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Purple arrow (1137 bytes)Integrating Media to Enhance Story Comprehension of Young, At-Risk Children

REFERENCE: Sharp, D.L.M., & Risko, V.J. (1993). Integrating Media to Enhance Story Comprehension of Young, At-Risk Children. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the International Reading Association, San Antonio, TX.

Description of research:

CONTEXT: A book-making project in a MOST environment. The MOST Environment. The Young Children's Literacy Project at Vanderbilt University includes ongoing research on accelerating the development of literacy in young children who are at-risk for school failure. The project focuses on developing basic verbal skills and literacy skills as they relate to story comprehension in at-risk kindergartners.

The researchers have developed a set of goals that use integrated media, including videos, to target the needs of these children. They have designed and implemented what they call "MOST environments" -- Multimedia Environments that Organize and Support Text.

The researchers use integrated media (oral language, computers, print and videodiscs) to create supportive environments where at-risk kindergartners can successfully practice "mental model building." More specifically, the researchers find that presenting a video framework is effective in helping children to build a mental model of a story and in using that mental model for language practice. For example, by using video to accompany the beginning of a story (when characters and setting are introduced), children are provided with a mental model framework. They can then use that mental model to comprehend later sentences in the story which are not accompanied by video.

The book-making project involves young at-risk children who typically are not highly motivated to participate in the more traditional verbal tasks and comprehension discussions. To engage these children and generate discussion, they focus their efforts on creating their own books which they can print out and take home.

The project begins by having the kindergartners view the Miss Emma video, a story produced in both video and storybook form which contains a story as well as a story-within-the-story. The students then revisit the video to help them sequence the set of pictures they will put in their book. To assist in the sequencing process, the children can see a short dynamic clip of any picture by clicking on it. Also, they can return to the video at any time to check their order, thus reinforcing the basic strategy of returning to the story to validate comprehension.

Next the sequenced pictures are placed in a SuperCard "book" on the computer, and the children work with the teacher/experimenter to add text. The teacher elicits statements from the students, who then orally record their sentences on the computer. Again the students can revisit the scenes in the video to help them participate in the dialogues, and they can listen to their recorded voices and add information if they wish. The teacher then types in the text. Since the children initially tend to produce only basic descriptions of the picture, the teacher uses a set of prompts to elicit the important story elements and thereby provides a model to help the children develop a storyline and even make inferences. The children are prompted to add these story elements and inferences, and then add icons and pictures to the storyline. The children also can choose to view a computer animation character who "walks and talks" through the storyline on the screen.

Outcomes: Research on the book-making project and other MOST environments is still in progress; these children will be followed through the second grade. The initial reactions of the children have been very encouraging and the MOST environments in general appear to be enhancing children's comprehension. An important feature of MOST environments is that they are designed to support a wide variety of individual differences in linguistic and conceptual development. A project goal is to make it possible for at-risk children to interact with, teach and learn from other students who may be developmentally more advanced. Researchers would like to gradually reduce the role of the teacher and have the children assume primary responsibility for the dialogues. They also would like to reduce the amount of video support they provide as children acquire language and reading skills.

Diana L. M. Sharp, Box 45 Peabody, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37203.

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This material was developed by the National Center to Improve Practice (NCIP), located at Education Development Center, Inc. in Newton, Massachusetts.  NCIP was funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs from October 1, 1992 - September 30, 1998, Grant #H180N20013.  Permission is granted to copy and disseminate this information.  If you do so, please cite NCIP.   Contents do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by NCIP, EDC, or the U.S. Government.  This site was last updated in September 1998. 

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