Preliminary data from an intervention study conducted by Neuhaus Education Center with third-grade students suggest that the addition of metacognitive strategies to daily comprehension lessons boosted students’ comprehension and spelling by 20% and vocabulary by 40% on standardized and criterion reference measures. In the study, 130 third-graders in two schools were given 30-minute comprehension lessons daily over a five-week period. The students in one school received metacognitive strategies that the students in the other school did not receive. Metacognitive strategies help students to “think about their thinking” before, while, and after they read. Metacognitive strategies included in the study were the use of vocabulary word webs, the identification of the elements of expository (informational) text, and the creation of a summary paragraph.
In the first school, students were given expository passages of approximately 300 words to read. The passages were from a commercially published comprehension program. Before reading the passages, the teacher set a purpose for reading and activated background knowledge. The students discussed new vocabulary words and copied the words, their definitions, and sentences that illustrated the meanings of the words from the board. After reading the passages, students answered questions that were generated by the teacher. Students answered half the questions orally and half the questions in written form. The final activity was for students to read and answer six questions that were specifically designed by the publisher to accompany each of the passages.
In the second school, the students read the same passages and were taught metacognitive strategies. Before reading the passages, the teacher set a purpose for reading and activated background knowledge. The students discussed the same vocabulary words. Rather than copy the definitions, students discussed the origins and meanings of the words, generated synonyms, antonyms, and other words related to the new vocabulary words, and recorded the information on vocabulary webs. As students read, they were encouraged to think about the elements of expository text. After reading the passages, students were asked to identify the subject, main idea, supporting ideas, and details, and they were asked to generate a summary paragraph that contained 1/3 the number of words of the original passages. The students then orally answered the same teacher-generated questions and read and answered the six questions that accompanied the passages.
The Center continues with follow-up and data collection to determine the long-term effects of the intervention. The strategies used in the intervention study are part of the new course Developing Metacognitive Skills.
For more information about Neuhaus Education Center's research, view our Research Guide