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http://nflrc.hawaii.edu/rfl
Reading in a Foreign Language
October
2010, Volume 22
, No.
2 ISSN 1539
-0578
pp. 242
Ð262 Repeated
-reading
-based instructional strategy and vocabulary
acquisition: A case study of a heritage speaker of Chinese
ZhaoHong Han and Cheng
-ling Alice Chen
Teachers College, Columbia Univer
sity United States
Abstract
Repeated reading, a procedure involving repetition of the same text, has received copious
attention from first language reading research providing highly converging evidence of
its potency for reading fluency, accuracy, and
comprehension. In contrast, second
language research on repeated reading has been scarce. The very few studies extant have,
nevertheless, shown similar, albeit inconclusive, findings. The present study was an
attempt to foray into a hitherto uncharted area
in both first and second language research,
by investigating vocabulary gains from implementing a set of repeated
-reading
-based
pedagogical and learning procedures. Using one heritage speaker of Chinese as its
subject, the study administered 20 sessions o
f assisted repeated reading
over three
weeks. Results indicated both intentional and incidental vocabulary gains that would not
otherwise have been possible through conventional reading or vocabulary instruction.
Keywords
: repeated reading, second langua
ge vocabulary acquisition, Chinese, heritage speaker
It is trivial to point out that reading and vocabulary are closely related. In fact, they are mutually
constraining and complimentary: On the one hand, reading ability depends on vocabulary
knowledge.
ÒSemantic processing is central to reading comprehension ... Ultimately, it is
vocabulary that largely controls semantic processingÓ (Koda, 1994, p. 10). On the other hand,
reading is a critical source of vocabulary growth (Krashen, 1989; Zahar, Cobb, & S
pada, 2001).
It therefore is no surprise that vocabulary instruction has taken a central place in all existing
approaches to the development of reading ability (e.g., phonic, linguistic, sight
-word, and
language experience), nor is it that reading has serv
ed as a major scaffold for vocabulary
instruction (e.g., Peters, Hulstijn, Sercu, & Lutjeharms, 2009).
The present study explores a particular type of reading, repeated reading, as a fulcrum for
vocabulary acquisition. In the sections that follow, we will
first introduce and discuss the
theoretical background of the research, and then report the study. We will end with a discussion
of the main findings and their implications for future research.



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Han & Chen:
Repeated
-reading
-based instructional strategy and vocabulary acquisition
243 Reading in a Foreign
Language
22(2)
Repeated Reading
Repeated reading, initially known as mul
tiple oral reading, involves multiple, successive
encounters with the same visual material, the key being repetition
Ðwhether of the same words,
sentences, or connected discourse. An instructional technique designed originally for improving
reading fluency
in learners with reading disabilities, repeated reading has been practiced with
both disabled and non
-disabled students in a variety of fashions, ranging from having the learner
read aloud (Samuels, 1979), to listening to and simultaneously or subsequently
reading aloud
(Chomsky, 1978), and to silently reading (Anderson, 1993, 1999, 2008, 2009), the same material
multiple times.
Despite the procedural divergence, research has shown that the technique benefits fluency
development
Ðdefined as improved accur
acy of word recognition and reading speed
Ðand
comprehension in slow readers. Chomsky (1978), for example, reported that the procedure
increased the fluency of slow and halting readers and instilled in them a heightened sense of
confidence, motivation, and
willingness to undertake reading new material independently.
Similar findings were reported by Samuels (1979) claiming:
The fact that starting rates were faster with each new selection and fewer rereadings were
necessary to reach goals indicates transfer
of training and a general improvement in reading
fluency. (p. 404)
Reviewing the early research, Moyer (1982) concluded that Òrepeated reading practice can
facilitate general reading fluency for some unskilled readers, for normal readers given difficult
text, and in regular classroom instructionÓ (p. 620).
Recent research syntheses have corroborated this conclusion (Meyer & Felton, 1999; National
Institute of Child Health and Human Development [NICHD], 2000; Therrien, 2004). Therrien
(2004) stated:
[R]epeated reading can be used effectively with nondisabled students and students with
learning disabilities to increase reading fluency and comprehension on a particular passage
and as an intervention to increase overall fluency and comprehension ability. (p
. 252) The highly converging support from by now an extensive research base for repeated reading
raises the question: What is it about repeated reading that facilitates reading fluency?
Researchers have suggested that difficulty in word recognition is a
major obstacle to fluent
reading, while maintaining that reading is a complex process involving multiple levels of
processing from word decoding to deriving meaning from sentences, paragraphs, and the text as
a whole and that fluency can be jeopardized by
a breakdown at any of these levels (Logan,
1997). LaBerge and Samuels (1974) argued that slow decoding creates a ÒbottleneckÓ that
impedes the flow of thought and hampers comprehension. Poor readers often spend a great deal
of their cognitive resources on
decoding and have little left for comprehension. Conversely, good
readers decode words quickly and accurately, thus conserving more resources for
comprehension. This is, however, one (albeit main) explanation for reading dysfluency. A



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Han & Chen:
Repeated
-reading
-based instructional strategy and vocabulary acquisition
251 Reading in a Foreign
Language
22(2)
2. isolated recognition of intentional words (Task 2)
3. isolated production of incidental words (Task 3)
4. isolated recognition of incidental words (Task 4)
5. contextual comprehension of words (Task 5)
6. contextual production of intentional (Task 6a) and incidental words (Task 6b)
7. contextual recognition of intentional (Task 7a) and incidental words (Tas
k 7b) Task 1,
isolated production of intentional words
, was designed to contribute to an understanding
of AnnaÕs
intentional
acquisition of vocabulary. Specifically, it measures AnnaÕs ability to
produce the target words in isolation. The task was compose
d of 20 two
-character words,
randomly drawn from the database of target words. The instructions given were ÒWrite out the
corresponding words based on the pinyin given.
,Ó and five minutes
were allotted to the task.
Task 2,
isolated recognition of intentional words
, designed to tap AnnaÕs recognition
of
intentional words in isolation, was composed of 20 two
-character words, randomly drawn from
the inventory
of target words. The instructions were ÒWrite out the corresponding pinyin based
on the characters or words given.
,Ó and similarly, five minutes
were allowed for task completion.
Tasks 3 and 4,
isolated production of incidental
words
and
isolated recognition of incidental
words
, were both designed to shed light on AnnaÕs
incidental
acquisition of vocabulary.
Specifically, they measured respectively her ability to
produce
and
recognize
words in isolation.
Both tasks had 20 items, constitute
d randomly of two
-character words from the transliterations in
pinyin (
n = 1057 characters) that Anna herself had provided for words she did not know during
the self
-directed repeated reading phase of the study (i.e., the first phase of the treatment
sessions). The instructions she received for each task respectively were ÒWrite out the
corresponding words based on the pinyin given.
Ó and
ÒWrite out the
corresponding pinyin based on the words given.
.Ó For both tasks,
five minutes
were allowed.
Task 5,
contextual comprehension of words
, measured AnnaÕs comprehension of words whose
meaning she had inquired about in the second phase of the treatment sessions in which she
interacted with the researcher. The test consisted of 20 sente
nces, each containing an underlined
word for interpretation. The words tested were all incidental words. Anna was asked to give their
meanings (Ò
Ó) in five minutes.
Tasks 6 and 7,
contextual production of words
and
contextual recognition of words
, were
intended to contribute to an understanding of AnnaÕs intentional and incidental acquisition of
words
in context
. They measured respecti
vely AnnaÕs ability to
produce
and
recognize
words in
context. Task 6, measuring production, involved two cloze tests, adapted from two paragraphs of
the texts that Anna had read in the treatment period, each containing 12 blanks, 6 of which
targeted inten
tional words and 6 incidental words. Anna was asked to ÒFill in the blanks with
appropriate words.
.Ó Task 7, measuring receptive knowledge in
context, was similarly based in two paragraphs extracted from the texts that Anna had read, with
12 words underlined in each paragraph, 6 of which targeted intentional words and 6 incidental



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Han & Chen:
Repeated
-reading
-based instructional strategy and vocabulary acquisition
252 Reading in a Foreign
Language
22(2)
words. T
he task required Anna to orally read the paragraphs (Ò
Ó). Ten minutes
were allowed for completion of each task. Table 3 summarizes the test tasks.
Table 3.
Measurements tasks
Task
Intentional
(words)
Incidental
(words)
Comprehension
checks
Time
(minutes)
Item
total
Task 1
20 5 20 Task 2
20 5 20 Task 3
20 5 20 Task 4
20 5 20 Task 5
20 5 20 Task 6
12 12 10 24 Task 7
12 12 10 24 Total
64 64 20 45 148 The tests were purposely administered over three days, with tasks 1
Ð2 on Day 1
, tasks 3
Ð5 on Day 2, and tasks 6
Ð7 on Day 3, in order to minimize priming and fatigue effects.
Data Coding and Analysis
Task 1 was coded for productive knowledge of the target words in isolation. A correct response
was awarded 2 points (e.g.,
ke3lian2
/), an incorrect response 0 point (e.g.,
jia4ge2
/), and a partial response 1 point (e.g.,
fa1zhan3
/). The maximum score was 40.
Similarly, Task 2 was coded for receptive knowledge of the target words in isolation. A correct
response was awarded 2 po
ints (e.g.,
/jing1shen2
), a partial response 1 point (e.g.,
/ji4xu4
), and an incorrect response 0 point. The maximum score was again 40.
Tasks 3 and 4 were coded similarly to tasks 1 and 2, for productive and receptive knowledge of
the incidental wo
rds which Anna transliterated during the first, self
-directed repeated reading
phase of the treatment sessions. The maximum score was 40 respectively.
Task 5 was coded for comprehension of the words Anna had inquired about during the feedback
phase (Phase
2) of the treatment sessions. A correct response was awarded 2 points, a partially
correct response 1 point, and an incorrect response 0 point. The maximum score was 40. An
example of a correct response is given below.
Prompt:
Response:
ÔAgainÕ
Tasks 6 and 7 were coded respectively for productive and receptive knowledge of the intentional
and incidental words in context. For the sake of clarity, they will be reported in the next section
as Task 6
a for p
roduction of intentional words (target words) and as Task 6
b for incidental
words, on the one hand, and as Task 7
a for recognition of intentional words and Task 7
b for



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Han & Chen:
Repeated
-reading
-based instructional strategy and vocabulary acquisition
261 Reading in a Foreign
Language
22(2)
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, 49, 717Ð727. Zahar, R., Cobb, T., & Spada, N. (2001).
Acquiring vocabulary through reading: Effects of
frequency and contextual richness
. Canadian Modern Language Review
, 57, 541Ð572. About the Authors
ZhaoHong Han is Associate Professor of Language and Edu
cation at Teachers College,
Columbia University, where she teaches a variety of courses ranging from theory to
methodology to pedagogy and mentors doctoral students. She has published a number of books
and articles on second language acquisition and educat
ion, including
Fossilization in Adult
Second Language Acquisition
(2004), Reading Research and Instruction: Crossing the
Boundaries
(with Neil Anderson, 2009), and
Linguistic Relativity in SLA: Thinking for Speaking
(with Teresa Cadierno, 2010). Email: han
@tc.columbia.edu



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Han & Chen:
Repeated
-reading
-based instructional strategy and vocabulary acquisition
262 Reading in a Foreign
Language
22(2)
Cheng
-ling Alice Chen is a doctoral student in the TESOL program at Teachers College,
Columbia University. Her research interests include second language acquisition, particularly the
effect of the repeated reading approach on second lang
uage vocabulary instruction and learning.
Email: [email protected]

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