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Psychology in the Schools, Vol.

47(2), 2010
Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com)


C 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

DOI: 10.1002/pits.20460

COMPARISON OF THE EFFECTIVENESS AND EFFICIENCY OF ORAL AND WRITTEN


RETELLINGS AND PASSAGE REVIEW AS STRATEGIES FOR COMPREHENDING TEXT
REBECCA SCHISLER, LAURICE M. JOSEPH, MOIRA KONRAD, AND SHEILA ALBER-MORGAN

The Ohio State University


The purpose of this study was to compare the instructional effectiveness and efficiency of oral
retelling, written retelling, and passage review comprehension strategies on third-grade students
accuracy and rate of answering reading comprehension questions. A modified alternating treatment
design was used to compare the effects of oral retelling, written retelling, and passage review
strategies. Each strategy occurred within the context of repeated readings with phrase drill error
correction. This study extended previous research findings by examining the effects of oral and
written retelling as strategies for improving both literal and inferential comprehension and by
investigating the efficiency of retelling procedures. Findings revealed that students accuracy in
answering reading comprehension performance was better under both retelling conditions than the
passage review condition. The oral retelling coupled with repeated readings and phrase drill error
correction was the most efficient instructional method for answering comprehension questions
C 2009 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
correctly. 

Time constraints in delivering instruction during the school day make it challenging for educators to account for significant gains in student learning. Therefore, selecting and implementing
methods that are most efficient for increasing student achievement become critical for educators
(Skinner, 2008). Following the work of Skinner and colleagues (i.e., Skinner, Belfiore, Mace,
Williams-Wilson, & Johns, 1997; Skinner, Belfiore, & Watson, 1995; Skinner, Ford, & Yunker,
1991), Cates and coworkers (2003) examined the instructional effectiveness and efficiency of a
traditional flashcard drill method and two types of interspersal methods containing varying ratios
of unknown and known words on primary grade childrens spelling performance. Their findings
revealed that, although the most effective method varied across participants, the traditional drill and
practice method was the most efficient for helping all of the children learn to spell words. Similar
findings surfaced when children were taught to read words (Joseph & Nist, 2006; Joseph & Schisler,
2007; Nist & Joseph, 2008; Schmidgall & Joseph, 2007).
Within the area of reading, the aforementioned studies that examined instructional efficiency
addressed word recognition skills but did not address reading comprehension skills. Gaining meaning
from text is the ultimate goal of reading; however, reading comprehension is a skill that many
children fail to achieve (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005; National Reading Panel,
2000). This is even the case for some students who have achieved decoding skills (Caccamise &
Snyder, 2005). Failure to achieve this skill could have adverse effects on performance across content
areas in school (Stanovich, 1986) as well as on opportunities to pursue further schooling or training,
academic or otherwise, and secure employment (Calhoon, 2005). Comprehending text requires
an understanding of vocabulary; recognizing and recalling specific details; and making inferences,
drawing conclusions, and predicting outcomes (Sencibaugh, 2007). By the time students enter middle
school, they are expected to have acquired the skills necessary to gain meaning from text. There are
few studies exploring the effectiveness of reading comprehension strategy instruction with children
in the primary grades, however (Gersten, Fuchs, Williams, & Baker, 2001). Furthermore, there are
no studies that have sought to determine which reading comprehension strategy instruction methods
are most efficient for student learning. Retelling and passage review are two strategies that have
been commonly used in the classroom for helping students comprehend text.

Correspondence to: Laurice M. Joseph, 305 West 17th Avenue A460, Columbus, OH 43210. E-mail:
Joseph.21@osu.edu

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Retelling

Retelling is a strategy that involves restating a story or important elements of a passage that was
heard or read. Retelling has commonly been studied and used as a valid assessment tool for measuring
comprehension of stories that students read or stories that were read to them (Gillman & Carlile,
1997; Isbell, Sobol, Lindauer, & Lowrance, 2004; Luetke-Stahlman, Griffiths, & Montgomery, 1998;
Mandler & Johnson, 1977; Roberts, Good, & Corcoran, 2005; Robertson, Dow, & Hainzinger,
2006; Stein & Glenn, 1979; Sudweeks, Glissmeyer, Morrison, Wilcox, & Tanner, 2004; Thorndyke,
1977). Some researchers, however, have explored the use of retelling as a learning strategy for
comprehending text.
Oral Retelling. One of the earliest studies that examined the effects of story retelling as a
strategy for comprehending text found that six- to eight-year-olds were better able to recall elements
in stories after they engaged in oral retelling of the stories that were read to them by their teacher
(Zimiles & Kuhns, 1976). In two studies, Morrow (1985) explored whether retelling a story would
improve comprehension. The first study involved asking the children to retell a story after listening
to it without frequent guidance and practice in retelling, and the second part involved providing
frequent practice and guidance in retelling after children listened to a story. In the first study,
59 kindergartners were randomly selected to participate in either the experimental or control group.
In the control group, the children were asked to draw a picture after they listened to a story. In
the experimental group, the children were instructed to retell the story after they listened to it. The
students were given a comprehension test containing literal and inferential questions. Children who
engaged in retelling performed significantly better on the comprehension test than did children who
engaged in drawing; however, the magnitude of the effect was small. The second study involved
82 kindergarten children who were randomly selected to participate in either the experimental or the
control condition. The experimental and control conditions were similar to those in the first study
except that the retellings were practiced and guided using prompts provided by the instructor. These
practices and prompts resulted in a larger magnitude of effect favoring the experimental group on
childrens performance (Morrow).
Retellings have also been used as a strategy to boost comprehension of text that the students
have read. For instance, researchers examined differences between students retellings of important
details and students illustrations of important ideas (i.e., picture drawing) after they read a story
silently (Gambrell, Pfeiffer, & Wilson, 1985). Findings revealed that students answered more literal
and inferential comprehension questions correctly under the oral retelling condition than in the
picture-drawing condition. In a subsequent study, researchers compared the effects of a retelling
strategy versus a questioning strategy (Gambrell, Miller, King, & Thompson, 1989). Fourth- and
fifth-grade students were given stories to read, and those in the retelling group were instructed to
orally recall everything they could from what was read. Students in the control group were asked
questions pertaining to the story they just read. Results indicated that the retelling strategy was
more effective than the questioning strategy for increasing reading comprehension as measured on
a free-recall posttest that involved recalling text-based propositions and story structure elements
(Gambrell et al., 1989). Similarly, gains in answering comprehension questions and describing story
structure elements were obtained when proficient and less proficient fourth-grade students were
provided practice sessions in retelling stories they read (Gambrell, Koskinen, & Kapinus, 1991).
The effects of retelling have also been explored with secondary and postsecondary students.
High-school students with developmental delays retained information after engaging in repeated
listening to a story followed by immediate retellings (Brown, Cooper, & Dunne, 1996). In another
study, a small group of college students with visual impairments listened to and read paragraphs
that were digitally recorded and written in Braille (Tuncer & Altunay, 2006). For each paragraph,
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the students were asked to produce a summary statement that included the main idea, supporting
details, relevant information, and overall theme. One student in the group read the summary statement aloud while the others recorded it in writing. As new paragraphs were added, the students
were asked to retell each prior paragraph in a cumulative fashion. They were given the opportunity
to listen again to a tape recording of the paragraphs and reread the summaries as many times as
they wished. Students were asked comprehension questions, and findings revealed that retelling increased childrens listening comprehension and that their performance was maintained approximately
1 month after the retelling intervention ended.
Retellings have also been used as part of comprehensive reading programs such as Peer-Assisted
Learning Strategies (PALS; Fuchs, Fuchs, Mathes, & Simmons, 1995). It was difficult, however, to
discern the unique effects of this instructional strategy in studies that implemented comprehensive
programs such as PALS because retelling was not examined separately so that it could be easily
distinguished from other components of the program (e.g., Fuchs, Fuchs, & Kazdan, 1999; Mathes
& Babyak, 2001).
Written Retelling. Written retellings are similar to oral retellings except that instead of reading
a story and describing it aloud, students are asked to write everything that they can recall after reading
a passage. The theory behind the use of written retellings stems from the knowledge that reading and
writing share many of the same developmental components and are mutually reinforcing (Fitzgerald
& Shanahan, 2000). Similar to oral retellings, written retellings have been used in studies as a reading
comprehension assessment tool (Bintz, 2000; Coffman, 1997; Smith & Jackson, 1985). There were
no studies found examining written retellings as a strategy for improving reading comprehension.
Passage Review
Passage review is commonly used by students during silent reading and consists of skimming
and rereading essential portions of text to better recall details and gain a deeper understanding of
the content (Millis & King, 2001; Zabrucky & Commander, 1993). Good readers selectively reread
significant details and portions of text that seem confusing or incongruent in contrast to poor readers
who have a tendency to reread the entire passage (Zabrucky & Commander). Earlier studies also
verified that, in contrast to poor readers, good readers engaged in spontaneous text lookbacks (Garner,
1982; Garner & Reis, 1981). When poor readers were taught to apply text lookbacks, however, their
comprehension performance improved and was maintained long after training ended (Garner, Hare,
Alexander, Haynes, & Winograd, 1984).
The primary purpose of this study was to examine the instructional effectiveness and efficiency
of oral retellings, written retellings, and passage review procedures when paired with repeated
readings and phrase drill error correction on reading comprehension performance for a sample of
5 third-grade students with reading comprehension delays. These strategies were implemented within
the context of repeated reading with phrase drill error correction because repeated readings have been
scientifically supported for ensuring fluent reading (Bryant et al., 2000; Daly, Murdoch, Lillenstein,
Webber, & Lentz, 2002; Mercer, Campbell, Miller, Mercer, & Lane, 2000; OShea, Sindelar, &
OShea, 1985; Staubitz, Cartledge, Yurick, & Lo, 2004; Valleley & Shriver, 2003; Vaughn et al.,
2000) as well as for having a positive effect on reading comprehension (see Therrien, 2004, for a
review). Phrase drill has been a particularly helpful error-correction method for students while they
are engaged in repeated readings of connected text (Begeny, Daly, & Valleley, 2006; Daly, Martens,
Dool, & Hintze, 1998). The second purpose of this study was to assess the social validity of applying
the methods with efficiency and ease.
This study extended upon previous studies in the following ways: (a) We compared students
reading comprehension performance among oral retellings, written retellings, and passage review
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conditions; (b) we not only examined instructional effectiveness but examined instructional efficiency
among these conditions; (c) this is the first study that measured the effects of written retelling as a
strategy for comprehending text; (d) we sought to determine if there were differential effects between
students responses to literal and inferential questions; and (e) we sought to examine which method
was most acceptable to teachers and students. Therefore, the following research questions guided this
study: (a) How effective are oral retell, written retell, and passage review on the number of cumulative
comprehension questions answered correctly? (b) How efficient are oral retell, written retell, and
passage review on the number of cumulative comprehension questions answered correctly? and (c)
How acceptable are the strategies to students and teachers?
M ETHOD
Participant Selection
We recruited participants by first obtaining approval to conduct the study from school administrators and the universitys Institutional Review Board. Because the purpose of this study was to
examine instructional effectiveness and efficiency on students reading comprehension performance,
it was important to identify students who were able to read fluently but who were struggling in the area
of reading comprehension. Therefore, teachers identified third-grade students who were fluent readers but who had difficulty comprehending text. Twenty-two students were identified, and, of these,
parental consent was obtained for 14 students. We screened those 14 students with the Oral Reading
Fluency measure from the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS-ORF; Good
& Kaminski, 2002) assessment tool to determine current oral reading fluency performance levels,
and administered the Reading Comprehension subtest of the Diagnostic Achievement Battery, Third
Edition (DAB-3; Newcomer, 2001) to determine current reading comprehension performance levels.
Reliability coefficients for the DAB-3 Reading Comprehension measure is .93 for test retest and .88
for internal consistency (Newcomer, 2001). On the DIBELS-ORF, students read passages orally for
1 minute, and the number of words read correctly per minute was recorded. On the DAB-3 Reading
Comprehension subtest, students read passages and answered comprehension questions about the
passages after they were removed from view. Screening data were not shared with the students
classroom teacher until the study was completed.
Given that the investigation occurred during the middle of the school year, one criterion for being
selected to participate in this study was falling within the Some Risk or Low Risk categories
based on the middle-of-year, third-grade benchmark on the DIBELSthat is, those students who
read more than 67 words correctly per minute. The other criterion for selection was a standard score
on the DAB-3 below the 25th percentile (standard score of 8 or below). To be selected to participate
in this study, students had to meet both criteria. There were five students who met the participation
criteria.
Participants
Participants were five general education third-grade students without identified educational
disabilities from three classrooms in a rural elementary school in Central Ohio. The participants did
not receive any specialized instruction at their school. We assigned each participant a pseudo-name
for privacy and confidentiality purposes: Marissa (10-0 years old), Wayne (9-8 years old), Trevor
(9-1 years old), Jamal (10-0 years old), and Vincent (9-3 years old). Two participants were Black
(Wayne and Jamal). Two participants were White (Marisa and Trevor), and one participant was
Hispanic (Vincent). The mean age of the participants was approximately 9 years, 7 months with a
range of 9 years, 1 month to 10 years, 0 months. Performance on screening measures for each of the
five participants is presented in Table 1.
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Table 1
Participants Performance on DIBELS-ORF and DAB-3 Reading Comprehension Measures
Reading Comprehension
Oral Reading Fluency
Participant
Marissa
Wayne
Trevor
Jamal
Vincent

(Words/Minute)

Standard Score

Percentile

86
78
95
123
85

8
8
5
8
8

25
25
5
25
25

Setting
The school district where the study was conducted consisted of a total pupil enrollment of
2,800. Socioeconomic status of the families in this district generally ranges from low to middle
income with 40% of students in the school district qualifying for a free or reduced lunch program.
Approximately 12% of the population is identified with disabilities, 8% is gifted, and less than 1%
has limited English proficiency. Racial/ethnic background of the school population was 10.36%
Black, 0.7% Asian/Pacific Islander, 2.1% Hispanic, and 83.2% White.
Instruction and data collection took place in a small office free from distractions and noise near
the third-grade classrooms in one of the districts elementary schools. The experimenter and student
sat at a circular table with adequate lighting in the room.
Materials
Materials used in the study were reading passages with accompanied comprehension questions
from Timed Readings: Fifty 400-Word Passages with Questions for Building Reading Speed, Book 1,
Third Edition (Spargo, 1989). Other materials included white lined paper, pencils, and two stopwatches.
Training Sessions
Before experimental conditions began, the experimenter conducted one-on-one training sessions
with each participant to help facilitate familiarity with the procedures of each of the three instructional
conditions that were implemented in this study. Training on each instructional condition was scripted.
Using abbreviated reading passages from Spargos (1989) Book 1 series, the experimenter followed
the scripts and modeled the procedures of each instructional method to each of the students. First, the
experimenter read a passage and purposefully misread a word within the passage. Next, the student
observed and listened as the experimenter demonstrated the phrase drill error-correction procedure
by reading the word correctly and then reading three times the sentence that contained the misread
word. The experimenter demonstrated the procedure twice and told each participant that this would
be the procedure that would take place if he or she made a reading error in any of the reading passages
read during the study. Next, the experimenter demonstrated three different passage review strategies
that can be used before answering comprehension questions. Specifically, the experimenter modeled
rereading, underlining, and making notes about the passage. The experimenter then instructed the
participant to ask four multiple-choice questions corresponding to the passage just read, answered
each of the questions, and, together with the participant, decided if the given answer was correct by
locating the answer in the reading passage. The experimenter followed the same procedure with a
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second abbreviated passage, but this time an oral retelling strategy condition was modeled followed
by demonstrating the written retelling condition with a third abbreviated passage.
The participants then practiced each procedure using three more abbreviated reading passages,
one for each intervention condition. The same procedures were followed except that the participant
took on the role that was initially demonstrated by the experimenter. Throughout these practice
sessions, the experimenter provided guidance, feedback, and praise. Each practice session lasted
approximately 20 minutes. The experimenter also provided participants with opportunities to ask
questions pertaining to the experimental conditions. The passages used during the practice session
were not used during the actual study.
Reading Passage Assignment
Forty-five passages from Book 1 of the Spargo (1989) series were randomly assigned to
experimental conditions before they began. Book 1 contains passages that are written at the thirdgrade reading level. All passages within each book are the same level of difficulty. Each passage
contains 400 words. To further control for difficulty levels of passages, the first three numbered
passages (1, 2, and 3) were randomly assigned to three experimental conditions and then the second
three numbered passages (4, 5, and 6) were randomly assigned to the three experimental conditions,
and so forth.
Experimental Conditions
Each experimental condition was implemented in a one-on-one instructional format for
15 sessions. Each session was carried out over 2 days because each experimental condition required between 10 and 20 minutes in which the students were removed from regular classroom
instruction. Therefore, two instructional conditions were implemented on one day, and one was
implemented on the next. The experimental conditions were repeated reading with passage review,
repeated reading with oral retell, and repeated reading with written retell. In all experimental conditions, the experimenter used a stopwatch to record the number of seconds it took to complete
each condition from the time a student initially began reading a passage until the time the student
completed using a strategy. In each experimental condition, students were asked to engage in an
initial reading of a passage and a repeated reading of that passage. Each experimental condition
began by presenting the participant with a reading passage and the following oral directions: Please
read this passage out loud to me. You have as much time as you need to finish so please do your
best reading. If you come to a word you dont know, just try your best, and I will help you when
necessary. Begin. As soon as the participant began reading, the experimenter started timing with
a stopwatch. When an oral reading error was made, it was recorded and corrected using a phrase
drill error-correction procedure. Specifically, the experimenter modeled the correct reading of the
miscued word, read the entire sentence in which the miscued word was located, and asked the
participant to read the sentence containing the miscued word three times before continuing with
the rest of the passage. This procedure was completed with every misread or omitted word. Timing
of the session continued during error-correction procedures. Immediately following the participants
initial reading of the passage, the experimenter gave the following oral directions: Please read this
same passage out loud to me again. You have as much time as you need to finish, and I will be asking
questions about what you have read, so please do your best reading. If you come to a word you dont
know, just try your best, and I will help you when necessary. Begin. If miscues occurred, the phrase
drill error-correction procedure was performed with each word read incorrectly or omitted. After
the student completed the repeated reading of a passage, the experimenter instructed the student to
engage in a review, an oral retell, or a written retell of the passage. The time allotment was 3 minutes
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for each strategy. For each of the conditions, the number of seconds it took to complete the entire
condition was recorded (i.e., from when the student began the initial reading of the passage until the
student finished using one of the strategies). Following is a description of each of the strategies.
Passage Review. For the passage review, the following oral instructions were given to the
participant: You now have 3 minutes to review the reading passage before I ask you some questions
about what you have read. I will tell you when 3 minutes has passed. If you do not want to use all
3 minutes, please tell me when you are ready to answer your questions. Begin reviewing. As soon
as these directions were given, the experimenter started a second timer to monitor the participants
review time. When 3 minutes elapsed, the experimenter said Stop and removed the reading passage
at that time. If the participant indicated that he/she was finished reviewing the passage before the
time was up, the experimenter asked once, Is there anything else you would like to look over
before I ask the questions? When the 3 minutes ended or if the participant indicated that he/she was
completely finished reviewing the passage, the experimenter stopped timing.
Oral Retell. For the oral retell portion of the lesson, just after the student finished the repeated
reading of a passage, the reading passage was removed from view followed by these instructions:
Now please tell me all about what you have just read. You have 3 minutes to tell me everything you
remember. I will tell you when time is up. Begin. The experimenter started a second stopwatch at
this time to monitor the 3-minute oral retelling time. If the participant was still telling the story at the
end of 3 minutes, the experimenter told him/her to stop. If the participant indicated that he/she was
finished orally retelling the passage before the allotted time elapsed, the experimenter asked once,
What else can you tell me about what you read? When the 3 minutes elapsed or if the participant
indicated that he/she was completely finished orally retelling the passage, the experimenter viewed
the stopwatch and recorded the time it took to complete the oral retelling of the passage.
Written Retell. For the written retell condition, the passage was removed and the student was
provided with a white lined paper and a sharpened pencil just after the student completed a repeated
reading of the passage. The experimenter provided the following oral instructions: Now please
write all about what you have just read. You have 3 minutes to write down everything you remember.
I will tell you when the time is up. Begin. The time allotment was 3 minutes to retell the passage in
writing. After 3 minutes elapsed, the experimenter instructed the participant to stop, and the paper
and the pencil were removed. If the participant indicated that he/she was finished writing before
the allotted time elapsed, the experimenter asked once, What else can you write about what you
read? After 3 minutes elapsed or if the participant indicated that he/she was finished writing, the
experimenter viewed the stopwatch and recorded the time it took to complete the written retell.
Dependent Variables
At the end of each experimental condition, the student was given a sheet of paper with the
10 multiple choice comprehension questions (five literal and five inferential) from Spargo (1989)
that corresponded to each reading passage from that edition. Across passages, difficulty levels of
questions were similar for literal comprehension questions as well as for inferential comprehension
questions. Specifically, literal questions pertained to details that are readily found within a reading
.
passage. An example of a literal question may be A cake eating contest is an event at a
Participants picked from the following three response choices: (a) gas station, (b) festival, or (c)
shopping center. To choose a correct response, participants had to recall the setting of the story.
Inferential questions required students to use their knowledge of text facts and details to make
connections and generalizations. An example of an inferential question for the same cake-eating
. The
contest passage may be, It is important to like the cake you are eating because
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participants chose from the following three responses: (a) it will look nice on your face, (b) it will
be easier to eat, or (c) you will have to take it home with you. The correct response to this question
is not directly found within the passage; the participants combined what they learned from reading
the passage (e.g., that the goal of a cake-eating contest is to finish eating your cake before the other
contestants) with the more general understanding that it is easier to eat something quickly if you
enjoy what you are eating.
Prior to responding to comprehension questions, the student was given the following oral
instructions: Now I will ask you ten multiple choice questions about what you have read. Please
listen carefully to each question and wait until I have read all possible answer choices before
you answer. After I have read all of the answer choices, you will have 1 minute to say or point
to your answer. The experimenter then read each question and all of the response choices. The
students response to each question was recorded. If the participant pointed to his/her answer choice,
the experimenter verbally verified the choice indicated by asking, Which response did you point
to? The participant was allowed 1 minute to respond to each question. Timing began as soon as
the experimenter finished reading the question, and timing ended as soon as the participant had
completed giving his/her response.
Instructional effectiveness and efficiency were the primary outcome variables in this study.
Instructional effectiveness is defined as the acquisition level of responding to comprehension questions when an instructional method is implemented (Cates et al., 2003). Instructional efficiency,
in contrast, is defined as the rate at which a student responds to comprehension questions when
an instructional method is implemented (Cates et al., 2003). In this study, the number and rate of
comprehension questions answered correctly were calculated cumulatively to observe cumulative
trends in acquisition and learning rate performance over time, especially given that fluctuations in
performance due to extraneous variables are likely to occur under any instructional method. Oral
reading comprehension rate was calculated per instructional time by multiplying the number of
correctly answered comprehension questions divided by the total number of seconds it took to read
the passage, reread the passage, and retell (oral or written) or review the passage.
Procedural Integrity and Inter-Observer Agreement
Four graduate students in a school psychology program at a large research university conducted
inter-scorer agreement and procedural integrity checks across 15% of the sessions under each experimental condition. Each of the independent observers received comprehensive training by the
experimenter. Specifically, this training involved a detailed explanation of the purpose of the study,
intervention conditions, procedural methods, and dependent measures. The experimenter demonstrated the procedures involved within each experimental condition and trained the independent
observers to use an integrity checklist to record the experimenters implementation of procedures.
The observer checked yes if the experimenter correctly implemented the step, no if the researcher did not correctly implement the step, or NA if the step was not applicable in a particular
case. For each session on which procedural reliability was assessed, there was 100% adherence to
all procedures.
Independent observers were also given reading passages and multiple choice comprehension
questions to independently score. For each experimental condition, they were able to score 15% of
the reading passages and 10-item multiple choice comprehension responses. Percentage of interobserver agreement was calculated by dividing the number of agreements by the total agreements
plus disagreements and multiplying that sum by 100. For oral reading passage performance, an
agreement was scored for each time that both the observer and the experimenter recorded that a
word was read correctly or incorrectly during an initial reading and a repeated reading of the passage
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for each student. Disagreement was scored for each time in which only one, the observer or the
experimenter, recorded that a word was read correctly or incorrectly. For comprehension questions,
agreement was also scored for each item when both the observer and the experimenter recorded that
a comprehension question was answered correctly or incorrectly for each student. Disagreement was
scored when either the observer or the experimenter recorded that a question was answered correctly
or incorrectly. Results revealed that occurrence agreement between the experimenter and independent
observer was 100% for both words read correctly and comprehension questions answered correctly.
Experimental Design
A modified alternating treatment design was used to compare the effects of three experimental conditions on student comprehension and comprehension rate. This design requires the rapid
alternation of two or more conditions presented in a counterbalanced order. A limitation of this
design is the risk of multiple-treatment interference (Neuman, 1995). To minimize the effects of
one condition influencing the results of another, the experimental conditions were implemented in a
counterbalanced order across daily sessions.
R ESULTS
Table 2 presents the mean total time it took students as a group to complete an initial and
repeated reading of all passages as well as the mean number of miscues during initial and repeated
readings of passages. These data showed that it took students similar amounts of time to read and
reread passages orally across the three instructional conditions. Also, there were minimal differences
in oral reading errors across all instructional conditions. Table 3 includes the cumulative number of
comprehension questions answered correctly, the total instructional time expressed in minutes, and
the cumulative rate of answering comprehension questions per minute of instructional time for each
of the students and for the students as a group, according to each instructional condition.
Instructional Effectiveness
Individual students and students as a group answered more comprehension questions correctly
under the oral and written retelling conditions than in the passage review condition (see Table 3).
There was some variability across students performances between the oral and written retelling
conditions. Marissa and Trevor answered more questions correctly with the oral retelling method than
with the written retelling method, whereas Jamal and Wayne answered more questions accurately
with the written retelling method than the oral retelling method. There was no difference in Vincents
performance between each retelling method. Students as a group answered slightly more questions
accurately with the written retelling method.

Table 2
Students Group Means (M) and Standard Deviations (SD) of Initial Reading (IR) and Repeated Reading (RR)
Time and Miscues by Instructional Condition
Passage Review

IR Time
RR Time
IR Miscues
RR Miscues

Oral Retell

Written Retell

SD

SD

SD

383.32
275.67
3.71
.93

66.90
34.10
1.97
.81

379.60
264.40
3.73
.84

91.40
41.16
2.31
.81

381.60
278.52
3.52
1.13

59.84
40.10
1.50
.72

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Table 3
Students Total Number of Comprehension Questions Answered Correctly, Total Number of Minutes Spent in
Each Condition, and Learning Rates by Instructional Condition
Passage Review

Oral Retelling

Written Retelling

Quest. Correct

Timea

Rateb

Quest. Correct

Timea

Rateb

Quest. Correct

Timea

Rateb

121
95
110
97
99
522

237.43
197.08
195.97
166.65
214.08
1011.21

0.51
0.48
0.56
0.58
0.46
0.52

130
107
120
99
112
568

228.62
175.75
153.80
142.87
198.20
899.24

0.57
0.61
0.78
0.69
0.57
0.63

124
115
114
107
112
572

249.80
201.00
172.88
149.98
227.48
1001.14

0.50
0.57
0.66
0.71
0.49
0.57

Marissa
Wayne
Trevor
Jamal
Vincent
Group

Notes. a Number of minutes. b Number of questions correct/time.

Instructional Efficiency
As displayed in Table 3, when instructional time was factored with student learning, students
as a group answered more questions accurately per minute of instructional time with the oral
retelling condition than with the written retelling and passage review conditions. These differences
in learning rates across students were most consistently notable between oral retelling and passage
review methods. Although learning rate differences may seem minuscule on a session-by-session
basis, they accumulate over time (see Figures 16) and become important measures to consider
under the time constraints of instructional school days over the course of an academic year. As can
be seen in Table 3, the oral retelling method took the least amount of instructional time to implement.
Most students retold passages orally within the allotted 3 minutes to complete this task.
10

Cumulative Comprehension Rate

PR
OR
WR

0
1

10

11

12

13

14

15

Sessions

FIGURE 1. Marissas cumulative reading comprehension rates by experimental condition. PR: Passage review; OR: oral
retelling; WR: written retelling.
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12

Cumulative Comprehension Rate

10

PR
OR
WR

0
1

10

11

12

13

14

15

Sessions

FIGURE 2. Waynes cumulative reading comprehension rates by experimental condition. PR: Passage review; OR: oral
retelling; WR: written retelling.

14

Cumulative Comprehension Rate

12

10

PR
OR
WR

0
1

10

11

12

13

14

15

Sessions

FIGURE 3. Trevors cumulative reading comprehension rates by experimental condition. PR: Passage review; OR: oral
retelling; WR: written retelling.
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12

Cumulative Comprehension Rate

10

PR
OR
WR

0
1

10

11

12

13

14

15

Session

FIGURE 4. Jamals cumulative reading comprehension rates by experimental condition. PR: Passage review; OR: oral
retelling; WR: written retelling.

10

Cumulative Comprehension Rate

PR
OR
WR

0
1

10

11

12

13

14

15

Sessions

FIGURE 5. Vincents cumulative reading comprehension rates by experimental condition. PR: Passage review; OR: oral
retelling; WR: written retelling.
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12

Cumulative Comprehension Rate

10

PR
OR
WR

0
1

10

11

12

13

14

15

Sessions

FIGURE 6. Students group cumulative reading comprehension rates by experimental condition. PR: Passage review; OR:
oral retelling; WR: written retelling.

Literal Versus Inferential Questions


Further analysis of student performance on the type of questions (literal vs. inferential) answered
correctly revealed that, for all instructional conditions combined, students as a group answered
correctly more literal questions (total = 909) than inferential questions (total = 753). Across daily
sessions, students answered more literal questions correctly with the oral (total = 304) and written
(total = 303) retelling methods than with the passage review method (total = 288). Similarly,
students as a group produced more correct responses to inferential questions with the oral (total =
264) and written (total = 255) retelling methods than with the passage review method (total = 234)
across daily sessions.
Per minute of instructional time, the rate of answering literal questions was slightly higher
with the retelling methods (oral rate = .33; written rate = .30) than with the passage review method
(rate = .28), and the rate of answering inferential questions was higher with the retelling methods
(oral rate = .29; written rate = .25) than with the passage review method (rate = .23) for students
as a group.
Social Validity
Following the final intervention session, students were given a Likert-type scale that contained
questions and responses addressing the social validity of the comprehension strategies. The experimenter orally read the questions, and the students were asked to follow along and then circle a
response that reflected their opinion or preference for one strategy over the others. When students
were asked which strategy they would use in the future, two students reported that they would choose
to use the oral retelling strategy, and two reported that they preferred to use the written retelling.
Only one student reported a preference for the passage review procedure. Their responses were
echoed when they were asked which strategy was most helpful and which was most enjoyed.
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After all experimental sessions were completed, three classroom teachers were also asked to
complete a questionnaire with Likert-type response choices that addressed the acceptability of the
reading comprehension strategies that were implemented in this study. All of the teachers indicated
that children improved their reading fluency and comprehension performance. Teachers reported
that they felt that all of the instructional methods were valid and appropriate for classroom use.
One teacher also commented on the increased confidence levels and class participation efforts of
two of the students who participated in the study. Teachers also indicated that they preferred to
implement written retelling over oral retelling during large-group instruction time.
D ISCUSSION
Although commonly used as valid assessment measures (e.g., Gillman & Carlile, 1997; Isbell
et al., 2004), oral and written retells were found to be effective strategies for comprehending text
in the current study. This finding was consistent with previous outcomes that supported retelling
as a strategy for boosting comprehension (Gambrell et al., 1985, 1991; Morrow, 1985). Although
past studies revealed that students improved and maintained comprehension when they were taught
a passage review strategy, (Garner et al., 1984), students as a group in the current study answered
more comprehension questions, both literal and inferential, accurately and at a higher rate after they
engaged in retelling (oral or written) the passage than when they reviewed the passage. This outcome
was similar to a prior finding favoring oral retelling over a questioning strategy (Gambrell et al.,
1989). The current study, however, extended upon prior studies by examining written retelling as a
strategy for helping students comprehend text and by comparing written retelling with oral retelling
and with passage review on childrens comprehension performance.
The act of orally retelling or writing recollections of details or events from a passage overtly
holds students accountable for remembering those events, whereas it was difficult to observe whether
students actually engaged in text lookbacks or merely appeared as if they did when they were asked to
engage in reviewing the passage covertly. Moreover, students may self-monitor their understanding
of text by engaging in retelling. Their retells may reveal to them the quantity and quality of
their recollections and understandings of details and events from text. Students and teachers can
use oral and written retells as permanent products for evaluating comprehension of text, and,
if necessary, can modify strategies to boost performance (Mason, Snyder, Sukhram, & Kedem,
2006).
Although instructional efficiency has been measured in studies involving teaching basic literacy
skills of word recognition and spelling, it has not been examined with teaching reading comprehension. Therefore, this study expanded upon those studies by exploring which comprehension
strategy was most efficient, and the findings revealed that retelling methods took shorter amounts of
instructional time than did the passage review condition. Most importantly, students were found to
comprehend questions at higher rates under the retelling conditions than under the passage review
condition. Among the retelling conditions, oral retelling was found to be slightly more efficient
than written retelling. One plausible reason for this outcome was that students recalled more details
orally, and it took them a shorter amount of time to orally retell details than it did to write them.
Similar to prior studies that compared several instructional methods, the method that took the least
amount of time to implement and produced the highest rate of learning was found to be the most
efficient (Cates et al., 2003, Joseph & Nist, 2006; Nist & Joseph, 2008).
Limitations
This study contained several limitations. First, the instructional effectiveness and the efficiency of the comprehension strategies implemented in this study were examined with a small
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sample of students, and replications of these findings are needed before definitive conclusions can
be made about the effects of retelling strategies. Although students were given a maximum of
3 minutes to engage in an oral retell, a written retell, or a passage review, some students took
less than the maximum time frame allotted, which may have influenced instructional efficiency
outcomes. By the same token, outcomes may have been different if students were given more
than 3 minutes to engage in oral retell, written retell, and passage review. Some passages took
longer to read than other passages, although, on average, there were no significant differences
between the time it took to read passages used in respective experimental conditions. Moreover,
some passages contained content that may have been more interesting to students than were other
passages.
Multiple treatment interferences may have occurred even though this factor was minimized
when experimental conditions were presented in a counterbalanced order. Because maintenance was
not measured in this study, it was not possible to determine whether one strategy was more efficient
for helping students maintain reading comprehension over time. Researchers did not observe whether
students used retelling or passage review strategies while engaged in authentic reading assignments
in their natural classroom environments. Additionally, the strategies examined in this study were
delivered in a one-to-one instructional format; therefore, findings cannot be generalized to smalland large-group instructional contexts.
Future Directions for Research
As suggested by Skinner (2008), future researchers who explore instructional efficiency may
wish to measure more precisely this variable by controlling for time spent under each experimental
condition. In this study, for instance, it would have been interesting to determine if outcomes would
have been different if the students were required to spend exactly the same amount of time engaging
in oral retell, written retell, and passage review. It may also be interesting to compare the effects of
each strategyoral retelling, written retelling, and passage reviewwhen students were just given
one opportunity to read the passage rather than when they were given the opportunity to engage in
repeated reading of the passage before employing one of the strategies. Stated another way, perhaps
the differences in comprehension performance, as a result of using the strategies, may have been
more or less dramatic if these methods were not coupled with a robust strategy such as repeated
readings. In contrast, with regard to examining instructional efficiency, future researchers may wish
to include a condition that involves repeated readings only to determine if repeated readings alone
are sufficient for producing higher rates of comprehending text. Researchers may also compare
retellings to other evidence-based reading comprehension strategies (such as story mapping) on
students comprehension rates.
This line of inquiry can also be extended to culturally, behaviorally, and academically diverse
learners as well as across diverse learning contexts. For instance, as the population of English
language learners increases, it will be critical to conduct studies that compared their rate of comprehending text using these types of strategies. These variables may also be compared across content
areas of science and social studies as well as in the context of small- and large-group instruction to
determine if, for instance, written retell may be more efficient than oral retell in those contexts.
Another interesting question relates to written expression. Although the instructional strategies
implemented in the current study were designed to improve reading comprehension, might they have
collateral positive effects on students written expression? In the current study, the written retell was
found to be slightly less efficient than the oral retell; however, if students written expression
improves under the written retell condition, it might be a more efficient overall literacy strategy as
it helps students improve both reading and writing.
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Implications for Practice

The findings from the current study have significant implications for practitioners. First, it seems
that both oral and written retelling are useful strategies for helping to boost reading comprehension.
Therefore, students may benefit greatly from the incorporation of these instructional approaches
within literacy and language arts curriculum. Although oral retelling was the most efficient strategy
when instruction was delivered in a one-to-one context, written retell strategies may be the most
efficient strategy during large- or small-group lessons in the classroom. Furthermore, teachers may
be more likely to implement the written retell approach as indicated by the social validity data in the
current study. Teachers may alternate between asking students to engage in oral retell and written
retell depending on the instructional context as well as unique characteristics of their students.
In the current study, students received one-on-one feedback during their training on how to
use each of the retelling strategies. In a group setting, it may be more difficult to provide this
type of individualized instruction. Teachers should consider adding more modeling and groupguided practice as well as small-group instruction in which feedback can be provided to each
student. Students who appear to struggle with comprehension, even with instruction in these retelling
strategies, should receive more intensive and specialized instruction. Additionally, teachers should
consider these retelling strategies as just part of a comprehensive approach to literacy instruction as
well as explore their use across three-tier response to intervention models in the classroom.
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