[ Proceedings Contents ] [ Schedule ] [ Abstracts ] [ WAIER Home ]

Children with special needs in reading and
learning: A sight vocabulary project

Margaret S Sutherland
Edith Cowan University
The purpose of this study was to observe how well three students with reading and learning difficulties recognise 100 words in isolation and then in context, following a period of testing, teaching and intervention: It was to determine whether an improvement in reading and learning would be aided by the ABAC method of testing (Wolery, 1988). Also, an additional aim was to determine if parent intervention, testing and teaching phonemic analysis and synthesis, and delayed testing improved word recognition. The background for this project relates to the work that has been done by Margaret Sutherland with three privately tutored students over a number of years. All have known reading or learning difficulties and they range from lower primary to high school level, 9 yrs, 14.5 and 15 yrs. The initial program was implemented consisting of a sight vocabulary book with 22 lists of 10 words. Parents supervised the reading of each list of words 3 times weekly. The tutor then tested the current list and taught unknown words phonetically at tutoring sessions each week. Each word had to be recognised immediately otherwise it would be considered as unknown. Numerous methods of teaching reading were researched. The causes of reading failure were addressed, the level of literacy skills, the literacy curriculum, which students are at risk, the causal factors of the lack of reading achievement, learning difficulties and some solutions and methods that could be used to overcome the anomalies.

Background to the study

The background for this project relates to the work that has been done by Margaret Sutherland with three privately tutored students over a number of years. All have known reading or learning difficulties and they range from lower primary to high school level, 9 yrs to 15 yrs. The initial program that was implemented for the students, at their level of development, consisted of a sight vocabulary book with 22 lists of 10 words. Parents supervised the reading of each list of words 3 times weekly. A tick was given for words read correctly and a cross given for words incorrectly pronounced. The tutor then tested the current list and taught unknown words phonetically at tutoring sessions each week. Each word had to be recognised immediately otherwise it would be considered as unknown. The words were from the Dolch (1953), a list of 220 words, which are words that are mostly found in basal readers. The system was developed by Dolch in 1953 as part of his flash card games.

Purpose of the study

The purpose of the study was to observe how well three students with reading and learning difficulties recognised words in isolation and then in context, and to determine whether an improvement in reading and learning will be aided by the ABAC method of testing (Wolery, 1988). Improvement could help students to achieve success in other subjects. The researchers, Bolster (1983), Bricker (1982), Bricker and Filler (1985), Haring, Lovitt, Eaton and Hansen (1978) have shown that there is a gap between research and practice that affects the quality of reading education. Any method used in a classroom or teaching situation has to be easy to use and proven in practice. Sometimes teachers do not have time to adequately access literature or wait for new research to emerge to put a system into place. Teachers often need to deal with the immediate problem without waiting for more research because of their time constraints in the classroom (Wolery, 1988). When teachers make decisions about instructional programs there are a number of questions to consider such as:
  1. Are the procedures appropriate?;
  2. Do the instructional procedures work?; and
  3. Is the student happy with the procedure?
To answer these questions it is often an advantage for the teacher to use a series of graphs showing reading progress, or number of words correct in each list presented, to analyse the outcomes. The graphs could show central tendency, trend and variability. By using a line of progress or trend line in conjunction with a central tendency line, a teacher is able to identify the three critical aspects: central tendency, trend and variability, of any data in relation to the student's progress or failure (White & Haring, 1980).

Method

An extensive literature review was carried out during this project and methods such as shared reading, paired and echo reading, parent teaching and intervention, word recognition, sight vocabulary, literacy skills, failure to read, phonemic analysis and synthesis were studied in depth. Other methods to overcome the problems of children learning to read were found but were not discussed or used. Several methods of overcoming reading failure were discussed and these were:

Design

The test and teaching followed an A - B - A - C design structure (Wolery, 1988). This design was chosen for its simplicity of use and reporting. It was easy for the parent to understand for the intervention phase. It was introduced as a game to the students and continued as such throughout each session.

Phase "A" was a baseline test in which the student was tested, but received no instruction. The test was carried out at 10 sessions of ten words on computer-generated flash cards, which were generated randomly from the 100 sight words in a booklet.

Phase "B" was carried out over 10 weeks by parent and teacher intervention and weekly teacher testing, where the student was given a booklet of 100 sight words divided into 10 lists of 10 words to be read daily with the parent and tested weekly by the teacher at tutoring sessions. The words in each list were to be read instantly with no hesitation, sounding or prompting. A tick was awarded for correct words and a cross for those words incorrectly said. This was to be done three to four times per week or until three ticks are achieved for all words in a list. The number of correct words were to be recorded at the bottom of each attempt. The teacher test was carried out once a week at a tutoring session with the same ten words. If the words were not known, they were explained and sounded out with the teacher. The teacher gave incentive rewards at each session.

Second phase "A" was the same as the initial baseline test. Random selection of t he 100 sight words over ten tests of words in isolation and words in context, at one session by the teacher.

Test "C" was a delayed test to be carried out two weeks after the previous test by the teacher randomly using the 100 sight words in isolation and context.

Research questions

  1. Does parent intervention improve word recognition for children with reading difficulties?

  2. Does testing, teaching phonemic analysis and synthesis, and testing improve word recognition for children with reading difficulties?

  3. Does delayed testing improve word recognition for children with reading difficulties?

Participants

The group for this study consisted of three students known to have reading or learning difficulties and ranged from lower primary to high school level.

The three students were selected from a group of students, whom I tutored privately because of their reading and learning problems. The fact that I tutored these students privately should not affect the results, because these students have been made aware of my goals and, both students and parents were asked if they wished to participate. There were two boys, Matt and Chris and one girl Katie (not real names). These students ages are 15, 14.5 and 9 years.

Results

Over the period of the tests the graphs and tables show that Katie made a slight improvement on words in isolation with a score of 6 in both the Teacher Test A and the Delayed Test C, but was not able to improve her score of words in context. The scores for context in both these tests actually went down for the maximum and stayed at 0 for the minimum. Her percentage of words correct over all tests showed an improvement of 2%. In Teacher Test "A" her percentage for words in context dropped to 3%, while in the delayed test it went above her first test score by 1% to 14%. Her average percentage for words in isolation was 34 and words in context held at 18%. Katie worked well during the tests and considering her known difficulties, was willing to strive hard to improve her knowledge of words. She received an achievement certificate from the teacher for her effort.

Over the period of the tests the graphs and tables show that Matt's recognition of words in context did not improve, while words in isolation improved in the A-B-A tests the scores for Delayed Test "C" were down almost as low as the Baseline Test "A". This would indicate that Matt has a problem with remembering and needs to be constantly given one to one tutoring and repetitive work. This is not possible except in a small class situation, so Matt would not gain in a mainstream class competing against normal students for teacher time. Matt worked well with the teacher but not with parent intervention. This might be attributed to his age, even though his parents were willing to do anything to improve his learning problems. Matt received an achievement certificate from the teacher for his efforts.

Consistent with the previous students, Chris had trouble when it came to words in context and gained much lower scores only showing half of words in isolation and the average percentage. He worked well with his mother and myself and his efforts were rewarded with an achievement certificate.

Conclusions

Looking at the three research questions and the results of the testing it seems that there was only slight improvement of word recognition with parent intervention; that testing, teaching phonemic analysis and synthesis and further testing has little to do with word recognition for children with specific learning and reading difficulties; and that delayed testing does not improve word recognition for children with reading difficulties. These criteria certainly made no difference to words in context testing because the three students did poorly on all tests. My testing showed that all three were only marginally improved overall with words in isolation. These are my findings on the three students I tested, but of course given a different set of students and circumstances could bring forth a different result.

During this small piece of research about whether children with learning and reading difficulties will benefit from a program of learning to recognise words in isolation and in context in an ABAC method of testing (Wolery, 1988), it was found that several other problems emerged when children had a lack of literacy skills, which in turn caused complications in their learning process. These complications derived from a long term cycle of reading failure, the causes of which created social problems, stress, some behaviour problems, demoralisation and low self esteem (Ward, 1992).

At pre-school age many of these children often appear to be bright and have a high capacity of oral vocabulary, but fail to be able to transfer these skills when confronted with reading print and are equally poor at transcribing thoughts to paper (my observations). Also schooling does not guarantee that they will achieve a high standard in literary skills (Ward, 1992).

Several methods of overcoming reading failure were discussed and these were:

It was easy to see that there were no positive solutions to the problems and most research tended to be experimental. There appeared to be no programs in place to solve students' illiteracy in the long term. There was no evidence in the research of recognising individual needs. Most students who have learning problems generally need a program that suits their particular problem and it has been found that often they cannot progress in a normal classroom without individual support and programs (Sutherland, 1996).

The three students in the study were classic examples of the need for individual programs, especially Matt and Katie. The results showed that each had specific problems in words in context. Scores on words in isolation gradually improved over the testing period whereas words in context scores remained at a much lower level.

Several researchers argued that encouraging parents to be equal partners in the development of their children's learning gave them confidence and an interest in wanting to read at an earlier age, therefore making the pathway to literacy less stressful and more meaningful. Allowing children to choose their own reading material extends the enthusiasm to read.

Finally, researchers can go ahead and make recommendations and argue for this program or that, but until all students are accepted as individuals with specific reading and learning difficulties, then they will continue to struggle through the school system. If no one corrects their problems they will not have a fair chance at employment out there in the real, ever increasingly competitive workplace.

References

Abouzied, M. P., Invernizzi, M. A., Bear, D., & Ganske, K. (1994). Word Sort: An alternative to phonics, spelling and vocabulary. Speeches and Conference Papers. Annual meeting of the National Reading Conference San Diego, CA.

Adams, M. (1990 &1994). Beginning to read: Thinking and learning about print. Cambridge, MA: MIT.

Andrews, S. & Scarratt, D.R. (1996). What comes after phonological awareness? Using lexical experts to investigate orthographic processes in reading. Australian Journal of Psychology, Vol. 48 (3). pp. 141-148.

Barbetta, P., Miller, A. D., Peters, M. T., Heron, T. E. & Cochran, L. L. (1991). Tugmate: A crossage tutoring program to teach sight vocabulary. Education and Treatment of Children, Vol.14(1), 19-37.

Bolster, A. S. (1983). Toward a more effective model of research on teaching. In M.Wolery, B.D. Bailey Jr., & G. M. Sugai, (1988). Effective teaching: Principles and procedures of applied behaviour analysis with exceptional students. Boston. Allyn & Bacon, Inc.

Brand, V.(1988). Spelling made easy. Level three: Spelling for top juniors. Egon Publishers Ltd, Baldock, Hertfordshire. England.

Bricker, D.D. (1982). Intervention at-risk and handicapped infants: From research to application. In M.Wolery, B.D. Bailey Jr., & G. M. Sugai, (1988). Effective teaching: Principles and procedures of applied behaviour analysis with exceptional students. Allyn & Bacon Inc, Boston.

Bricker, D.D. & Filler, J. (1985). Severe mental retardation: From theory to practice. In M.Wolery, B.D. Bailey Jr., & G. M. Sugai, (1988). Effective teaching: Principles and procedures of applied behaviour analysis with exceptional students. Allyn & Bacon, Inc.Boston.

Bus, A.G., Belsky, J., Van Ijzendoorn, M. H., Marinus, H. & Crnic, K. (1997). Attachment and bookreading patterns: A study of Mothers, Fathers, and their toddlers. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, Vol. 12(1), 81-98.

Busink, R. (1997). Reading and phonological awareness: What we have learned and how we can use it. Reading and Research Instruction, Vol . 36(3), 199-215.

Caroll, J. B., Davis, P. & Richman, B. (1971). The American Heritage word frequency book. In J. Greenup. (1992) The sight word vocabulary development of Year 1 children. Queensland Researcher, Vol 8(3). 19-28

Chall, J. S. (1989). The role of phonics in teaching and reading: A position paper. Office of Educational Research and Improvement. Washington, DC.

Clay, M. (1972/1979). Concepts about print tests. In A. J. Watson & A. M. Badenhop. (1992). Prevention of reading failure. Ashton Scholastic, Sydney.

Cormack, P. (1992). School-related barriers to success in reading and writing. The Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, Vol 15(3), 175-186.

Cuvo, A. J., & Klatt, K. P. (1981). Mentally handicapped adolescents: Their use of leisure. In P. J. Schloss, S. Alper, H. Young, G. Arnold-Reid, M. Aylward, & S. Dudenhoeffer. (1995). Acquisition of functional sight words in community-based recreation settings. The Journal of Special Education, Vol. 29(1), 84-96.

Dolch, E. W. (1953). Popper words (Flash cards).

Dunn, D. (1991). Towards the prevention of reading problems: Phonological awareness. NSW Journal of Special Education, 14, 7-15

Education Department of Western Australia (1995). Social Justice in Education: Policy and Guidelines for the Education of Students with Disabilities. Perth, Western Australia.

Ehri, L.C., (1992). Reconceptualising the development of sight word reading and its relationship to reading. In P. B. Grough, L. C. Ehri, & R. Treiman (Eds) Reading Acquisition. pp. 107-143. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Giesecke, D., Cartledge, G. & Gardner 111, R. (1993). Low achieving students as successful cross-age tutors. Preventing School Failure, Vol.37(3), 34-43.

Goodman, K. S. (1965). A linguistic study of cues and miscues in reading. In T. Nicholson. (1991). Do children read words better in context or in lists? A classic study revisited. Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol. 83(4),444-450.

Graham, S., Harris, K. R. & Loynachan, C. (1993). The basic spelling vocabulary list. Journal of Education Research, Vol. 86(6), 363-368.

Greenup, J.(1992). The sight word vocabulary development of Year 1 children. Queensland Researcher, Vol. 8(3), 19-28. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr8/greenup.html

Groff, P. (1994) Clearing the air about "sight" words. Ohio Reading Teacher, Vol. 29(1), 13-17.

Groff, P.B., Ehri, L. C. & Treiman, R. (Eds). Reading acquisition. pp. 145-174. In P. Groff. (1994). Clearing the air about "sight" words. Ohio Reading Teacher, Vol. 29(1), 13-17.

Halliday, J. (1994). Quality in education: Meaning and prospects. Educational Philosophy and Theory, Vol. 26(2), 33-50.

Haring, N. G., Lovitt, T. C., Eaton, M. D. & Hansen, C. L. (1978). The fourth R: Research in the classroom. In M.Wolery, B.D. Bailey Jr., & G. M. Sugai, (1988). Effective teaching: Principles and procedures of applied behaviour analysis with exceptional students. Allyn & Bacon, Inc., Boston.

Hartley, R. (1989). The social costs of inadequate literacy. In A. Laslett. (1991). Literacy assessment and public accountability. English in Australia, No. 98. Pp 21-47.

Hayden, R. (1996). Training parents as reading facilitators: Literacy learning outside the classroom. Reading Teacher, Vol. 49(4), 334-336.

Hillerich, R. L. (1974). 'Word lists - getting it all together'. In J. Greenup. The sight word vocabulary development of Year 1 children. Queensland Researcher, Vol. 8(3), 19-28. http://www.iier.org.au/qjer/qr8/greenup.html

Holdaway, D. (1979). Foundations of literacy. In R. Tierney, J. E. Readence, & E. K. Dishner, (1995). Reading strategies and practices: A compendium. Fourth Edition. Allyn & Bacon, Boston.

Honig, B. (1997). Reading the right way. School Administrator, Vol. 54(8) 6-15.

Irlen, H. (1983). Successful treatment of learning disabilities. In G. L. Robinson. (1994). Coloured lenses and reading: a review of research into reading achievement, reading strategies and causal mechanisms. Australian Journal of Special Education, Vol. 18(1), 3-14.

Jackson, L. (2001). Optometric Vision Report. Adelaide, SA.

Just, M. A. and Carpenter, P. A. (1987). The psychology of reading and language comprehension. In R. Merry & I. Peutrill, (1994). Improving word recognition for children with reading difficulties. British Journal of Special Education, Vol. 21(3), 121-123.

Kaye, G. (1999). Eyecare Centres cognitive profiler report. Perth WA.

Laslett, A. (1991). Literacy assessment and public accountability. English in Australia, No. 98, 21-47.

Lesiak, J. L. (1997). Research based answers to questions about emergent literacy in kindergarten. Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 34(2), 143-160.

Liberman, I. Y. & Liberman, A. M. (1990). Whole language vs code emphasis: Underlying assumptions and their implications for reading instruction. In R. Busink, (1997). Reading and phonological awareness: What we have learned and how we can use it. Reading and Research Instruction, Vol. 36(3), 199-125.

Lovett, M. W. (1987). A developmental approach to reading disability: Accuracy and speed criteria of normal and deficient reading skill. In G. L. Robinson. (1994). Coloured lenses and reading: A review of research into reading achievement, reading strategies and causal mechanisms. Australian Journal of Special Education, Vol. 18(1), 3-14.

Mantzicopoulos, P. Y. (1997). The relationship of family variables to Head Start children's pre-academic competence. Early Education and Development, Vol. 8(4), 357-375.

Mayfield, M. I. & Olilla, L. O.(1992). Parent involvement in literacy programs. In A. J. Watson & A.M. Badenhop. (1992). Prevention of reading failure. Ashton Scholastic, Sydney.

Merry, R. & Peutrill, I. (1994). Improving word recognition for children with reading difficulties. British Journal of Special Education, 21(3), 121-123.

Mooney, M. (1994). Shared reading: Making it work for you and your children. Teaching K-8, November/Dece mber.

Munro, J. & Munro, K. (1993). Phonemic awareness: a neglected cause in reading disability. Australian Journal of Remedial Education, 25(4), 5-10.

Murphy, J. (1990). Remedial reading: An evaluation of a programme of parental involvement. OIDEAS - Ireland, 36, 73-82.

Nicholson, T. (1991). Do children read words better in context or in lists? A classic study revisited. Journal of Educational Psychology, 53(4), 444-450.

Renshaw, P. D. (1994). The reading partnerships of children in the transition to school. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, (4), 276-287.

Richardson, P. (1997). Research review (professional) beginning reading phonemic awareness and whole texts. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 20(1), 82-87.

Robinson, G. L. (1994). Coloured lenses and reading: A review of research into reading achievement, reading strategies and causal mechanisms. Australian Journal of Special Education, 18(1), 3-14.

Schloss, P., Alper, S., Young, H., Arnold-Reid, G., Aylward, M. & Dudenhoeffer, S. (1995). Acquisition of functional sight words in community based recreation settings. Journal of Special Education, 29(1), 84-96.

Scholes, R. J. (1997). The case against phonemic awareness. pp. 3-23. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for the Scientific Study of Reading. Chicago, IL.

Schnider, V. E. (1997). The relationship between phonemic awareness and later reading achievement. Journal of Educational Research, 90(4), 203-211.

Solman, R. T. & Wu, H.M. (1995). Picture as feedback in single word learning. Educational Psychology, 15(3), 227-244.

Spedding, S. & Chan, L. K. S. (1993). Metacognition, word identification, and reading competence. Contemporary Educational Psychology (US), 18(1), 91-100.

Stanovich, K. E. (1986). Matthew effects in reading: Some consequences of individual differences in the acquisition of literacy. Reading Research Quarterly, 21, 360-406.

Tan, A. & Nicholson, T. (1997). Flashcards revisited: Training poor readers to read words faster improves their comprehension of text. Journal of Educational Psychology, 89(2), 276-288.

Tierney, R. J., Readence, J. E. & Dishner, E. K. (1995). Reading strategies and practices. A compendium. Fourth Edition. Allyn & Bacon, Boston.

Toomey, D. (1993). Parents hearing their children read: a review. Rethinking the lessons of the Haringey Project. Educational Research, 35(3), 223-236.

Topping, K. J. & Lindsay, G. A. (1991). Parental involvement in reading: The influence of socio-economic status and supportive home visiting. Children and Society, 5(4), 306-316.

Ward, G. (1992). Observing progress in early reading in schools. Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 15(3), 211-224.

Watson, A. J. & Badenhop, A. M. (Eds) (1992). Prevention of reading failure. Ashton Scholastic, Sydney.

White, O. R. & Haring, N. G. (1980). Exceptional teaching. In M.Wolery, B.D. Bailey Jr., & G. M. Sugai, (1988). Effective teaching: Principles and procedures of applied behaviour analysis with exceptional students. Allyn & Bacon, Inc., Boston.

Whiting, P. R. (1992). An eclectic approach: Instruction based on learner needs. In A. J. Watson & A.M. Badenhop. (1992). Prevention of reading failure. Ashton Scholastic, Sydney.

Wolery, M., Bailey Jr., B. D. & Sugai, G. M. (1980). Effective teaching: Principles and procedures of applied behaviour analysis with exceptional students. Allyn & Bacon, Inc., Boston.

Yule, V. (1992). Learning to read without effort. Reading (UK), 26(2), 12-17

Author: Margaret Sutherland is a Master of Education postgraduate student at Edith Cowan University. Email: mssuther@echidna.stu.cowan.edu.au

Please cite as: Sutherland, M. S. (2001). Children with special needs in reading and learning: A sight vocabulary project. Proceedings Western Australian Institute for Educational Research Forum 2000. http://www.waier.org.au/forums/2001/sutherland.html


[ Proceedings Contents ] [ Schedule ] [ Abstracts ] [ WAIER Home ]
Created 7 Sep 2001. Last revised 21 May 2006. URL: http://www.waier.org.au/forums/2001/sutherland.html
The Forum Proceedings are © Western Australian Institute for Educational Research. However
the copyright for each individual article remains with the authors of the article.
HTML: Roger Atkinson [rjatkinson@bigpond.com]