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Running head: READING RACETRACK AND PRIMARY READING ACHIEVEMENT

Effects of Reading Racetrack on the Achievement of First Graders Reading Below Grade Level

A Paper
Presented to the Faculty of
Viterbo University
in Partial Fulfillment
of the Requirements for the Degree
Master of Arts in Education

by
Bridget L. Bender
August 2015

READING RACETRACK AND PRIMARY READING ACHIEVEMENT

Effects of Implementing Reading Racetrack on Sight Word Skills of First-Grade Learners


Reading is an essential aspect of a persons life. It is needed to succeed and be able to
function in life. Unfortunately, reading is a skill that is lacking for many children across the
country. According to The National Center for Educational Statistics (2015), 32% of fourth
grade students scored below basic achievement in reading in 2013. My district has experienced
similar statistics resulting in a need to place emphasis on literacy instruction across our district to
meet the individual needs of students. As I finish my fourth year teaching first grade, I am using
this research to become better at teaching my students Dolch sight words. I want to create a
better system of teaching high frequency words to readers who struggle.
I believe reading is the most important skill a child will ever learn. It is important for
students to master high frequency words for the following reasons: (a) Students build confidence
while reading, (b) Sight words provide clues to the meaning of sentences, and (c) Sight words are
the foundation for reading new and more complex words. Once students have mastered basic
words that appear frequently, then more time can be devoted to reading and comprehension, and
they can experience what Walt Disney once said: There is more treasure in books than in all the
pirates loot on Treasure Island.
Statement of the Problem and Purpose of the Study
I am a first-grade teacher in a rural school district in the Midwest. At my school,
approximately 57% of elementary students are economically disadvantaged based on free and
reduced priced lunch. By the end of first grade, our districts goal is to have students master 90%
of the Dolch Pre-Primer, Primer, and First Grade word lists.
I have become frustrated with the lack of growth in recognizing high frequency words
from my students who are struggling with reading. At the beginning of each quarter, I send

READING RACETRACK AND PRIMARY READING ACHIEVEMENT

home the list of sight words to all of my students. Each week I choose four to six words to focus
on that fit with our story for the week. On Monday, I introduce each word, and I have the
students say the word and spell it. On Tuesday, students review the words and cheer them. Each
Wednesday I have students tell me words that rhyme with the sight words. On Thursday, the
students cheer and write the words on white boards. Finally on Friday, my students write the
sight words in a sentence. For the majority of my students, this method is successful; however,
there are a few students who still struggle with reading and recognizing the words. I have always
wanted to improve my method of intervention for my students who struggle, but time seems to
be a factor that has held me back. Reflecting on my current practices has led me to this research
topic. The purpose of this study will be to examine the effects of implementing Reading
Racetrack on sight word achievement of first grade readers.
Research Question and Sub-questions
Based on the problem I identified in my practice, and my desire to reflect and improve
my teaching of sight word intervention, this research study will examine the following question:
What is the effect of implementing Reading Racetrack on sight word achievement of students
who struggle with reading? I will examine three sub-questions that include: (a) To what extent
will students who receive Reading Racetrack intervention improve automaticity when reading
sight words in isolation? (b) What are the effects of Reading Racetrack intervention on students
ability to retain sight words? and (c) What are the students attitudes toward Reading Racetrack?
Limitations
There are several limitations that may affect this study. First, the sample was chosen for
convenience and was not random. The results of the study are not able to be generalized to other
students. Second, the students will be in the first semester of school, and will be adjusting to

READING RACETRACK AND PRIMARY READING ACHIEVEMENT

new routines and procedures. The control group may have settled into routines by the time
research is finished. Third, there will be a limited amount of time allowed for changes in attitude
and skill development. The period of study may end close to a holiday break. Students often
become more restless during those times and less motivated to learn.
Definition of Terms
Sight words also known as high frequency words are commonly used words that students
are encouraged to memorize without using any strategies to decode. These words often do not
follow common phonetic patterns. Reading Racetracks are a drill and practice intervention using
28 cells placed in an oval shape to isolate information for a particular skill practice. The track
resembles a racecar track with a start and finish. Sight words are placed in each cell and students
read around the track in one minute. The Dolch Word List also referred to as Dolch Words or
Dolch's Basic Sight Words is a list of commonly used English words.
Literature Review
Introduction
The primary objective of this study is to examine the effects of implementing Reading
Racetrack on the reading achievement of first-graders reading below grade level. The literature
review is organized in a topical manner. The first topic will investigate early reading skill
development. The second topic will focus on instructional strategies to teach word recognition.
The third topic examines different interventions for word recognition. Lastly, the fourth topic
inspects the effects of Reading Racetrack interventions. The following is a summary of the
related professional literature and a synthesis of its pertinence to this research study.

READING RACETRACK AND PRIMARY READING ACHIEVEMENT

Reading Skill Development


Reading is a vital component of academic success. Students who fail to develop
adequate literacy skills at an early age are more likely to struggle. First grade represents a critical
time when a child learns early literacy skills toward becoming an effortless reader. In their
research on the effects of multisensory phonics-based training on the word recognition and
spelling skills of adolescents with reading disabilities, Giess, Rivers, Kennedy and Lombardino
(2012) noted the importance of a solid phonological awareness foundation even in older students
with reading difficulties. They found that accuracy and fluency in naming letters and sounds,
phonemic segmenting and blending, and Word Identification Fluency (WIF) were all measures
that have been used and studied for first grade reading screening. Clemens, Shapiro, and
Thoemmes (2011) found WIF to be the most accurate when predicting year-end reading status
outcome of first graders participating in their study WIF was the only significant predictor in
nearly every analysis (p.239). Zumeta, Compton, and Fuchs (2012) found WIF to be an
appropriate tool to determine growth of readers as well. Word identification is the important first
step in becoming a skillful, proficient, and motivated reader. Once word identification is
mastered students can become fluent readers. Durans (2013) study examined the effect of word
repetitive reading method supported with neurological affecting model on fluent reading of three
primary education students. Fluent reading is one of the keys of understanding what is read
(Duran, p.40).
Instructional Strategies to Teach Word Recognition
There are many challenges that teachers are faced with in order to meet the diverse needs
of students (Copeland, Keefe, Calhoon, Tanner & Park, 2011). There is no one right way to
teach reading (Costello, 2012, p. 80). Teachers need to explore different ways to make learning

READING RACETRACK AND PRIMARY READING ACHIEVEMENT

meaningful to students. In their study of the effects of using flashcards with reading racetrack to
teach letter sounds, sight words, and math facts to elementary students with learning disabilities,
Erbey, McLaughlin, Derby, and Everson (2011) stressed the importance of teaching reading
skills especially to those who need more development in sight word reading.
One should take into consideration factors which motivate children to learn. Mata (2011)
stressed the importance of providing students with participation and engagement to promote
literacy. One way to promote participation is providing students with multisensory activities.
Sherman (2011) used a multi-sensory approach to teaching sight words by incorporating
American Sign Language (ASL) and found that because of the high interest and motivation in
using signs, children spontaneously use and practice the signs they have learned throughout the
day, not just during reading groups (p. 32). These students were better at remembering the
words when they used the signs.
Another interactive method to teach word recognition is by the use of word walls. Word
walls offer students opportunities to see and touch words while learning how to read. AlShaiji
and AlSaleem (2014) found that word wall activities created a comfortable and cooperative
classroom environment. During their study, 55 females from a Saudi kindergarten participated in
30 minute word wall station a week. The students were in two classrooms. One classroom
incorporated word wall activities along with regular reading instruction. The second group did
not participate in word wall activities. Students in both groups increased words read per minute;
however, the students who participated in word wall activities showed a higher increase of
achievement. AlShaiji and AlSaleem found that word wall activities positively contributed to
improving the students reading fluency.

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Interventions for Word Recognition


While most students benefit from the regular classroom instruction, there are some
students who need small group or individualized instruction to increase knowledge. Teachers are
faced with finding different instructional methods to meet the diverse needs of their students
(Copeland, et al. 2011). Ayala and OConnor (2013) found that many districts have been using a
tiered approach when designing their Response To Intervention (RTI) system. Tier I is
instruction which takes place for all the students. Tier II is for students who score below typical
levels of the age and grade of the child. These interventions may take place in a group setting.
Tier III interventions are for students who need intensive intervention focusing on an individual
students needs.
Ayala and OConnor (2013) stated that one way to offer support to reading intervention
programs is to provide technology based interventions (p. 142). Technology can provide
material in a way that is appealing to young learners. Technology is ever evolving in schools. It
is a great way to motivate students to learn; however, it should not be the main focus of
instruction and intervention. Combinations of technology and traditional interventions have been
found to be the most effective ways to help increase students knowledge (Falth, Gustafson, Tjus,
Heimann, & Svensson, 2013).
Reading Racetrack Intervention
Sullivan, Konrad, Joseph, and Luu (2013) focused on two drill formats for practicing
sight words. The first was called Reading Racetrack, where seven sight words were distributed
throughout 28 cells that form an oval-shaped track. Each word was repeated four times and was
randomly distributed around the track. After being introduced to the seven words, the participant
was presented with the racetrack, told where to start, and was given one minute to read as many

READING RACETRACK AND PRIMARY READING ACHIEVEMENT

words as possible. Students were prompted to move to the next word if they were unable to read
a word within three seconds. At the end of each minute, feedback was provided. Racetrack trials
were repeated three more times, and after all four trials, the highest correct scores were recorded.
The second drill was the list format. This format consisted of identical procedures but was
presented in the form of a list instead of a racetrack. Eight students at risk for reading failure
from two separate second grade classrooms were chosen to participate in the study. Instruction
and data collection were conducted once a day for 20 to 25 minutes four days per week by a
graduate student in special education. As a group, students read more words per minute under
the racetrack drill.
Hopewell, McLaughlin, and Derby (2011) conducted a similar racetrack study focusing
on students with severe behavior disorders in grades kindergarten through three. The study was
conducted in a self-contained behavior intervention classroom. Along with using a racetrack,
direct instruction flashcards with a token reward and cost system were presented to the
participants. Flashcards were presented one at a time. If a flashcard was missed, the correct
response was given and then the card was placed back in the stack. All flashcards were practiced
until the participant was able to recall the words without hesitation. Participants could earn and
lose tickets during each session. Correct responses and appropriate behavior earned students
tickets while inappropriate behavior cost students tickets. Results showed participants increased
their accuracy. The participants also gained confidence and found reading to be something they
could handle. Hopewell and colleagues found behavior outbursts decreased as students became
better at recognizing familiar words.
Green, McLaughlin, Derby, and Lee (2010) found Reading Racetrack intervention to be a
task that was easily implemented into the classrooms daily routine. These studies support my

READING RACETRACK AND PRIMARY READING ACHIEVEMENT

research of implementing Reading Racetrack with students reading below grade level. Reading
Racetrack has been found to be a beneficial method of increasing sight word knowledge of
students who are below level. The following section will describe the design on this study.
Method
Procedure
The type of research conducted will be a quasi-experimental, action research case study
generating qualitative and quantitative data. I will analyze a convenience group of
approximately two to three students to examine the effects of implementing Reading Racetrack
intervention on students ability to improve automaticity and retention of sight words along with
attitudes toward Reading Racetrack. Reading Racetrack is a drill and practice intervention using
28 cells placed in an oval shape to isolate information for a particular skill practice. The track
resembles a racecar track with a start and finish. In the fall of 2015, I will call each of my
students to my teacher table and give a sight word assessment within the first two weeks of
school. I will use a checklist of Dolch words (Appendix A) and mark the words each student
identifies correctly. After assessing each student, I will analyze the data collected to determine
those regular education students with the lowest number of words identified correctly. These
students will comprise both my control and experimental groups. My control group time period
will be four to five weeks with no interventions. At the end of the control group time period, I
will give the sight word checklist to my identified students to see if any growth has been made.
My experimental group time period will be four to five weeks of implementing Reading
Racetrack with those children identified according to the assessment. During my experimental
group time period, I will identify 28 words each student needs to work on. I will break those
words into four lists of seven words. Each week I will focus on a different list of words with

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each identified student. The words from the list will be placed randomly amongst the Reading
Racetrack appearing seven times. Interventions will take place three times per week.
When a student comes to his or her 10-15 minute intervention time, I will introduce the
words on the list before we start. I will tell the student the words and then he or she will repeat
them. After going through the words, the student will be presented with the Reading Racetrack.
I will show the student where and when to start. I will time the student for one minute keeping
track of words read correctly and errors made. If a student does not know a word, he or she is
able to skip the word but is encouraged to try. I will repeat this procedure three times in a row
during the 10-15 minute intervention. At the end of the experimental time period, the checklist
will be given to see the effects of Reading Racetrack on sight word achievement of the identified
students. Students will also be given a researcher-designed Likert-like survey to measure student
attitude toward using Reading Racetrack.
Participants
The participants will be a convenience sample of approximately two to three students in
my first grade classroom based on the researcher-designed sight word assessment. These
children will be chosen due to performing below grade level on sight word identification. My
school is in a rural community in the Midwest. Approximately 57% percent of the school
population is economically disadvantaged based on free and reduced priced lunch. Our
elementary school has a special education population of 19%, and English Language Learners
make up about 2% of the student population.
Materials
The sight word assessment checklist (Appendix A) will be researcher-designed and will
be used to collect and gather data. I will use a modified, researcher-designed Reading Racetrack

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(Appendix B) to provide the intervention. I will also use a modified, researcher-designed


Reading Racetrack Score sheet (Appendix C) to document data. I will also be using a
researcher-designed, Likert-like survey (Appendix D) to measure students attitudes toward using
Reading Racetrack.
Data Analysis
Both qualitative and quantitative research data will be analyzed. I will analyze
qualitative data through the results of the student survey to determine the effects of students
attitudes toward Reading Racetrack. I will analyze quantitative research data by examining
student growth in automaticity and retention of sight words. I will determine achievement
growth from pre-test to post-test of both the control and experimental groups to determine if
Reading Racetrack is effective for student achievement. All of the data will be presented in
graphic and in narrative form.

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References
AlShaiji, O. A., & AlSaleem, B. I. (2014). The impact of word walls on improving the english
reading fluency of saudi Kindergarten's children. Education, 135(1), 39-50
Ayala, S. M., & O'Connor, R. (2013). The effects of video self-modeling on the decoding skills
of children at risk for reading disabilities. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice,
28(3), 142-154.
Clemens, N. H., Shapiro, E. S., & Thoemmes, F. (2011). Improving the efficacy of first grade
reading screening: An investigation of word identification fluency with other early
literacy indicators. School Psychology Quarterly, 26(3), 231-244.
Copeland, S. R., Keefe, E. B., Calhoon, A. J., Tanner, W., & Park, S. (2011). Preparing teachers
to provide literacy instruction to all students: Faculty experiences and perceptions.
Research and Practice for Persons with Severe Disabilities (RPSD), 36(3-4), 126-141
Costello, D. A. R. (2012). The impact of a school's literacy program on a primary classroom.
Canadian Journal of Education, 35(1), 69-81.
Duran, E. (2013). Case study on the effect of word repetition method supported by neurological
affecting model on fluent reading. Reading Improvement, 50(1), 34-41.
Erbey, R., McLaughlin, T. F., Derby, K. M., & Everson, M. (2011). The effects of using
flashcards with reading racetrack to teach letter sounds, sight words, and math facts to
elementary students with learning disabilities. International Electronic Journal of
Elementary Education, 3(3), 213-226.
Falth, L., Gustafson, S., Tjus, T., Heimann, M., & Svensson, I. (2013). Computer-assisted
interventions targeting reading skills of children with reading disabilities--A longitudinal
study. Dyslexia, 19(1), 37-53.

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Giess, S., Rivers, K. O., Kennedy, K., & Lombardino, L. J. (2012). Effects of multisensory
phonics-based training on the word recognition and spelling skills of adolescents with
reading disabilities. International Journal of Special Education, 27(1), 60-73.
Green, C. L., McLaughlin, T. F., Derby, K. M., & Lee, K. (2010). Using reading racetracks
and flashcards to teach sight words to students with disabilities: Effects for acquisition
and response maintenance. Journal of Educational Research (1027-9776), 13(2), 84-98.
Hopewell, K., McLaughlin, T. F., & Derby, K. M. (2011). The effects of reading racetrack with
direct instruction flashcards and a token system on sight word acquisition for two primary
students with severe conduct disorders. Electronic Journal of Research in Educational
Psychology, 9(2), 693-710.
Mata, L. (2011). Motivation for reading and writing in kindergarten children. Reading
Psychology, 32(3), 272-299.
National Center for Education Statistics (2015). The Condition of Education (Reading
Performance May 2015). Retrieved from
http://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator_cnb.asp
Sherman, J. (2011). Signing for success: Using american sign language to learn sight vocabulary.
SRATE Journal, 20(2), 31-38
Sullivan, M., Konrad, M., Joseph, L. M., & Luu, K. C. T. (2013). A comparison of two sight
word reading fluency drill formats. Preventing School Failure, 57(2), 102-110.
Zumeta, R. O., Compton, D. L., & Fuchs, L. S. (2012). Using word identification fluency to
monitor first-grade reading development. Exceptional Children, 78(2), 201-220

Appendix A

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READING RACETRACK AND PRIMARY READING ACHIEVEMENT


Appendix B

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Appendix C

Reading Racetrack Score Sheet


Date:
Word List:
First
Read
Second
Read
Third
Read

# Words
Correct

# Errors

Date:
First
Read
Second
Read
Third
Read

_______________________

# Words
Correct

Words
Missed

# Errors

Student Name:

Words
Missed

READING RACETRACK AND PRIMARY READING ACHIEVEMENT

Appendix D

Date:

# Words
Correct

# Errors

Words
Missed

First
Read
Second
Read
Third
Read

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