Date of Award

8-2009

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Education (MSEd)

Department

Education and Human Development

Abstract

This thesis explored the impact that readers' theater has on the reading fluency and comprehension of students who are reading below grade level. The study was conducted in 12:1:1 self-contained special education classroom in a rural elementary school in Western New York over the course of five weeks and included four students in 3rd to 6th grades, all reading at different levels.

Data was collected through a variety of measures throughout the course of the five-week study including daily observation and note taking of students reading out loud and practicing and/or performing readers' theater scripts. Data was also collected on a bi-weekly basis using running reading records. A tape recorder was used as the student read a story aloud. Students' reading comprehension was assessed at the end of week one, three, and five, a total of three times throughout the study using a comprehension rubric for oral retellings that was adapted from the Developmental Reading Assessment (Beaver, 2006, Appendix C). Students' fluency was assessed using Rasinski's Multidimensional Fluency Scale as they orally read a story out loud (Zutell & Rasinski, 2001, Appendix D). Readers' theater performances were videotaped and field notes on student comments and observable behaviors during video recorded sessions and daily practice sessions were taken. These instruments were used to provide triangulation.

The results of this study differed significantly from the results found in other studies (Casey & Chamberlain, 2006; Griffith & Rasinski, 2004; Rasinski, 1999). Students in Rasinski's study (1999) made significant gains in the areas of comprehension and fluency after being assessed using an informal reading inventory. In a study done with elementary aged students, anecdotal notes and results from Rasinski's Multidimensional Fluency Scale indicate that almost each participant made gains in his/her ability to read fluently (Casey & Chamberlain, 2006). In yet another study done by Griffith and Rasinski (2004), the students made significant gains in their reading comprehension over the course of the yearlong study. Unlike results from other studies, the findings pertaining to how readers' theater affects the fluency and reading comprehension of students reading below grade level remain inconclusive. Many factors may have influenced results in the study including the length of time and the time period during which the study was conducted. A five-week study may not have been enough time for students in the 12:1:1 self-contained special education class to make any significant progress in the areas of fluency and comprehension. The results of the study may also have been impacted by the fact that the study was conducted at the end of the school year, which led to more interruptions and a shorter of time than originally planned.

The study would benefit by a longer duration and by being conducted at the beginning of the school year when the students are feeling fresh and focused and when there are fewer disruptions in their daily schedule. Providing the students with a kid-friendly rubric to help them self-assess their fluency and reading comprehension, more time spent explicitly teaching comprehension strategies and modeling their usefulness, and conducting a pre-assessment with the students prior to the start of the study could also prove helpful.

Future research needs to focus on the message using readers' theater in your classroom truly says. Future research should also focus on ways to explicitly teach students with disabilities how to improve their fluency and comprehension. More research needs to be done on how readers' theater affects the reading comprehension and fluency of students reading below grade level, especially students with disabilities. The impact readers' theater has on fluency and comprehension was inconclusive in the present study.

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