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Research: The use of illustrations when learning to read

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Joined: 08 Oct 2007
Posts: 2515
Location: UK

PostPosted: Mon Feb 22, 2016 1:32 pm    Post subject: Research: The use of illustrations when learning to read Reply with quote

These research findings are really interesting to me because I am fully committed to providing cumulative, decodable reading material for learners without illustrations with the rationale that this means the learners have to apply their alphabetic code knowledge and blending skill, plus really 'think' about the meaning of the text to support their reading process.

When the plain texts are provided via paper which 'belongs' to each learner, and can be annotated by both learner and teacher, it is a work-in-progress activity and resource. It can then be shared with other supporting adults, including adults in the home environment - and it can be used for 'revisit and review' at the beginning of new lessons.

Learners can be engaged further with the activity and content by 'being' the illustrator at the end of the process!

The use of illustrations when learning to read: A cognitive load theory approach

Susannah Torcasio andJohn Sweller*

Article first published online: 8 APR 2009

Applied Cognitive Psychology
Volume 24, Issue 5, pages 659672, July 2010


Three experiments were conducted to investigate the effects of including illustrations in beginning reading materials. Experiment 1 compared reading materials consisting solely of simple prose passages with materials consisting of the same passages plus informative illustrations depicting the content of each passage. Reading proficiency improved more under the no illustrations condition. Experiment 2 compared the informative illustrations with uninformative illustrations. Reading proficiency improved more using uninformative illustrations. Experiment 3 compared uninformative illustrations with no illustrations and found no significant differences between conditions. These results were interpreted within a cognitive load theory framework. It was concluded that informative illustrations are redundant and so impose an extraneous working memory load that interferes with learning to read. Copyright 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

This article was published online on 8th April 2009. An error was subsequently identified. This notice is included in the online and print versions to indicate that both have been corrected [3 July 2009].

Please note that both the Oxford Reading Tree Floppy's Phonics Sounds and Letters programme and the Phonics International programme include cumulative, decodable 'plain' sentences and texts throughout the programmes to match the letter/s-sound correspondences as they are introduced.

They are fundamentally important teaching, learning, motivating and monitoring features of these programmes.
Debbie Hepplewhite
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