by Shondell Woods

Early Education

Over a third of the children in the U.S. enter school unprepared to learn. Research states that children lack vocabulary, sentence structure, comprehension, and other basic needs (Whitehurst, Grover, 2007). A child’s experiences with books play an important part. It’s critical to read frequently to preschoolers. Early education experts recommend that complex story lines be read to children at least three times in a slightly different way (Creative Curriculum Volume Literacy, 2007).

The Creative Curriculum Gold assessment scores from school year 2015-2016 showed that 70% of my students were below levels in the areas of comprehension and retelling stories. The Desired Results Developmental Profile assessment scores from school year 2016-2017 showed 62% of my students were below levels in comprehension and retelling stories. These scores indicate that there is a need to improve young children’s comprehension skills.

I chose to research how the impact of reading interactive books aloud improves students’ ability to comprehend and retell stories. The Teaching Strategies Curriculum guide instructs teachers to read stories three times, in small groups, and while asking “depth of knowledge” (DOK) questions. These strategies will increase preschoolers’ ability to respond, comprehend and retell stories with a beginning, middle, and end. My current goal is to increase students’ comprehension and retelling ability by 50%.

My class meets five days a week, and has sixteen children, ages four and five. These targeted readings took place during the student’s’ learning center time (free choice). I originally chose four children to conduct this research, due to one students’ absences that child’s data was not included. My final findings reported on three students’ data.

Little Red Riding Hood and The Paper Bag Princess were read three times within ten days suggested by the Teaching Strategies Creative Curriculum guide. These books were read in a four-student group setting  (one student, mentioned previously, missed several days and was dropped from overall data). Due to each student having prior knowledge of the story Little Red Riding Hood, they were asked to tell what he or she knew prior to reading the book. The students drew and retold (dictated) the story after the first read and third read. The children took a first-read assessment and a third-read assessment. Students were asked eight questions:  4 inferential, 3 recall, and 1 incidental (define vocabulary). The assessments were scored 0-2 points using a rubric. The data collected included the following:

  • taped recordings of students’ behaviors demonstrated during each reading, the various distractions, and how the questions were answered throughout each reading,
  • dictated journal work of children’s drawings,
  • first-read assessments, and
  • third-read assessment.

The first-read and third-read assessment for Little Red Riding Hood revealed two out of three students increased their post assessment scores.

  • Student A: score increased by 1;
  • Student B: score increased by 4;
  • Student C score: decreased by 1.

Each student attended each day for the readings and assessments. The student with the increased score of 4 was more interested in the story and required less redirection to focus and participate.
The collected data from the book, The Paper Bag Princess revealed one out of three students increased their third-read assessment scores.

  • Student A: score increased by 1;
  • Student C: score decreased by 1; and
  • Student B was not in attendance for the third dictated journal or third reading assessment.

Looking at this data at a glance, it seemed as if the students did not make sufficient gains. However, after looking with analytical eyes, the students’ improvement was evident. The reading of Little Red Riding Hood retelling dictation showed that all three students gained knowledge to retell the story with more descriptive words along with a more detailed beginning, middle and end.  The reading of The Paper Bag Princess showed that one out of three students (included the student absent for third-read assessment) gained knowledge to retell the story with more descriptive words along with a more detailed beginning, middle, and end.   An example, Student A data from the book Little Red Riding Hood showed that after the first retell reading, the student dictated two sentences without a beginning middle or end (no relevant details from story). Student A, in the third retell reading, however, dictated thirteen sentences with a more descriptive detail of beginning, middle, and end. In student A’s 1st read assessment, she answered several questions with the response “I don’t know” and gave answers to the questions that were not relevant to the story. By the third reading, she gave relevant responses to each question. It also revealed that having prior knowledge of the book Little Red Riding Hood increased the children’s comprehension and retelling skills better than the storybook The Paper Bag Princess.

The teacher/student ratio for children in pre-kindergarten is a one to ten ratio. Due to maintaining ratio and other scheduling restrains, each story was read during the student’s’ learning center time (free choice). This time of the day met with conflict of interest and distraction. By the third read most students’ attention and participation levels had dropped from interested to not interested at all.

Collecting this data has shown three threads worth scrutiny:

  • reading interactive books three times;
  • using a small group; and
  • asking DOK questions

may not show great gains in first-read and third-read assessment scores. However, it showed an increase in how students retold a story with a beginning, middle, and end. It indicated by the third read, students’ attempted to answer the questions with more detailed relevancy. The outcome of this research suggests to me the following:

  • Are these books interesting to young readers?
  • Are these books too wordy (attention spans)?
  • Is it possible to read these books at a different time of the day (with less distraction)?
  • Will it make a difference, if I read unfamiliar books in a large group setting before conducting the three interactive read-alouds?
  • What are effective ways to promote perfect attendance for preschoolers?

I can honestly attest that interactive read-alouds have improved my students’ ability to comprehend and retell stories.  I will definitely continue this method of reading with preschoolers and encourage other early educators to join me. This research has been a true eye-opener.