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Three intervention programmes designed to improve reading comprehension in poor comprehenders . Read Me York Read ing for Me aning Project. Paula Clarke, Emma Truelove, Maggie Snowling, Charles Hulme. Outline of Presentation . Poor Comprehenders

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paula clarke emma truelove maggie snowling charles hulme

Three intervention programmes designed

to improve reading comprehension

in poor comprehenders

Read Me

YorkReadingfor MeaningProject

Paula Clarke, Emma Truelove, Maggie Snowling, Charles Hulme

outline of presentation
Outline of Presentation
  • Poor Comprehenders
  • Aims of the York READing for MEaning Project
  • Project Design
  • Designing the Interventions
  • Participant Selection & Measures
  • (Very!)Preliminary Findings
poor comprehenders
Poor Comprehenders
  • Average word readers but poor at reading comprehension
  • 10% of normal population
  • Unnoticed in the classroom
  • Persistent difficulties

(Ehrlich, Remond and Tardieu, 1999; Cain and Oakhill, 2006)

Nation & Snowling, 1997, BJEP

in studies where vocabulary is allowed to vary poor comprehenders have shown
In studies where vocabulary is allowed to vary poor comprehenders have shown:

Weaknesses in:

  • Narrative skills(Cragg & Nation, 2006)
  • Vocabulary(Nation, Clarke & Snowling, 2001; Stothard & Hulme, 1992)
  • Grammatical development(Nation, Clarke, Marshall & Durand, 2004; Nation & Snowling, 2000)
  • Broader language skills(Nation, Clarke, Marshall & Durand, 2004) excluding phonology
  • Verbal working memory (Nation, Adams, Bowyer-Crane & Snowling, 1999)
in studies where vocabulary is similar across groups poor comprehenders have shown
In studies where vocabulary is similar across groups poor comprehenders have shown:

Weaknesses in:

  • Narrative skills(Cain & Oakhill, 1996; 2006)
  • Inferencing (Oakhill, 1984; Cain & Oakhill, 1999)
  • Verbal working memory(Cain & Oakhill, 2006; Cain, 2006)
  • Suppression/ Inhibition(Cain, 2006)
  • Comprehension monitoring(Erlich, Remond & Tardieu 1996; Yuill, Oakhill & Parkin, 1989; Cain, Oakhill & Bryant, 2004; Oakhill, Hart & Samols, 2005)

But no deficits in:

  • Grammatical development(Oakhill, Cain & Bryant, 2003; Cain & Oakhill, 2006)

Why is an intervention study needed?

  • There is no consensus concerning the core cognitive deficit in poor comprehenders
  • Research on poor comprehenders has mainly been cross-sectional so that the developmental course of the disorder is underspecified
  • Studies are largely correlational and small in scale andhave not yet demonstrated causal influences

Training studies represent a powerful technique for understanding the causal relationships between oral and written language skillsand therefore provide a testing ground for competing theories of reading comprehension impairment

  • Promising findings have not yet been replicated
    • Yuill and Oakhill (1988)inferencing skills
    • Oakhill and Patel (1991)mental imagery
    • Johnson-Glenberg (2000) verbally based reciprocal teaching (RT) program and a visualising/verbalising program
  • Such studies are potentially of great practical importanceif the interventions evaluated can be shown to be effective
The York READ MEproject has both practical and

research based aims:

  • Compare 3 theoretically motivated approaches to improving reading comprehension skills with an untreated waiting control group.
  • To address the objectives of the primary framework (NLS) and equip teaching assistants with a wide range of skills and materials, useful in supporting children with reading comprehension and oral language difficulties.









theoretical rationale
Theoretical Rationale
  • The strong relationship between listening comprehension and reading comprehension suggests that activities to promote oral language comprehension should lead to improvements in both reading and listening comprehension.
  • An alternative view is that training might be most effective if it directly targeted written language comprehension skills, such as comprehension monitoring and inferencing from text.
  • There may be advantages in a combined approach that makes explicit links between oral language training (e.g., teaching new vocabulary) and reading comprehension skills (e.g., monitoring of texts containing new vocabulary).









randomised controlled trial rct
Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT)
  • Within each school the same teaching assistant delivered the three different intervention programmes

8 children

OL Programme

TC Programme

COM Programme

Control Group

2 children

2 children

2 children

2 children

2 children

2 children

project timetable
Project Timetable

Teaching assistant


Creation of





Weeks 11 - 20



Weeks 1-10


Oct 06

Oct 07

Oct 08

Oct 09


Best Practice

  • A meta-analysis of reading comprehension interventions designed for typically developing children reported that the eight most effective methods for improving text comprehension are:
  • Comprehension monitoring
  • Co-operative learning
  • Graphic/semantic organisers for learning new vocabulary
  • Story structure training
  • Question answering
  • Question generation
  • Summarisation
  • Multiple strategy teaching

(National Reading Panel, 2000)


Reciprocal Teaching

  • Palinscar & Brown,1985; Palinscar,1986
  • Reciprocal teaching refers to an instructional activity that takes place in the form of a dialogue between teachers and students regarding segments of text
  • The teacher and students take turns assuming the role of the teacher in this dialogue

The dialogue is structured by the

use of four strategies:






design features
Design Features
  • Emphasis placed on routine components with varied activities
  • Activities and concepts introduced gradually and counterbalanced within and across all programmes
  • Built around a passage or theme to unify the activities
  • A variety of texts including fiction, non-fiction and poetry
  • Opportunities for consolidation and reflection throughout the programme rather than in specific sessions
oral language programme
Oral Language Programme
    • 1. Vocabulary
          • Multiple Context Learning (Beck, McKeown & Kucan, 2002)
          • Graphic Organisers (Nash & Snowling, 2006)
          • Verbal Reasoning
          • Mnemonic Strategies(Levin, 1993; Peters & Levin, 1986; Graves & Levin, 1989)
          • Illustrations
  • 2. Listening Comprehension (RT - Palinscar & Brown,1985; Palinscar,1986)
          • Clarification
          • Summarisation
          • Prediction
          • Question generation
  • 3. Figurative Language
          • Idioms (Legler, 1991)
          • Riddles (Yuill, 1988)
          • Jokes (Yuill, in press)
          • Similes and metaphors
  • 4. Spoken Narrative
          • Story structure (Beck & McKeown, 1981; Pearson, 1982; Idol & Croll, 1987)
          • Sequencing
          • Story production
text comprehension programme
Text Comprehension Programme
    • 1. Metacognitive Strategies (Cain, 1999)
          • Re-read (Garner, et al., 1984)
          • Look-back (Garner, 1982)
          • Think aloud (Farr & Connor, 2004)
          • Mental imagery (Oakhill & Patel, 1991)
          • Explain & reflect (McNamara, 2004)
  • 2. Reading Comprehension (RT - Palinscar & Brown,1985; Palinscar,1986)
          • Clarification
          • Summarisation
          • Prediction
          • Question generation
  • 3. Inferencing from Text(Yuill & Oakhill, 1988)
          • Lexical inferencing
          • Bridging inferencing
          • Elaborative inferencing
          • Guessing missing information (Yuill & Joselyne, 1988)
          • Evaluative inferencing
  • 4. Written Narrative
          • Story structure(Beck & McKeown, 1981; Pearson, 1982; Idol & Croll, 1987)
          • Sequencing
          • Story production
session structure
Session Structure

Oral Language Programme

Text Comprehension Programme

combined programme
Combined Programme
  • The COM Programme combines all eight components connecting oral language and text-based activities in an integrated and naturalistic approach
  • Components and activities were balanced across the programme rather than within each session, however all sessions contained both reading and listening comprehension to support complementary components e.g. text comprehension  inferencing
links to primary framework nls
Links to Primary Framework (NLS)

Understanding & interpreting texts

links to primary framework nls1
Links to Primary Framework (NLS)

2. Engaging & responding to texts

links to primary framework nls2
Links to Primary Framework (NLS)

3. Text structure and organisation

intervention delivery
Intervention delivery
  • Two 10-week blocks of intensive training delivered by trained teaching assistants
  • Each session was 30 minutes
  • Children received 2 pair sessions and 1 individual session per week (1½ hours per week)
treatment fidelity
Treatment Fidelity
  • Detailed, prescriptive manual and pre-prepared worksheets, readers and resources
  • Fortnightly tutorials

Opportunity to monitor delivery of programmes by discussing experiences, ideas and observations. Some sessions took the form of top up training in which we focused on particular components of the programmes.

  • Observations

Each TA was observed by a member of the research team at least twice in each intervention block. Careful records were kept and onsite feedback and support was given.

  • Filmed sessions

Five TAs gave us permission to film teaching sessions.

  • Group
    • NARA-II (Form 1) Listening Comprehension (multi choice version created by Durand, Hulme, Larkin & Snowling, 2005)
    • WORD Spelling
    • Ravens Matrices Non-verbal IQ
  • Individual
    • NARA-II (Form 2) Reading Comprehension
    • TOWRE Reading Efficiency
criteria for inclusion in the study
Criteria for inclusion in the study
  • Primary criterion - discrepancyin standard score points between NARA II reading comprehension and TOWRE real word reading efficiency.
  • Only included children with NARA II reading accuracy standard scores of 85 and above and NARA II reading comprehension scores of 105 and below.
  • Of these children, we selected eight children within each school with the greatest discrepancies.
summary of selected sample
Summary of Selected Sample

standard score

selection measures

overview of measures 1
Overview of Measures 1

Primary Outcome Measures

  • WIAT II Reading Comprehension
  • Children read (aloud or silently) a range of passages and sentences (narrative, adverts, non-fiction information etc.) Includes literal, inference and vocabulary dependent question types.
  • NARA II Reading Comprehension (Form 2 at pretest, Form 1 at post test)
  • TORCH Reading Comprehension*
  • Silent reading. Comprehension assessed using a cloze procedure. Responses require a range of skills including inferencing and vocabulary knowledge.
overview of measures 2
Overview of Measures 2

Standardised Measures

overview of measures 3
Overview of Measures 3

Standardised Measures and Rating Scales

overview of measures 4
Overview of Measures 4

Bespoke Measures

primary outcome measures
Primary Outcome Measures

WIAT II Reading Comprehension

  • Data collection complete

pale bars – pre test

dark bars – post test

standard score


primary outcome measures1
Primary Outcome Measures

WIAT II Reading Comprehension

  • Data collection complete


Statistical significance of

standard score gains:

OL – p=0.011

TC – p=0.026

COM – p=0.000

Effect sizes (Cohen’s D):

OL – 0.61

TC – 0.53

COM – 0.74

standard score gain relative to control group

intervention programme

primary outcome measures2
Primary Outcome Measures

NARA II Reading Comprehension – (pre test Form 2, post test Form 1)

  • So far, data from 13/20 schools

pale bars – pre test

dark bars – post test

standard score


  • A substantial minority of primary school children experience specific difficulty with reading comprehension
  • We have demonstrated that a 20-week intervention programme can produce significant gains in reading comprehension skills
  • Preliminary evidence suggests that oral language training is an important component of effective intervention for reading comprehension difficulties
  • The approaches we have developed meet the objectives of the NLS and can be delivered successfully by trained and supported TAs
thank you
Thank you!
  • To our team of teaching assistants
  • To our research assistants, placement students and liaison group
  • To the children!
next steps
Next steps

Design control group


Control group


Data collection

& analysis

6 month

follow up


Oct 06

Oct 07

Oct 08

Oct 09

  • TAs

Very positive comments about tutorials and observations

Everyone said they felt well supported by the team

“It took a lot of stress away knowing you could ask the question – however daft it sounded and to receive tips and ideas for the weeks we were about to prepare/deliver. Thanks a lot!”

  • Children
  • Parents

93% – say the children have loved taking part

79% – say their children have spoken to them about the project weekly

86% – have observed positive changes in terms of their child’s confidence

50% – have observed positive changes in their child’s attitude towards reading

  • What strategies/activities/games might I try after READ ME has finished?
  • Ask questions about what I am reading
  • Making a story
  • Ask mum for word of the week
  • I tried dotty dice dilemma at home – it did not work out
interventions for poor comprehenders









Interventions for poor comprehenders
  • Yuill and Oakhill (1988)developed an intervention to specifically target inferencing skills
  • Skilled and less skilled comprehenders aged 7 years each received 7 sessions of training in 1 of 3 intervention conditions
  • In the inference training condition gains in individual scores on the NARA were on average 17 months
Oakhill and Patel (1991)focused on mental imagery training as a potential method for improving the reading comprehension skills of poor comprehenders

22 poor comprehenders and 22 good comprehenders, taught in small groups were instructed using representational and transformational drawings, to picture stories in their minds

They were then encouraged to use their mental images to answer comprehension questions

They found that poor comprehenders benefited more from imagery training than good comprehenders and suggested that “the ability to use imagery strategies may give poor comprehenders a way of helping to circumvent their memory limitations…”(p.114)

Interventions for poor comprehenders


Interventions for poor comprehenders

  • Johnson-Glenberg (2000) compared averbally based reciprocal teaching (RT) program (Palincsar & Brown, 1984) to avisually based visualising/verbalising program (Bell, 1986)
  • 59 poor comprehenders assigned to either one of the training programmes or a control group. Small group teaching took place over 16 weeks.
  • They found that both training programmes were similarly effective in improving poor comprehenders’ reading, language and memory skills associated with reading comprehension ability.
  • They suggested that a combination of the two strategies might be particularly powerful.