Improving comprehension and vocabulary skills through online deliberate practice

Improving comprehension and vocabulary skills through online deliberate practice

First Author: Pelusa Orellana -- Universidad de los Andes
Additional authors/chairs: 
M. Francisca Valenzuela
Keywords: online intervention, Reading comprehension, Spanish, Deliberate practice, vocabulary learning
Abstract / Summary: 

This study describes the use of Leer+, a Spanish reading practice platform for Chilean Spanish readers in grades 3 to 6. Leer+ presents students with graded passages that include 4 vocabulary items in cloze format and 2 inferential comprehension questions they must complete. The platform is grounded in the notion that deliberate practice in reading can improve a person's performance on a given task (Ericsson, Krampe, & Tesch-Römer, 1993; Hanlon, 2013). For at least the past ten years, Chilean students have shown low comprehension levels, with performance in comprehension and vocabulary being even lower among students in low SES contexts (Agencia de Calidad de la Educación, 2018).

Leer+ was created as a means to provide Chilean students an opportunity to improve their reading schools via targeted, independent practice. The platform contains 500 text passages created using a linguistic corpus with 3 million words from Chilean textbooks, trade books and other reading materials that students will encounter in schools. Students begin with items that are on the same Lexile level as their comprehension ability level, and as they read and answer questions they move on to more complex passages. Texts include narrative and informational passages of topics that are culturally relevant and age and interest appropriate.

809 students used Leer+ once a week for 40 minutes for an 8-week period. Pre and post-tests were applied to experimental and control group participants. Results show that only the students in the lowest-performing group (ie, students in low SES municipal schools) significantly improved their reading comprehension ability, but not their vocabulary skills. Students coming from more affluent schools did not show significant gains. These results point to the positive effect that having students deliberately practice reading at a level that matches their ability can have in their reading and vocabulary skills especially if they struggle with reading.