The effectiveness of creative drama as an instructional strategy to enhance the reading comprehension skills of fifth-grade remedial readers

Dupont, S. (1992). The effectiveness of creative drama as an instructional strategy to enhance the reading comprehension skills of fifth-grade remedial readers. Reading Research and Instruction, 31(3), 41-52.

Abstract:

This study measured the growth of reading comprehension skills of 51 remedial fifth-grade students after exposure to a treatment of creative drama integrated with children’s literature reading material over a six-week period. The students were divided into three groups. Group 1 participated in creative drama strategies and read children’s literature, Group 2 read and discussed with traditional teaching methods the same literature as Group 1, and Group 3 continued with the normal curriculum during the treatment period. All groups were administered the Metropolitan Reading Comprehension Test (MAT6) as a pre- and post-test, and Groups 1 and 2 were given weekly criterion-referenced tests designed to measure reading comprehension.

Group 1 showed significant increases on the MAT6, whereas Groups 2 and 3 showed no gains from pre-test to post-test. Group 1’s scores were also significantly higher than Group 2’s scores on four of the six criterion-referenced tests completed. Overall findings indicate that creative drama strategies can improve students’ reading comprehension skills.

Key Findings:

This study finds that fifth-grade remedial reading students’ comprehension skills were enhanced through a reading program that used a creative drama teaching strategy.

Students who participated in the drama-integrated reading instruction were better able to understand stories that they acted out during that instruction, as well as reading passages they had not acted out, which they later encountered on comprehension tests. The researcher interprets this finding as evidence that reading comprehension skills learned in the drama-integrated treatment transferred to later reading tasks.

Significance of the Findings:

The study’s findings indicate the use of creative drama as a teaching strategy to enhance reading comprehension warrants continued investigation and recognition as a valid pedagogical tool. Reading teachers, literacy specialists, and special education teachers might use creative drama as an additional tool to decrease the achievement gap between remedial and mainstream readers. As well, teachers across multiple content areas might also employ creative drama to enhance comprehension of subject related material.

Methodology:

Data collection occurred over a six-week instructional treatment period in six intact fifth-grade remedial reading classrooms in south-central Pennsylvania. Two classes from one school combined to make Group 1 (n = 17), the treatment group, two classes from another school combined to make Group 2 (n = 17), the modified treatment group, and two classes from a third school combined to make Group 3 (n = 17), the comparison group.

Group 1, taught by the researcher, read six selected children’s literature stories and participated in creative dramatic activities each day for six weeks. Students read the story both silently and orally, and then were involved in a dramatic activity related to the story. The researcher had students dramatize the events of the story in the appropriate sequence. Group 2 was given the same six stories to read silently and orally, but instead of dramatizing the story students engaged in “traditional” reading curricular practices such as vocabulary exercises and teacher-led classroom discussions. Group 3 received only its current program during the day. All groups were given the Metropolitan Reading Comprehension Test (MAT6) as a pre- and post-test, and Groups 1 and 2 were given weekly criterion-referenced tests. Statistical analysis was used to compare all three groups’ scores.

The statistical analysis of the MAT6 scores revealed that all three groups were equivalent in reading comprehension at the onset of the study (pre-test). The only group that showed a significant increase in mean scores from pre- to post-test was Group 1, the treatment group. Group 2, the modified treatment group, showed a significant decrease between the pre- and post-tests. Group 3, the control group, showed no significant difference between the pre- and post-tests. Statistical analysis of the mean scores from the criterion-referenced tests to measure reading comprehension indicated that Group 1’s (treatment group) weekly scores were consistently higher than Group 2’s (modified treatment) scores.

These statistical analyses provide evidence that the fifth-grade remedial reading students in the treatment group enhanced their comprehension skills through a reading program that used a creative drama teaching strategy. Also, the MAT6 scores of Group 1 suggested the students in the treatment group were able to transfer and apply a new skill to a new area, given that the reading materials of the MAT6 were completely unrelated to the six-week treatment. A possible explanation for the decrease in Group 2’s post-test score might be the fact that participants were not engaged in creative thinking or writing; they solely read and discussed the stories.

Limitations of the Research:

A limitation of this study relates to the role of researcher who acted as the teacher for Group 1, the treatment group. One could make the claim that the treatment group scored higher on the tests because the group was being taught by the researcher who could introduce bias and inadvertently teach to the assessments. Also, the study’s duration might cause one to wonder whether more or less time spent engaging in creative drama activities would have had the same effect on students.

Questions to Guide New Research:

How does acting out stories help children to better comprehend subsequent reading excerpts or stories that are not acted out? How might creative drama, applied to other academic content areas such as science and social studies, impact reading comprehension and concept understanding? How might creative drama affect average or above-average students, or students of various ages?