KU Center for Research on Learning

KU Center for Research on Learning

High school student sitting at a desk, reading 'Lord of the Flies'.

Investigating Sound Effects

Investigating Sound Effects
The ability to read printed words is a prerequisite to understanding what you are reading. For secondary school students faced with increasingly difficult course work, developing the necessary word recognition skills to cope with the demands of content is no easy feat. In addition, older students with significant word reading difficulties display marked deficits in other literacy skills, including spelling. Research into interventions to improve adolescents’ reading and spelling performance have made promising progress, but more work remains. For example, interventions that have improved adolescents’ reading and spelling performance have focused primarily on teaching basic phonemes or rimes (word parts), but not necessarily on vowels in particular, though recent evidence suggests that facility with vowels has more influence on reading success than skill with other phonemes. In addition, research on improving adolescents’ reading and spelling has neglected to evaluate student motivation. This is important because students of all abilities exhibit less interest in reading as they enter adolescence, and struggling readers who have endured repeated failures are at particular risk.

We looked at both of these issues—focus on vowels and student motivation—in our study, “The Effects of Rime-Based Instruction on Adolescent Struggling Readers: The Impact of Color-Coded Vowels.” The primary purpose of this study was to examine the effects of Sound Effects, a basic reading intervention, on adolescent reading and spelling skills. Sound Effects focuses on supporting adolescent struggling readers with medial vowel identification (the vowels found in the middle of words) using rime units (word parts) and is structured to provide basic decoding skills without decreasing students’ motivation for reading. This research—conducted in two studies—considered reading and spelling variables as well as motivation variables.

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Examine the effects of Sound Effects on adolescent reading and study skills.

Carrie Mark, KUCRL doctoral fellow
Donald D. Deshler, KUCRL director


Study 1
Single-Case Design

Study 2
Group Design—Random Assignment

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