The University of Iowa

The Effects of Explicit Instruction on the Reading Performance of Adolescent English Language Learners With Intellectual Disability


This study sought to determine the effects of explicit phonics instruction and sight word instruction on the letter-sound identification and word reading of 13- to 15-year-old English language learners in the eighth grade who were identified as having intellectual disabilities (ID). Using a randomized single-subject design, four Hispanic students with mild ID who were native Spanish speakers and receiving free or reduced-price lunch were assigned to receive either phonics or sight word instruction. Both treatments were taught explicitly to the pair of students in the condition and included scaffolding and multiple practice opportunities. Sessions took place every other day for 20 minutes over 8 weeks, totaling 400 minutes of intervention. All students demonstrated increased rates of improvement in identifying letter-sounds and untaught words on the Basic Phonics Skills Test III. Although students in the sight word condition were not explicitly taught letter-sound correspondences, they correctly identified the sounds of all 26 letters by posttest. All students progressed in their ability to read untaught words of increasing complexity. Results suggest that adolescents with mild cognitive impairments attending schools taught in a nonnative language can still profit from explicit instruction in foundational reading skills.


Reed, D. K. (2013). The effects of explicit instruction on the reading performance of adolescent English language learners with intellectual disability. TESOL Quarterly, 47, 743-761. doi: 10.1002/tesq.94

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