The Effects of Explicit Instruction of Expository Text Structure Incorporating Graphic Organizers on the Comprehension of Third-Grade Students

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An important goal of education is to assist students to read and write expository text. Success in school, work, and society depends largely upon the ability to comprehend this type of text. However, there is ample research to suggest that many children are not learning to read and write expository text competently. Researchers noted that establishing effective instructional frameworks for teaching students how to read and write this material remains elusive. Therefore, developing effective expository reading comprehension instruction should be a research priority.

     Using a mixed qualitative and quantitative design, this study examined the effects of explicit instruction of expository text structure incorporating graphic organizers on the comprehension of three intervention classrooms of third-grade students in comparison to one control classroom. Within the three intervention classrooms, the students received the designed intervention presented by their classroom teacher or teaching assistant during their small-group instruction. The students in the control classroom received regular Guided Reading instruction presented by their classroom teacher or teaching assistant. The instructional framework for the designed intervention included explicit and scaffolded instruction embedded in an interactive learning environment. This framework also relied on multiple instructional strategies that appear to positively affect reading comprehension: modeling, thinking aloud, and graphic organizers. 

When compared with the control group, at post-testing, students receiving the intervention showed a statistically significant difference in their ability to comprehend expository text. The third-grade students who received explicit instruction incorporating graphic organizers scored significantly better on representing text structure graphically, using graphic organizers to compose a written summary, and accurately summarizing expository text. In addition, the intervention teachers and assistant were able to deliver the designed intervention effectively. 

Findings from this study revealed third-grade students can improve their expository text comprehension when given explicit instruction incorporating graphic organizers. Further, this study suggested the importance of creating a collaborative environment with appropriate scaffolded instruction. Outcomes in rhetorical pattern knowledge, graphic organizers, and scaffolded instruction, all support future research concerning pedagogically sound instructional methods for providing expository text instruction to students of all ages.