Repeated-Reading-Based Instructional Strategy and Vocabulary Acquisition: a Case Study of a Heritage Speaker of Chinese

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Reading in a Foreign Language ISSN 1539-0578

October 2010, Volume 22, No. 2 pp. 242–262

Repeated-reading-based instructional strategy and vocabulary acquisition: A case study of a heritage speaker of Chinese ZhaoHong Han and Cheng-ling Alice Chen Teachers College, Columbia University United States Abstract Repeated reading, a procedure involving repetition of the same text, has received copious attention from first language reading research providing highly converging evidence of its potency for reading fluency, accuracy, and comprehension. In contrast, second language research on repeated reading has been scarce. The very few studies extant have, nevertheless, shown similar, albeit inconclusive, findings. The present study was an attempt to foray into a hitherto uncharted area in both first and second language research, by investigating vocabulary gains from implementing a set of repeated-reading-based pedagogical and learning procedures. Using one heritage speaker of Chinese as its subject, the study administered 20 sessions of assisted repeated reading over three weeks. Results indicated both intentional and incidental vocabulary gains that would not otherwise have been possible through conventional reading or vocabulary instruction. Keywords: repeated reading, second language vocabulary acquisition, Chinese, heritage speaker

It is trivial to point out that reading and vocabulary are closely related. In fact, they are mutually constraining and complimentary: On the one hand, reading ability depends on vocabulary knowledge. “Semantic processing is central to reading comprehension ... Ultimately, it is vocabulary that largely controls semantic processing” (Koda, 1994, p. 10). On the other hand, reading is a critical source of vocabulary growth (Krashen, 1989; Zahar, Cobb, & Spada, 2001). It therefore is no surprise that vocabulary instruction has taken a central place in all existing approaches to the development of reading ability (e.g., phonic, linguistic, sight-word, and language experience), nor is it that reading has served as a major scaffold for vocabulary instruction (e.g., Peters, Hulstijn, Sercu, & Lutjeharms, 2009). The present study explores a particular type of reading, repeated reading, as a fulcrum for vocabulary acquisition. In the sections that follow, we will first introduce and discuss the theoretical background of the research, and then report the study. We will end with a discussion of the main findings and their implications for future research.

Han & Chen: Repeated-reading-based instructional strategy and vocabulary acquisition


Repeated Reading Repeated reading, initially known as multiple oral reading, involves multiple, successive encounters with the same visual material, the key being repetition–whether of the same words, sentences, or connected discourse. An instructional technique designed originally for improving reading fluency in learners with reading disabilities, repeated reading has been practiced with both disabled and non-disabled students in a variety of fashions, ranging from having the learner read aloud (Samuels, 1979), to listening to and simultaneously or subsequently reading aloud (Chomsky, 1978), and to silently reading (Anderson, 1993, 1999, 2008, 2009), the same material multiple times. Despite the procedural divergence, research has shown that the technique benefits fluency development–defined as improved accuracy of word recognition and reading speed–and comprehension in slow readers. Chomsky (1978), for example, reported that the procedure increased the fluency of slow and halting readers and instilled in them a heightened sense of confidence, motivation, and willingness to undertake reading new material independently. Similar findings were reported by Samuels (1979) claiming: The fact that starting rates were faster with each new selection and fewer rereadings were necessary to reach goals indicates transfer of training...
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