Use of precorrection strategies to enhance reading performance of students with learning and behavior problems.
Students who have early reading problems are likely to continue experiencing reading difficulties as well as face other academic challenges as they move through the school years. Chard and Kameenui (2000), for example, stated that children who are poor in reading skills in first-grade have an approximately 90% chance of remaining poor readers after 3-years of schooling. In addition, Slavin, Karweit, Wasik, Madden and Dolan (1994) demonstrated that if students are poor readers at the end of third-grade, their likelihood of successfully finishing high school is significantly decreased. In an analysis of 30 years of research on how children learn to read, Grossen (1997) found that early and explicit reading instruction is critical to children's learning and their difficulties become persistent and long lasting if their reading disabilities are not remediated early. Because of early failure, poor readers also develop a dislike of reading and gradually read much less than skilled readers. Early, intensive and remedial reading instruction, therefore, is necessary to assist at-risk beginning readers as they work toward mastering the skill of reading (Rabren, 1994).
The beginning reading stage refers to "the period when students are learning to decode the first several hundred words presented in the classroom program" (Carnine, Silbert, & Kameenui, 1997, p. 54). After conducting a comprehensive and technical synthesis of a multi-disciplinary review of beginning reading research, Adams (1990) argued that phonics is a key element in beginning reading instruction for all students. In addition, Adams found that children' s knowledge of letters of the alphabet and their ability to distinguish phonemes (i.e. letter sounds) are reasonably accurate predictors of students' first-year reading performance. Through her analysis, Adams also concluded that reading methods, including phonics instruction on isolated letter sounds and blending sounds into words, result in higher first-grade achievement in word recognition and spelling. Early phonemic training benefits were examined in a study with 90 kindergarteners (Ball & Blachman, 1991). The children were divided into three groups: (a) a phonemic awareness group, who received instruction in segmenting phonemes and in letter-name and letter-sound correspondence; (b) a language activities group, who were provided instruction in various language activities and letter-name and letter sound correspondence; and (c) a control group who received no intervention. The phoneme awareness group performed significantly higher than the language activities group and the control group on a phoneme segmentation posttest. There was no significant difference, however, on phoneme awareness between the language activities group and the control group. These results suggest that specific training in phonemic awareness has a positive effect on early reading development
A more recent study examined the effects of phonological skill development and letter knowledge of at-risk kindergarteners. Shneider, Roth, and Ennemoser (2000) compared the effects of intervention programs on groups of kindergarteners at-risk for dyslexia. These 138 children were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups, with the following training procedures: (a) letter-sound training, (b) phonological awareness training, (c) combined letter-sound and phonological awareness training. Results of this study indicate that combined letter-sound and phonological awareness training had the strongest effects on reading and spelling during grades 1 and 2. This study suggests that while all three methods have positive effects, the combined approach is more effective in early reading development.
While most students adequately learn early reading skills (such as phonemic awareness and letter-sound correspondence), others have great difficulty in acquiring such entry level decoding skills (Beck & Juel, 1995). An increasing proportion of children in American schools have been diagnosed as having a learning disability, and the vast majority of them are identified as such because of difficulties in reading (Snow, Burns & Griffin, 1998). In a longitudinal study, conducted by Shaywitz and Shaywitz (1996), the authors estimated that 17.5 % of the school children in primary and middle schools have reading disabilities. In the report of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (1997), it was estimated that 40%, 30%, and 25% of fourth-, eighth-, and twelfth-graders, respectively, were reading below grade level.
Reading difficulties, in part, can be due to either biological deficits or poor reading instruction (Snow, et al., 1998). Poor readers sometimes have phonological processing problems caused by underdevelopment of the brain system (DeFries & Alarcon, 1996). But for those children without biological deficits, difficulties in reading may be due to inappropriate reading instruction. As such, explicit instruction may be one alternative to teach reading to students with learning and behavior problems.
Direct Instruction is an explicit rule-based instructional approach. Specific features of Direct Instruction (DI) are described by Darch (1993): (a) "presentation of an explicit problem-solving strategy, (b) mastery teaching of each step in the strategy, (c) development of specific correction procedures for student errors, (d) a gradual switch from teacher-directed to independent work, and (f) built-in cumulative review of previously taught concepts" (p.89). An impressive body of research has supported DI as an effective approach for teaching academic skills and strategies to students with learning and behavior problems (Tarver, 1996).
Swanson (1999) examined the effects of interventions in reading for students with learning and behavior problems. The two general models he compared are general strategy instruction and DI. He was interested in determining whether certain models of instruction have broad effects across word-recognition and comprehension measures, or are specific to one domain. Swanson concluded that the combination of strategy and DI positively influences reading comprehension, while DI improves word recognition.
Swanson's study also summarized the important instructional components for teaching word recognition. These components include sequencing, segmentation, and use of advanced organizers during comprehension instruction. Sequencing refers to "breaking down the tasks, fading of prompts or cues, matching the difficulty level of the task to the students, sequencing short activities and/or using step-by-step prompts" (p. 522). Segmentation means breaking down the words into small units (individual letter or letter combinations). Advanced organizers refer to directing children to look over material prior to instruction. In the DI decoding program, these components are organized into comprehensive teaching lessons.
Specified error correction procedures is another feature of DI reading that researchers are now beginning to investigate. Teachers are directed to use different correction procedures to correct various categories of reading errors. If a student makes an error with a word in story reading, for example, the teacher will immediately say "stop," model that word, and ask the whole group to read and spell that word Until firm. Lastly the teacher will ask that student to read from the beginning of that sentence.
Compared with correction, precorrection is proactive and may be a beneficial instructional strategy to more effectively teach students with learning and behavior problems to read (Colvin, Sugai, & Patching, 1993). Precorrection is defined as "an antecedent instructional event designed to prevent the occurrence of predictable problem behavior and to facilitate the occurrence of more appropriate replacement behavior" (Colvin, Sugai, Good & Lee, 1997). It is comprised of the following steps: (a) identifying the predictable problem, (b) making clear the expected behavior, (c) adjusting the context, (d) modeling the expected behavior, (e) strongly reinforcing the expected behaviors, (f) motivating the expected behaviors, and (g) closely monitoring the students' performance. Most researchers focused on using precorrection to manage behavior problems (e.g., Colvin et al., 1993, & Colvin et al., 1997).
The precorrection strategy may have effective application to reading instruction with students with learning and behavior problems, but to our knowledge, no studies have been reported that evaluated the effects of precorrection during beginning reading instruction with students with learning and behavior problems. Thus, the focus of this study is to determine the effects of precorrection on the reading and behavior of students during Direct Instruction reading instruction. Specifically, this study will examine whether using precorrection during decoding instruction increases reading accuracy for students with disabilities during beginning reading instruction. Students' abilities to learn sounds and read words will be measured. In addition, this study will determine if precorrection is helpful in increasing students' on-task behavior during reading instruction.
Subject Selection and Setting
Six first-graders with mild disabilities were selected as subjects. All subjects were eligible for special education services. Subject 1 was seven years old and was placed in an English as Second Language program. Her full-scale IQ score as measured by the WISC-III was 70. She was receiving instruction in reading and language. Subject 2, a seven-year-old female, was identified as having mental retardation. Her full-scale IQ score of WISC-III was 64. Subject 3, a seven-year-old male, was identified as having a developmental delay. His full-scale IQ score was 70. Subject 4, a seven-year-old female, was diagnosed with mental retardation. Her full-scale IQ score of WISC-III was 71. Subject 5 was eight years old and was identified as having multiple disabilities. Her reading score of Woodcock-Johnson Reading Mastery Test placed her at the primer reading level. Subject 6, a female, was classified as developmentally delayed with a full scale IQ of 65.
The six subjects were randomly assigned to one of three instructional groups, each with two students. Daily instructional lessons for all three groups lasted approximately 25 minutes, and occurred in the subjects' assigned special education resource room. The order in which groups received instruction was counter balanced; that is, the order in which group was taught was randomly assigned each day.
The instructional program used for this study was the Reading Mastery Series published by Science Research Associates (Engleman, Bruner, Hanner, Osborn, Osborn, & Zoref, 1995). Reading Mastery is a complete basal reading program for students in the first- through sixth- grades and is adaptable for students in special education. Reading lessons last approximately 45 minutes. Phonics is an integral part of the program instructional plan to teach decoding. Reading comprehension also is specifically taught from the very first lesson. Reading Mastery emphasizes the teaching of thinking skills and the acquisition of background knowledge. Reading Mastery I (First-grade level) was used for this study. Reading Mastery I contains 160 daily lessons that teach basic decoding and comprehension skills. Decoding is taught through explicit phonics method that stresses letter sound correspondences and blending. Students practice decoding by reading word lists and stories, both aloud and silently. The Reading Mastery program is scripted and requires teachers to carefully implement sequenced reading activities.
The independent variable for this study was the application of a precorrection strategy used for teaching decoding skills to students with mild learning and behavior problems. The precorrection strategy adapted for this study was incorporated into the daily 25-minute reading lessons designed to manage persistent academic errors and social behavior problems. For this study, precorrection strategy adapted for use included having the teacher (a) identify the context and the predictable academic problems, (b) specify expected behaviors, (c) systematically modify the context, (d) conduct behavior rehearsals, (e) provide strong reinforcement for expected behaviors, (f) prompt expected behaviors, and (g) monitor the plan (Colvin et al., 1993).
There were three dependent variables used in this study. Each is described below.
Percentage of Correct Responses (Sounds and Words)
The first dependent variable was percentage of correct responding during reading instruction. Students' responses were recorded as correct when they provided the correct phonetic sound to individual letters. Also, students' responses were recorded as correct when they either phonetically sounded out words, or read the words correctly as sight-words. Percentage of correct responses was calculated by dividing the number of opportunities available to respond to a teacher's question or direction by the number of correct answers provided by the subjects. If a subject didn't correctly respond within one second following the teacher's signal, the response was marked as incorrect. In order for a student's response to be considered correct, the student had to voice the answer loudly enough to be heard by the observer, who was seated approximately four feet away. Data were taken during both group responses and individual turns.
Maintenance Test of Reading Words
The purpose of the maintenance test was to evaluate students' ability to recall the decoding skills previously taught. Subjects were asked to read a list of words taught in previous lessons. Subjects were required to read words as sight words, without vocally sounding them out. The maintenance test was administered individually to students. It is important to note that the maintenance test was administered after each teaching session during baseline and intervention.
On-task behavior was measured to determine the levels of participation during baseline and intervention conditions. On-task behavior was defined as the percentage of coded intervals that were recorded. On-task behavior was operationally defined according to what was appropriate behavior for each particular portion of the reading instruction class. Therefore, during the lesson, eyes on the teacher when she presented or eyes on the materials being presented was defined as on-task during reading instruction. During any individual reading part of the lesson, on-task behavior was defined as keeping eyes turned toward the speaker, raising hands to answer questions, and waiting to be called on by the teacher before responding.
A multiple-baseline design across three groups was used to evaluate the effects of the precorrection intervention relative to baseline performance. This design relies on the repeated measurement of targeted behaviors and the controlled replication of effects across baseline (non-intervention) and intervention to support statements about a possible functional relationship between the independent (precorrection) and dependent variables (Colvin et al., 1997).
During the baseline phase, the researcher identified three consistent errors the six subjects madein reading sounds and words. The two errors made by subjects in all three instructional groups when they read sounds were (a) confusing the visually similar sounds such as b and p, and (b) identifying and discriminating the vowel sounds. The most frequent error students made when reading words was stopping between the sounds when subjects attempted to sound out words.
The first step in baseline was to take repeated measures of performance concurrently on the dependent variables with each group of students in the absence of the precorrection strategy. During the baseline phase, the first author taught reading to the groups using the Direct Instruction Reading Mastery Program. Direct Instruction includes explicit, skill-based, teacher- directed instruction on individual reading skills. In addition, phonetically regular, predictable texts to prompt application of newly acquired skills are used (Carnine et al., 1997). Also as mentioned previously, the Reading Mastery Level I program was used for all these instructional groups. All groups received one lesson each day.
During the treatment phase, the researchers sequentially introduced the precorrection strategy to each of the three experimental groups by implementing the following teaching steps.
Precorrection strategy 1: Reading visually similar sounds.
For this precorrection strategy, the experimental teacher modeled the correct sounds for the most difficult discriminations in the lesson (e.g., b/d, and p/q) for the students before the actual lesson began. After the precorrection strategy was completed, the students received Direct Instruction for that part of the lesson.
Precorrection strategy 2: Reading vowel sounds.
The experimental teacher instructed students to carefully look at each vowel sound presented in the reading task and then provided a clear model for each vowel sound prior to students reading the list of words. Particular attention was paid to helping students correctly discriminate between long and short vowel sounds (e.g., a/a, and e/e). For example, before they read vowel sound "a", the experimental teacher prompted by saying "Remember, there is a line over the sound which makes it long. It is not "a"(saying the short vowel sound)."
Precorrection strategy 3: Stopping between sounds when reading words.
For this precorrection strategy, the experimental teacher reminded the subjects not to stop between the sounds when blending the sounds in the word. The teacher modeled how to sound out words and blend the sounds without stopping between sounds. The precorrection strategy focused on words that were difficult to sound out. Specifically, words that began with stop sounds (e.g., tap, bat, cup and etc.) were targeted.
Once the baseline rate for each dependent variable with each group was stable, precorrection was applied to Group 1 while maintaining baseline conditions for the other two groups. When evidence of clear and stable improvement was noted in the first group's performance on each of the three dependent measures, precorrection was next provided to both the first and the second group simultaneously. Group 3 continued in baseline. Once the response of the second group improved and stabilized, the precorrection procedure was administrated to the third experimental group. The logic of this design is based on the premise that if each group improves when precorrection is applied to them and the improvement is maintained, it is likely that precorrection caused or was functionally related to the improvement on students' performance on each of the dependent measures.
Data Collection Procedure
The first author and one observer served as primary data collectors for this study. An observer collected data on each of the dependent measures on 10 instructional sessions to determine reliability. Data on all dependent measures were collected daily, across both baseline and intervention conditions.
Percentage of Correct Responses (Sounds)
Subjects' responses to individual reading tasks were recorded daily for five consecutive sound identification-tasks. Students were asked to identify individual letter-sound correspondence from a group of 10-15 letters. Students responded as a group and individually. The criteria used for correct responses were (a) students gave the correct phonetic sound to individual letters, and (b) students responded on the teacher' s signal in individual and group reading formats. Students' responses were recorded daily during baseline and intervention for all groups. A typical lesson required students to respond to 15 sound/symbol presentation.
Percentage of Correct Responses (Words)
Subjects' responses to reading words lists of 10-15 words were also recorded daily. For this measure, subjects were required to sound out each word and read words presented in list format. For responses to be considered correct, students were required to sound out words correctly including not stopping between sounds, and accurately identify each word as a sight word. This measure was recorded daily across baseline and intervention.
Maintenance Test (Words)
Maintenance tests were administered to the subjects to measure their ability to retain previously taught material. The researcher identified 10 words previously taught in the instructional program that were not presented during the day' s lesson. These words were placed in a list and students, at the end of each instructional session, were asked to read the list as sight words. This measure was implemented daily at the end of the scripted teaching lesson during baseline and intervention. A typical test required students to read 10 words.
The observer coded on-task behavior using a 10-second time-sampling technique; he observed the students for 9 seconds and recorded the student's behavior during the tenth second. If the student was engaged in appropriate behavior for the assigned tasks in the entire nine seconds, the observer recorded a slash (/) in the appropriate interval on the data sheet. If the student was engaged in any inappropriate behavior during the nine seconds, the observer recorded 0 in the specific interval. A different student was coded each 10-second interval. The observer systematically coded the two subjects in each group in a predetermined order; therefore, the observer recorded the same subject at the end of each 10-second interval. One complete rotation through the two subjects in a group took 20 seconds. The process was then repeated continuously for the duration of the session.
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of precorrection when teaching decoding skills to students with mild disabilities. A multiple-baseline single-subject research design was used for this study. Six first graders with mild disabilities served as subjects. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups. Every group received Direct Instruction (DI) in the baseline phase and DI plus precorrection in the treatment phase. Results on the three dependent measures are discussed in the sections below.
Group Percentage of Correct Responses on Sound/Symbol Relationship
The results on the percentage of correct sound/symbol identification for sounds for each group are shown in Figure 1. As can be noted, each group performed over 50% correct during the baseline conditions. Group 1 had an average of 69% of correct responding while Group 2 and Group 3 averaged 67% and 54% respectively. With the introduction of precorrection in conjunction with DI, each of the three groups increased in accuracy of sound-symbol identification. As can be found in Figure 1, Group 1 averaged 93 % of correct responses during the DI plus precorrection phase. Group 2 averaged 90% correct during the intervention phase while Group 3 averaged 79% correct. These results indicated that DI paired with precorrection significantly improved students' academic accuracy in reading sounds. The data pattern in the treatment phase showed that students' performance increased immediately with the introduction of the precorrection strategy and maintained at high levels of accuracy throughout the intervention.
[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]
Group Percentage of Correct Responses of Reading Words
The results of the percentage of correct word reading for each group during the baseline and the intervention phase are shown in Figure 2. In the baseline phase, all the three groups performed poorly on the word reading tasks, specifically, 55% correct responses for Group 1, 39% correct for Group 2, and 36% correct for Group 3. For each of the three instructional groups, stopping between the sounds when asked to sound out words was the most frequent reading error. Students also had difficulty discriminating correct sounds that were visually and auditorily similar (e.g., e vs. i). After precorrection was introduced to each of the three groups sequentially, their word reading accuracy improved dramatically. Group 1 had the most gain. They went from 55% correct during the baseline condition to 86% of correct responses in reading words during intervention. Group 2 averaged of 81% of correct responses and Group 3 had an average of 64% word reading accuracy during the precorrection intervention.
[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]
Group Percent Correct on Maintenance Test
Figure 3 provides readers with the performance of the three groups on the maintenance test for baseline and intervention phases. The average performance for Group 1 on the maintenance measure was 46% correct. As can be noted, Group 1 doubled their percentage of correct responding during the precorrection treatment phase of this study. Similar results were found for the other two groups. Group 2, for example, increased their average reading performance on the maintenance measure from 20% correct to a level of 52 % correct. Group 3 has the lowest performance of the maintenance measure (10% correct). During the intervention phase Group 3 performed at 34% reading accuracy on the maintenance test.
[FIGURE 3 OMITTED]
Group Percent of On-Task Behavior
Figure 4 presents the results of students' on-task behavior across baseline and intervention for all three instructional groups. As can be noted, the percentage of on-task behavior increased with the introduction of DI plus precorrection for each group. In the baseline phase, Group 1 and Group 2 had moderate percentages of on-task behavior, with an average on-task level of 51% and 55% respectively. Students in Group 3 were less attentive during baseline (on-task level 39%). In the treatment phase, all three groups had significantly higher on-task behavior levels. Group 1 increased their level of on-task behavior to 79% while Groups 2 and 3 increased levels of on-task behavior to 74% and 53% respectively. However, it is important to note that for groups who were exhibiting higher levels of off-task behavior, precorrection is not a powerful intervention strategy for these types of behavior problems.
[FIGURE 4 OMITTED]
The purpose of this study was to examine the effectiveness of a Direct Instruction reading program that included a precorrection strategy when teaching decoding skills to students with mild to moderate learning and behavior problems. The results of this study suggest that precorrection used with Direct Instruction teaching methodology can be an effective and efficient intervention for teaching beginning reading skills to students with learning and behavior problems. The results of this study have important implications for teachers since the three precorrection strategies used were easy to implement and fostered increased decoding performance across all three instructional groups.
The precorrection strategies when paired with Direct Instruction teaching methods improved students' accuracy of reading sounds and words. This is an important finding since many students with learning and behavior problems have early reading difficulty when learning sound-symbol relationships and basic word reading. Specifically, each of the three groups increased their accuracy in identifying sounds by approximately 25% during the intervention phase of the study. A similar pattern of results occurred when students were evaluated on their ability to read individual words. Group 2, for example, increased most in their accuracy, resulting in an increase of almost 42%. Group 1 and Group 3 increased word reading accuracy approximately 30% during the intervention phase.
It was also found that precorrection was an effective strategy with subjects with various learning and behavior problems. Every subject increased their accuracy of reading sounds and words, regardless of their disability. The average increase across subjects was 16% correct in reading sounds. The average increase in reading words was 17%. Results further suggest that precorrection is effective in increasing the percentage of on-task behavior. The results showed that students' on-task behavior increased in each group during the intervention phase of the study. Group 1 increased on-task level 28% while Group 2 and Group 3 increased on-task levels 19% and 14% respectively.
As this study shows, when teachers implemented precorrection with Direct Instruction, increases in reading performance and on-task behavior occurred. This study presents further evidence that teachers can effectively manage students' academic and behavior problems by preteaching difficult content. In fact, as Kameenui & Darch (1995) argued, most mild forms of disruptive behavior can be managed with effective instruction. This study also illustrates the importance of correction procedures when teaching beginning reading to students with learning and behavior problems. Providing precise instructional support when students are learning entry level reading skills will result in improved performance.
While this study provides initial evidence that can be effective in improving students' performance, the small scale of this study presents obvious limitation. Six first-graders with learning and behavior problems served as subjects in this study, thus the results of present study are limited to students with similar learning histories. The small number of subjects also limits the generalization of those findings. Finally, because the intervention period of this study was relatively short, 21 instructional days, future studies need to be completed to determine the effectiveness of teaching various students over longer periods of time.
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Yu Miao, Doctoral Student, Department of Rehabilitation and Special Education. Dr. Craig Darch, Human-Germany-Sherman Distinguished Professor of Special Education. Dr. Karen Rabren, Assistant Professor of Special Education.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Dr. Craig Darch, 1228 Haley Center, Auburn University, Alabama 36849-5226; email@example.com