Swedish researchers have challenged long-held beliefs about how to teach intellectually challenged students. According to the results of a recent study summarized on the Science Daily website, educators have been hesitant to challenge these students in the area of reading because of the presumption of difficulty and/or failure. The Skolinspektionen, the Swedish Schools Inspectorate reported in 2010 that many särskolor, their schools that serve intellectually challenged students, have put a “caring climate and a good emotional environment” ahead of reading comprehension training.
This research project focused on using factual, non-fictional text rather than the fictional text that had been used traditionally. Their reason was to provide a useful, practical tool for them that would allow them more participation within the larger society. Forty students in grades 7 – 9 participated in more than 80 small group text talks based on readings from 8 SIDOR, an easy-to-read Swedish newspaper. Reading was followed by structured conversations with the purpose to help the students to “understand and reflect upon the context of the articles” by asking more “why” questions.
As the eight-week project progressed, the students became more involved by asking question. The comparison of results from pre- and post-testing showed that most of their reading skills improved significantly after this project.
The take-away: Reading comprehension can be improved in anyone with the right intervention.