Challenging Task in Appropriate Text: Designing Discourse Communities to Increase the Literacy Growth of Adolescent Struggling Readers
russell, sharon lynn
Chambliss, Marilyn J.
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This six-month intervention study focusing on ninth-grade struggling readers had three goals: to determine the overall literacy growth of adolescent struggling readers when engaged in a task-through-text instructional framework situated within specially designed discourse communities, to determine the effectiveness of text structure instruction, and to track intrinsic motivational changes related to reading. Small discourse communities were designed for the purpose of apprenticing students into literate high school culture. Within the discourse communities, students engaged in challenging tasks in appropriate text to increase academic literacy. Most students began the intervention reading below a second-grade level. Students who were receiving special education, second language, and no services participated in the study. Using the task-in-text discourse community framework, students in six small reading classes received daily intervention given by the researcher. This study also used low-level expository text with four characteristics: links to interest and prior knowledge, sufficient density of ideas, clear rhetorical patterns, and clear signaling devices. When compared with the control group, at post- testing, students receiving intervention showed a statistically significant difference in overall literacy growth as well as in their ability to use and transfer knowledge of text structure. A within-groups counterbalanced design showed that students who received text structure instruction first scored statistically significantly better on a summarization task even after they were no longer receiving text structure instruction. Students in the instruction group completed a self-reported questionnaire about motivation for reading. Statistically significant increases in reading efficacy and reading challenge were observed indicating that students increased both their personal beliefs about reading as well as their willingness to take risks as readers. Results indicate that adolescents who are reading at very low levels can increase their literacy abilities rapidly under the right learning conditions and when given appropriate texts. Further, instruction in text structure assisted students with both comprehension and content knowledge acquisition. Finally, students in the instruction group increased their motivation for reading. Outcomes in literacy growth, text structure, and motivation, all support future research concerning pedagogically sound methods for providing reading intervention to adolescent struggling readers.