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.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
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.
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.
Achieve, Inc. (2005). Rising to the challenge: Are high school graduates prepared for college and work? Washington, DC: Achieve, Inc. Retrieved from http://www.achieve.org/files/pollreport_0.pdf.
ACT. (2009). The condition of college readiness. Retrieved from www.act.org.
Adams, M. J. (2009). The challenge of advanced texts: The interdependence of reading and learning. In E. H. Hiebert (Ed.), Reading more, reading better (pp. 163–189). New York, NY: Guilford.
Albright, L. K. (2002). Bringing the Ice Maiden to life: Engaging adolescents in learning through picture book read-alouds in content areas. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 45, 418–428.
Alveramann, D. E. (2003). Seeing themselves as capable and engaged readers. Naperville, IL: Learning Point Associates. Retrieved from http://www.craftinc.org/literacy-e-books/seeing-themselves-as-capable-and-engaged-readers.pdf.
Applebee, A. N., Langer, J. A., Nystrand, M., & Gamoran, A. (2003). Discussion-based approaches to developing understanding: Classroom instruction and student performance in middle and high school English. American Educational Research Journal, 40, 685–730. doi:10.3102/00028312040003685.
Applebee, A. N., Adler, M., & Fihan, S. (2007). Interdisciplinary curricula in middle and high school classrooms: Case studies of approaches to curriculum and instruction. American Educational Research Journal, 44, 1002–1039. doi:10.3102/0002831207308219.
Ariail, M., & Albright, L. K. (2006). A survey of teachers’ read-aloud practices in middle schools. Reading Research and Instruction, 45, 69–89.
Beck, I. L., & McKeown, M. G. (2006). Improving comprehension with questioning the author. New York, NY: Scholastic.
Benjamini, Y., & Hochberg, Y. (1995). Controlling the false discovery rate: A practical and powerful approach to multiple testing. Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series B (Methodological), 57, 289–300.
Block, C. C., & Reed, K., (2005). Effects of trade book reading on comprehension, vocabulary, fluency and attitudes (Research Report No. 110224). Charlotte, NC: Institute for Literacy Enhancement.
Braun, P. (2010). Taking the time to read aloud. Science Scope, 34, 45–49.
Butkowsky, I. S., & Willows, D. M. (1980). Cognitive-motivational characteristics of children varying in reading ability: Evidence for learned helplessness in poor readers. Journal of Educational Psychology, 72, 408–422. doi:10.1037//0022-06220.127.116.118.
Cohen, J. (1988). Statistical power analysis of the behavioral sciences (2nd ed.). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Collins, C. (1980). Sustained silent reading periods: Effect on teachers’ behaviors and students’ achievement. Elementary School Journal, 81, 108–114. doi:10.1086/461213.
Dowhower, S. L. (1987). Effects of repeated reading on second-grade transitional readers’ fluency and comprehension. Reading Research Quarterly, 22, 389–406. doi:10.2307/747699.
Edmonds, M. S., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Reutebuch, C., Cable, A., Tackett, K. K., et al. (2009). A synthesis of reading interventions and effects on reading comprehension outcomes on older struggling readers. Review of Educational Research, 79, 262–287. doi:10.3102/0034654308325998.
Gough, P. B. (1972). One second of reading. In J. F. Kavanagh & I. G. Mattingly (Eds.), Language by ear and by eye (pp. 331–358). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Gulla, A. N. (2012). Putting the “shop” in reading workshop: Building reading stamina in a ninth-grade literacy class in a Bronx vocational high school. English Journal, 101, 57–62.
Hale, A. D., Hawkins, R., Sheeley, W., Reynolds, J. R., Jenkins, S., Schmitt, A. J., et al. (2011). An investigation of silent versus aloud reading comprehension of elementary students using maze assessment procedures. Psychology in the Schools, 48, 4–13. doi:10.1002/pits.20543.
Hale, A. D., Skinner, C. H., Winn, B. D., Oliver, R., Allin, J. D., & Molloy, C. C. M. (2005). An investigation of listening and listening-while-reading accommodations on reading comprehension levels and rates in students with emotional disorders. Psychology in the Schools, 42, 39–51. doi:10.1002/pits.20027.
Hammill, D. D., Wiederholt, J. L., & Allen, E. A. (2006). TOSCRF: Test of silent contextual reading fluency: Examiner’s manual. Austin, TX: PRO-ED.
Hoover, W. A., & Gough, P. B. (1990). The simple view of reading. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 2, 127–160. doi:10.1007/BF00401799.
Huberty, C. J., & Morris, J. D. (1989). Multivariate analysis versus multiple univariate analyses. Psychological Bulletin, 105, 302–308. doi:10.1037//0033-2909.105.2.302.
IBM Corp. (2012). IBM SPSS statistics for windows (Version 21) [Software]. Armonk, NY: IBM Corp.
Ivey, G., & Broaddus, K. (2001). “Just plain reading”: A survey of what makes students want to read in middle school classrooms. Reading Research Quarterly, 36, 350–377. doi:10.1598/RRQ.36.4.2.
Kaufman, A. S., & Kaufman, N. L. (2004). Kaufman brief intelligence test (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Kosanovich, M. L., Reed, D. K., & Miller, D. H. (2010). Bringing literacy strategies into content instruction: Professional learning for secondary-level teachers. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.
Little, R. J. A. (1988). A test of missing completely at random for multivariate data with missing values. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 83, 1198–1202. doi:10.2307/2290157.
Mancilla-Martinez, J., Kieffer, M. J., Biancarosa, G., Christodoulou, J. A., & Snow, C. E. (2011). Investigating English reading comprehension growth in adolescent language minority learners: Some insights from the simple view. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 24, 339–354. doi:10.1007/s11145-009-9215-5.
Mastropieri, M. A., & Scruggs, T. E. (2001). Promoting inclusion in secondary classrooms. Learning Disability Quarterly, 24, 265–274. doi:10.2307/1511115.
McCallum, R. S., Sharp, S., Bell, S. M., & George, T. (2004). Silent versus oral reading comprehension and efficiency. Psychology in the Schools, 41, 241–246. doi:10.1002/pits.10152.
McCulley, L., Swanson, E., Wanzek, J., Vaughn, S., Stillman, S., Hairrell, A., et al. (2012, February). Text reading in secondary English language arts and social studies classes: An observation study. Poster presented at the Pacific Coast Research Conference, San Diego, CA.
McKeown, M. G., Beck, I. L., & Blake, R. G. K. (2009). Rethinking reading comprehension instruction: A comparison of instruction for strategies and content approaches. Reading Research Quarterly, 44, 218–253. doi:10.1598/RRQ.44.3.1.
McKevitt, B. C., & Elliott, S. N. (2003). Effects and perceived consequences of using read-aloud and teacher-recommended testing accommodations on a reading achievement test. School Psychology Review, 32, 583–600.
Mims, P. J., Hudson, M. E., & Browder, D. M. (2012). Using read-alouds of grade-level biographies and systematic prompting to promote comprehension for students with moderate and severe developmental disabilities. Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 27, 67–80. doi:10.1177/1088357612446859.
Mol, S. E., & Bus, A. G. (2011). To read or not to read: A meta-analysis of print exposure from infancy to early adulthood. Psychological Bulletin, 137, 267–296. doi:10.1037/a0021890.
Nakamoto, J., Lindsey, K. A., & Manis, F. R. (2008). A cross-linguistic investigation of English language learners’ reading comprehension in English and Spanish. Scientific Studies of Reading, 12, 351–371. doi:10.1080/10888430802378526.
National Center for Education Statistics. (2010). The nation’s report card: Grade 12 reading and mathematics 2009 national and pilot state results (NCES 2011–455). Institute of Education Sciences, US Department of Education, Washington, DC.
Oakhill, J., Yuill, N., & Parkin, A. (1986). On the nature of the difference between skilled and less-skilled comprehenders. Journal of Research in Reading, 9, 80–91. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9817.1986.tb00115.x.
Opitz, M. F., & Guccione, L. M. (2009). Comprehension and English language learners: 25 oral strategies that cross proficiency levels. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Platt, E., Harper, C., & Mendoza, M. B. (2003). Dueling philosophies: Inclusion or separation for Florida’s English language learners. TESOL Quarterly, 37, 105–133. doi:10.2307/3588467.
Pressley, M. (2000). What should comprehension instruction be the instruction of? In M. L. Kamil, P. B. Mosenthal, P. D. Pearson, & R. Barr (Eds.), Handbook of reading research (Vol. 3, pp. 545–561). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.
Proctor, C. P., Carlo, M., August, D., & Snow, C. (2005). Native Spanish-speaking children reading in English: Toward a model of comprehension. Journal of Educational Psychology, 97, 246–256. doi:10.1037/0022-0618.104.22.168.
Raudenbush, S. W., Spybrook, J., Congdon, R., Liu, X., Martinez, A., Bloom, H., et al. (2011). Optimal design software for multi-level and longitudinal research (Version 3.01) [Software]. Available from www.wtgrantfoundation.org.
Reed, D. K. (2009). A synthesis of professional development on the implementation of literacy strategies for middle school content area teachers. Research in Middle Level Education Online, 32, 1–12. Retrieved from http://www.amle.org/Publications/RMLEOnline/Articles/Vol32No10/tabid/1953/Default.aspx.
Rumelhart, D. (1977). Toward an interactive model of reading. In S. Dornic (Ed.), Attention and performance (Vol. 6, pp. 573–603). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Schmitt, A. J., Hale, A. D., McCallum, E., & Mauck, B. (2011). Accommodating remedial readers in the general education setting: Is listening-while-reading sufficient to improve factual and inferential comprehension? Psychology in the School, 48, 37–45. doi:10.1002/pits.20540.
Skinner, C. H., Robinson, D. H., Adamson, K. L., Atchison, L. A., & Woodward, J. R. (1998). Effects of different listening-while-reading rates on comprehension in secondary students with reading deficits. Special Services in the Schools, 13, 115–128. doi:10.1300/J008v13n01_08.
Smith, F. (2007). Reading: FAQ. New York, NY: Teachers College Press.
Stanovich, K. (1980). Toward an interactive-compensatory model of individual differences in the development of reading fluency. Reading Research Quarterly, 16, 32–71. doi:10.2307/747348.
Summers, E. G., & McClelland, J. V. (1982). A field-based evaluation of sustained silent reading (SSR) in intermediate grades. Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 28, 100–112.
Swanson, E., Vaughn, S., Wanzek, J., Petscher, Y., Heckert, J., Cavanaugh, C., et al. (2011). A synthesis of read-aloud interventions on early reading outcomes among preschool through third graders at risk for reading difficulties. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 44, 258–275. doi:10.1177/0022219410378444.
Tschannen-Moran, M., & Hoy, A. W. (2001). Teacher efficacy: Capturing an elusive construct. Teaching and Teacher Education, 17, 783–805. doi:10.1016/S0742-051X(01)00036-1.
Urquhart, I. (2002). Beyond the literal: Deferential or inferential reading? English in Education, 36(2), 18–30. doi:10.1111/j.1754-8845.2002.tb00758.x.
Vaughn, S., Martinez, L. R., Linan-Thompson, S., Reutebuch, C. K., Carlson, C. D., & Francis, D. J. (2009). Enhancing social studies vocabulary and comprehension for seventh-grade English language learners: Findings from two experimental studies. Journal of Research on Educational Effectiveness, 2, 297–324. doi:10.1080/19345740903167018.
Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Leroux, A., Roberts, G., Denton, C., Barth, A., & Fletcher, J. (2011). Effects of intensive reading intervention for eighth-grade students with persistently inadequate response to intervention. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 45, 515–525. doi:10.1177/0022219411402692.
Vaughn, S., Swanson, E., Roberts, G., Wanzek, J., Stillman-Spisak, S. J., Solis, M., et al. (2012). Improving reading comprehension and social studies knowledge in middle school. Reading Research Quarterly, 48, 75–91. doi:10.1002/rrq.039.
Wilson, K. T. (2001). Group reading assessment and diagnostic evaluation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.
Woodcock, R. W., McGrew, K. S., & Mather, N. (2001). Woodcock-Johnson III tests of cognitive abilities. Itasca, IL: Riverside Publishing.
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.
About this article
Cite this article
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
- Silent reading
- Content learning