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Learning to Read Print Words
Seminal research:
Goodman showed that early readers use their knowledge of language along with their knowledge of letter-sound correspondences to figure out print words. He asked 100 randomly selected children in first, second, and third grade to read lists of words and then to read stories that contained the same words.

He found that the children were able to read many words that they had missed in the list in the context of the story. Average first graders could read 62% of the words they missed in the list correctly in the story. Average second graders could read 75% of the words they missed in the list correctly in the story. Average third graders could read 82% of the words they missed in the list correctly in the story. He concluded that in lists the children had only letter-sound correspondences to help them figure out the print words but in stories they had additional cues in the flow of the language to help them figure out the print words.

    Goodman, K. (1965). A linguistic study of cues and miscues in reading. Elementary English, 42, 639-643.
Replication research:
  • Nicholson, Lillas, and Rzoska replicated Goodman's 1965 study using a counter-balanced research design (half the children read the list first and the other half read the story first) and had similar findings. They studied 32 children: 16 six-year-olds and 16 eight-year-olds. Half of each age group was reading a year or more below grade level and half was reading a year or more above grade level.

    They found the children reading at the second grade level or below (according to U.S. grade levels) read better in context than in the list: the six-year-old poor readers had a 52% gain with context, the six-year-old good readers had a 43% gain with context, and the eight-year-old poor readers had a 53% gained with context. Only the eight-year-old good readers (children reading at or above the fourth grade level) were able to read the words in the lists as well as they read them in the story.

      Nicholsen, T., Lillas, C., & Rzoska, M.A. (1988). Have we been misled by miscues? The Reading Teacher, 42, 6-10.

  • Nicholson replicated Goodman's 1965 experiment with 6-, 7- and 8-year-old poor, average, and good readers and had similar findings. He conducted two different experiments, one with 100 children and another with 97 other children.

    Nicholson found poor and average young readers read significantly better in context than in lists. (In experiment 1, p<.01 for poor and average 6-year olds and p<.05 for poor and average 7-year olds and poor 8-year olds. In experiment 2, p<.01 for poor, average and good 6-year olds, poor and average 7-year olds and poor 8-year olds and p<.05 for the average 8-year olds.)

      Nicholson, T. (1991). Do children read words better in context of in lists? A classic study revisited. Journal of Educational Psychology, 83, 444-450.

Further research:
  • Bridge, Winograd, and Haley found children learn to recognize print words significantly better when working with texts with natural language than with contrived language. They studied 16 first-grade slow learners, 8 with reading instruction using predictable reading materials (texts with familiar, natural language) and 8 with reading instruction using preprimer materials (texts with contrived language).

    Bridge and her colleagues found the after four weeks of instruction, the children receiving instruction using the predictable reading materials learned significantly more target words (p<.025) and non-target words (p<.025) than the students using the preprimer materials.

    They also found that the children who had been reading the predictable materials reported more positive feelings about reading aloud while the preprimer children reported more negative feelings about reading aloud in the reading group.

      Bridge, C., Winograd, P.N., & Haley, D. (1983). Using predictable materials vs. preprimers to teach beginning sight words. The Reading Teacher, 884-891.

  • Manning, Manning, Long, and Kamii found that as children develop they are able to use their knowledge of word order to figure out unfamiliar print words in written sentences before they are able to use their knowledge of phonics to figure out unfamiliar print words. They studied 38 three-, four-, and five-year old children's untaught understandings of sentences that are written in front of them and read to them.

    They found the children who were not yet able to use phonics (letter-sound correspondences) to figure out print words in sentences were able to use word order to figure out print words. This finding suggests that children can learn to read using shared reading (a technique where the teacher points to the words in full view of the children as he/she reads to the children) before they can learn phonics.

      Manning, M, Manning, G., Long, R., & Kamii, C. (1993). Preschoolers' conjunctures about segments of a written sentence. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 8, 1, 5-11.

(See also Beginning Reading Instruction)
 
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