Qualitative action research study

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This investigation was a qualitative action research study. As the review of the literature revealed, an experimental, quantitative study is not possible for measuring Critical Reading Strategies. In this study, there was only one small group of students and no other group to which they were compared. A semi-structured interview technique was used to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the answers to the research question. Students were pulled aside to participate in a one-on-one interview. They were asked the same set of questions; however, some of the questioning was extended because of the answers that the students give using a semi-structured interview guide.

It should be noted that the observations and interviews were conducted by the students'

own classroom teacher. While action research may contain bias, it can be kept to a minimum by having the researcher remain objective and factual in reporting the data collected. Action research in one classroom was a justifiable technique for this project because randomly selecting first grade students from different schools and school systems would have a negative effect on the data since the students' background on reading instruction and SSR processes would be different.

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Mertler (2006) highlights four important reasons to conduct action research in the classroom: connecting theory to practice, improvement of educational practice, teacher empowerment, and professional growth. Usually, an inservice is provided for teachers to assist them in developing best practices for the classroom. This second party may be presenting a one size fits all program that may not benefit each teacher. Action research by the teacher in their own classroom closes the gap of unrelated information by allowing teachers to collect and analyze data in their own classroom and then connecting theory to best practices (Mertler).

Improvement of educational practice is another reason for action research to be conducted. Mertler states, "The truly successful teachers (i.e., those whom we call experts or "master teachers") are those who constantly and systematically reflect on their actions and the consequences of those actions" (p. 14). Action research allows for teacher empowerment which encourages decision making and risk taking to make changes in instructional practice (Mertler).

Finally, action research provides teachers with professional growth that assists them in giving them a voice in their own professional development (Mertler).

Participant Demographic Data

Data were collected from 18 students in the first grade at a sub urban, Northwest Ohio elementary school. There were approximately 450 students in this preschool through fifth grade school. There were three first grade classrooms with 17-19 students in each room. The students ranged in age from six to seven. There was one Hispanic student and one student was African American. The remaining students were Caucasian. Parents of the children involved in the study would be classified as middle to lower middle socioeconomic class. Only two of the children participated in the free or reduced lunch program. The school counselor met with four of the students, individually, for 15 minutes a week for emotional or behavioral issues.

None of the students to be observed were formally identified as children with special needs. While no ne of the children have been formally assessed to identify giftedness, four students were supplemented with gifted and talented intervention services once a week for 30 minutes. There were seven students who have received, or are currently receiving, Title I services for reading intervention 30 minutes a day, five days a week. All of the students were together in a regular education classroom. Students had seven months of reading instruction before the interviews take place.

Student Educational Data

The school system these children attend has adopted Cunningham's Four Blocks reading and writing program (Cunningham, Hall, & Sigmon, 1999). Students were taught phonics and whole language at a developmentally appropriate pace to help them to reach, maintain, or exceed the level of achievement in their reading skills. This particular classroom also implemented the Phonics Dance program which teaches children ways to retrieve information on how to decode and spell difficult "hunks and chunks" of words (Dowd, 1999). With these programs, the following were some of the skills taught: fluency, phonics, hunks and chunks, word wall words, sequencing, prediction, characters, main idea, and favorite part of the story.

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One part of the Four Blocks program was self-selected reading. In this block, students were encouraged to select books at their independent reading level and then the students read silently for a 20- minute period of time. The books were labeled with reading ability level and students were aware of their own reading levels. The labels consisted of four different sticker colors: blue, yellow, green, and red. Students were encouraged to read at their assigned reading level, but could also choose other levels. This suburban school has an ample supply of books organized according to genre or category and reading ability.

Instrumentation

To answer the question about how reading skills taught in the classroom are transferred to

silent reading time, a series of questions on a semi-structured interview guide were asked by the researcher (see Appendix A). As students answered the given questions, other questions were generated. Some of the questions were prompted by the students' responses. The questions were developed by the researcher. These questions were asked on a one-on-one basis and took place in the child's classroom.

Data Collection

The interview process was conducted in the classroom on a one-on-one basis. Responses

were documented on paper and on audiotape. Responses were by the interviewer on the

questionnaire.

Data Analysis

The data collected from interviews were analyzed to determine whether students utilize their silent reading time to the best of their ability and make the most of that reading experience. All students remained anonymous and pseudo names were used instead. Data were analyzed using an inductive process (Mertler, 2006), which means that "the researcher begins with specific observations (i.e. data), notes any patterns in those data, formulates one or more tentative hypotheses, and finally develops general conclusions and theories" (p. 124). Findings were grouped according to different themes and patterns. Not only were similarities in student responses be categorized, but also differences. Once they were organized, a description of the students' responses was developed. Finally, interpretations were made once all the organized data was analyzed.

Summary

The purpose of this case study of silent reading was to determine whether reading instruction and techniques to decode and comprehend text were transferred and utilized by first grade students during independent reading experiences. These first graders were from a suburban school and the researcher was their classroom teacher. Students were questioned (see Appendix A) on how they chose books, if they read them during the allotted time, and what they might do if they came across an unknown word or what they would do if something did not make sense.

The children were interviewed one at a time and questioned orally. This information provided insight to answer the research question: To what extent do first grade students apply what they have learned in class to silent reading time?

APPENDIX A

SEMI-STRUCTURED INTERVIEW GUIDE

1. Do you read during silent reading time?

a. If no or sort of, why not?

b. What do you do during silent reading time if you do not read or sort of read?

2. How do you pick books?

The following may be used to prompt ideas: cover color (level) buddies background knowledge interest teacher read it author reread easy

3. Why do you use this method for selection books?

4. Do you read the same books over and over or do you pick new ones? Why?

5. When you come to a word you don't know during silent reading, what do you do?

The following may be used to prompt ideas:

hunk and chunks word wall words guess the covered word skip, reread and come back use the picture look and the first letter stretch out the word ask a friend ask the teacher nothing

6. Why do you do this?

7. While you are reading a book, what are you thinking about?

8. Why do you think about these things?

9. When you are "in charge" of getting the book bin during silent reading, how do you

decide what book bin to choose?

10. If books are not labeled with stickers, how do you choose which book to read?

11. How did you learn to do this?

APPENDIX B

PARENT CONSENT LETTER

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Bowling Green State University, Department of Education Curriculum and Instruction

A Case Study of First Grade Student Use of Silent Reading Time I am a graduate student working on my master's thesis. I am researching the use of silent reading time by students. I want to discover if the skills taught in the classroom are being used during silent reading time by my first grade students. I will be asking your child a series of questions about what he or she does during silent reading time. The interview will be approximately 10 minutes long and will take place during a non instructional time during the school day. I will be audio taping the interview. The cassette tape will be secured in my home after use, and then destroyed once the study is complete in June, 2006. By allowing me to interview your child, you will be helping me and other researchers understand how to better instruct students in reading.

I will not use your child's name or school name in order to make certain that your child's identity will be kept confidential. By signing at the bottom of this letter, you agree to let me use your child's responses in my research study. Your child's participation in this study is voluntary.

You may withdraw your consent to the research at any time without prejudice or penalty.

Whether or not your child chooses to participate will not impact any grades, class standing, or relationship with the school.

If you wish to contact me, please call me (Stephanie Pawlaczyk) at 824-8614 ext. 2538. My advisor, Cindy Hendricks, is also available for questions at 372-7341. You may also contact the Chair, Human Subjects Review Board, Bowling Green State University, 372-7716, if questions or problems arise during the course of the study.

Thank you for considering my request to interview your child. If you give permission for

your child to participate in my project, please write your child's name below and sign this form.

Once your permission is granted, I will ask the student if they would like to answer some

questions about silent reading. If they agree, I will proceed with the questioning. If they do not want to answer the questions, I will stop the interview immediately.

Name of child: _____________________________________________________

Legal Guardian Signature: ______________________________ Date: ________