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The effects of teacher read-alouds and student silent reading on predominantly bilingual high school seniors’ learning and retention of social studies content

Abstract

Teacher read-alouds (TRA) are common in middle and high school content area classes. Because the practice of reading the textbook out loud to students is often used out of concern about students’ ability to understand and learn from text when reading silently (SR), this randomized controlled trial was designed to experimentally manipulate text reading while blocking on all other instructional elements to determine the relative effects on learning content. Predominantly Spanish–English bilingual twelfth-graders (n = 123) were randomly assigned to either a TRA or SR condition and provided 1 week of high quality instruction in US history. Daily lessons included teaching key terms in the passage, previewing text headings, and conducting comprehension checks. Results of immediate, 1-week delayed, and 1-month delayed assessments of content learning revealed no significant differences between the two groups. Students were also asked to rate the method of reading they believed best helped them understand and remember information. Students in the SR condition more consistently agreed that reading silently was beneficial. Findings suggest low performing adolescents of different linguistic backgrounds can learn content as well when reading appropriately challenging text silently as when the teacher reads the text aloud to them.

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Fig. 1

Notes

  1. 1.

    A power analysis using Optimal Design (Raudenbush et al., 2011) indicated that a total sample size of 105 students would be needed to detect a 0.35 effect size with 80 % power using a test between means with alpha at 0.05.

  2. 2.

    Bilingual should not be confused with English language learner. The students in this school ordinarily were immersed in both languages from childhood, and most of those who identified English as their first language also spoke Spanish and considered themselves to be bilingual.

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Acknowledgments

The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through Grant R305F100013 to The University of Texas at Austin and Grant R305F100005 to Florida State University as part of the Reading for Understanding Research Initiative. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not represent views of the Institute or the U.S. Department of Education.

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Correspondence to Deborah K. Reed.

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Reed, D.K., Swanson, E., Petscher, Y. et al. The effects of teacher read-alouds and student silent reading on predominantly bilingual high school seniors’ learning and retention of social studies content. Read Writ 27, 1119–1140 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11145-013-9478-8

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Keywords

  • Read-aloud
  • Silent reading
  • Adolescents
  • Content learning
  • Bilingual