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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Effects of Instructional Conversations and Literature Logs on the Story Comprehension and Thematic Understanding of English Proficient and Limited English Proficient Students

  • Author(s): Saunders, William M.
  • Goldenberg, Claude
  • et al.

As part of an ongoing "component building" (Slavin, 1984) program of research designed to estimate the effects of several individual components of a Spanish-to-English language arts transition program (Saunders, O'Brien, Lennon, & McLean, 1998), an experiment tested the effects of two instructional components—literature logs and instructional conversations—on the story comprehension and thematic understanding of upper-elementary-grade students. Five teachers and 116 fourth and fifth graders participated in the study. Slightly more than half the students were English learners completing their first or second year of English language arts. Teachers had completed one year of literature log and instructional conversation training. Students were randomly assigned to one of four treatment conditions: literature logs only, instructional conversations only, literature logs plus instructional conversations, and control. Posttests found significant differences among treatment groups. Students in the instructional conversation and the literature log plus instructional conversation groups scored significantly higher than the control group on story comprehension. Moreover, students in all three experimental groups were significantly more likely to demonstrate an understanding of the story themes than students in the control group. The combined effects of literature logs and instructional conversations on students' essays about a story's theme varied by language proficiency: For limited English proficient students, the combined effects of literature logs and instructional conversations were greater than the effects of either treatment condition alone. For fluent English proficient students, however, the combined effects were not significantly greater than the effect of one treatment condition or the other.

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