To what degree will learning to use context clues impact students' reading comprehension scores?
Teachers of English Learners (EL) are continually looking for ways to improve their students' reading comprehension. This action research focuses on improving learners' English reading comprehension by teaching students to use context clues. There is debate among the research on the value of teaching context clues to ELs and some of the research stresses the importance of increasing student vocabulary over the use of context clues. The author of this study agrees that increasing student vocabulary will be one of the most effective tools in increasing reading comprehension, but sees a need to give students strategies, which they can use independently to increase their reading comprehension outside of the classroom. The study pre-tested adult EL students on non-fiction and fiction texts, gave them explicit instruction and modeling on how to use seven types of context clues and then post-tested the students on both non-fiction and fiction texts. The results showed significant increases in the comprehension scores of all adult EL students on at least one of the text genres. However, when students were given a time limit for the reading task, only two students continued to increase their reading comprehension scores. A follow up study was conducted with a group of EL fifth grade students. The study pre-tested the students' reading comprehension on a non-fiction reading passage, gave them explicit instruction and practice on using five types of context clues, and then post-tested the students on a second non-fiction reading passage. The students showed a 5% to 21% gain in reading comprehension after receiving context clues instruction.