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Running head: READ-ALOUDS FOR COMPREHENSION OF INFORMATIONAL TEXTS 1

Read-Alouds for Comprehension of Informational Texts

Monica Fischer

Franciscan University of Steubenville


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Introduction

Informational text is a type of nonfiction that seeks to inform the reader (Yopp & Yopp,

2012). The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) categorize biographies, autobiographies, and

historical, scientific, and technical texts as types of informational texts (Wright, 2012).

Informational texts are rich in content and vocabulary and include key features such as

comparisons, descriptions, illustrations, and problems and solutions (Yopp & Yopp, 2012).

Through informational text, students make meaning and acquire knowledge about a variety of

subjects, themselves, and the world they inhabit (Santoro, Baker, Fien, Smith, & Chard, 2016).

Informational text tackles subjects about history, travel, science, and famous people (Santoro et

al., 2016). To provide a limited exposure of this text during elementary school is to deprive

students of literacy (Yopp & Yopp, 2012). The ability to comprehend informational text during

the early years of education is a key ingredient for success for students in the future and is

essential for lifelong learning (Wright, 2014). Unfortunately, informational text is seldom read in

the classroom (Yopp & Yopp, 2012). Thankfully, there is a solution to this problem and the

solution is known as read-alouds.

During read-alouds, teachers model characteristics of a good reader. They present

literature to students with animation and energy. Through animated read-alouds, students who

skip over words that they do not know are given opportunities to develop word knowledge to aid

in their reading comprehension (Wright, 2012). When teachers are reading aloud, they can

engage in meaningful conversations about the text with their students, which enhances their

students’ ability to comprehend thfcdddte text (Jordan, 2015). Research has found that the

majority of teachers read fiction pieces during their time set aside for read-alouds (Wright,
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2014). With all of the emphasis on informational text and its comprehension, why do teachers

neglect to incorporate it during a time that seems to be most suitable for it?

Purpose

Students of all ages often struggle to comprehend informational text. Teachers are often

searching for strategies to better ensure student understanding. Through research, I seek to

answer the question: what are the effects of using read-alouds for comprehension of

informational texts for elementary students? I want to find out if simply reading a text aloud

enhances the student’s ability to synthesize the information presented in the text.

In order to answer this question, I plan to go into two elementary settings and assess

students from two classes in the same grade level in two different ways. In the first classroom, I

will have the students read a piece of informational text independently and answer questions. In

the second classroom, I will perform a read-aloud with the same book and ask the students the

same questions. Through this assessment, I hope to see if students are able to comprehend

informational text better when it is read aloud. I want to determine if this strategy has any effect

on the students’ ability to extract and make meaning of the information presented.

Essentially, this research will encourage the use of read-alouds for the comprehension of

informational texts in elementary settings. I think that my research will show that students in

elementary classrooms will score higher on a comprehension assessment when the informational

text is read aloud to the class as opposed to when it is read silently by a student on his or her

own.

Review of Literature

The CCSS have “Reading: Informational Text” listed as a main focus for English

language arts from kindergarten to fifth grade (p. 359). In order to synthesize these types of texts,
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students must be able to comprehend the vocabulary. Wright (2012) completed a study to

examine how the vocabulary necessary for reading informational text was acquired. She did so

by examining fifty-five kindergarten classrooms, four times each during times set aside for read-

alouds. Based on the data collected, only 17 percent of read-aloud time was spent reading

informational text, a number similar to that of a study done nearly a decade ago. Furthermore, it

was observed that teachers gave little to no explanation on vocabulary that was difficult.

Ultimately, this study focuses on the potential benefits that reading aloud can have on the

students’ ability to comprehend vocabulary. In order for the benefits to become a reality, it was

concluded that teachers must begin to incorporate more informational texts into the classroom

and to work on making these types of texts more accessible to their students.

This article is full of possibilities and that is why I like it and dislike it. The author did her

job, pointing out the absence of reading informational texts in the classroom. She took the study

a step further in suggesting possible ways to incorporate this type of text in the classroom and

even in several different content areas. The author puts a lot of the responsibility on the teacher,

making it his or her job to take action, read informational texts, and provide adequate vocabulary

instruction. My only question is, why has nothing changed? The author of the article mentions

that this study yielded the same results as a study completed during 2000. Why is the ability to

comprehend an informational text still just a potential after more than a decade?

This article is relevant to my research because it continues to highlight the importance of

informational text in the elementary grades through read-alouds.

Nowadays, teachers are being advised through research and the CCSS to incorporate

informational text into the classroom setting. Research has found that too much time is being

spent on narratives. In order to better understand this advisory for informational text in the
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classroom, a study was done in a first grade class with read-alouds and newspapers. Michelle E.

Jordan (2015) observed a first grade teacher at work with her students. The students in the class

were of various ethnic backgrounds, eight of them were girls, twelve were boys, and six were

English language learners. Teacher scaffolding and the idea that literacy begins with

conversation and social interactions is what drove this study. The study took place over eight

months. During these eight months, Jordan split-up taking notes, interviewing, and recording

over three phases. Though the teacher was the one reading, students still played a role in

deciding what was being read. Typically, the teacher read four to six articles and ended by

reading a children’s book. After the read-aloud was done, students would return to their seats for

a writing assignment or guided reading groups. Because of the uniqueness of the text, the

scaffolding techniques and the ability given to choose the articles being read, the students were

becoming global citizens, actively learning and making a significant impact on their ability to

comprehend dynamic text.

What I liked about this study was that the texts being used for the read-alouds were

newspapers. Furthermore, I appreciated the amount of details that Jordan included, especially

how she took the time to explain the scaffolding that took place and the difference between

informational text and newspapers. She defined newspapers as dynamic texts and informational

text as a form of static text. In order to further the study and determine the best methods, I would

look at a variety of classrooms to observe the different forms of teacher scaffolding. Overall, this

study is very beneficial for my research. With it, I learned the role that scaffolding plays during

read-alouds. In addition, I discovered that newspapers are an excellent form of informational text

to use to effectively teach reading comprehension.


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The CCSS repeatedly stress the importance of utilizing non-fiction or informational text

in the classroom. Teachers are encouraged to use these types of texts in their classroom at an

early age because of their difficult nature. A study completed by Hank Fien and his colleagues in

2011 found that read-alouds that were designed with before-, during-, and after-reading strategies

permitted students to effectively engage in comprehending these challenging informational texts.

For this study, Fien and his colleagues used the Know, Want to Learn, and Learned method or

the KWL to study 102 first grade students with low reading and vocabulary scores. These

students were divided among eighteen classrooms and took part in whole-class read-alouds.

Additionally, students with disabilities participated in the whole-class read-alouds and small-

group read-alouds, where they were read to for twenty minutes twice a week for eight weeks.

The additional support for the students with special needs was deemed necessary to yield

accurate results. In a later study conducted by Fien, students with special needs were read to in

small groups, while the other students, labeled the control group, were read the same text during

center time and were asked to complete worksheets on the reading. The results were clear:

students that were read to aloud in small groups demonstrated a higher understanding of

vocabulary and could retell the stories better than those in the control group.

What was beneficial about this article was that it provided all of the details for the study

and went a step further to offer the reader the instructional framework to incorporate it into their

own classroom. The authors of the article included an in-depth discussion about exactly how the

teachers delivered the read-alouds. This article and study supports my topic and only strengthens

the idea that read-alouds are an essential way to increase a student’s ability to comprehend

informational text. For future studies, a research could be done with a different control or age

level.
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One of the main goals of reading is for the reader to make meaning of the text. This is an

independent goal, involving one reader and one piece of text. Therefore, how does a teacher

reading one text to a whole class make meaning relevant? The teacher’s job is to actively engage

the students in the text he or she is presenting. In the following study published in 2011, Laura

May collected data over a period of two years in an elementary classroom with a diverse group

of students from a working-class neighborhood. The purpose of this study was to see the effects

of culturally relevant teaching during read-alouds of informational text. Data was collected twice

a week through interviews, observations, recordings, and field notes. May found that during

read-alouds the teacher that she was observing was essentially an advocate and an animator for

the students. After making observations, May brought various forms of informational text in for

the teacher to present to her students. During these read-alouds, the teacher took on three roles:

cultural advocate, facilitator of classroom, and teacher of reading. Overall, the teacher was very

aware of her role as facilitator. She knew what her job was. She provided animation in order to

captivate the students. Not only did she animate her reading, but she animated the students’

questions. She made their experience interactive and fun. Moreover, she gave the students time

to converse and to engage in the actual construction of making meaning.

To me, May’s study emphasized the role that the teacher plays in student comprehension.

The teacher wields a great deal of power around the reading carpet. Through culturally relevant

teaching, teachers can shape the thoughts and opinions of their students. That is a terrifying, yet

wonderful thought. Teachers’ words have the power either to do good or the opposite. What

teachers offer at circle time or in the classroom in general, whether it be positive, negative, right

or wrong, can stay with a student forever and influence their way of thinking. What I liked about

this teacher was that she did not offer her opinion. Her job was to only present and guide. The
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students were the ones that were taking stances and sharing their ideas. I am not sure how

beneficial this article will be to my research because it mainly focuses on the cultural relevance,

but I believe that the discussions about the role of the teacher during read-alouds are an essential

factor to consider. If a teacher does not take on any roles during read-alouds, such as those

mentioned above, will the students learn how to construct meaning? Will the read-alouds even be

effective? For future research, I would continue to observe the teacher and his or her impact on

comprehension during read-alouds. Another question to consider is, what effect does animation

during read-alouds have on student comprehension?

Methodology

The following study was conducted in two general education second grade classrooms in

a small private elementary school in an urban region of the Midwest. The location and

participants for this study were chosen because of their convenience to the assessor. Both of the

classrooms were given a title, Class A and Class B. Class A contained twenty students, while

Class B contained nineteen. One student in Class A received special education. Though he read

the story, his teacher requested that he not take part in the assessment. Her request was honored,

and his data was not recorded. This factor gave the classes the same number of students, with

nineteen each. Gender, race, ethnicity and academic ability were not accounted for during this

study, though boys and girls were present in both classrooms.

In Class A, an informational text entitled The Man Who Walked Between the Towers by

Mordicai Gerstein was read individually by the students. This text is a true story about a man that

walked between the Twin Towers on a rope (Gernstein, 2003). After the students finished

reading, they were given a short set of multiple choice comprehension questions to answer. The
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assessment was given in the form of multiple choice questions because it was the easiest way to

measure student comprehension.

In Class B, the same informational text was read aloud to the class and the same set of

comprehension questions were given to the students to be answered. During the read-aloud, the

assessor read the text with an animated voice. Though Cummins and Stallmeyer-Gerard (2011)

listed that discussion and asking questions were benefits of read-alouds, neither was incorporated

into this read-aloud as to not skew the results or guide the reader. Once the students completed

the assessment, the questions were collected to be scored.

Findings

The findings recorded are based upon the students’ responses to the comprehension

questions given. Overall, students that were in Class B who had the text read aloud to them

answered more questions correctly than Class A that read the text on their own. Pictured below

are two charts representative of each classroom. Each student was assigned a number to maintain

anonymity and the student’s responses to each question were recorded beside his or her number.

If the student answered a question wrong, it was highlighted yellow.

Class A – Read on Own


Student Question 1 Question 2 Question 3 Question 4 Question 5
1 a a a b b
2 a a a a b
3 a b a c c
4 a b a c b
5 a b a b b
6 b c a a b
7 b b a b b
8 a b a b c
9 a b c c b
10 b b a b b
11 a b a b b
12 a b a c c
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13 a b a b c
14 a b a b b
15 a b a c b
16 a b a b b
17 c b b c b
18 a b a c b
19 a c a c b

Class B – Read Aloud


Student Question 1 Question 2 Question 3 Question 4 Question 5
21 a b a b b
22 a b a b b
23 a b a b b
24 b b a b b
25 a b a b b
26 a b a b b
27 a b a b b
28 a b a a b
29 a b a b a
30 a b a b b
31 a b a b b
32 a b a b b
33 b b a b b
34 a b a b b
35 a c a a b
36 a b a b b
37 a b a b b
38 a b a b b
39 a b a b b

As seen above, there are fewer boxes highlighted yellow in Class B than those in Class

A. In total, there were twenty-four questions missed in Class A and only six missed in Class B.

To put it in perspective the results were calculated into percentages. The first graph describes

Class A, while the second graph describes Class B. Blue represents the percentage of students

that answered no questions wrong, while yellow resembles the percent of students that answered

one or more question wrong. In Class A, 79 percent of the students missed one or more question,
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while in Class B, only 26 percent of the students missed one or more question. The purpose of

these charts is to show that more students were able to answer all five questions correctly when

the text was read to them opposed to when students read it on their own.
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One question that is significant to mention is Question 3. Question 3 asked what day in

history was honored at the end of the text. This question was correctly answered by every student

in Class B and only missed twice by students in Class A. In order to answer this question

correctly, one would have had to activate his or her own prior knowledge because the answer is

not listed explicitly in the text.

Recommendations

The findings of this study provided a straightforward answer to the research question:

what are the effects of using read-alouds for comprehension of informational texts for

elementary students? The main effects observed from the read-aloud in Class B were a greater

connection with the text and better results on the assessment. Taking into consideration all of the

research that supports the use of informational text during read-alouds and given the very clear

results of this study, steps should be taken to incorporate more read-alouds of informational text

into the classroom. Simply reading the text aloud to a class has shown an increase in student
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comprehension. Imagine what teachers can accomplish by adding meaningful conversation,

vocabulary discussion, and various reading comprehension strategies into the mix.

To further this study, it would be beneficial to complete a similar reading with a different

type of informational text, students in different types of schools, students in earlier age levels, or

with students with learning disabilities. As previously stated, the CCSS specified that the reading

of informational text should start in kindergarten (Wright, 2012). The earlier the better. Students

in kindergarten will benefit from the vocabulary exposure and comprehension strategies that

read-alouds provide, as well. Because read-alouds model oral language, the incorporation of

informational read-alouds in any type of classroom can promote the use of oral language and

conversation amongst students with or without learning disabilities (Santoro et al., 2016). Oral

language also scaffolds written language (Santoro et al., 2016). Because of this, it would be

interesting to complete a similar study with students responding to short essay questions instead

of multiple choice questions. Their progress could be monitored over time.

The study was limited because it only included students in one age range and it did not

include students with learning disabilities. Another limitation, which was mentioned above, was

that the methodology only assessed students once and in a single manner. It would be useful to

see the long-term benefits of read-alouds. The effects of this read-aloud were immediate. For

instance, the same study could be repeated with the same classes with multiple forms of

assessment. Another continuation of the study could be completed by reversing the roles of the

two classes. The same study would be done, but Class A would take part in the read-aloud, while

Class B would read on their own. By completing these other studies, one would acquire a greater

sample of the population and gain a greater insight on the effects of informational text read-

alouds.
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References

Cummins, S., & Stallmeyer-Gerard, C. (2011). Teaching for synthesis of informational text with

read-alouds. Reading Teacher, 64(6), 394-405.

Gernstein, M. (2003). The man who walked between the towers. Brookfield, CT: Roaring Brook

Press.

Jordan, M. E. (2015). Teacher scaffolds interactive read-alouds of a dynamic

text. The Elementary School Journal, 115(3), 358-383.

May, L. (2011). Animating talk and texts: Culturally relevant teacher read-alouds of

informational texts. Journal of Literacy Research, 43(1), 3-38.

Santoro, L. E., Baker, S. K., Fien, H., Smith, J. L. M., & Chard, D. J. (2016). Using read-alouds

to help struggling readers access and comprehend complex, informational text.

TEACHING Exceptional Children, 48(6), 282 –292.

Wright, T.S. (2014). From potential to reality: Content-rich vocabulary and informational text.

Reading Teacher, 67(5), 359-367.

Yopp, R. H., & Yopp, H. K. (2012). Young children's limited and narrow exposure to

informational text. Reading Teacher, 65(7), 480-490.


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Appendix
Name: _____________________________________

Comprehension Questions

1. What did Philippe Petit do every day?

a. He performed on the street

b. He was in the circus

c. He was a clown

2. On what building did Philippe tightrope walk on before the two towers?

a. The Eiffel Tower

b. The Notre Dame Cathedral

c. The Empire State Building

3. Which day in history was honored at the end of the text?

a. 9/11

b. Memorial Day

c. Labor Day

4. Why was Philippe arrested?

a. Philippe was mean to the police.

b. The police did not want others to try similar stunts.

c. Philippe damaged the towers during the stunt.

5. The judge sentenced him to ________________________________.

a. life in prison.

b. perform in the park for the children of the city.

c. a week in jail.