Update: What does the research tell us about language & literacy?
Research Spotlight: Zipoli, R. P. (2017). Unraveling Difficult Sentences. Intervention in School and Clinic,52(4), 218-227.
A prominent feature of literate language is the longer and more advanced syntactic structures found in decontextualized academic discourse and written text, including sentence structures that appear with relatively low frequency during casual conversation, such as verbs with a passive voice, subordinate clauses, and sentences with multiple layers of embedding (Benson, 2009; Scott, 2009; Snow & Kim, 2010). Not surprisingly, an understanding of sentence structure, or syntax, is generally recognized as making a substantial contribution to students’ comprehension of written text (Moats, 2000; RAND Reading Study Group, 2002; Scott, 2009; Snow & Kim, 2010; Spear-Swerling, 2015; Van Dijk & Kintsch, 1983)
Unfortunately, many educators and clinicians appear to lack the syntactic knowledge and instructional skills needed to support students’ comprehension of difficult sentence structures (Justice & Ezell, 2002; Moats, 2000; Moats & Foorman, 2003; Roth, 2014; Snow, Griffin, & Burns, 2005; Steffani, 2007).
The boy who lost the dog walked home. Students will incorrectly conclude “the dog walked home.”
5. Comprehension problems with multiple clauses or with producing sentences with multiple clauses occur in particular with students with working memory, processing speed issues and with English learners We lost the game // because our running back fumbled the ball // after he was hit. Students will only be able to identify 1 or 2 clauses and/or leave out key details of the sentence.
Erickson’s Big Takeaways:
This is a fantastic article detailing 4 major syntactic structures that affect reading comprehension. It also provides excellent pedagogical strategies and techniques teachers can use to teach these structures to students.
Click here to download an adaptation of 2 of these strategies here.