Making the Most of Opportunities:

Close-Up Views of a SAGE Program

A Report of the Collaborative Action Research Project of the SAGE Program

at Webster Stanley Elementary School, Oshkosh, WI, 1999-2000

Suzanne Doemel

Reading Resource Teacher

Research Question

What factors facilitate arriving at metacognition of word attack strategies in emergent readers? Metacognition is the reader's ability to know what they know and what they don't know. It occurs when a reader is conscious of their own powers of thinking. I was concerned about those readers in first grade who did not achieve the metacognition of the word attack strategies of picture cues, first letter, known chunks, second try, and context. Why didn't they achieve it and what were the factors involved in their failure to do so?

Research Methods

I chose a group of five first grade emergent readers, based on the diversity of the group, the socioeconomic level (middle class to poverty), and the ability level. The group came to my reading room midmorning four days per week for thirty minute Early Intervention Reading (EIR) lessons in which readers were directly instructed in word attack strategies through reciprocal teaching and think alouds as well as one-on-one conversations.

Suzanne Doemel, Reading Specialist Teacher, encourages children to read as well as teaches them reading strategies in her reading classroom.

I completed four rounds of the Marie Clay Observation Survey's six subtests to show individual growth over time. I had classes videotaped and then analyzed for reader metacognition of word attack strategies. I interviewed students on metacognition of word attack strategies. I kept anecdotal observation records of daily demonstrations of metacognition by individual readers. I administered running records on each reader weekly. Parents were asked to note word attack strategies used by their children during home reading. Dr. McCall observed and analyzed my EIR lessons to note the direct instructing of readers in word attack strategies and the development of metacognition.

Main Findings

My research confirmed the effectiveness of direct teaching of word attack strategies to low achieving readers. The use of reciprocal teaching and think alouds modeled the strategies I wanted the students to use independently and consistently. The reader's internal motivation and home practice were determined to be important factors in achieving metacognition. A reader's own growth pattern appears to play a major role, not in achieving metacognition, but in the scaffolding of the strategies to move through more challenging text.

As a result, I will always use the direct instruction of word attack and comprehension strategies through the use of think alouds and reciprocal teaching. Home practice will be provided at school when it is not available at home. With all other factors accounted for, I would only surmise that their rate of achieving consistent, independent use of the learned strategies is commensurate with their own personal growth patterns. This research project fulfilled my hope that provided me with direction in how to assure that ALL of my first grade emergent readers become aware of what they do when reading unfamiliar text; that they "know what they know."

Suzanne Doemel works with a small group of second graders in signing out books to take home to read.

SAGE Program