The Effect of a Morpho-Phonemic Intervention on Decoding and Comprehension of Complex Academic Words for Bilingual Students with Reading Difficulties.



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Background: The high rate of increase in the amount and complexity of English academic vocabulary in upper elementary years poses a challenge for bilingual students who exhibit reading difficulties. It is well documented that phonemic awareness and morphological awareness are associated with word decoding skills; and morphological analysis, the ability to infer meanings of complex words based on morphemes, is correlated with vocabulary knowledge and reading comprehension. A growing body of literature has examined the impact of morphological or phonological skills on students’ reading outcomes. However, a combined effect of an integrated morpho-phonemic approach such as using morphological segmentation and phonological awareness (e.g., multi-syllabic flexibility) instructional techniques for young bilingual students with reading difficulties remains unknown. Purpose: This study examined the impact of a morpho-phonemic intervention on decoding and comprehension of morphologically complex academic words for upper elementary bilingual students with reading difficulties. The research questions for this study were 1) To what extent does morpho-phonemic instruction improve the decoding and comprehension of complex academic words taught during the intervention for bilingual students ages 9-11 years with reading difficulties? 2) To what extent does the gain from morpho-phonemic intervention retained for exposed words and transferred for the decoding and comprehension of unexposed words? Method: This study used a single case multiple-baseline-across-participants design with three staggered Tiers receiving varying baseline and intervention lengths. Four students from a metropolitan area of the Southwestern United States participated in three consecutive phases: baseline, intervention, and post-intervention. One participant was assigned to Tier III, one to Tier II, and two to Tier I. All participants received individual sessions via a digital interactive platform and were assessed on their word decoding and comprehension skills after each session. Each session lasted between 30 to 40 minutes. For the intervention phase, a group of 15 suffixes was instructed to all participants either once (Tier III, 5 sessions), twice (Tier II, 10 sessions), or three times (Tier I, 5 sessions). Each session comprised six target derivatives (two per suffix) and six example words. The percentage of correct responses for each session was used to conduct a visual analysis and calculate the effect sizes. Results: The visual analysis of data indicated an increase in average performance levels from baseline to intervention for all participants on word decoding and comprehension. The Non-Overlap of All Pairs (NAP) effect size for word decoding was moderate to large for three participants (NAP= 0.72-0.96) with one student showing a small NAP= 0.33. The NAP for word comprehension was small for all except for one participant, showing a moderate NAP= 0.84. For the post-intervention phase, two students demonstrated retention and transfer of gained skills in word decoding and comprehension measures. One student retained and transferred skills, while one only retained skills for word comprehension. Conclusion: These findings suggest that bilingual students with reading difficulties can benefit from explicit targeted instruction with an emphasis on the linkage between phonological and morphological analysis to increase their word reading and comprehension abilities.



Keywords: decoding, Comprehension, Bilingual, Elementary, Multiple-baseline single-case design, Morpho-phonemic analysis