31 SES 02 A, Reading, Spelling and Vocabulary in Language Education
Approximately 15% of students in Austrian primary schools have a nationality different from the Austrian (Statistik Austria, 2017). Far more elementary students, however, speak another first language (L1) than German, which is the language of instruction (ÖIF, 2016). About 28% of elementary students are second language (L2) learners. Often, L2 learners face challenges in reading acquisition. In Austria, the gap between L1 and L2 learners in reading abilities has recently been shown to be nearly two years (Wallner-Paschon, Itzlinger-Bruneforth, & Schreiner, 2017).
In large scale studies, 16% of Austrian Grade 4 students did not even possess “basic competences” in reading (Wallner-Paschon et al., 2017). These “basic reading competences” refer to the ability to locate, process and use important information in written texts (Mullis, Martin, Kennedy, Trong, & Sainsbury, 2009). The comprehension of the words a certain text is built of is based on two other abilities, namely decoding and vocabulary knowledge (Perfetti, Landi, & Oakhill, 2005). The decoding process comprises a lexical and a non-lexical route (Coltheart, 2005).
Decoding is a necessary pre-condition for reading comprehension (Clarke, Truelove, Hulme, & Snowling, 2014) and was shown to predict reading comprehension (Lai et al., 2014).When children are good decoders, they do not have to sound out each word and more mental energy is available for comprehension processes (Boland, 1993; Perfetti, 1985). Decoding ability usually develops during the first grades and its correlation with as well as its importance for reading comprehension declines over time (Kershaw & Schatschneider, 2012; Padeliadu & Antoniou, 2013). In contrast, the importance of language abilities increases (Ennemoser, Marx, Weber, & Schneider, 2012). Receptive vocabulary is especially important for reading comprehension (Bialystok, 2007; Ennemoser et al., 2012). In numerous studies, L1 learners have been shown to outperform their L2 peers in vocabulary knowledge (e.g. L2 English: Goldberg, Paradis, & Crago, 2008; L2 German: Klassert, 2011). To adequately address this backlog and to foster reading abilities, it is important to recognize it as early as possible (Verhoeven, 2011; Foley, Sangster, & Anderson, 2013). Vocabulary tests for primary school students have been requiring an individual setting so far (e.g. WWT 6-10: Glück, 2007; MSVK: Elben & Lohaus, 2000; PPVT-4, Dunn & Dunn, 2007; SET 5-10: Petermann, 2012). In daily school life, however, these settings are hard to implement for teachers.
This presentation analyzes one relevant area that is important for the question how all children can be properly fostered in reading lessons. To implement high quality inclusive instruction, accurately assessing the students’ current state of development is a crucial element (Ready & Wright, 2011). Teachers reported, however, that they feel not sufficiently prepared concerning methods to assess reading abilities (Schmich & Lanzdorf, 2017). Two recently developed instruments that focus on assessing reading and language abilities in Grades 1-3 students are to be presented. The tests assess two important pillars of reading, namely decoding and vocabulary knowledge. One special feature of both tests is that they consider L2 learners on several levels: First, L2 learners were considered in the norming sample (proportionately as L2 learners were part of the primary school population at the time of standardization: 26.6%, Statistik Austria, 2015). Frequently, other reading and vocabulary tests are standardized in monolingual samples. Additionally, both instruments offer standards tables for the whole population of Grade 1-3 students as well as particular tables referring to L2 learners. This was done to look towards L2 learners’ potentials rather than focusing on deficits.
The tests showed satisfying quality criteria in the sample representing the elementary school population as well as in the sample just considering L2 learners.
The tests were standardized and their quality criteria were examined in a sample of 2641 students from Grades 1-3 at the beginning as well as at the end of the academic year. The decoding test (authors, 2018) is used in a one-on-one setting. This individual test offers opportunities to assess three different aspects of decoding. First, the lexical route of the decoding process is assessed by instructing the student to read as many words as possible from a list in one minute. Second, the same procedure is used for the non-lexical route with a list of non-words whose construction was based on the words (50% of the letters of each word were kept and the other 50% were changed: vowel by vowel and consonant by consonant). Third, due to the comparability in terms of characteristics of words and non-words, the test offers the opportunity to calculate an overall decoding score. The vocabulary test was constructed as a group test, which is –as already mentioned–a rather rare characteristic for a vocabulary test (individual tests: e.g. WWT 6-10: Glück, 2007, 2000; SET 5-10: Petermann, 2012, PPVT: Dunn & Dunn, 2007). In total, 30 words (each 5: nouns, composed nouns, categories, verbs, adjectives, and prepositions) are presented orally to the classroom. Students should choose the fit in one of four pictures. The three distractors are in every case either phonologically or semantically similar or they are unrelated. An overall score is calculated by summing up the correctly solved items. Both tests showed satisfying quality criteria. The decoding test’s re-test reliability was found to be between rtt=.89 and rtt=.97 and the vocabulary test showed a re-test reliability of rtt=.89 - .97. Besides, the vocabulary test showed a Cronbach’s Alpha between α=.79 and .88 as well as a satisfying split-half reliability of rtt=.70 - .87. For the decoding test, these criteria were not applicable because of the speed component in testing. The tests’ construct validity was shown to be good. Their inter-correlation (vocabulary and decoding test) was r=.11 - .26. Their correlation to tests measuring comparable constructs, however, was higher: decoding: r=.84-.93 with the SLRT-II (Moll & Landerl, 2010) and vocabulary with the WWT 6-10 (Glück, 2007) r=.55 - .89.
One of the interesting features of the two tests is the opportunity to compare L2 learners to two different norm samples. One sample refers to students generally, considering the respective Grade (1-3) and the respective measurement point (beginning or end of the academic year). In this sample, L1 and L2 learners are considered with respect to their distribution within the population of primary school students in Austria. This is a rare feature because many tests were standardized on a monolingual sample which does not reflect the real class composition in Austrian primary schools. Additionally, the tests offer the opportunity to relate L2 learners test scores to a sample consisting of L2 learners. This decision was made based on two facts. First, teachers have had claimed the lack of an instrument offering this additional opportunity. This claim was based on the wish to not see L2 learners always in comparison to a group of L1 learners but also in terms of their standing and their progress compared to other L2 learners. Besides this claim from practice, also the statistical conditions (size of the sample, existence of differences in scores between L1 and L2 learners on many levels and continuingly satisfying quality criteria for the sub-group of L2 learners) were also in favour of a separated norm for L2 learners. In terms of differences between L1 and L2 learners, t-tests showed that there are relevant differences between the two groups in several sub-samples. In the decoding test, L2 learners revealed at the end of the academic year in Grade 2 (t=2.41, p<.05) and Grade 3 (t[318.37]=2.10, p<.05) weaker scores. In non-lexical decoding abilities, L2 learners lacked behind their L1 peers at the end of Grade 3 (t[318.37]=2.10, p<.05). In the vocabulary test, L2 learners showed weaker achievement at all measurement points.
Authors (2017). Test on vocabulary. Göttingen: Hogrefe. Authors (2018). Test on Decoding. Göttingen: Hogrefe. Bialystok, E. (2007). Acquisition of Literacy in Bilingual Children: A Framework for Research. Language Learning, 57(1), 45–77. Clarke, P. J., Truelove, E., Hulme, C., & Snowling, M. J. (2014). Developing reading comprehension. Hoboken: Wiley-Blackwell. Coltheart, M. (2005). Modelling reading: The dual-route approach. In M. J. Snowling & C. Hulme (Eds.), Blackwell handbooks of developmental psychology. The science of reading. A handbook (pp. 6–23). Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. Dunn, L.M., & Dunn, D.M. (2007). Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT), 4th edition. San Antonio: Pearson. Ennemoser, M., Marx, P., Weber, J., & Schneider, W. (2012). Spezifische Vorläuferfertigkeiten der Lesegeschwindigkeit, des Leseverständnisses und des Rechtschreibens. Zeitschrift für Entwicklungspsychologie und Pädagogische Psychologie, 44(2), 53-67. Klassert, A. (2011). Lexikalische Fähigkeiten bilingualer Kinder mit Migrationshintergrund. Eine Studie zum Benennen von Nomen und Verben im Russischen und Deutschen. Dissertation, Philipps Universität Marburg. Lai, S. A., George Benjamin, R., Schwanenflugel, P. J., & Kuhn, M. R. (2014). The Longitudinal Relationship Between Reading Fluency and Reading Comprehension Skills in Second-Grade Children. Reading & Writing Quarterly, 30(2), 116–138. doi:10.1080/10573569.2013.789785 Lenhard, W., & Schneider, W. (2006). Ein Leseverständnistest für Erst- bis Sechstklässler (ELFE 1-6). Weinheim: Beltz. Moll, K., & Landerl, K. (2010). SLRT-II – Verfahren zur Differentialdiagnose von Störungen der Teilkomponenten des Lesens und Schreibens. Bern: Huber. Österreichischer Integrationsfond (ÖIF) (2016). Kinder & Jugend. Statistiken zu Migration & Integration 2016. Retrieved from: https://www.integrationsfonds.at/publikationen/zahlen-fakten/migration-integration-schwerpunkt-kinder-und-jugend/ Perfetti, C. A., Landi, N., & Oakhill, J. (2005). The Acquisition of Reading Comprehension. In M. J. Snowling & C. Hulme (Eds.), Blackwell handbooks of developmental psychology. The science of reading. A handbook (pp. 227–247). Malden: Blackwell Pub. Petermann, F. (2012). Sprachstandserhebungstest für Kinder im Alter zwischen 5 und 10 Jahren (SET 5-10). 2. Aufl. Göttingen: Hogrefe. Ready, D., & Wright, D. (2011). Accuracy and inaccuracy in teachers’ perceptions of young children’s cognitive abilities: The role of child background and classroom context. American Educational Research Journal, 48(2), 335–360. doi:10.3102/0002831210374874 Statistik Austria (2015). Bildung in Zahlen 2013/2014–Tabellenband. Retrieved from: http://www.statistik.at/web_de/services/publikationen/5/index.html Statistik Austria (2017). Migration und Integration. Zahlen. Daten. Indikatoren 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.integrationsfonds.at/publikationen/zahlen-fakten/statistisches-jahrbuch-2017/ Verhoeven, L. (2011). Second Language Reading Acquisition. In M.L. Kamil, P.D. Pearson, E.B. Moje, & P.P. Afflerbach (Eds.), Handbook of Reading Research (pp. 661-683). New York: Routledge. Wallner-Paschon, C. Itzlinger-Bruneforth, U., & Schreiner, C. (Hrsg.) (2017). PIRLS 2016. Die Lesekompetenz am Ende der Volksschule. Erste Ergebnisse. Graz: Leykam.
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