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Candidate Work Sample: EDL/EDF


The Effects of Literature Based Instruction

on Comprehension Achievement

Jane Q. Student

Southeastern Louisiana University


The purpose of this study is to determine the effects of literature-based instruction on the comprehension achievement of sixth grade reading students. The scores of the reading comprehension subtest from the IOWA Test of Basic Skills will be used as a pretest. The experimental group of this study will use literature-based instruction in their reading class for one year while the control group will use traditional basal instruction. The scores of the current year’s reading comprehension subtest from the IOWA Test of Basic Skills will be used to obtain posttest scores for both the experimental and control groups.

The Effects of Literature Based Instruction on Comprehension Achievement


The purpose of this study is to examine whether the use of literature-based instruction will affect student comprehension achievement in a middle school reading classroom.

Review of Related Literature

Are there differences in comprehension when students are exposed to literature-based instruction instead of traditional basal based instruction? Do the differences exist for all readers? Do the differences exist in all areas of learning? What are the best ways to incorporate literature into the classroom? As educators are looking for ways to provide students with more realistic learning experiences we look for answers to these questions more and more. Gipe et. al. (1997) sees literacy education moving toward literature-based instruction. Children’s literature has even been used to enhance the development of at risk students.

            Literature-based instruction is not limited to the reading classroom. Guthrie et. al. (1996) found that students gained in comprehending informational text as well as several other higher order thinking skills when basal and science textbooks were replaced with trade books. According to Edgington (1998) children’s literature can entertain the reader while providing information. Edgington argues that while social studies textbooks are useful they are not as detailed, passionate, or interesting as literature. However, as Edgington states, research validates literature as a possible supplement to the social studies textbook, not a replacement. In using literature across the curriculum, students see that some of the same topics they are studying are explored as subject matter for novels and short stories.

            Strategies and activities that are most effective with literature-based instruction should be determined Gipe et al (1997). This means that the most effective use of literature in the classroom setting should be considered before it is incorporated into instruction. Fielding and Pierson (1994) believes that through repeated situations of students reading and discussing whole texts with teachers and peers they will be able internalize effective comprehension strategies.  

Harmon (1998) points out that literature-based reading programs can be fruitful grounds for vocabulary teaching and learning at the middle school level. Students that were engaged in a variety of literary task focused on critical reading and problem solving. Teachers demonstrated how a literature-based program could teach vocabulary through overlapping components of instructional learning episodes. This would mean that students would engage in activities where they would read both self-selected and teacher selected material and share through peer group and whole-class interactions. Rather than learning to read words from list children are taught to read words in context. The use of literature in vocabulary instruction shows that the student is learning vocabulary through contextual experiences.

McClain (1985) stated that traditional literature is rich in vocabulary, language development, cultural traditions and presentation of human similarities. Traditional literature allows the critical reader to read between the lines and maintain an alert and questioning mind. This helps when students are reading text for the purpose of acquiring content knowledge. Kuntz (1994) stated that in using literature books, instead of programmed basal readers, students are given the choice of what they are to read. Through choice the student is allowed to claim ownership over his or her own learning. 

Walmsley and Walp (1990) state that genuine reading involves experiencing real literature on a variety of levels. They endorse a wide variety of reading materials for elementary students. Inclusion of children’s literature as an integral part of reading instruction has a high probability of benefiting learners in their oral and written language acquisition Gipe et. al. (1997).

Gipe et. al. (1997) states that reports on the effects of literature-based instruction in general document success. However, this does not constitute the use of only a literature-based method of instruction. I believe that finding a middle ground, a place where basal and literature based instruction are used together will help to enhance the learning experience of the students.


It is hypothesized that students using novels to study literary elements will score statistically significantly higher than those students not using novels with respect to reading comprehension.

Operational Definitions

For the purpose of this study, the students involved will be both females and males enrolled in a regular education, sixth grade reading class in a public school. A preset group of two classes of thirty students will use young adult literature (novels), while the other two classes will utilize a basal reader. The pretest and posttest scores for each class will come from the reading comprehension portion of the IOWA Basic Skills test.


Research Design

            This study will be a quasi-experimental study in which the independent variable will be the use of novels. The non-equivalent pretest posttest control group design will be used to compare the reading comprehension achievement of a group that will use novels with a control group that will use basal readers. The dependent variable is reading comprehension achievement as measured by Reading Comprehension subtest of the IOWA Test of Basic Skills scores from the previous year and the current year’s IOWA test scores.


Four sixth grade regular education classes at Westside Junior High will comprise the convenience sample for this study. The students will be heterogeneously grouped and the majority of the students will be of middle socioeconomic status. Two predetermined classes consisting of 30 students each will use novels and the other two predetermined classes will use basal readers. The same instructor will teach each class. This study may be generalized to all students at Westside Junior High. 


            The Reading Comprehension subtest of the IOWA Test of Basic Skills (ITBS) will be used as both a pretest and posttest for the purpose of this study. The purpose of this test is to measure the students’ comprehension achievement on passages created by the  authors of the IOWA Test of Basic Skills Test. The test consists of 30 multiple-choice questions.  This tests measure of stability has been shown to be .80. The authors of this test relied on expert judgment to develop the validity of content. Sufficient reliability and validity show this test to be a useful measure of comprehension achievement.


            Four intact regular education sixth grade-reading classes at Westside Junior High will be used to conduct this study. One group consisting of two classes of 30 students will be designated, as the experimental group while the other group, also consisting of two classes, will be the control group. The experimental group will utilize young adult and children’s literature throughout the school year for reading instruction. The control group will use the Houghton Mifflin sixth grade reading series throughout the year for reading instruction. Pretest scores for this study will be collected from the scores from the previous years IOWA Test of Basic Skills reading comprehension subtest. Posttest scores will be derived from the current years IOWA Test of Basic Skills reading comprehension subtest.

Data Analysis

            For the purpose of this study an ANCOVA statistical test will be used to analyze the data.


Edgington, W. D. (1998). The use of children’s literature in middle school social studies: What research does and does not show [Electronic version]. The Clearing House, 72, 121-126.

Fielding, L. G., & Pearson, P. D. (1994). Reading comprehension: What works [Electronic version].  Educational Leadership, 51, 62-68.

Gipe, J. P., Richards, J. C., & Barnitz, J. G. (1993, December). Literacy Growth of Urban “At-Risk” Children taught by university students using literature-based instruction. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the National Reading Conference, Charleston, SC. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED364832) 

Guthrie, J. T., Van Meter, P., McCann, A. D., Wigfield, A., Bennett, L., Poundstone, C. C., et al. (1996).  Growth of literacy engagement: Changes in motivations and strategies during concept-oriented reading instruction. Reading Research Quarterly, 31, 306-332.

Harmon, J. M. (1998). Vocabulary teaching and learning in a seventh-grade literature-based classroom. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 41, 518-529.

Kunze, C. R. (1994). Improving the reading comprehension skills of unmotivated fifth grade students through literature-based instruction. Fort Lauderdale, FL: Nova University. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. ED369074)

McClain, A. B. (1985). Using traditional literature to teach critical reading skills. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Far West Regional Conference of the International Reading Association. Portland, OR. (ERIC Document Reproduction No. ED260381)

Walmsley, S. A., & Walp, T. P. (1990). Integrating literature and composing into the language arts curriculum: Philosophy and practice. The Elementary School Journal, 90, 252-274.





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