Thursday, August 20, 2009

Topic: Amelia Bedelia, Ambiguity and Comprehension Instruction

10-second review: Showing third-grade students how to manipulate the ambiguous meanings in the Amelia Bedelia series improved comprehension on one measure, but not on a longer, standardized group test.

Title: “Using Semantic Ambiguity Instruction to Improve Third Graders’ metalinguistic Awareness and Reading Comprehension: An Experimental Study.” M Zipke, LC Ehri and HS Cairns. Reading Research Quarterly (July/August/September 2009), 300-321. A publication of the International Reading Association (IRA).

Quote: "Metalinguistic awareness (MA) is the ability to focus on and manipulate the formal properties of language—specifically, the ability to analyze, think about, talk about or play with language as an object separate from its meaning in or out of context.” p. 300. [Becoming aware of words as words can improve comprehension? RayS.]

Example of Ambiguity: “The man’s nails were sharp.” Could be his fingernails or razor-sharp extensions or the set of nails with which he was building something. p. 301.

Quote: “Ambiguity detection qualifies as a type of metalinguistic awareness in that students much consciously wield control over their mental processes and recognize that words and sentences have double meanings and to re-process those meanings.” p. 317.

Quote: “This research also holds implications for reading comprehension instruction. Present findings suggest that teaching children to manipulate language, write riddles, and read ambiguous text, such as the popular children’s series Amelia Bedelia, increases their understanding of ambiguity and their reading comprehension.” p. 317.

Comment: Another example of how children’s literature can contribute to improving reading comprehension. The first time I, a secondary teacher employed as K-12 Supervisor of Language Arts, read Amelia Bedelia, I couldn’t stop laughing. What a delightful experiment. And I don’t doubt that students’ comprehension would improve when students enjoy sorting out the double meanings. You’ll need to read the full article to learn about the activities the authors used to help third graders understand the concept of ambiguity. RayS.

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