.” (IRA-CCSSC, 2012. p. 2)
This can be difficult for students with learning disabilities. Therefore, the use of graphic organizers can help those students with arranging information, explicitly highlighting links between concepts, assessing comprehension, and using that information to analyze, organize, and summarize the main ideas of the text whether it be science, social studies, mathematics, or English. If the appropriate graphic organizer is selected, it can enhance reading comprehension in secondary students.
For the CCSS, students in grades 9 and 10 “should be able to support their conclusion of the content clearly and build on the implications from the content.” (Singleton, S., & Filce, H.G., 2015 p. 111). Due to this, Singleton and Flice outlined four areas of “attentive reading” and listed specific examples of graphic organizers that can be utilized to benefit secondary students with disabilities. These four areas are: 1) Engaging independently in critical reading; 2) Determining what a text says explicitly; 3) Making logical inferences; and 4) Evidence of one’s own arguments, presentations, and claims. For each area, the specific graphic organizers Singleton and Flice have explained their use in attentive reading for students with disabilities.
For each of these four areas, Singleton and Flice suggested two to three different graphic organizers. The organizers were chosen based on their benefit to students with disabilities. Some of the graphic organizers suggested were Venn diagrams, series-of-events maps, concept maps, spider maps, family network trees, fish bone maps, and problem-solution maps.
For each map listed, the authors explicitly explained why the students with disabilities benefit from the specific map. Several reasons these maps are beneficial include but are not limited to: enhanced reading comprehension, decoding and extracting important events, relating information to the main idea, interaction and relationships of processes, comprehending relationships and making connections, identifying and creating solutions to problems in the text, formulation of opinions for arguments, presentation, and claims to show a depth of reading comprehension. For example, I have used a variety of these graphic organizers, but because I have taught Earth Science for several years, the series-of-events has been the most beneficial for my students. My students and I have use this to illustrate the life cycle of a star, the movement of tectonic plates, as well as many other Earth processes tot large or too small to properly visualize.
Since this article was not a study, but a review of the IRS-CCSSC, there are no results to report. Singleton & Flice’s article reinforces that graphic organizers are an important tool for reading comprehension of secondary students. If students are taught explicitly how to use organizers, why they are important, the appropriate organizers are chosen and that teachers model and give students immediate feedback, graphic organizers can have a powerful impact on reading comprehension.
The only area of reading comprehension that this article did not address is the pre-reading or activating prior knowledge. I believe that this is an important part of reading comprehension as students talk about what they already know and then make connections to the new knowledge that they are learning. A few graphic organizers that I have used for activating prior knowledge are ABC Brainstorm, K-W-L, and anticipation guides.
The ABC Brainstorm is simple. Given a topic students write down words for each letter of the alphabet. Students can write multiple words at each letter in about 1 minute. Then I ask the students to pair and share. Partners then volunteer words and explain why those words were chosen. The K-W-L involves a chart for students to record what they know, what they want to know, and what they learned (Corner, P., 2003 p. 108). I like this graphic organizer because it gets students talking about possibilities or making predictions about the material we are going to cover. Then, we can review the chart to see if we answered all the questions in the want column and analyze how we tied prior knowledge to new knowledge. Lastly, the anticipation guide gives the student 3 to 5 statements that they must read and either agree with or disagree with before reading. After reading, my students reread the statements and decide if they still agree or disagree with each statement, or change their answer. As I discuss these statements with the class, they must give evidence from the text as to why they agree, disagree, or have changed their mind. This enhances reading comprehension because the students need to find evidence to support their beliefs before reading.