Within the perspective of life studies, one of the key factors associated with achievement and beneficial success is that of reading. With the ever fast paced demand of literacy and advancement in technology in our daily lives, it is the children who are inept at reading and adapting that will face the overwhelming concerns of educators. According to Bender (2001), approximately 10-15% of children experience explicit reading challenges.
In the National Reading Panel (2006) report, the effectiveness of explicit and systematic early literacy interventions has been documented and the need for more intensive early intervention to help all children read by the end of third grade was also emphasized.
Hall and Indrisano (1995) summarised that first graders' listening vocabulary consist of about 6,000 words, but the student only reads an average of 600 words. As such, they have not grasped sufficient knowledge of their decoding skills in order to read efficiently. However, some students endure mastering their decoding skills to help improve their capability to read unfamiliar words. Nevertheless, even though this is a fact for some students, it is not so for all students. According to Bolger et al. (2006), reading words in an isolated environment creates a separation between the good reader and a struggling reader, thus keeping the struggling reader from improving their reading. Thus, factoring the essentials when learning to read is an important aspect especially when dealing with individuals in the general population whose failure to read and comprehend continues to be a growing concern. Some issues being deliberated by educators who study the reading process include instructional approaches as well as the impact of teacher as opposed to the method of instruction. Multiple studies have shown that struggling readers benefit substantially from multi-sensory approaches when learning to read (Traub & Bloom, 2000; Oakland et al., 1998).
Orton-Gillingham based learning also referred to as a multisensory structured reading approach brings hands, eyes, ears, and voice together to help learners understand and internalize what is taught. The content involves phonological awareness, sound-symbol association, syllable instruction, morphology, syntax, and semantics. The Orton-Gillingham method incorporates insight from disciplines outside the traditional reading, neurology, and speech pathology areas and focuses on structural language skills for instruction. Reading skills for struggling readers may improve phonics instruction that teaches children systematic correspondences between graphemes, how to decode the language, and how to apply them to decode unfamiliar words by sounding out the letters and blending them.
It can be concluded based on research findings that the best method to teach struggling readers is through a multisensory method (Falzon, 2010). Evidence has shown that the application of structured multisensory instruction is one of the best ways to introduce and advance literacy with struggling readers. Although multisensory techniques originated from the field of Learning Disabilities/Specific Learning Difficulties (Thomson, 2003; Snowling, 2000; Augur, 1982; Hornsby & Shear, 1980; Orton, 1976), its use in the classroom situation is increasingly being appreciated (O'Connor, Fulmer, Harty & Bell 2005; Joshi, Dahlgren, & Boulware-Gooden, 2002; Moats, 2000; Adams & Bruck, 1995). It has been proven to be beneficial for struggling learners as it incorporates the different modalities such as the eyes, ears and voice to enhance and retain memory and learning. Traub and Bloom (2000) postulated that teachers using structured multisensory reading programme find the techniques effective when used for children not only with Specific Learning Disabilities (SPLD) but also with all children, resulting in children learning to spell and read more easily at an earlier age.
The Ranch Lane Presbyterian School is situated in a rural area in Central Trinidad. This area was predominantly a sugar cane district where parents worked on the plantations to provide for their families, many of whom are unable to read and write well in order to sustain and teach their children. Therefore, these children struggle on a daily basis to read because of the unavailability of resources and poverty. Absenteeism is also a very serious problem that exists in this district and for this reason students are at a greater risk for reading failure.
Justification for the Study
As a teacher, I have been able to teach a diverse number of students from different educational backgrounds and intelligences. However for the past four years our school has been concerned about the number of children who are struggling to read at the grade three level. In an article written by Annie M. Paul, 2012 entitled, 'Why Third Grade is so Important: The Matthew Effect', it was affirmed that grade three is a crucial and critical grade for students because it is the grade where students no longer learn to read but read to learn. However based on test results from the school under study and teacher observations it was detected that because students were struggling to read at this level, it ultimately affected their fluency and lead to comprehension issues. It is for this reason the researcher is eager to find ways and means of remediating this problem so that it does not affect the child for the rest of his or her life.
The Dyslexia association of Trinidad and Tobago, offers a reading programme yearly for teachers, this Orton-Gillingham programme, is a structured multisensory approach that helps children acquire knowledge by using their senses simultaneously - hear it, say it, see it, feel it, write it (e.g. Orton, 1966; Miles & Miles, 1983; Anders, Hoffman & Duffy, 2000). This technique is simply a teaching strategy which seeks to actively stimulate all available senses simultaneously within a structure and using linguistic knowledge. This programme was planned for individual or small group teaching as they were geared as intervention programmes for dyslexic students; however the resources in the programme are so varied that they can be adapted for inclusive classroom teaching.
In addition, Howard Gardener's theory of Multiple Intelligences validates educators' everyday experience: students think and learn in many different ways, Mindy L. Kornhaber (2001). Since the Multisensory Phonics Instruction also caters to the needs of students with varied learning styles, all children will be given the opportunity to succeed at reading.
From my insight as an educator, it can be noted that throughout the years in the education system, it has become apparent that the breach of proficiency among elementary readers have manifested itself beyond the third grade level. I have also been privy to a diverse number of learners, many of whom struggle with reading. It is the researcher's belief that if this very structured programme is implemented into the classroom, it will yield significant results in the decoding and reading of these students may be observed.
There is a reading problem that exists at the Ranch Lane Presbyterian school in the Caroni Educational District. The problem aforementioned, specifically relates to a number of students who are unable to apply skills related to decoding unknown words. Currently, students are receiving phonics lessons based on a traditional basal reading program in which letter-sound instruction is taught unsystematically in context as the need arises in an attempt to reduce the number of students with reading difficulties. However, students still continue to struggle with basic reading skills. This problem impacts struggling readers because they may not have the essential letter-sound understanding necessary to decode unfamiliar words. Teachers are faced with the task of helping all children become successful readers. This responsibility means that teachers may have to supplement their basal language lessons to include systematic phonics instruction.
It is against this backdrop that the researcher has decided to investigate the impact of a systematic multi-sensory phonics instructional design on the decoding skills of struggling readers in third grade. It is the view of the researcher that if this problem is rectified at an early stage in a student's life reading failures may be reduced or eliminated.
Purpose of the Study
The main purposes of this study are to:
1. Investigate the effectiveness of the multi-sensory phonics instructions as it relates to the decoding skills of struggling third grade readers at the Ranch Lane Presbyterian School.
2. To determine whether or not the multi-sensory phonics instructions improve the attitudes of struggling third grade readers at the Ranch Lane Presbyterian School.
Significance of the Study
This research will help educators by giving them sound strategies for working with struggling readers. This research could have a significant impact on struggling readers because the findings could provide educators, program developers, and researchers with additional data that support multisensory reading programs that systematically and explicitly teaches the essentials skills for reading success. Among the persons who will benefit directly or indirectly from this research are the following:
Ministry Officials - The results of the proposed study will allow them to gain further insight into the current practices employed by teachers in the teaching of phonics to improve decoding skills of students. Results of the findings would also enable them to plan appropriate professional development programmes for teachers that will enable them to enhance their skills in multisensory phonics instruction. Moreover, Ministry of Education officials can use the data to improve the teacher training programmes, provide in-service training at both the school and district level so that greater emphasis can be placed on equipping the teacher trainees as well as trained teachers with the right knowledge of multisensory instructional approaches.
Participating School - The participating school will benefit tremendously from the findings made available to them to improve their instructional practices. The findings of this investigation should not only be beneficial to the participating schools, but also to all primary schools in Trinidad and Tobago.
Students - Students will also benefit from this research as they will not only have the opportunities to learn new strategies being modelled by the teacher , but also new ways of experimenting with the strategies learned as well as demonstrating how they can use the newly acquired strategies on their own, hereby making them independent, strategic readers.
Teachers ' Teachers will have an opportunity to self-reflect on their own teaching, and share experiences with other colleagues on ways to improve their instructional practices.
Definition of Terms
Decoding: A set of systematic strategies for breaking unfamiliar words apart or combining sounds for spelling (Archer, Gleason & Vachon 2003).
Multisensory Instruction: The process of teaching students using their ears, eyes, hands, and voices to synthesize and retain what has been taught' (Henry, 1998).
Phonics: Letter-sound relationships, and the related skills used in analyzing words in to phonemes or larger units and blending them to form recognizable words (Weaver, 2002).
Phonics Instructions: An approach where students are taught individual letter-sound relations and then are taught explicitly to blend these letters into words '(Stahl, 2001).
Systematic Phonics Instruction: An instructional approach that introduces letter sound correspondences in a predetermined sequence (Camilli & Wolfe, 2004).
What is the impact of multi-sensory phonics instructions on the decoding skills and reading attitudes of struggling readers in the third grade at the Ranch Presbyterian School?
1. How will the use of the multi-sensory phonics instructions improve the decoding skills of struggling third grade readers at the Ranch Presbyterian School?
2. How will the use of the multi-sensory phonics instructions improve the reading attitudes of struggling third grade readers at the Ranch Presbyterian School?
This chapter has given an overview of the study: The Impact of Multi-sensory Phonics Instructions on the Decoding Skills and Reading Attitudes of struggling readers in the third grade at the Ranch Lane Presbyterian School. It seeks to explain the background of the study through a systematic approach by highlighting the issue at hand in terms of: the regression of reading in the third grade classroom and how it has impacted on students' attitudes and reading ability; an insight into the multi-sensory phonics instruction approach; and it highlights previous studies and theories which speak to the regression of reading and how the multi sensory phonics instructions can be beneficial in addressing the decoding an reading attitude problems.
Secondly, the chapter gives insight into the problem statement, the purpose of the study and its significance to sensitize one as to why the study is relevant and why there is a need for the researcher to explore this particular topic. It also provides information as to how the study can be useful to the educators, students and officials in the Ministry of Education in Trinidad and Tobago.
Thirdly, definitions of terms have been presented to aid in a clearer understanding of the study and use of the terms further down in other chapters. The chapter also entails brief points of the literature that will be used to support and be used as a reference to the topic as well as the data collected. Chapter one has provided the framework to the study that follows.
CHAPTER TWO: LITERATURE REVIEW
This study explored the impact of multi-sensory phonics instructions on the decoding skills and reading attitudes of struggling readers in the third grade at the Ranch Lane Presbyterian School. As part of this effort, the review of literature delved into extensive studies which highlight the process of reading and the importance of decoding skills; the impact of students' attitudes in relation to reading; it highlighted reasons that influence reading problems; explained the multi-sensory phonics instructions approach; it brought to the forefront studies that support the multi sensory approach; highlighted arguments against the multi sensory approach; and critically discuss why the multi sensory phonics instruction is best suited to overcome the reading issues faced with in the third grade.
Learning to Read: Ehri's Theory
According to Ehri (2005), understanding how written words are recognized is essential to the comprehension of how people learn to read. In 1995, Ehri published a four phase theory about the development of reading skills which has gained much popularity among researchers on the subject area. This theory purports that reading skills develop in these phases; the pre alphabetic phase, the partial alphabetic phase, the full alphabetic phase and consolidated alphabetic phase. In the pre alphabetic phase, visual features and semantics are used to identify words. In contrast, the reader in the partial alphabetic phase uses some letters, mainly the first and last letters, to assist them in pronunciation. Readers in the full alphabetic phase are skilled in using the alphabet to read words and mapping graphemes to phonemes of words that have already been read on a number of occasions. Eventually, there is the consolidation of repeated letter patterns which comes as a result of practicing to read. As it pertains to this study, students in the third grade will be categorized as being in the partial alphabetic phase.
Decoding: Definition and Importance
Generally, reading words occur in four ways: decoding, analogizing, prediction and the use of memory or sight (Ehri, 2005). Decoding, analogizing and prediction are useful for reading unfamiliar words whilst memory or sight is employed when reading familiar words. Considerable emphasis has been placed specifically on the process on decoding because it is considered the basis on which all other reading instruction builds. If students cannot decode words, their reading will lack fluency, their vocabulary will be limited and their comprehension skills will be deficient (National Reading Panel, 2000). According to Archer, Gleason and Vachon (2003), decoding is a set of systematic strategies for breaking unfamiliar words apart or combining sounds for spelling. It is the process of translating print into speech by rapidly matching a letter or combination of letters (graphemes) to their sounds (phonemes) and recognizing the patterns that make syllables and words. Approximately 30% of students do not access the part of their brain that processes language automatically and therefore must be taught decoding strategies very explicitly and systematically (Gillingham & Stillman, 1997).
Reading: The Role of Attitudes and Motivation
Alexander and Filler (1976) stated that reading attitude is 'a system of feelings related to reading which causes the learner to approach or avoid a reading situation' (p.1). Current research suggests that motivated readers hold positive beliefs about themselves as readers (Guthrie & Wigfield, 1997), whereas struggling readers because of their constant failures feel ashamed and demotivated and as such are hesitant to try. Mc Kenna, Kear, and Ellsworth, (1995) developed a model to determine what affects students reading attitude. The model suggests that reading attitudes are a product of 3 main factors: One, the common principle a reader has as a result of reading. That is, the readers evaluate themselves from the result of their reading. Second is the reader's enthusiasm to adhere to others' presumption while in accordance to them, and third, the previous reader's understanding.
It is believed that students' negative attitude toward reading can be changed if teachers understand students reading attitudes as well as the factors that affect these attitudes (Mc Kenna et al., 1995). The ultimate goal of a teacher should be to encourage an active, involved and positive attitude from each of his or her students (Sana Core, 2000). Struggling readers are generally demotivated to read, therefore in order for them to be motivated they need to be engaged; also the instructional strategies must cater for their diverse needs and learning styles.
Kamil (2003) points out that 'motivation and engagement are critical for struggling readers'. Motivation leads to engagement, when students are motivated for example with the resources being used or the classroom activities he or she will want to become engaged which is crucial because engagement over time is the vehicle through which classroom instruction influences student outcomes. For example, engagement with reading is directly related to reading achievement (Guthrie, 2001; Guthrie & Wigfield, 2000). When students excel in their reading achievement they will be motivated to practice more. Practice provides the opportunity to build skills and gain confidence which sequentially will lead to more positive reading attitudes.
Struggling readers usually exhibit low reading skills therefore they are unable to read materials at their grade levels (Fuchs et al., 2001, Therrien et al., 2006). Hence, the need to equip students with the decoding skills necessary, through means that cater to the needs and learning styles of each child. According to Guthrie (2008) when students are unmotivated they can develop an antagonistic attitude towards reading.
A positive attitude produces a motivational impetus that promotes and sustains learning; on the other hand a negative attitude results in a lack of persistent effort, motivation and avoidance of tasks. Some educators believe that a child's positive attitude is the foundation upon which reading growth and improvement are built. Alexander (1983) explains that 'if attitudes, the first prerequisite for reading is not positive then it is likely that the others (motivation, attention, comprehension and acceptance) will not occur at all or will take place hap hazardously' (Alexander, 1983, p. 6).
The ultimate goal of the teacher is to bring about positive change in students reading attitudes. Alexander (1983) further reiterates this point by stating 'the role of the teacher is to foster positive attitude so that all children will want to read'. It is for this reason when lessons, activities and instructional practices are tailored to suit learners and to enable students to be successful the students' attitudes will improve and there will be successful readers in the classrooms.
Possible Causes for Reading Difficulties
Many students struggle in class to read. Research, as discussed below, has suggested that there are several likely causes as to why many students struggle to read and decode words of text on a daily basis. The possible causes may be broken down into two main areas: cognitive causes and causes related to the learning environment.
Students who struggle with reading or exhibit a specific learning disability in reading often display cognitive deficits in phonological awareness, auditory processing, and visual perceptual skills. Researchers have found characteristics of the condition to things such as a deficit in 'phonological awareness', or the ability to decode words into individual sound units to the level of the neuron and even to the gene (Roush, 1995). Many researchers have recognized that poor readers possess structures and activity levels within areas of the brain that are believed to be related to phonological processing. Phonological processing is very crucial for reading as without this skill students will be unable to link the sound to the graphemes this produces a delicate anomaly which can cause a disturbance in the neural system which helps to link the visual representations of the letters to the corresponding phonological framework. These irregularities in phonological processing may appear in more than 20% of the nation's school children (Roush, 1995). It can also be one of the major reasons as to why so many students are unable or struggle to read on a daily basis.
Another causal factor that can affect a student's ability to read is their learning environment. A child's learning environment plays a critical role in his or her learning. When the learning environment does not cater for a child unique learning needs that child is destined for failure.
The environment also plays a crucial part in brain development of a young child. Gabriel (2000) suggests that as early as two or three months, a child becomes familiar with the sounds of language and how to separate and produce them. Therefore early awareness of language and consistent language stimulation such as stories, rhymes and songs can become the stepping stone for future language development and success in reading. A child is born with millions of interconnections between neurons at birth. The brain responds to stimulation in the environment. If a child does not have sufficient language experiences to stimulate the neurons, unused connections would be eliminated. Young (1999) considers oral language, print/book awareness and phonological awareness the areas that parents and childhood educators can develop to promote future success in reading. Young (1999) also stated that children need a vast amount of language experiences from birth on wards to acquire understandings of the meanings, structures and functions of language.
Phonological awareness training is a strategy used to improve children's phonological awareness abilities. Phonological awareness training can involve a variety of activities that focuses on teaching children to identify, delete, segment or blend segments of spoken words.
Phonological awareness training can be used by teachers with individual children, pairs or in small group settings. Phonological awareness training is extremely important as it is an essential element and a precursor for reading progress (Griffith & Olson, 1992).
Phonological awareness training is important to assist students who exhibit phonological awareness deficits, reading difficulties and at risk students. Training for children who exhibits phonological awareness deficits should be age appropriate and highly engaging. It should also be taught using a continuum of complexity that is from the least complex to the more complex activities. At the less complex end of the continuum are activities such as initial rhyming and rhyming songs, as well as sentence segmentation that demonstrate an awareness that speech can be broken down into individual words. At the center of the continuum are activities related to segmenting words into syllables and blending syllables into words. Next are activities such as segmenting words into onsets and rimes and blending onsets and rimes into words and finally the most complex level of phonological awareness is phonemic awareness. Phonemic awareness is the understanding that word are made up of individual sounds or phonemes and the ability to manipulate these phonemes either by segmenting, blending or changing individual phonemes within words to create new words.
Another major issue related to the learning environment of a student who struggles to read is the overall lack of reading practice and they receive out of the school setting. In order to become proficient readers, students should be engaged in reading not only in the classroom setting, but also at home. When this process is facilitated, it will prepare students to become more independent readers and gain a valuable skill that will be with them for the rest of their lives. When children reading skills are enhanced, they will become more motivated to read simply for pleasure. When students do not engage in reading activities outside the classroom environment they are less likely to improve their reading skills as rapidly as the child who reads for at least fifteen minutes a day at home with an adult, this emphasizes the point that parental involvement with literacy may be one of the primary missing links for students who struggle to read.
In summary, the two main causes for weak reading and decoding skills revolve around cognitive and learning environmental issues. The cognitive involves a disturbance in the neural system and the link to the visual representation of the letters to the phonological framework. Whereas the environmental factors stem from the type of training and instructions received to improve deficient areas.
Orton Gillingham Reading Program
The Orton-Gillingham (OG) Approach to reading instruction was developed in the early 20th century. It is language-based, multisensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive, and flexible. This approach has been in use since the 1930s. It is an intensive, sequential, phonics-based system which teaches the basics of word formation before whole meanings. Unlike some rigid reading programs, the Orton-Gillingham approach is a system that allows for flexibility. Samuel T. Orton, known as the "father of dyslexia", initiated the multisensory approach for students suffering with reading disabilities. The multisensory approach is based on the integration of the visual, auditory, and tactile-kinesthetic sensory organs (Gillingham & Stillman, 1997). What distinguishes multisensory structured approaches to reading from other approaches is the content and principles of instruction (McIntyre & Pickering, 2001). Perception of sounds and symbols are taught in two pathways; the ocular to aural path and the aural to ocular path. The ocular to aural path is descriptive of the learner firstly observing a letter which is then followed by listening to the sound that is derived from it. The opposite is true as it relates to the aural to ocular path. Syllabic recognition forms part of the multisensory approach and embraces the coaching of the six syllables basic types associated with the Orton-Gillingham approach. It includes the following: closed, vowel-consonant-e, open, consonant-le, r controlled, and diphthong. Lastly, lessons in linguistics are taught and consist of education on uniting grammatical units to create words and recognize base words and affixes.
The Orton-Gillingham programme has several features:
Language-Based: The Orton-Gillingham approach is based on a technique of studying and teaching language, understanding the nature of human language, the mechanisms involved in learning, and the language-learning processes in individuals.
Multisensory: Orton-Gillingham teaching sessions are action-oriented and involve constant interaction between the teacher and the student and the simultaneous use of multiple sensory input channels reinforcing each other for optimal learning. Using auditory, visual, and kinaesthetic elements, all language skills taught are reinforced by having the student listen, speak, read and write. For example, a dyslexic learner is taught to see the letter B, say its name and sound and write it in the air ' all at the same time. The approach requires intense instruction with ample practice. The use of multiple input channels is thought to enhance memory storage and retrieval by providing multiple "triggers" for memory.
Structured, Sequential and Cumulative: Sound-symbol associations along with linguistic rules and generalizations are introduced in a linguistically logical and understandable order. Students begin by reading and writing sounds in isolation. Then they blend the sounds into syllables and words. Students learn the elements of language'consonants, vowel digraphs, blends, and diphthongs'in an orderly fashion. They then proceed to advanced structural elements such as syllable types, roots, and affixes. As students learn new material, they continue to review old material to the level of automaticity. The teacher addresses vocabulary, sentence structure, composition, and reading comprehension in a similar structured, sequential, and cumulative manner.
Cognitive: Students learn about the history of the English language and study the many generalizations and rules that govern its structure. They also learn how best they can learn and apply the language knowledge needed for achieving reading and writing competencies.
Flexible: Orton-Gillingham teaching is diagnostic and prescriptive in nature. Teachers try to ensure the learner is not simply recognising a pattern and applying it without understanding. When confusion of a previously taught rule is discovered, it is re-taught from the beginning.
Struggling Readers and Multisensory Phonics Instruction
Some students have difficulty reading mainly because they have insufficient phonological awareness. Reading programs that integrate systematic and unequivocal phonemic awareness coaching are deemed to be helpful to struggling readers in primary schools and those with dyslexia (Handler & Fierson, 2011). In 1997, the importance of phonics in reading instructions when teaching students was reiterated in a statement issued from the International Reading Association (Beverly, Giles & Buck, 2002). Evidence based research highlights the effectiveness of phonics instruction in improving the skills of struggling readers (Edwards, 2008). According to Rule, Dockstader and Stewart (2008), kinesthetic and tactile teaching strategies help to reinforce phonological awareness. This also provides validation of the notion that each student learns differently and that one technique will not address the students' needs (Rule, Dockstader & Stewart 2008). According to Shams and Seitz (2008) as the human brain continues to evolve, people learn and operate better in a multisensory environment. Teaching with multisensory instructional strategies would thus prove beneficial for all students. Learning skills through a variety of modalities ensures that our brains are absorbing the information, thus increasing the probability of understanding and retaining the material. Some of the most influential and successful programs that educators have established incorporates the use of multiple senses in their modes and means of instruction (Shams & Seitz, 2008).
Characteristics of Learning Styles
Within every classroom there is a diverse number of individuals which comprise the student population and everyone is unique and learns in a different manner. All individuals develop their personal learning style, which is the one that works best for them. However the learning style that works for one individual may not work as well for another.
According to King (1995) there are three main learning styles which most people utilize: visual, auditory and kinesthetic .Although children utilize one or more of these learning styles one style is more predominantly utilized than the other. The most common learning style utilized in the classroom is visual. According to (King, 1996) sixty percent of the population utilizes the visual modality. Visual learners acquire knowledge best by using their sight and by looking at new information. When learning, they benefit most by writing things down and by looking at illustrations.
The second most common learning style is auditory. Auditory learners make up thirty percent of the population (King, 1996). These types of learners prefer to hear or listen to new information. Students who are auditory learners acquire knowledge by reading aloud and listening to lectures or by hearing or singing songs.
The last of the most common learning styles is the kinesthetic/tactile learner.
Only ten percent of the population is considered kinesthetic/tactile learners (King, 1996).
Kinesthetic/tactile learners learn through hands-on methods where they can touch or manipulate materials. . These activities ultimately help them comprehend and learn because they involve hands-on activities. As ninety percent of the population utilizes a combination of visual and auditory methods as learning styles, it is fairly evident that many teachers present material in their classrooms most often in a visual or auditory manner. It is always important to keep such information in mind when creating instructional lessons.
These varying learning styles lend themselves to differentiated instructions. According to Tomlinson (2000), differentiated instruction is varying instruction to accommodate for the differences in students' learning needs. Differentiation consists of the efforts of teachers to respond to variance among learners in the classroom. When a lesson is adapted by a teacher for specific students in order for them to achieve success that teacher is differentiating their instruction.
In order for an educator to differentiate instruction in the classroom, he or she must address three student characteristics, which Tomlinson (2001) identified as: readiness, interest, and learning profiles. Student readiness addresses how much background knowledge a student has concerning to a topic. Student interest's deals with the topics that students want to learn and how it will motivate them to be engaged in learning. Finally, learning profiles of students involve how students learn, which may be visual, auditory or kinesthetic. Taking into consideration these student characteristics, an educator can effectively differentiate their instruction to address the different learning needs of each student within the classroom.
Differentiating instruction has several benefits for struggling readers. One benefit of differentiating instruction is that it helps teachers address the learning needs of each student. This can be accomplished by targeting the student characteristics Tomlinson (2001) identified as: readiness, interest, and learning profile. When planning for differentiated instruction, knowing students' interests and dominant learning styles, or profiles, can allow the teacher to plan learning activities that specifically target what students would like to learn and how they learn best (Servilio, 2009). Using differentiated instruction in the classroom is not only a way to meet students' learning needs, but it is also a way to motivate and engage students in learning.
The concept of differentiate also appeals to teaching through a multi-sensory approach. There are many similarities in each approach which can be used hand in hand and benefit students in not only decoding what they read but also with the motivational aspect which can influence a change in attitude.
Empirical studies on the effectiveness of the Orton-Gillingham instructional approach on the abilities of struggling readers.
This section of the literature review aims to critically examine the existing literature regarding the effectiveness of the Orton-Gillingham instructional approach to teaching reading to poor readers in elementary school. Such studies were cited in an article written by John (2010) from the University of Western Ontario: School of Communication Sciences and Disorders.
A number of researchers have investigated the effect of using a multisensory teaching approach with children (Foorman et al., 1997; Joshi, Dahlgren, & Boulware- Gooden, 2002; Oakland, Black, Stanford, Nussbaum, & Balise, 1998; Shaywitz et al., 2004; Thorpe & Borden, 1985; Torgesen, Wagner, & Rashotte, 1997). Joshi et al. (2002), Oakland et al. (1998), and Foorman et al. (1997) implemented multisensory treatment approaches based on adaptations of Alphabetic Phonics (Cox, 1985).
Joshi, Dahlgren, and Boulware-Gooden (2002) compared the reading progress of
1st grade children who were taught reading skills through Language Basics: Elementary, a multisensory approach based on Alphabetic Phonics (Cox, 2001) and 1st grade children who were taught reading with a basal reading program. The children in this study were not identified as having a reading disability or being at risk for reading disability. Pre and post test measures were taken on the children's phonological awareness, word attack and reading comprehension. Joshi et al. (2002) found that the 1st grade children taught with the multisensory O-G-based approach made significant gains on post test measures of phonological awareness, word attack, and reading comprehension while the control group children made significant gains only on reading comprehension.
Joshi et al. (2002) attributed the superior performance of the treatment group to the systematic and explicit instruction in synthetic phonics taught in the multisensory approach. However, their study had several methodological flaws that limited their findings. First, the study took place in different classrooms in different schools; this introduced uncontrolled variables such as classroom dynamics, teacher experience, and administrative support. Second, the participants were not randomly chosen or assigned to a treatment or control group; however the specific method of participant selection and group assignment was not explained. Finally, the children in this study were not identified as reading disabled nor considered at risk for reading disability. Therefore, effectiveness of treatment cannot be generalized to children with reading disability.
Continuing the theme of reading-intervention programs with children, Shaywitz et
al. (2004) investigated the effects of a multisensory, phonologically-based reading program (experimental intervention) on the brain activation patterns of children with reading disability. Brain activation patterns of participants engaged in a letter identification task were measured before and after intervention using functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Children were considered reading disabled if they had a standard score of 90 or below on either a test of word identification or word attack and on the average of both tests (Shaywitz et al., 2004).
Over an eight-month period, children identified with reading disability received either an experimental intervention or a community intervention. Children with normal reading ability participated in a community control group. Children with reading disability in the community intervention received whatever intervention was commonly provided in their school setting, including 29 resource room, special education, or speech-language services. No child in the community intervention group did received a systematic, explicit, phonics-based intervention comparable to the one used in the experimental intervention (Shaywitz et al., 2004).
The group receiving the experimental intervention made significant gains on their reading fluency compared to the community intervention group but not compared to the community control group. The fMRI results showed increased activation in left hemisphere regions for the experimental intervention group and the community control group immediately after intervention (Shaywitz et al., 2004). Shaywitz et al. (2004) concluded that the provision of an intensive phonologically-based reading intervention, that used multisensory techniques, brought about brain activation patterns in children with reading disability that resembled those of typical readers.
Unfortunately, like previous studies, some methodological weaknesses interfere with generalization of results. Children in this study were recruited from different populations. The children in the experimental intervention were recruited from a school district in one state. Children in the community intervention group and community control group were recruited from another state from referral sources such as paediatricians' offices and community organizations. Thus, participants were not randomly assigned to the treatment groups and control group.
Despite the confounding variables noted in the study by Shaywitz et al. (2004), it is promising that MRI results showed neurobiological changes in children who received the phonologically-based treatment one year after the treatment ended. In fact, similar findings of neural changes after phonological training in children as well as adults have been reported in the literature (Aylward et al., 2003; Eden et al., 2004; Simos et al., 2002).
This literature review has expounded on many facets crucial to this study and highlighted each in details with supporting studies and literature from various researchers.
Firstly, it discussed the importance of understanding how reading is learned. This point was necessary to expose the audience to the importance of the different phases involved in reading: the pre alphabetic phase, the partial alphabetic phase, the full alphabetic phase and consolidated alphabetic phase. Secondly, the review highlighted decoding as the basis on which all other reading instructions are built. Decoding was one of the aspects in the research question which needed to be addressed. After examining decoding in the literature review, it was concluded that failure to decode leads to lack of fluency, limited vocabulary and deficiency in comprehension.
Thirdly, the reading attitudes of students were examined. The review brought to the forefront, the importance of reading attitude in relation to success in reading. It stated that motivation and engagement are critical for struggling readers. When students are unmotivated they can develop an antagonistic attitude towards reading. This was another major point to be addressed in the research question hence; it was examined in great details. The fourth point undertaken was that of causes for reading difficulties which was broken down into two main areas: cognitive and the learning environment.
The literature review then discussed the Orton Gillingham Reading Program and the many components of it: language based, multi-sensory, structured, sequential, cumulative, cognitive and flexible. It continuously highlighted the fact that this approach caters to the varying learning styles found in the classroom. This approach is also related to differentiated instructions which addresses both, the varying abilities in the classroom as well as provides motivation for struggling readers.
Finally, the empirical studies have found conclusions in favor of the Orton Gillingham multi sensory approach especially in areas of word reading, decoding and comprehension; it also lends support to the study under investigation.
CHAPTER THREE: METHODOLOGY
This study examined the impact of systematic multisensory phonics instruction on the attitudes towards reading and the reading, spelling, decoding and comprehension abilities of third grade struggling readers at the Ranch Lane Presbyterian School. This chapter provides a description of the research design and methodology, data collection methods, instruments, participants and study procedure. Ethical considerations and issues of validity and reliability are also highlighted.
This study utilized an action research design. According to Mills (2000) action research designs are systematic procedures used by teachers to gather information about and consequently improve the operations of a particular educational setting, teaching methods and student learning abilities. This design was deemed appropriate since this study focused on understanding how participants perceive reading, exactly where they are at in terms of reading, spelling, decoding and comprehension and whether or not multisensory phonics instruction can assist in the development of these skills. This research design was facilitated by quantitative data collection methods such as structured interviews, questionnaires and observational analyses.
Action research is a process in which participants examine their own educational practice systematically and carefully, using the techniques of research. It is based on the following assumptions that teachers work best on problems they have identified for themselves, teachers become more effective when encouraged to examine and assess their own work and then consider ways of working differently, teachers and principals help each other by working collaboratively, Working with colleagues helps teachers and principals in their professional development (Watts, 1985, p. 118).
There are different types of action research, however for this study an individual teacher action research was utilised. This type of action research focuses on a single issue in the classroom, which in the case of this study was to investigate whether multisensory phonics instruction will improve the decoding skills and reading attitudes of struggling readers in grade three. Action research has five phases of inquiry first identification of problem area, second Collection and organization of data, third interpretation of data, forth action based on data and fifth the reflection process. These five phase assist the researcher to make the necessary adjust to teaching strategies in order to ensure that all student are successful.
This study utilised a mixed methods approach where there were aspects of both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Even though most of the study followed a quantitative approach, the interview required answers to open ended questions and therefore had to be analysed via a qualitative approach. Qualitative data analysis can be defined as 'working with data, organizing it, breaking it into smaller manageable units, synthesizing it, searching for patterns, discovering what is important and what is to be learned and deciding what to tell others,' (Bogdan and Bikden, as cited in Patton, 1990, p.145). In this study, the process of data analysis sequentially moved from transcribing and horizonalization, to categorizing and coding of the responses from the interview. A larger part of the study however, followed a quantitative research design.
Quantitative research is a formal, objective, systematic process in which numerical data are used to obtain information about the world. This research method is used to describe variables; to examine relationships among variables; and to determine cause-and-effect interactions between variables.' (Burns & Grove, 2005). This study was aimed at determining the effect that the Orton Gillingham multi-sensory approach to reading had on students' attitudes to reading and their decoding skills.
The objective of quantitative research is to develop and employ mathematical models, theories and/or hypotheses pertaining to phenomena. The process of measurement is central to quantitative research because it provides the fundamental connection between empirical observation and mathematical expression of quantitative relationships. In other words, this means that the quantitative researcher asks a specific, narrow question and collects a sample of numerical data from participants to answer the question. The researcher analyzes the data with the help of statistics. The researcher is hoping the numbers will yield an unbiased result that can be generalized to some larger population.
The research sought to investigate the Impact of Multisensory phonics instruction on the decoding skills and reading attitudes of struggling readers in the third (3rd) Grade at the Ranch Presbyterian School and as such the participants were eleven (11) grade three (3) students ranging from eight (8) to eleven (11) years of age. The group consisted of three (3) males and eight (8) females. From the pre-tests administered and previous test scores it was determined that all participants in this study displayed similar learning characteristics such as: poor reading attitudes, struggled severely with reading, comprehension and spelling. The participants were also reading one to two grade levels below their peers.
Data Collection Instruments
Two sets of structured interviews were conducted. In an interview prior to multisensory phonics instruction, participants were asked six questions about their likeness for, enjoyment and frequency of and motivation for reading. They were also asked about the strategies that they use in decoding unfamiliar words (e.g. ??How often do you read? ??). At the end of the eight week period of multisensory phonics instruction, students were asked nine questions in which they were expected to give their opinions about multisensory phonics instruction, how it has assisted them academically and whether or not they would recommend it to their peers (e.g. ??How did the multisensory strategies help you to improve your spelling of unfamiliar words? ??). (See Appendices A & B for interview scripts.)
Participants were observed during each session of multisensory phonics instruction. The researcher utilized a checklist (See Appendix C) to gauge students' level of concentration, involvement, motivation and general demeanor while being exposed to this type of teaching.
Standardised Reading Assessments
Reading Attitude Survey
The Elementary Reading Attitude Survey developed by McKenna and Kear (1990) was administered to each student at the beginning and end of the study period. This survey is a norm-referenced measure that includes twenty statements about reading. Ten of the statements relate to recreational reading (e.g. `How do you feel about starting a new book? ??) while the other ten items pertain to academic reading (e.g. ??How do you feel when the teacher asks you questions about what you read? ??). Four pictures depicting the cartoon character, ??Garfield??, with facial expressions ranging from 'very happy' to 'very upset', follow each item. Students were advised to circle the Garfield picture that best describes their feelings about the statements. Higher values were indicative of more positive attitudes towards reading and the maximum attainable score for each of the subscales was 40 (See Appendix D for this instrument).
The Burns and Roe Reading Inventory is an informal reading inventory that contains background information on how to assess word recognition and comprehension. It includes word lists and graded reading passages with accompanying questions to help assess reading strengths and needs. Word lists were used to identify where students were at in terms of their reading skills and then they were asked to read an unfamiliar test orally to assess comprehension skills and accuracy of words. Students read more difficult passages until they reached their frustration level, i.e. when they have made five or more miscues. This inventory was administered at the beginning and end of the eight week period of multisensory phonics instruction (See Appendix E).
The Elementary Spelling Inventory (ESI) is an instrument used to assess students' spelling abilities and gives insight into the phonics errors that may hamper them from spelling words correctly. It is normally used in the development of remedial plans to counteract such challenges. This instrument was administered to students as a pre-test to determine students' feature points and was also given to them after they were exposed to multisensory phonics instruction. See Appendix F for a sample of the Elementary Spelling Inventory.
The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) were employed to monitor students' progress in reading, spelling, decoding and comprehension. The DIBELS are a set of measures and procedures that are used to assess early literacy skills, i.e. skills from kindergarten up until the sixth grade. Indicators are designed to be short (approximately one minute long) and were used to assess students' academic skills on a weekly basis. See Appendix G for a sample of the DIBELS.
Eleven (11) grade three students of the Ranch Lane Presbyterian School took part in this study. These students were considered to be struggling readers since before this study was conducted; they were reading at least one-two levels below their grade.
At the start of this study, students were interviewed to determine how they felt about reading. Further insight into their attitudes towards academic reading, recreational reading and reading as a whole were gathered as students were also asked to complete the Elementary Reading Attitudes towards Reading Survey.
Participants were exposed to multi-sensory phonics instruction over an eight -week period. Sessions took place daily and lasted for thirty (30) minutes and a maximum of forty (40) lessons were taught. At the beginning of the first session of multisensory phonics instruction, students were administered a word list from the Burns and Roe Reading Inventory to determine their independent reading levels. Students were asked individually to read words from each level. The researcher took note of the number of words incorrect at each level until students reached their frustration level of getting five (5) or more words incorrect. The level at which students get five (5) or more words incorrect will be their frustration level hence, the level prior to frustration level will be recorded as their instructional reading level.
They were then given a passage from the same inventory to read that was consistent with their reading abilities. This process was also done individually without assistance from the researcher. Students were not pressured but were made to understand that it was okay to make errors and move on. The results from this exercise including the number of miscues made were recorded and used to plan instruction for each student.
Correspondingly, students were required to fill out the Elementary Spelling Inventory which was used to determine students' areas of weakness in spelling. At this stage, the words were read aloud for students to write on a numbered sheet of paper. There were no time limits therefore, students weren't under any stress. Each paper was corrected according to the rubric, results were recorded and consequently lessons were planned for them.
In each session of multisensory phonics instruction, students used their different modalities (auditory, kinesthetic and visual) to read, decode and spell unfamiliar words. Each session began with a review and practice of what was previously taught and was then followed by an introduction of the new teaching point. For an example of the lesson unit, see Appendix H. Throughout the eight- week period, the researcher observed the students' behavior during each session and made recordings based on the observational checklist. Students were given a reading and spelling assessment at the last session of every week in order to monitor their progress in these areas. At the end of the eight weeks, the Elementary Attitudes towards Reading Survey, the Elementary Spelling Inventory and the Burns and Roe Reading Inventory were again administered to students. The data collected from the assessments were analysed using both qualitative and quantitative methods where necessary.
The researcher obtained permission from the principal of this school to conduct this research. The school's principal was given a written letter which outlined the nature and duration of the study and gave assurance that the identity of the school and participants will be protected (See Appendix I for a sample of the letter). Given the fact that participants were minors, written consent was acquired from the parents of the students under investigation (See Appendix J for a sample of the parents' letter). Authorization was also sought from the principal of the school used for piloting data collection instruments (See Appendix K for a sample of the letter).The researcher used pseudonyms for the schools and students that participated in each phase of this study. Anonymity and confidentiality concerning persons and information shared was ensured for all participants.
Establishing Validity and Reliability
To assess and subsequently enhance the reliability and validity of data collection tools, all instruments were piloted on September 6th, 2013, a week prior to the commencement of the study. The sample used for the pilot test consisted of five (5) struggling readers in the third grade of a school located in Valsayn, Trinidad and Tobago. No noteworthy challenges relating to the Elementary Attitudes towards Reading Survey, the Roe and Burns Reading Inventory and the Elementary Spelling Inventory were experienced by these students. However, there was some difficulty noted in interpreting two of the questions (Questions 4 & 5) in the pre-interview script which was developed by the researcher for the purpose of this study. Such questions were revised for the main study.
Data Analysis Procedure
The data for this study were collected via a number of techniques, namely structured interviews, observations and questionnaires/instruments. Responses from the pre and post interviews were coded and basic descriptive analyses (frequencies, percentages) were performed for each question that was posed to participants. Similarly, descriptive statistics was used to analyze the observations made about the participants during their eight week exposure to multisensory phonics instruction.
The Paired Samples t Test also called the Dependent Samples t Test was the main statistical analysis used to determine whether there were significant changes in the decoding skills and reading attitudes of participants after multisensory phonics instruction. The paired samples t test is a statistical procedure used to assess whether there was a significant change in an attribute or characteristic of the same group of participants over two reference points. If the probability value (p value) derived from this test is less than the significance level (??) usually .05, then there is a significant change/difference in the attribute. The paired samples t test was also used in this study to see whether there were significant changes in the reading, spelling and comprehension abilities of third grade struggling readers after multisensory phonics instruction.
In addition, the interviews were analysed through a qualitative approach called inductive analysis. To summarize, the process of inductive analysis (Patton, 1990), began with identifying and tentatively naming the conceptual categories into which the phenomena observed were grouped. According to the argument by Strauss and Corbin (as cited in Patton, 1990), the goal of the initial process was to create descriptive, multi dimensional categories which formed a framework for analysis. Categorizing, therefore, involved the grouping of similar words, phrases and events into themes. During initial stages of the analysis the categories or the themes were gradually modified as new insight was brought to the forefront. Lastly, a conceptual model was built through the process of interpretation.
The presentation of this study with respect to referencing and citation of literature within the text and in the reference list is based on the format prescribed by the 5th edition, 2001 of the American Psychological Association (APA) Publication Manual.
CHAPTER FOUR: RESULTS
The data for this study were collected via a number of techniques, namely structured interviews, observations and questionnaires/instruments. Responses from the pre and post interviews were coded and basic descriptive analyses (frequencies, percentages) were performed for each question that was posed to participants. Similarly, descriptive statistics was used to analyze the observations made about the participants during their eight week exposure to multisensory phonics instruction.
Impact of Multisensory Phonics Instructions on Reading Attitudes
Findings from the Elementary Attitudes towards Reading Survey: Paired samples t test was used to determine whether there were significant changes in students' attitudes toward recreational reading, academic reading and reading as whole after they were exposed to multisensory phonics instruction. There was a significant difference in students' attitudes toward recreational reading before and after they were taught using the multisensory approach, t = -6.67, df =10, p < .001. Students displayed more positive attitudes toward recreational reading after multisensory phonics instruction, (M =28.09, SD =2.51) than before they were taught using this method, (M = 25.18, SD =3.34). Similarly, students' attitudes toward academic reading also improved after they were taught using the multisensory method, t = -5.98, df =10, p < .001. Students' attitudes toward academic reading averaged 33 after being exposed to multisensory instruction (M =32.64, SD =1.36) as compared to an average of 26 prior to being taught using this approach, (M =25.73, SD =3.35). Generally, students' displayed more positive attitudes toward reading, t = -8.98, df =10, p < .001. The mean attitudes toward reading score prior to multisensory teaching was 51 (M =50.91, SD =4.68) whilst the same after multisensory teaching was 61 (M = 60.73, SD =3.35). Refer to Figure 1.
Figure 1: Students' attitudes towards reading before and after Multisensory Phonics Instruction
Findings from the Pre-Interview and Post-Interview
From the Pre interview the following information was obtained. 55% of the students noted that they' do not like to read', 27% stated that they 'like to read' and 18% responded that 'they like to read sometimes'. Additionally, 55% of these students reiterated that they 'do not enjoy reading', 9% expressed that 'enjoy reading' and 36% conveyed that they find reading is 'enjoyable sometimes'. The majority of the students stated that they 'read often' (64%) but were 'not motivated' to read (73%). (refer to Table 1)
In the post interview, all students indicated their enjoyment of the phonics activities/lessons and preference of the multisensory method over the traditional method of teaching. Significant changes were observed in students' attitudes towards reading since all students highlighted that the multisensory method of instruction motivated them to read (refer to Tables 1 & 2).
In the post interview, all students indicated their enjoyment of the phonics activities/lessons and preference of the multisensory method over the traditional method of teaching. Significant changes were observed in students' attitudes towards reading since all students highlighted that the multisensory method of instruction motivated them to read.
In the pre interview with students, findings revealed that 100% of students indicated they were not motivated to read , however in the post interview an alarming amount of students revealed they enjoyed reading and that the multisensory approach assisted them in reading and spelling. 91 % of students also revealed that multisensory phonics instruction can improve their reading in other subject areas and an overwhelming 100% of students indicated that they would tell their peers about this type of instruction.(Refer to Appendix L).
Multisensory Phonics Instruction and its Impact on the Reading and Spelling Skills of Struggling Readers in the Third Grade
Impact on Reading Skills
To assess the impact of reading skills on struggling readers in third grade The Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills (DIBELS) was used. The results of several paired samples t tests showed that there was a significant change in students' oral reading skills after they were taught using the multisensory approach, t = -6.68, df =10, p < .001. Students' oral reading scores were better at the end of the eight weeks, (M =98.61, SD =2.62) than at the end of the first week, (M =95.97, SD =2.60). Significant differences were also found between students' oral reading scores in week one in comparison to week two, t = -2.58, df = 10, p < .05, week four in comparison to week five, t = -2.55, df = 10, p < .05 and week seven in comparison to week eight, t = -3.10, df = 10, p < .05. In both instances, students' oral reading scores were higher in the succeeding weeks (Refer to Figure 2). There were no other significant weekly changes in students' oral reading skills (See appendix M for table 3).
Figure 2: Weekly changes in students' oral reading scores (scores reflected as percentages).
The results of similar analyses showed that there was a significant difference between students' retelling scores at the end of the first week and the last week of multisensory phonics instruction, t = -10.85, df =10, p < .001. There were also significant weekly changes in students' retelling scores throughout the eight week period except for between weeks six and seven (See appendix N for Table 4). As is illustrated in Figure 3, students' retelling scores were most times higher in the succeeding week. A decrease in students' retelling scores was observed only between weeks four and five. In week four, the mean retelling score was 17, (M =16.64, SD = 4.15) whilst in week five, students' retelling scores averaged 14 (M = 14.45, SD = 5.09).
Figure 3: Weekly changes in students' retelling scores.
Impact on Spelling Skills.
To assess the impact of spelling skills on struggling readers in third grade the Elementary Spelling Inventory (ESI) was used. Paired samples t test was also used to gauge the impact of multisensory phonics instruction on students' spelling abilities. A statistically significant difference was found between students' spelling scores before and after multisensory instruction, t = -10.12, df =10, p < .001. As is illustrated in Figure 4, the average spelling score for students was higher after they were exposed to multisensory teaching, (M =20.91, SD =3.48) than before they were taught using this method, (M =12.45, SD =2.30).
Figure 4: Students' average spelling scores before and after Multisensory Phonics Instruction
Analyses based on the Elementary Spelling Inventory showed that there was a significant difference in the number of words that students spelt correctly before and after multisensory phonics instruction, t = -10.12, df = 10, p < .001. Prior to being exposed to this method of teaching, students spelt an average of 12 words correctly (M = 12.45, SD = 2.30). The mean number of words spelt correctly after students were taught using the multisensory approach was 21 (M = 20.91, SD = 3.48). The number of feature points that students attained before and after multisensory phonics instruction also varied, t = -7.85, df = 10, p < .001. Students scored higher after they were exposed to this type of instruction, (M = 56.64, SD = 4.68) than before (M = 45.64, SD = 5.75). Overall, there was a significant change in students' spelling abilities after multisensory phonics instruction, t = -9.61, df = 10, p < .001. Students' spelling scores were higher after they were taught using the multisensory approach, (M = 77.55, SD = 8.01) than before they were exposed to this type of teaching, (M = 58.09, SD = 7.69). Refer to Figure 5.
Figure 5: Students' spelling scores before and after Multisensory Phonics Instruction - Results based on the Elementary Spelling Inventory.
The results of similar analyses showed that there was a significant difference in students' spelling abilities at the end of the first week of multisensory teaching and the last week of this type of instruction, t = -6.57, df =10, p < .001. Students performed better in the assessment at the end of the 8-week period, (M =13.27, SD = 2.57) than in the assessment at the end of the first week, (M =9.36, SD =2.37). However, no significant weekly changes in students' spelling abilities were noted (See appendix O for table 5). In contrast, there were significant changes in students' spelling abilities over some two week intervals. There was a significant difference in students' spelling scores in week two in comparison to week four, t = -3.92, df =10, p < .01 and in week four in comparison to week six, t = -3.36, df =10, p < .01. Students scored higher in the assessment at the end of week four, (M =12.00, SD =2.72) than in the assessment in week two (M =10.18, SD =2.75). They also performed better in the assessment at the end of week six, (M =13.18, SD =2.39) as compared to the same at the end of week four, (M =12.00, SD =2.72). Refer to Figure 6. However, there were no marked differences in students' performance in spelling assessments at the end of weeks six and eight, t = -.43, df =10, p >.05.
Figure 6: Changes in students' spelling scores after two-week intervals.
Multisensory Phonics Instruction and its Impact on the Decoding and Comprehension Abilities of Struggling Readers in the Third Grade
Impact on Decoding in Isolation. (Burns and Roe Reading Inventory)
Paired samples t test was also used to assess whether there was a significant change in students' decoding skills after multisensory phonics instruction. There was a significant change in students' performance in the Level 2 decoding activity after they were exposed to multisensory phonics instruction, t = -2.76, df =10 , p < .05. The mean score in the Level 2 decoding activity before multisensory instruction was 95 (M = 95.00, SD = 5.00) while the same after instruction was 99 (M = 99.09, SD = 3.02). Students also performed better in the Level 3 decoding activity after multisensory teaching (M = 95.45, SD = 4.72) than before this teaching method was employed (M = 90.00, SD = 7.07), t = -2.50, df =10, p < .05. Likewise, there was a significant difference in the students' Level 4 decoding scores after multisensory phonics instruction, t = -14.27, df =10, p < .001. Students' decoding score for this level was higher after multisensory teaching (M = 84.55, SD = 12.54) than before they were exposed to this type of instruction, (M = 34.55, SD = 13.50). Refer to Figure 7. Ninety one percent (91%) of the students were able to move on to the Level 5 decoding activity after multisensory phonics instruction. The average decoding score for those who were engaged in this activity was 73 (M = 72.50, SD = 12.30). In contrast, only 55% of the students participated in the Level 6 decoding activity averaging a score of 51 (M = 50.83, SD = 5.85).
Figure 7: Students' decoding scores before and after Multisensory Phonics Instruction
Impact on Decoding and Comprehension Skills. Paired samples t test was also
conducted to test whether there were significant changes in students' decoding and comprehension skills as assessed by Burns and Roe Reading Inventory. There was a significant change in students' decoding skills after they were taught using the multisensory approach, t = -11.61, df = 10, p < .001. Students' average decoding score was higher after multisensory phonics instruction (M = 97.18, SD = 4.09) than before multisensory phonics instruction, (M = 91.36, SD = 4.06). Students' comprehension skills also improved, t = -7.22, df= 10, p < .001. The average score in comprehension before the multisensory teaching method was employed was 45, (M = 44.55, SD = 13.69) whilst after instruction, the average score in comprehension was 69, (M = 69.09, SD = 13.00). Refer to Figure 8.
Figure 8: Students' decoding and comprehension scores before and after Multisensory Phonics instruction ' Results based on the Burns and Roe Inventory.
Students Response to Multisensory Phonics Instruction
Appendix P for table 6 shows the results of the observations made about participants during the eight week period of multisensory phonics instruction. As can be seen from this table, the majority of participants (55%) 'always' stayed on tasks during activities, (91%) were actively engaged during the lesson and (91%) used multisensory strategies to decode words while reading . Similarly, a large percentage of participants (91%) were 'always' eager to participate and do activities/lessons, (73%) were motivated during and after each lesson and (64%) were able to retain and reproduce information after lessons .Generally, (55%) of students 'sometimes' displayed positive attitudes during activities, (91%) tried to improve weak areas by putting in regular practice and (55%) of students tried to do the task again if declared unsuccessful in the first attempt .
Appendix Q for table 7 indicates that results of students' ability to decode words in isolation utilizing the Burns and Roe Reading Inventory. Initially students started reading words at their independent level (Level 2) on the word list, which from the table shows all students scoring above 90%. Instruction started at the instructional level (Level 3). However after Multi-Sensory Phonics Instruction over an eight week period all students showed remarkable improvement as they were able to independently read words at Level 4, which was initially their frustration level. Moreover, 91% of students were also able to independently at level 5 and 55% of students were able to independently read at Level 6. These results indicate a significant improvement in students decoding skills in isolation after Multi- Sensory Instruction was administered.
Figure 9 shows the individual changes in students reading attitudes after eight weeks of multisensory phonics instruction. As can be seen from the figure all students showed improvements in their reading attitudes after instruction was received. Additionally, significant improvements in reading attitudes were seen from Ashley who initially scored 43% before multisensory instruction and moved to 61% after instruction; Seema in her pretest scored 50% and improved to 64% after receiving instruction. Sheerece also showed substantial improvements in her reading attitude as she excelled from 46% in the pretest to 58% after instruction. These post test results indicate that students overall attitudes towards reading was improved.
Figure 9: Individual changes in attitudes toward reading as a whole after Multisensory Phonics Instruction.
Figure 10 shows individual changes in the spelling scores attained by students after multisensory phonics instruction was administered. It was also noted that students made significant gains in their spelling scores after receiving type of instruction. Although the results showed overall improvements in spelling some students must be noted and recognized for example Dhanraj a student that was struggling immensely made a spelling gain from 39% to 56 % , Seema from 63% to 83 % , Sheerece from 53% to 85 % and Chelsea from 64% to 83%.
Figure 10: Individual changes in the total spelling scores attained after Multisensory Phonics Instruction ' Results based on the Elementary Spelling Inventory
Figure 11 shows the individual changes in comprehension skills after multisensory Phonics Instruction was administered. Before students were exposed to multisensory instruction their comprehension skills were severely low with some students scoring as low as 10%, and 40%, this was as a result of their inability to fluently read and decode words which ultimately affected their comprehension abilities. However, after receiving systematic instruction using the multisensory approach it was visible as seen in the figure that student's comprehension scores surpassed way beyond their initial scores, with students scoring as high as 80% in the post test from 50% in the pretest.
Figure 11: Individual changes in comprehension skills after Multisensory Phonics Instruction- Results based on the Roe and Burns Reading Inventory
This chapter gave a comprehensive overview of the results gleaned from the pre and post-test as well as the weekly assessments carried out during the research process. Tables and graphs illustrated an explicit picture of the results garnered from the research. Pre and post- tests scores were compared to determine whether improvements were being made and whether adjustments were needed during instruction. Individual students' scores were also illustrated on graphs to show where improvements were made and by how much.
At the end of the analysis based on the results it was determined that students made remarkable improvements in their decoding skills, reading attitudes, oral reading, spelling and comprehension.
DISCUSSION, CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
The research investigated the impact of systematic multisensory phonics instruction on the decoding skills and reading attitudes of struggling readers in the third grade at the Ranch Lane Presbyterian School. This chapter presents a discussion of the findings present in the previous chapter in light of the relevant literature.
Discussion for Research Question 1: How will the use of the multi-sensory phonics instructions improve the decoding skills of struggling third grade readers at the Ranch Presbyterian School?
The findings of this study showed that there was a significant improvement in the decoding skills of struggling third grade readers after they were exposed to multisensory phonics instruction. Kinesthetic and tactile oriented strategies such as the multisensory approach has a direct impact on the cognizance of readers as it relates to phonics (Rule, Dockstader & Stewart, 2008). According to Handler and Fierson (2011), struggling readers in primary schools stand to benefit from reading programs that systematically and plainly concentrate on phonics. The Orton Gillingham multi 'sensory approach created the opportunity for students to succeed in decoding the literature read and hence, provided the foundation they need to continue at higher levels of reading and decoding. A good foundation in phonics is deemed to be a determinant of the abilities of students to decode words which will in turn positively affect their reading abilities.
It has been noted that people learn better in an environment that is multisensory (Shams & Seitz, 2008). As seen in this study, the multi-sensory approach which lends itself to differentiated instruction played a vital role in catering for the diverse learners within the classroom. During the study period, students were all instructed using methods to accommodate their varied learning styles. Students were thus encouraged and motivated to learn which lead to an improvement in their decoding skills. In other words the students enjoyed what they were doing and the activities related to their specific and unique learning styles which lead to long term learning taking place. According to Thomilson (2001), instructions in every classroom should be organized to account for the differences in students' learning needs, readiness, interest, and learning profiles.
The positive results from the study showed the effectiveness of the Orton Gillingham multi-sensory approach on students' decoding skills.
Discussions for Research Question 2: How will the use of the multi-sensory phonics instructions improve the reading attitudes of struggling third grade readers at the Ranch Presbyterian School?
Students' attitudes towards reading generally improved after they were exposed to multisensory teaching. During the study period, participants were actively engaged during each multisensory lesson. They were eager to participate and demonstrated their motivation during and after each session. All students stated in the post interview that they preferred the multisensory approach and were now motivated to read and spell better. The results of statistical analyses confirms such conclusions as a significant improvement was noted in students' attitudes towards reading as a whole and more specifically academic reading and recreational reading.
This is a noteworthy finding since reading attitudes is the first precondition for reading (Alexander, 1983). Guthrie (2001) also posits that engagement with reading is directly related to reading achievement; when students experience success they will be more motivated to read. This results in more positive attitudes which produce a motivational stimulus that promotes learning, motivation leads to engagement and when students are engaged they become more engrossed and eager to learn (Guthrie, 2001).Thus, knowing students' interests and dominant learning styles, or profiles, can allow the teacher to plan learning activities that specifically target what students would like to learn and how they learn best (Servilio, 2009).
Research has shown that efficient decoding skills are essential for proficient reading. Students who fail to develop their decoding skills will not be able to read properly nor are they likely to succeed in school (National Reading Panel, 2000). Students in this study made remarkable progress in their reading after they received multisensory instructions. At the end of the study, students were able to read two levels above their initial reading levels. Furthermore, six of the eleven students were able to move three levels above their reading levels over the eight week period of multisensory phonics instruction. These students were able to do so because they applied all the necessary skills needed to read and decode words.
Cunningham and Stanovich (1998) made an imperative point that students who receive excellent decoding instructions are off to a fast start in reading and are motivated to read widely. Moreover, this wide reading further enhances the development of reading skills and achievement of those students. In contrast, students with poor decoding skills are motivated to avoid reading and their failure to read limits their progress in reading skills and their ability to achieve academically. As a consequence, the gap between achieving and non-achieving readers widens as they progress through school. In other words, according to Cunningham and Stanovich (1998) 'The rich get richer and the poor get poorer.' Thus, decoding fluency is of monumental importance in that it unlocks the world of reading.
Before this study was conducted, students struggled severely with their reading comprehension. Looking at the pre-test scores as seen in Figure 11, students' comprehension skills were significantly low. However after students were exposed to the eight weeks of multisensory phonics instruction their comprehension skills significantly improved. Research has shown that a deficit in decoding skills acts as a primary reason for problems in reading comprehension (Adams, 1990). According to Ranski (2004), reading fluency forms a bridge from decoding to comprehension. If a student spends too much time deciphering words or looping syllables together, this slows down the reading pace and prevents them from focusing on the general meaning of what is being read. When a reader's decoding skills is automatic, more cognitive energy can be spent on making meaning of the text , because they don't have to focus on decoding words and they can use all of their energy to think critically about what a text means.
The study not only revealed the effectiveness of the multi sensory approach but it also showed significant improvement in students' comprehension and spelling skills. Therefore, it can be implied that strong decoding skills is the foundation for other language skills namely, comprehension and spelling as identified in this study.
There were significant changes in students' retelling scores after multisensory phonics instruction. According to Owocki (1999), retelling assist children rethink what was read in a text, thereby enhancing their understanding. Retelling is one way to determine whether students comprehend what was read. In order to be able to retell accurately students must first be able to decode and read fluently. The retelling activities after each passage was read were critical as to determine whether students' abilities to decode in context really improved their comprehension skills.
The researcher also wanted to verify that student's improved decoding abilities really did have a significant impact on students retelling abilities. Based on the findings, the results were a clear indicator that students' decoding abilities did have a positive impact on their retelling abilities. Students were able to thoroughly comprehend which allowed them to retell in detail what they had read and understood. Multisensory instruction aids the struggling reader to retain information long after it is taught because it encompasses different modalities (auditory, visual, and kinesthetic).
According to Shaywitz and Shaywitz (2000), poor phonological decoding and poor phonological awareness are correlated with poor spelling ability. Thus, an improvement in decoding abilities also implies a progress in spelling. Spelling is important to the development of word knowledge (Ehri, 1999). However, reading and spelling words are not isolated, separate procedures, but these procedures attract the same types of fundamental word knowledge, i.e., the type of alphabetic information a child uses to read words is the same type of information they use to spell words (Ehri, 1999). There was a significant improvement in the spelling skills of participants which can be attributed to their increased abilities to decode words.
While all efforts were made to ensure reliability and validity some limitations were noted. Firstly, because this study was an action research the results may not be generalized beyond the specific population from which the sample was drawn. Secondly, the study was confined to one school in one educational district. Thirdly, although the Orton-Gillingham Reading Program is a well-established reading program it does not address the four ways to read words as established by research (Ehri, 1995). Finally, the Burns and Roe Reading Inventory was the only reading inventory used throughout this study, this can be cited as another limitation.
Despite these limitations, the study provided detailed findings from various sources which enabled the researcher to compare the decoding skills and reading attitudes of third grade struggling readers before and after multi-sensory phonics instruction was conducted. Participants in this study benefitted significantly as their decoding skills, reading attitudes and reading, spelling and comprehension skills all improved as a result of this method of instruction.
Implications for Future Research
It is suggested that future research should be done within the grade one classes, so as to gain a more comprehensive picture, since research has stated that early attainment of decoding skill is important as it can give a clear indication of later skills in reading comprehend and ultimately reading success (Beck & Juel, 1995). It is also suggested that if this study is conducted as early as at the Grade one level, by the time the student enters grade three (3) they most likely would not be struggling with reading. Future studies of a similar nature should also be done using students from different schools in different educational districts, to determine whether the Multisensory instructional approach will yield similar or different results.
The results from this study suggest that the Orton Gillingham Multisensory phonics instruction used by the researcher in this study helped students to improve their decoding skills, which ultimately improved their spelling, comprehension and overall reading attitudes. It is therefore recommended that this multisensory instructional approach be continued. It is also recommended that teachers select reading materials that are of high interest to children. Interest inventories can be used by teachers to enable them to select materials that will satisfy the needs and interests of all children in the class. Students should also be given access to a wide choice of reading materials and allow them to choose what they want to read. Students should also be provided with a classroom library which has books on many reading levels and genres such as, magazines, newspapers, graphic novels, and comic books. These resources are usually motivating for struggling readers as it gives them the opportunity to read material besides texts books.
It is also recommended that teachers should also make 'Read Aloud' part of their daily classroom routine and read to students daily. Read aloud helps to build students curiosity, it is also very powerful because it serve many instructional purposes such as to motivate, encourage, excite, build background, develop comprehension, assist children in making connections, and serve as a model of reading fluency. Allington (2001) postulated that in order for students to develop literacy skills they must be given opportunities to practice their comprehension under the guidance of their teacher and read aloud permits this opportunity. Harvey (1998) noted that Read aloud are essential as it unearths a child curiosity which is needed to develop literacy.
Teachers should ensure that books and classroom reading materials are readable and are at the student's instructional or independent reading levels. This is important so as to keep students motivated to read and prevent them from becoming frustrated with reading material that are beyond their reading levels. Guthrie (2001) emphasized that when students are motivated this leads to engagement and when students are engaged they become more captivated and enthusiastic to read.
Teachers should encourage Co-operate Reading amongst students. Bramlett (1994) stated that cooperative reading leads to improved academic performance, increased motivation toward learning, and more time on task. Klinger (1998) also found that cooperative learning can be beneficial for student of varying reading abilities, as it gives the child opportunities to be in control of their reading, thus allowing them to share their learning experiences with their peers.
Teachers should give students multiple opportunities to practice what they have learnt and to provide the opportunity to repeated readings .According to Craver and Hoffman, 1981 struggling readers with decoding problems benefit significantly from repeated reading methods, where the teacher allows the student to do a combination of the following; read the material more than once, listen to the text before reading or read with immediate support from the teacher on the first or second reading. This helps to boost students' fluency and comprehension skills.
Teachers should provide students with opportunities to access technology based reading instruction- computer programs make reading easier and more interesting it also makes instruction more enjoyable and exciting for struggling readers. Many students who struggle with reading are bored with the traditional methods of book reading and therefore need to be motivated and encouraged, hence many educators have turned to computers and electronic materials to assist students who have difficulties reading (Higgins & Boone,1997; Kulik & Kulik, 1991) because of the graphics and pictures that are available on the internet students may be more motivated to use the computer to complete reading and assignments because of the change of instruction.
Parents should also be educated about strategies they can use at home to help improve their children reading, comprehension, decoding and spelling skills. Parents need to also be mindful that they should encourage a love for reading at home from a very young age. This can be communicated by holding meetings and having workshops conducted by educated individuals in the field of reading.
In addition, the Ministry of Education can use the findings in this study to inform reading practices carried out in schools. This can be done through the University of Trinidad and Tobago by modifying the reading courses to incorporate more of a multi-sensory approach when delivering phonics and the various reading instructions used in schools.
The aim of this study was to investigate the impact of a systematic multisensory phonics instructional design on the decoding skills of struggling readers in third grade as well as whether this type of instruction will improve their reading attitudes. It can be concluded from this study that systematic multi-sensory phonics instruction did have a positive effect on struggling grade three students' decoding skills and reading attitudes and consequently their reading, spelling and comprehension abilities.
The Multisensory approach has been proven based on this study to have several significant benefits to struggling readers such as increased learner engagement. Students were actively engaged throughout the entire research as the strategies incorporated in the study catered for their different learning styles.
Another benefit was improved attitudes towards learning. Students were more eager to read and engage in reading activities after this instructional approach was administered to them. The third benefit was greater student achievement; students performed almost 100% better after multisensory instruction was administered.
In conclusion, it is obvious that the multi sensory approach to teaching reading was of great benefit to the all students. Being able to read is one of the most integral aspects in education. It is the foundation on which all other curricular areas are developed. In so saying, when students are not motivated to read at a young age it can be detrimental to their education. Hence, it is of utter importance that educators at all levels, especially the early years of learning, understand how crucial it is to reach every child in their reading class. This study has shown the importance of motivating students to develop a love for reading, which is one of the first steps to teaching reading. Students of varying learning abilities exist in all classrooms and therefore, traditional methods of 'chalk and talk' may not work for all children. The Orton Gillingham multi sensory approach caters to varying learning styles and will reach out to the majority of students in the classroom. When educators develop proper reading skills in students, they are also preparing them for all other areas in their education.
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