Automaticity and motivation’s effects on reading comprehension

As struggling readers get older and the words they read get longer, the effort it takes them to decode longer words interferes with their reading comprehension. Jessica Toste and colleagues conducted a study examining the effects of an intervention designed to develop multisyllabic word reading (MWR) automaticity via repeated exposure to multisyllabic words in isolation and in context.

Fifty-nine struggling third and fourth grade pupils (Years 4 and 5) in two charter schools located in a large city in the southwestern US were randomly assigned to one of three groups: MWR only (n=18), MWR with motivational beliefs (MB) training (n=19), or business as usual (22). No significant differences in reading comprehension or motivational beliefs were found at pretest.

In groups of two to three pupils, the MWR and MWR + MB groups received tutoring sessions in reading for forty minutes a week, three times a week for eight weeks in addition to their regular reading lessons. The MWR + MB group also received five minutes of motivational learning each session, while the MWR-only group practised maths facts for their final five minutes. The MWR lessons consisted of seven components, starting with repeated reading of vowel patterns and progressing to target words in paragraphs. The MB component added self-reflection, positive self-talk and eliminating negative thoughts throughout the lesson.

Results showed that pupils in both MWR groups performed better than the control group at posttest on word fluency measures and performed moderately better than the controls on phonemic decoding, letter-word ID and word-attack subtests. The MWR + MB group had higher scores than the MWR group solely on sentence-level comprehension, but had higher scores than controls on the attributions for success subscale, meaning they were more likely to attribute success to internal causes like effort rather than external factors like luck. MWR + MB did not outperform MWR on motivational measures. The authors conclude that developing automaticity in multi-syllable word reading and motivation’s effect on reading comprehension are both promising interventions to develop MWR.

Source: Multisyllabic word-reading instruction with and without motivational beliefs training for struggling readers in the upper elementary grades: A pilot investigation (June 2017), The Elementary School Journal 117, no. 4

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