KU Center for Research on Learning

KU Center for Research on Learning

Boy working at a desk, writing with a pen on a piece of paper.

The Text Pattern Intervention

Download this profile (PDF)

Struggling adolescent learners have language needs that are frequently not addressed by content area teachers. Recently, disciplinary literacy efforts have emphasized the teaching of discipline-specific strategies, which vary by subject matter. However, the language structures that appear in academic textbooks remain quite similar across the content areas. Only after learning about these language patterns will struggling readers be prepared to engage in disciplinary literacy strategies such as sourcing, self-questioning, and corroborating.
This intervention was developed using a design-based research sequence, which serves to address particular problems that arise in local contexts. More specifically, the literature on evidence-based practices was merged with practitioner knowledge to design a teacher-friendly approach to teaching students how to interact with language as they engage in reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.

Why Teach Text Patterns?
Even good readers may demonstrate difficulty understanding advanced passages of text when they lack knowledge about technical terminology and discipline-specific ways of thinking. In addition to content-area knowledge, subject-matter experts use complex language structures, including noun phrases that change concrete verbs into abstract ideas and connectives that join two ideas together. Academic writers also use passive voice to distance themselves from their message and to appear more objective, which often results in longer sentences that are harder to understand. For example, the sentences in the following text contain passive voice (italicized), multiple noun phrases consisting of three or more words (underlined) and connectives (bold):

The reason for the marked differences in the sensitivity among studies evaluating venous ultrasound imaging for asymptomatic proximal venous thrombosis is uncertain. Because of this relatively high incidence of thrombosis despite primary prophylaxis, routine venography before hospital discharge in addition to primary prophylaxis is advocated for by some authorities to detect silent deep venous thrombosis in patients who have major orthopedic procedures.

In contrast to students with average language comprehension skills, poor comprehenders frequently cannot construct meaning from the language patterns that appear in grade-level textbooks. Before struggling readers can recognize the similarities and differences between discipline-specific texts (and contexts), they must learn how authors use noun phrases and connectives to convey meaning.

How Does It Work?
This intervention teaches students how academic writers use passive voice, noun phrases, and connectives to convey information to their readers. The manual has been organized into six lessons, in addition to pretest and posttest measures. Each lesson builds on previous instruction so that students learn how to approach content-area text in a scaffolded way as they proceed through explicit instructional procedures. The intervention includes the following prerequisite skills that students need to comprehend content-area texts:

Page 1 of 3 pages for this article  1 2 3 > 

Frances Ihle, doctoral fellow
Don Deshler, KUCRL director

During the validation study, the author of this intervention provided professional development and instructional coaching on a weekly basis to three teachers as they taught the Text Pattern Intervention, which really paid off.

• After learning the Text Pattern Intervention, students earned significantly higher scores (+28.71) than their peers (+0.97) when answering questions about a 400-word social studies passage.

• Results of a satisfaction survey, which used a 7-point Likert scale, indicated that both the teachers (6.22) and the students (5.31) viewed the intervention as helpful.

1) Preliminary Phase: Define the setting demands and determine how to address the problem.

2) Prototype Phase: Develop the intervention and seek practitioner input.

3) Pilot Phase: Field test and refine the intervention.

Back to main profile page.