Reading and Writing

, Volume 31, Issue 9, pp 1969–1996 | Cite as

Improving content area reading comprehension of Spanish speaking English learners in Grades 4 and 5 using web-based text structure instruction

  • Kausalai WijekumarEmail author
  • Bonnie J. F. Meyer
  • Puiwa Lei
  • Anita C. Hernandez
  • Diane L. August


Reading and comprehending content area texts is important for academic and professional success as well as life skills necessary to maintain good health and quality lifestyle. Spanish speaking English language learners have shown poor performance on high-stakes assessments in reading comprehension. The number of Spanish speaking English learners (ELs) in our schools continues to increase at a fast pace, and therefore it is imperative that we address their reading comprehension needs swiftly and effectively. The text structure strategy has shown positive results on comprehension outcomes in many research studies with students at Grades 2, 4, 5, and 7. This study is the first implementation of instruction about the text structure strategy expressly designed to accommodate the linguistic and comprehension needs of Spanish speaking ELs in Grades 4 and 5. Strategy instruction on the web for English learners (SWELL) was designed to deliver instruction about the text structure strategy to Spanish speaker English learners. A randomized controlled study with pre and post-tests was conducted with 14 classrooms at fourth-grade and 17 classrooms at fifth-grade in high poverty schools where over 85% of students were Spanish speaking bilinguals or ELs. Analysis of data using multi-level models show moderate to large-effects favoring the students in the SWELL classrooms over the business as usual control classrooms on important measures such as a standardized reading comprehension test and main idea and cloze tasks. This research has practical implications for the use of web-based tools to provide high-quality and supportive instruction to improve Spanish speaking ELs reading comprehension skills.


Reading comprehension Intelligent tutoring system Spanish speaking English learners Bilingual Expository text 



Funding was provided by Institute of Education Sciences (Grant No. R305A130704). The research reported here was supported by the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, through grant R305A130704 to Texas A&M University. 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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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kausalai Wijekumar
    • 1
    Email author
  • Bonnie J. F. Meyer
    • 2
  • Puiwa Lei
    • 2
  • Anita C. Hernandez
    • 3
  • Diane L. August
    • 4
  1. 1.Texas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.The Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA
  3. 3.New Mexico State UniversityLas CrucesUSA
  4. 4.American Institutes for ResearchWashingtonUSA

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