The effects of four different text structures on the retellings of fourth and sixth grade students
The purpose of this study was to analyze the influence of different expository text structures on fourth and sixth grade students' written retellings. Although previous research has shown that text structure can assist in understanding and recalling text, little work has been done with the use of different expository text structures by elementary school students, who typically have difficulty with expository text.
The basic questions of the study were
(1) Is there a difference in students' use of structure or number of idea units?
(a) in retellings of passages presented in four different structures?
(b) in the retellings of students in grade four compared with those in grade six?
(2) Is there an interaction between structural pattern and grade level in the use of structure or the number of idea units?
(3) Is there an interaction between structural pattern of text and topic in the use of structure or the number of idea units?
Subjects were thirty-nine students in each grade with average and above average reading ability. Using passages in four top-level structures identified by Meyer (1975) -- collection/description, problem/solution, comparison/ contrast, and cause/effect--subjects read and immediately retold passages in writing. The retellings were scored for the use of the author’s original structure and the number of targeted idea units. Hypotheses were tested using a 4 (text structure) x 4 (topic) x 2 (grade level) factorial analysis of variance for each dependent variable.
The analysis indicated the following results: (1) For the dependent variable of level of text structure use, there was a Significant difference for grade level and interactions between topic and structure. There were no interactions between grade and structure. (2) For the dependent variable of number of idea units, there were was a Significant difference for grade level, but none for text structure. There were no interactions between grade and structure and none between topic and structure. Subjects were found to use the original structure for problem/ solution more than for the other three patterns. Differences in text structure were found to have little effect on the number of idea units in the students' retellings. Developmental differences were evident both in the use of structure and in the number of idea units produced by fourth and sixth grade students.