Dr. Gary C. Woods
November 7, 2010
Purtee Pearson, C. L. (1990). The comparison of the effects of three prereading advance organizers on the literal comprehension of fifth-grade social studies materials.
Theoretical Framework Identified and Explained
The theoretical framework is founded on the pretense that much has been written concerning the problems that many students have with the comprehension of reading materials, especially content texts--science, math, and social studies. Alexander (1988) suggested that these children may be those who have little trouble with their basal readers or trade books, yet are unable to derive meaning from what they read in content area textbooks. This difficulty is a result of a combination of factors, both within the reader and within the printed material (Vacca & Vacca,1986). One explanation for the problem that the reader has with content texts is that these materials are written on reading levels beyond the capacity of the intended reader. Textbook writers have attempted to solve this problem by simplifying terminology and shortening sentences. This "dumbing down" of material does not necessarily make it more comprehensible. When long sentences are artificially broken into series of shorter sentences, inferential relationships are often neglected. This may "complicate the reader's ability to comprehend" (Vacca & Vacca, 1986, 18). Accord- ing to Hittleman "word frequency and sentence length do not stand in simple relationship to reading disability" (1978, 118). Many other factors affect reading comprehension which readability formulas do not consider. These would include such text variables as concept load, format of material, organization of ideas (Hittleman, 1978), typography, literary form and style, and cohesiveness (Harris &Hodges, 1981). Also not taken into consideration are factors inherent within the reader, such as "motivation, reading ability, and interest" (Harris &Hodges, 1981, 268). Perhaps the human factor which most influences comprehension is the schemata which the reader brings to the reading selection (Vacca & Vacca, 1986). Text is interpreted as the reader activates the schemata related to that reading material. Comprehension of that material is determined, not by the text itself, but by what the reader brings to the selection (Vacca & Vacca, 1986). The reader interacts with the new information as it enters the cognitive field. One's understanding and comprehension of that information depends on the reader's schemata (Swaby, 1984). The more schemata one has for that topic, the more will be understood of what is read about it (Turner, 1988). Comprehension then "involves taking meaning to text in order to obtain meaning from text" (Turner, 1988, 159). Since content materials, especially social studies, usually seek to develop many concepts, students often do not have the related cognitive framework upon which to attach this new knowledge. These concepts must be thoroughly under- stood if the reader is to comprehend the reading material (Alexander, 1988). The answer is not to discard the difficult text, but to give stronger emphasis to building background knowledge. "Comprehension can be helped if the teacher pays special attention to building bridges between the reading material and the student's experiences" (Turner, 1988, 164). The teacher can guide comprehension through varied forms of direct instructional activity (Vacca & Vacca, 1986). This instruction can take one of several forms, but it must provide a conceptual framework for the reader upon which to build the new information. It must include activity and discussion before reading in order to prepare the reader to link what is known to the new material (Vacca &Vacca, 1986). This prereading activity is generally known as an advance organizer or structured overview (Alexander, 1988). Through the use of advance organizers, the reader may be...