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Comparing choral responding and a choral responding plus mnemonic device during geography lessons for students with mild to moderate disabilities.


Four male 9th-grade students with mild to moderate disabilities participated in a single case design that compared choral responding (CR) and a choral responding plus mnemonic device (CR+) during geography lessons. The authors used an alternating treatments design to evaluate the effects of the two strategies on students' on-task behavior and daily quiz scores in identifying states on a map of the United States. The results showed that the CR + was more effective than CR in increasing on-task behavior and accuracy levels on daily quiz scores, as well as performance on a 1-week delayed recall test. The teacher and students rated the CR+as highly acceptable. A discussion of limitations, future research, and practical implications is included.

Keywords: choral responding, mild to moderate disabilities, mnemonic device, on-task behavior


Federal legislation and national initiatives (Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act [IDEA], 2004; No Child Left Behind [NCLB], 2001) demand that teachers use evidence-based practices to teach academic skills to students in inclusive settings. Although these mandates allow students with disabilities to have easier access to general education curriculum, schools are required to report students' progress toward achievement tests particularly in content areas of literacy, mathematics, and science. For students with disabilities who are exempt from state achievement tests, schools are required to show progress toward meeting the states' core standards using alternative strategies. Acquiring content area knowledge at the secondary level can pose significant challenges for teachers as a result of memory and recall deficits individuals with disabilities display (Hall, Kent, McCulley, Davis, & Wanzek, 2013; O'Shaughnessy & Swanson, 1998; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2000). Failure to recall academic content can negatively impact the test performance of these students, resulting in other poor outcomes, such as high rates of off-task behavior, low grade point averages, and loss of access to the general curriculum (Dunlap, KernDunlap, Clarke, & Robbins, 1991; Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1990; Scruggs, Mastropieri, Berkeley, & Graetz, 2010).

Students with mild to moderate disabilities include children identified with high-incidence disabilities, such as learning disabilities, speech or language impairments, mild intellectual disabilities, and emotional and behavior disorders (Friend & Bursuck, 2009). These students may have learning and/or behavioral difficulties that impede normal or expected academic achievement. For example, these students may experience challenges in communication and language, memory and recall, ability to generalize learning to new contexts, and motivation to attend to the task at hand and stay focused (Copeland & Cosbey, 2008). The learning impediments make it difficult for students to acquire basic information, such as learning sight words, math facts, or basic geographical information that would be helpful in acquiring further knowledge in academic areas.

When seeking to keep students with disabilities in the general education curriculum, there is a strong consensus that using instructional practices similar both in focus and implementation to practices used for students in the general education setting with similar learning challenges is best practice (Ambrose, Bridges, DiPietro, & Lovett, 2010). The success of inclusive schooling for students with disabilities is predicated on the design and implementation of educational supports that will benefit all students (Hunt, Soto, Maier, & Doering, 2003). Students with mild to moderate disabilities often benefit from highly structured instructional interventions and adaptations that will help increase academic achievement. Two instructional strategies with empirical support that can increase student achievement are choral responding and mnemonics.

Several researchers have found high rates of accurate, overt student responding result in larger increases in learning than those with low rates of responding (Greenwood, Delquadri, & Hall, 1984). Choral responding is an instructional strategy shown to result in high rates of overt, academic responding with corresponding gains in academic achievement (Heward, 1997). In choral responding, students actively respond in unison to teacher-posed questions. For example, when using choral responding the teacher asks a question, "What's the capital of New York?" gives students 3 to 5 s think-time, and provides a cue to respond. The students then respond verbally by saying, "Albany." The teacher provides immediate feedback and then moves on to the next question. Components of this strategy that make it effective include (a) immediate feedback for correct responses, (b) corrective feedback for incorrect responses, and (c) multiple opportunities to practice the skill (Haydon, Borders, Embury, & Clarke, 2009). An added benefit is the collateral increase in students' on-task behavior and sustained engagement with the task (Heward, Courson, & Narayan, 1989; Sutherland, Alder, & Gunter, 2003). Choral responding can be used to teach new concepts and skills (Carnine, Silbert, Kame'enui, & Traver, 2010) and can be effective for review of previously learned concepts (Heward et al., 1989).

Another instructional strategy shown to increase student achievement in the content areas, particularly in facilitating recall of facts, are mnemonic strategies (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2000). A mnemonic is any procedure or instructional strategy designed to improve a student's memory. The purpose of a mnemonic strategy is to facilitate memory recall by tying new information more closely to the learner's existing knowledge base. Results from two recent meta-analyses of studies on mnemonic strategy instruction for students with mild disabilities suggest that mnemonic strategies are among the most consistent interventions in special education to yield high effect sizes (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 2000; Wolgemuth, Cobb, & Alwell, 2008). Three mnemonic strategies associated with the most positive outcomes are the letter strategies, the pegword method, and keyword method. The letter strategies are the most commonly known mnemonic strategy in which each letter represents a word (i.e., acronym). For example, BODMAS represents the order of operations to be completed in a mathematical expression (i.e., brackets, order of, division, multiplication, addition, subtraction). The pegword strategy is particularly helpful in learning facts in a certain sequential order. The student is first taught to associate each number with a rhyming word (e.g., one is bun, two is shoe, etc.). Next, they are taught to apply the rhyming system to the list of words to be memorized using imagery. For example, to remember the first president of the United States, the students are taught to make associations of George Washington and a bun (i.e., George Washington was sitting on a bun). The visual imagery associated with the term may prompt the student to recall the term. In the keyword strategy, the keyword is a concrete, acoustically similar representation of unfamiliar information (e.g., vocabulary words, terminology, people, places) that can then be associated with the to-be-remembered information. For example, to remember the state New Hampshire, a keyword of baby hamster is used and a picture of the hamster is placed on the map near the state. Students are taught to think of a hamster being born in the state of New Hampshire, therefore associating the picture of the hamster to help recall the name of the state.

Teachers charged with the task of teaching students with mild to moderate disabilities to memorize and recall facts are more likely to choose strategies that are efficient and yield increases in learning (Hall et al., 2013). Both choral responding and mnemonic strategies are research-validated strategies that are effective with a wide range of learners. To date, however, only one investigation (Mastropieri, Scruggs, Bakken, & Brigham, 1992) has been identified that examined the effects of mnemonic instruction on the U.S. states and their capitals. In their study, Mastropieri et al. (1992) utilized a counterbalanced design across two classrooms and compared a mnemonic strategy with a more traditional procedure. The students were 29 middle school students (grades 7 and 8) and were identified with learning disabilities (LD).

The current study extends that of Mastropieri et al. (1992) by (a) using student-developed materials in addition to teacher-developed materials, (b) students were in grades 7-9, (c) students were identified with more moderate disabilities, (d) single subject methodology was used and (e) the classroom teacher provided the instruction. Furthermore, this study compares choral responding with choral responding plus a mnemonic device to determine which strategy was more effective in increasing student learning. Specifically, the purpose of the present investigation was to evaluate the following research question: What are the differential effects of using choral responding (CR) and choral responding plus a mnemonic device (CR+) on the on-task behavior, daily quiz scores, and a one-week delayed recall test of four high school students with mild to moderate disabilities?


Setting and Participants

The study was conducted in a public high school (grades 7-11) located in an urban area in the Midwestern United States. The classroom consisted of a desktop computer and an LCD projector that projected an image onto a SMART 600i board. A SMART board is an interactive whiteboard with touch-screen capabilities allowing students to use their fingers or pen to interact with and modify content on the screen. A map of the United States of America was projected onto the SMART board. The classroom teacher requested support to address low rates of academic engagement during lessons. Her expectation was that students were to respond to her questions when called on or volunteer answering a question.

There were a total of 8 students (grades 7-9) in the social studies class grouped according to instructional/skill needs. The procedures were carried out classwide for all 8 students in the social studies class; however, parent permission and student assent to share data in published reports were obtained for four students. The data for these four participants are included in this paper.

R. J. was a 13-year-old black male enrolled in the 7th grade. Although R. J.'s file indicated a diagnosis of speech and language disorder, he was identified for special education services under the category of mild intellectual disabilities. R. J.'s performance on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-4 resulted in a Full Scale IQ score of 55, with scores of 59, 67, 77, and 50 for Verbal Comprehension, Perceptual Reasoning, Working Memory, Processing Speed. Despite a relative strength in Working Memory (77), R. J.'s overall scores were in the delayed range of cognitive ability. Results from the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scales indicated an overall score of 64 with low scores for Communication: Receptive, Expressive, Written; Daily Living, Community, Socialization: Interpersonal, Play and Leisure, Coping Skills and average scores for Personal and Domestic.

Nate was a 13-year-old black male enrolled in 7th grade who was diagnosed with adaptive behavior deficits and a speech and language impairment, but he was receiving special education services under the category of mild intellectual disabilities. Nate's performance on the Differential Ability Scales, Second Edition (DAS II) resulted in a Full Scale IQ score of 64, with low range scores of 51, 68, and, 81 for Verbal Cluster, Nonverbal Cluster, Spatial Cluster, respectively. An optional Special Nonverbal Composite (SNC) was administered because Nathan's performance on the Verbal scale was significantly lower than the other subscales, which indicated a possible disproportionate effect of language on general cognition.

T. J. was a 15-year-old black male enrolled in 9th grade. T. J.'s records documented a diagnosis of communication disorder with adaptive behavior deficits, visual impairments, speech and language impairments, and fine motor impairments. T. J. was receiving special education services under the category of moderate intellectual disability. T. J.'s performance on the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scales, Fourth Edition, (SB-IV) resulted in a Full Scale IQ score of 47 with Nonverbal and Verbal scores of 56 and 57, respectively.

Dane was a 15-year-old black male enrolled in the 9th grade receiving special education services under the category of mild intellectual disability. File records documented diagnoses of adaptive behavior deficits, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, speech and language impairments, and communication disorders. Dane's performance on the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children, 4th Edition (WISC-IV) resulted in an IQ score of 50. Vineland II scores were 26, 21, and 24 for Communication, Daily Living Skills, and Socialization, respectively.

Mrs. Simmons was the classroom teacher. She was a 23-year-old Caucasian. She was a first-year teacher who held a bachelor's degree in education and was a fully licensed special education teacher. She had taken classes in applied behavior analysis and classroom management.

Content Development and Materials

The teacher selected the content for the study based on the school's social studies curriculum, namely, to teach the names of the 50 states of the United States. She had previously taught the students a conceptual understanding of what a state and continent was and that knowing the states would help the students in future social studies lessons, such as learning about the Civil War.

Black-and-white outlines of each of the 50 states were printed and pasted onto individual 3x5 index cards. These 50 index cards were randomly assigned to 5 sets (A, B, C, D, E) of 10 states each. Each set was subdivided into two groups (A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2, D1, D2, E1, E2), and the subgroups from each set were randomly assigned to the two instructional conditions. For the mnemonic condition, Mrs. Simmons drew a color picture of the keyword that corresponded to each state and glued the picture on the front of the card. For example, a picture of a can was associated with the state of Kansas, a picture of a basketball jersey was associated with the state of New Jersey, a picture of a married couple was associated with the state of Maryland, and picture of a Mini Cooper was associated with the state of Minnesota. The teacher used standard-size sheets of paper consisting of five fill-in-the-blank spaces to record correct responses during the 5-item daily quizzes. The teacher and researcher worked together to develop the teaching scripts and rules that were used for each condition. The scripts were printed for the teacher to read, and the rules were posted in the front of the classroom.

Research Design

An alternating treatments design (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007) was used to compare the effects of the two instructional conditions (choral responding and choral responding plus a mnemonic device) on academic performance and student behavior. The alternating treatments design allowed the researchers to compare the two different treatments in a rapid order. The order of condition presentation was randomly alternated. The researchers used a coin and selected heads for choral responding and tails for choral responding plus a mnemonic device.

Dependent Variables and Measurement

On-task. On-task behavior was recorded at the end of a 10-s interval using a momentary time-sampling procedure. A Motivaider[R] (i.e., an electronic timing device) was used to signal the end of each 10-s interval. The first author, a doctoral student, or a university faculty member monitored the behavior of one student and recorded on the data sheet whether or not the student was engaging in on-task behavior and then observed the next student for the next interval, repeating the sequence of observations for the duration of the observation session. On-task behavior was defined as the student actively responding to the teacher's questions demonstrated by raising his/ her hand, choral responding, looking at the teacher or the SMART board, or eyes on another student answering a question. On-task behavior was reported as the percentage of total observed intervals in which a student was on-task.

Correct responses. The teacher marked the number of problems answered correctly on a recording sheet and then recorded the score in her grade book before handing over the recording sheet to the researcher. Correct responses were reported as percentages of correct responses on the 5-item daily quiz, and were calculated by dividing the number of problems answered correctly by five and multiplying by 100. A correct response was defined as the student verbally answering the correct name of the state. The total time to complete each quiz took approximately 2 min.


Screening procedure. Prior to data collection, the first author spent time in the classroom on four different occasions in order to collect data on levels of student on-task behavior. During this time, the teacher began instruction by informing students of the focus of the geography lesson. She then engaged in her typical instructional method of lecture followed by question-and-answer. The instructional sessions lasted approximately 4 to 6 min and consisted of reviewing names of continents and countries from maps projected onto the Smart board. The teacher provided students with opportunities to respond and called upon volunteers (i.e., students who raised their hands) to answer the questions. For example, the teacher asked, "Who can tell me what the name of this continent is?" She then selected a student to respond and then acknowledged correct responses or provided corrective feedback for errors.

Data indicated that the mean score for on-task behavior for all four students was 54.8%. Mean percentages of intervals on-task behavior were 54.8%, range: 37-69%; 57.0%, range: 42-67%; 46.3%, range: 33-69%, and 61.0%, range: 50-77% for R. J., Nate, T. J., and Dane, respectively, suggesting that on-task behavior was low and could be improved. After the researcher collected data, the teacher conducted a 10- to 15-min screening procedure with all students on their knowledge of the 50 states. The teacher sat with each student at a kidney-shaped desk in the back of the room and independently asked the names of every state while pointing to a 0.91m by 1.52m map of the United States. No students could identify any of the states on the map.

Choral responding training. The first author reviewed with the teacher the rationale and purpose of choral responding, and showed several video clips of teachers using this strategy. The teacher practiced in front of the first author, delivering questions at a rate of at least 5 questions per min. This rate was determined by previous research that demonstrated positive results of using choral responding (Haydon et al., 2010; Sainato, Strain, & Lyon, 1987). The teacher successfully practiced the choral responding strategy in front of the researcher for one 5-min session. The teacher indicated that she felt she had mastered the choral responding procedure. The entire training session lasted 20 min. The next day, the teacher successfully practiced the choral responding strategy in front of the class for one 5-min session.

Choral responding with mnemonic device training. On the same day as the choral responding training, the researchers reviewed with the teacher the rationale for using the choral responding with a mnemonic device. The researcher discussed with the teacher the purpose of using mnemonics and modeled how each student can retrieve information using the mnemonic device (i.e., picture of a keyword) associated with the name of each state. The teacher was instructed to develop keywords with her students and, if there were no suggestions from the students, to develop her own (Fontana, Scruggs, & Mastropieri, 2007). The following morning the teacher developed keyword devices for 25 states with her students (the other 25 states were for the choral responding strategy). She asked the students to think of a keyword that had the same sound that could help them remember the state. For example, the students selected a picture of color crayons for the state of Colorado. All keywords in the research study were selected using this process.

Instructional sessions for both conditions were held each school day during the typical time reserved for social studies instruction. Instruction started promptly at 1:05 pm. Data were collected over an 8eight-week period. The duration of instructional sessions ranged from 4 min (24 intervals) to 6 min (36 intervals). On-task behavior was measured from the start to the end of the instructional session. After the instructional session, the teacher and her paraeducator taught the students in a small group format in the back of the room.

Choral responding condition. During choral responding, the teacher first reviewed the rules and procedures for the condition. She instructed the students to sit at their desks and to verbally respond upon her cue (e.g., "What state is it?"). The students did not need any pre-training to learn the cue and to learn to respond on cue. The teacher randomly selected and outlined the boundary of all 5 states with a dry erase marker on the projected map. Next, she pointed to a state and said, "This state is Nevada. What state is it?" After the students responded she provided feedback for the correct response: "Yes, the state is Nevada." To control for opportunities to respond (OTR), the teacher did not provide an error correction procedure. If there was an error the teacher indicated that there was an incorrect response and provided the answer. Thus, students were provided one response opportunity for each state. The teacher presented the set being rehearsed four times for a total of 20 opportunities to respond per session.

Choral responding plus mnemonic device. This condition was the same as the choral responding alone condition (e.g., rules and procedures etc.). The number of states covered each day was the same between conditions. The teacher randomly selected and outlined the boundary of all 5 states with a dry-erase marker on the projected map plus placed a picture representing the keyword (e.g., hamster) on top of the state (e.g., New Hampshire). The teacher pointed to the state and said, "This is a picture of a hamster. What is the picture of?" After the students responded she provided feedback for the correct response: "Yes, this is a picture of a hamster." Next, she said, "This state is New Hampshire. What state is this?" The teacher confirmed the students' correct responses by saying, "Yes, New Hampshire." Thus, students were provided with two response opportunities for each state. However, the response on each opportunity was different. In one case the response was for the mnemonic, and for the other it was for the name of the state. Error correction was provided in the same manner as in the choral responding condition.

Daily quiz assessment. Daily quizzes were used to assess the content covered during the instructional time. Daily quizzes were conducted approximately 45 min after the instructional period. The teacher independently assessed each student in the front of the room at the Smart board while the remaining students were working on activities with the paraeducator.

For the choral responding condition, the teacher randomly selected five states that were taught that day. She then pointed to the map without the names on them and asked the students to say the name of the state. The teacher selected another set of five states when each student correctly identified at least three out of five states of the set being taught. The teacher's choice for teaching five states and identifying three out of five states was based on the students' learning histories.

For the choral responding plus mnemonic device condition, the teacher randomly selected five states that were taught that day. She placed on the table the 5 keywords that corresponded to each state. She then pointed to the map and, asked the student to select the particular keyword (e.g., hamster) from the table and place the keyword on the corresponding state on the map without any names on it (i.e., New Hampshire) and then state the name of the state. The criterion for mastery of content was the same as with the choral responding condition.

One-week delayed recall test. To check the durability of each condition, the teacher implemented a test one week after the intervention phase. The teacher tested the students on the identification of 48 states (she chose to leave out Alaska and Hawaii for the recall test). During the recall test, the testing conditions were the same as during instruction. However, the students did not use any keyword devices. The purpose of eliminating the keyword devices was to create a generalization test for the students. Each student stood by the whiteboard with the projected map of the United States. The teacher randomly selected a state from a list on a piece of paper, called out a state, and then had the student point to the state. She would then say, "Your answer is--(name of the state), is that your final answer?" When the student responded with a yes statement, she recorded the answer on the piece of paper as correct or incorrect and then moved on to the next state. The first author had a list of states that were learned under each condition. Next, he tallied the correct responses for each condition and divided the total by 24. Finally, he calculated a percentage correct for each condition (see Table 2 for results).

Interscorer Agreement and Procedural Fidelity

Two special education faculty and two special education doctoral students served as the primary data collectors. Doctoral students and faculty members were trained on data collection methods for the study and had previously completed coursework and training in direct observation recording techniques. Prior to each data collection session, the primary and secondary data collectors agreed upon the order in which the participants would be observed.

Interscorer agreement was assessed for 29.4% of observation sessions across each condition with average agreement of 91.6%, (range: 85.0-100.0%) for engagement and 100% for percentage of correct answers. Calculation of interscorer agreement for on-task was based on the interval-by-interval agreement formula, the number of intervals of agreement, divided by the total number of intervals and multiplied by 100%. Percentage of correct answers were calculated using the total agreement formula, summing the total number of agreements and dividing the smaller total by the larger total and multiplying by 100%.

Direct measurement of the two independent variables (i.e., teacher's implementation of choral responding and choral responding plus mnemonic device) was conducted as a measure of procedural fidelity on approximately 25% of the sessions by a secondary observer. Procedural fidelity was assessed using a checklist describing the procedural steps involved in the intervention. The accuracy of the teacher's implementation of the treatment integrity for the rate of opportunities to respond (5.0 per min), and the three steps in the sequence of cuing students, asking questions, providing feedback, and providing the keyword device was calculated using the total agreement approach. Procedural fidelity was 100% across both conditions.

A doctoral student used a checklist and collected procedural fidelity data on both procedures demonstrated by the researcher in training the teacher. Procedural fidelity was 100% across both conditions.

Intervention Acceptability

The teacher and the four student participants were asked to complete a social validity survey to obtain information about their perception of the acceptability and usefulness of each type of intervention. The items on the surveys were based on prior use (Haydon et al, 2010; Haydon, Maheady, & Hunter, 2010). The student surveys were completed independently and anonymously. The teacher survey included nine questions and used a 4-point Likert-type scale, where

I represented not at all and 4 represented very much. The rating scale consisted of three categories: (a) ease of implementation, (b) intervention effectiveness, and (c) likelihood of future intervention use. Three of the four students (R. J. moved out of the district before the assessment could be completed) also rated nine questions using a 4-point Likert-type scale, consisting of three categories of perceived effects of each intervention on their (a) social, (b) academic, and (c) peer interaction behaviors.


Table 1 summarizes means and ranges for quiz scores across students and experimental conditions. Substantial differences of overall percentages of mean daily quiz scores were noted for all four students in favor of the choral responding plus mnemonic device (CR+) condition (M = 80.0%, range: 68.6-90%) versus the choral responding (CR) condition (M = 46.6%, range: 20-63.3%). In addition, all four students demonstrated substantial differences and higher mean percentages of quiz scores during CR+ in comparison to CR. Table 1 also summarizes means and ranges for the percentage of intervals of on-task behavior across students and experimental conditions. Moderate differences were noted between overall mean scores for percentage of intervals of on-task behavior in favor of CR+ (M = 95.6, range: 92-97.7%) versus CR (M = 88.3, range: 78.7-100%).

Figure 1 shows the individual quiz scores and on-task behavior for each participant. Two out of four students (Nate and Dane) demonstrated less variability on quiz scores during CR+ than during CR. T. J. had one very low quiz score during the CR+ condition (Session 3). On this day, T. J. was not wearing his glasses, and we attributed his low score to this fact. For Nate, data demonstrated a downward trend during CR but a stable trend during CR+. Further visual analyses revealed that (a) for R. J., three of four (75.0%) data points exceeded the highest CR data point, (b) for Nate, three of seven (42.8%) CR+ data points exceeded the highest CR data point, (c) for T. J., six of seven (87.7%) CR+ data points exceeded the highest CR data point, and for (d) Dane, four of six (66.7%) data points exceeded the highest CR data point.

All four students displayed consistent patterns and stable trends with little variability during CR+ (see Figure 1). Data for T. J. and Dane during Sessions 6 and 8 respectively demonstrated moderate to large variability during the CR. For R. J. and Nate, levels of on-task behavior were the same in both conditions. For T. J. and Dane the levels of on-task behavior were lower during the last three data points of CR.

A further analysis of the data using the percentage of non-overlapping data (PND) method (Scruggs & Mastropieri, 1998) suggests that CR+ was an effective intervention in comparison to CR. Scores during CR+ for R. J. (75.0%) and T. J. (87.7%) suggest an effective intervention (range: 70.0-90.0%) in comparison to CR. PND for Dane (66.7%) and Nate (42.8%) suggests a questionable and ineffective effect, respectively. However, closer visual analysis indicates that for Nate during CR+ the last three data points were stable at 100% while during CR there was a downward trend. For Dane, two of the last three data points were at 100%, yet during CR there was large variability and a downward trend (Kratochwill et al., 2010).

Table 2 summarizes means for 1-week cumulative delayed recall tests for 48 states across three students (R. J. moved from the school district before this assessment could be administered) for the two conditions. All three students had higher percentage of scores for identifying states using CR+ than CR.

Social validity data were collected on the teacher's perception of the implementation of the intervention. The teacher indicated by a high score (4.0) that she preferred CR+ to CR. High scores (4.0) suggested that the teacher thought that CR+ was easy to implement, that she might be very likely to implement CR+ in the future, and the mnemonic devices were very helpful during geography instruction. Finally, the teacher indicated with a high score (4.0) that she would be very likely to recommend using mnemonics to other teachers.

Three out of four students (R. J. moved before the social validity survey was administered) completed a similar nine-question social validity survey. All three students indicated (4.0) that CR+ was engaging, more effective than CR, was beneficial, and helped them overall during geography lessons. In regard to the ease of use of CR+, all three students indicated (4.0) that they thought the CR+ was easy to use.


The purpose of the study was to compare a choral responding (CR) and a choral responding plus mnemonic device (CR+) on the on-task behavior, daily quiz scores, and 1-week delayed recall test of four students with mild to moderate disabilities. When comparing CR+ to CR, CR+ resulted in higher scores in the daily 5-item quiz administered after instruction.

Furthermore, in the one-week delayed recall test, overall mean scores were 78.3% correct during CR+ versus 69.0% correct during CR. For quiz scores, T. J. demonstrated the greatest differentiation between treatment conditions, scoring 48.6% higher for the quizzes following the CR+. T. J. also had a 15% increase of correct responses in favor of CR+ (90%) over CR (75%). The other three students demonstrated similar gains in performance. Finally, the results of this study had similar results to previous mnemonics research. For example, in a study by Mastropieri et al. (1992), students with LD remembered 79.6% of the mnemonically instructed state names on a 5-week cumulative recall test.

A few limitations should be considered in this study. First, the daily quiz procedure differed across the two teaching conditions, which may have influenced performance during CR+. The students during CR+ testing (at the teacher's request) utilized the mnemonic device. However, during the one-week delayed recall test the testing conditions were the same. Even so, the inclusion of the mnemonic in the quiz procedure could be an effective accommodation for classroom use. Second, the on-task results for CR for T. J. and Dane demonstrated variability during specific sessions (i.e., Sessions 6 and 8, respectively). In addition, Nate and R. J. performed more poorly during CR in latter sessions. Third, the improvement of intervals of on-task behavior during CR+ may be a result of the novelty of this strategy. Finally, the small sample of this study indicates the need for future investigations to expand the number of participants to whole classes and beyond.

Strategies that assist students with tasks that require greater depths of knowledge should be assessed in a similar fashion to investigate their impact on academic and behavioral outcomes for students with differing learner needs. Furthermore, from a behavior analytic perspective, this study may be regarded as a comparison of number of OTR (discriminative stimuli) between the two conditions. Choral responding (CR) provided a verbal stimulus (1 OTR) while; CR+ combined a verbal and visual prompt-giving students (2 OTR). Thus, future researchers could extend the preliminary evidence found in this study of providing 2 OTR versus 1 OTR. Future researchers may also investigate whether the mnemonic strategy is effective in isolation, or whether CR is a necessary component.

In the area of memory, mnemonic strategies are highly effective, and teachers are well advised to consider their use especially with students with special needs. According to Scruggs, Mastropieri, Berkeley, and Marshak (2010), the implementation of mnemonics builds on students' familiarity with other objects (i.e., those identified by keywords) and, therefore leads to greater levels of verbal elaboration and depth of processing (Scruggs et al., 2010). Although this strategy does not have universal applicability, particularly for tasks that require greater depths of knowledge and higher-order thinking, it does have the potential to establish foundational knowledge necessary for those types of tasks.

The necessity of prior preparation of the mnemonic strategies by teachers may serve as the greatest obstacle for implementing this procedure, but the procedures used in this study do not support that objection. The teacher reported developing key words was relatively quick and easily and that the students stated that creating keywords was fun. This feedback is reflected in the social validity measures of the mnemonic procedure. The authors do not discount the use of CR as an effective teaching strategy. Choral response maintains high levels of active student response and can be an integral part of instruction in specific academic areas. For example, in content areas where the vocabulary and pronunciation are integral, such as in foreign language instruction, choral response is highly appropriate (Heward & Wood, 2003).

The findings of this study support earlier research by Mastropieri et al. (1992), who investigated the effects of using a mnemonics strategy in the area of recall of U.S. states. These findings suggest that mnemonics can be used profitably with students with moderate disabilities in addition to students with learning disabilities. Students in the present study preferred the mnemonics strategy to traditional instruction; this finding is consistent with the findings in the Mastropieri study.

Finally, in this study a first-year teacher was able to easily implement the mnemonics strategy demonstrating that mnemonics instruction requires little training.

As teachers implement evidence-based practices in their classrooms to improve academic and behavioral outcomes, they must be given greater guidance as to which strategies to apply, and the best context (e.g., grade level, content matter, disability, etc.) to apply them. For example, while useful for mastering basic foundational information, neither of these strategies is helpful for higher-order learning tasks (e.g., analysis, synthesis or evaluation). However, this study suggests that keyword mnemonic strategies may be more useful than choral responding for knowledge-level content in geography.


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Todd Haydon

University of Cincinnati

Shobana Musti-Rao

Pace University

Peter Alter

Saint Mary's College

Address correspondence to: Todd Haydon, University of Cincinnati, 2600 Clifton Ave., ML 0022, Teachers College, Cincinnati, OH 45221-0022. E-mail:

Caption: Figure 1. Participants' percentage correct on quiz scores of 50 states and intervals on-task during each condition of the study.
Table 1
Means and Ranges for On-Task Behavior and
Quiz Scores in Each Condition

              Choral Responding                Mnemonics

Student     Quiz M      On-task M       Quiz M      On-task M
            (Range)      (Range)       (Range)       (Range)

R.J.         46.6         100.0          75.0          93.3
          (40.0-60.0)                (40.0-100.0)   (80.0-100)
Nate         63.3         100.0          86.6          94.9
          (40.0-80.0)                (80.0-90.0)    (73.0-100)
T.J.         20.0          78.7          68.6          97.7
          (0.0-40.0)    (50.0-100)   (20.0-100.0)   (92.0-100)
Dane         56.6          81.2          90.0          97.7
          (20.0-80.0)   (20.0-100)   (80.0-100.0)   (86.0-100)
Mean         46.6          88.3          80.0          95.6

Table 2
One-Week Cumulative Delayed Recall Scores

         Quiz                    Choral
Name    Overall    Mnemonics    Responding

Nate     72.9%       75.0%        68.0%
T.J.     81.3%       90.0%        75.0%
Dane     66.6%       70.0%        64.0%
Mean     73.6%       78.3%        69.0%
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Author:Haydon, Todd; Alter, Shobana Musti-Rao Peter
Publication:Education & Treatment of Children
Article Type:Report
Date:Feb 1, 2017
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