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The role of text difficulty in small-group reading for bilingual students

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How hard should the books be in elementary small-group reading? This study explored text difficulty for bilingual students reading below grade level in third grade. Using a convergent parallel mixed

How hard should the books be in elementary small-group reading? This study explored text difficulty for bilingual students reading below grade level in third grade. Using a convergent parallel mixed methods design, I used qualitative methods to analyze students’ engagement and discussion during small groups and single case design to evaluate students’ fluency and reading comprehension after reading and discussing texts in small groups.

Six Spanish-English bilingual students, split into two groups of three, participated in twelve, 30-minute, small-group reading sessions. Students in Group 1 read approximately one year below grade level, and students in Group 2 read approximately a year and a half below grade level. In six of the twelve sessions, students read and discussed texts matched to their reading levels, and in the other six they read and discussed texts one year ahead of their reading levels. I assigned matched and difficult texts across the twelve days by blocked randomization.

I analyzed video transcripts of each session to understand students’ engagement (focus of engagement, strategies, and interaction) and discussion (inferential vs. literal responses, instances of verbal participation). At the end of each session, students reread and retold the book the group had read and discussed that day to produce a fluency (words correct per minute) and comprehension (ideas correctly retold) score.

Findings were complex and revealed that different levels of texts have both advantages and drawbacks. Key findings included: For fluency, half of the students benefited from matched texts. The other half read difficult texts with similar fluency to matched texts. For comprehension, text difficulty did not matter for anyone except one student, and for him it only had an effect on 3 of 12 days. Group 2 engaged much more with texts and ideas in difficult books and with pictures in matched books. Group 1 had more inferential/interpretive responses with matched texts, and Group 2 had more inferential and interpretive responses with difficult texts. Most students participated evenly regardless of the difficulty of the text under discussion. However, two students talked more when discussing matched texts.

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Date Created
  • 2018

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Making learning authentic: an educational case study describing student engagement and motivation in a project-based learning environment

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This educational case study looked at student engagement and motivation in a collaborative environment, one that provided students the freedom to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. In order to

This educational case study looked at student engagement and motivation in a collaborative environment, one that provided students the freedom to be critical thinkers and problem solvers. In order to create this collaborative environment, students in a third-grade elementary classroom participated in a Project-Based Learning unit. The unit culminated in hands-on projects. Sociocultural theory and Self Determination theory were used to guide the development of the innovation and the formulation of the research design. The qualitative data collection tools that were used in this study consisted of observations through video and audio recordings, researcher's field notes, student interviews, and artifacts. The artifacts gathered consisted of student journal entries reflecting on their experiences within the innovation and their learning process throughout. Data were collected, transcribed, and analyzed using multiple rounds of both deductive and inductive coding. This research suggests that a Project-Based Learning environment positively impacts student participation both within a single lesson and throughout the unit by increasing students’ background and competence. Additionally, within a Project-Based Learning environment, students co-construct new meaning through goal-oriented group work designed by the teacher. The teacher also supports student thinking through clarifying and questioning statements designed to support students’ learning and development of ideas. Finally, this educational case study suggests that students demonstrate an increase in intrinsic motivation over time as demonstrated by an eagerness to apply their new learning beyond the Project-Based Learning lessons. Students applied the learning within their classroom, school, and even their homes.

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Date Created
  • 2016

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Multimodality Matters: Exploring Words, Images, and Design Features in a Seventh-Grade English Language Arts Classroom

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This interpretive dissertation study sought to understand what happened when a seventh-grade teacher introduced multimodal concepts and texts into his English Language Arts classroom. Multimodal texts contain linguistic features (words

This interpretive dissertation study sought to understand what happened when a seventh-grade teacher introduced multimodal concepts and texts into his English Language Arts classroom. Multimodal texts contain linguistic features (words and sentences) but also images and graphic design features. The classroom teacher described himself as a novice with regards to multimodal literacies instruction and had previously focused predominantly on written or spoken texts. Motivating his decision to design and enact a multimodal literacies pedagogy was his belief that students needed to garner experience interpreting and composing the kinds of texts that populated his students’ social worlds. Therefore, I asked: What happened when multimodal narratives were used as mentor texts in a seventh-grade English Language Arts classroom? Drawing from ethnographic and case study methods, I observed and gathered data regarding how the teacher and his students enacted and experienced an eight-week curriculum unit centered on multimodal concepts and multimodal texts. My findings describe the classroom teacher’s design decisions, the messiness that occurred as the classroom was (re)made into a classroom community that valued modes beyond written and spoken language, and the students’ experiences of the curriculum as classroom work, lifework, play, and drudgery. Based on my findings, I developed six assertions: (1) when designing and enacting multimodal literacies curriculum for the first time, exposing students to a wide range of multimodal texts took precedence; (2) adapted and new multimodal literacy practices began to emerge, becoming valued practices over time; (3) literacy events occurred without being grounded in literacy practices; (4) in a classroom dedicated to writing, modes of representation and communication and their associated tools and materials provided students with resources for use in their own writing/making; (5) the roles of the teacher and his students underwent change as modal expertise became sourced from across the classroom community; and (6) students experienced the multimodal literacies curriculum as play, classroom work, lifework, and drudgery. The dissertation study concludes with implications for teachers and researchers looking to converge multimodality theory with pedagogical practices and maps future research possibilities.

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Date Created
  • 2020