The Effects of Modified Texts

on Comprehension, Engagement & Self-Esteem

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How Much Do YOU Know About Modifying a Text for Students with Disabilities?

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Research Questions

Main Points:

  • What are the effects of modified texts on the motivation, comprehension, engagement, participation, and self-esteem of special education students in the elementary classroom?

  • How comfortable are classroom teachers in selecting and modifying texts and materials for special education students in the general classroom setting?

Historical Research

A Model for Making Decisions about Text Adaptations by N. Dyck & J. Pemberton (2002)

“Adapting a text may be the most powerful accommodation that teachers make to help students with special needs participate and achieve the goals of the general curriculum,” (28).

"There are five ways teachers can adapt texts: bypass reading, decrease reading, support reading, organize reading, and guide reading, (28)."

  • The decrease reading method suggests that teachers include meaningful text features, such as headings and charts to eliminate wordiness of texts.
  • The support reading method suggests that teachers add cues or signals in the text to help a reader understand and focus on important ideas (highlighting, underlining, adding words in the margins).

Impact of Curriculum Modifications on Access to the General Education Curriculum for Students with Disabilities by Lee, Wehmeyer, Soukup & Palmer (2010)

Results from their study indicate “the presence or implementation of curriculum modification was a strong predictor of positive student academic responses. Student academic responses were observed more frequently when students were engaged in tasks linked to standards when any curriculum modification was present,” (229).

Adjusted reading demand, content through technology, and enhanced content were included in this study as curriculum modifications there were effective for enhancing student engagement and participation.

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy in History/Social Studies, Science, and Technical Subjects, Appendix A

  • text complexity is measured by and includes three equally important parts: (1) qualitative dimensions (such as levels of meaning or purpose; structure; language conventionality and clarity; and knowledge demands), (2) quantitative dimensions (such as word length or frequency, sentence length, and text cohesion), and (3) reader and task considerations (such as motivation, knowledge, experiences, and purpose).
  • With these increased demands on all students, students with disabilities are especially in need for modifications and accommodations to “level the playing field” for them, but without losing the complexity or true meaning of a text.

Subjects and Setting

Student Subjects:

  • One 2nd grade student (Specific Learning Disability-Reading)
  • Three 3rd grade students (One ELL student, two students with Other Health Impairment/Specific Learning Disability in Reading)

Professional Development Subjects:

  • One 2nd grade teacher (less than 5 years experience)
  • Two 3rd grade teachers (between 5 and 10 years experience)


  • Suburban elementary school in Frederick County, Maryland.
  • According to the school profile, approximately 16 percent of the students qualify for free and reduced lunch and 9 percent qualify for special education services.
  • Of the current 533 enrolled students, 474 students and their families classify themselves as white, with 26 students as Hispanic, 11 as African American, and 18 as two or more races.

Baseline Data and Results

Teacher Responses via Survey Monkey

Students Results

Student Comprehension Scores: (4 total students)

  • Original Text- 2nd Grade: A- 20%
  • Modified Text- 2nd Grade: A- 80%
  • Original Texts- 3rd Grade: A- 0%, B- 20%, C- 60%
  • Modified Texts-3rd Grade: A- 80%, 60%, C- 60%

Student Self-Esteem Scores: (4 total students)

  • Original Texts:

-75% of students felt "sad" after reading the original text, 25% felt "okay"

-75% of students would feel comfortable only reading text to self, 25% felt

comfortable reading text to a teacher

-100% of students wished the text had pictures to help them understand the text

-75% of students wished the text had easier words to help them understand

-50% of students felt they would be able to retell the text to a friend

  • Modified Texts:

-75% of students felt "happy" after reading the original text, 25% felt "okay"

-50% of students felt comfortable reading to a friend, 25% of students would feel

comfortable only reading text to self, 25% felt

comfortable reading text to a teacher

-75% of students did not feel they needed even more pictures to help them

understand the text

-75% of students did not feel they wished the text had even easier words to help

them understand

-75% of students felt they would be able to retell the text to a friend, 25% of

students was "unsure"

Methods and Procedures

Independent Variable: Unmodified texts vs. Modified texts Dependent Variable: Increased Comprehension, Engagement & Self-Esteem

1. Results from teacher survey and student responses shared with participant teachers

2. Virtual professional development series delivered via Google Docs and designed to increase knowledge of and provide examples of text modifications

3. Gradual Release of Responsibility Model (I do, we do, you do) with text modifications in the general education classroom with grade level class materials

4. Anecdotal notes/observations of students using modified texts within the general education classroom & teacher checklists completed about student engagement

5. Classroom teachers modify one text using suggestions and materials learned from professional development and complete Survey Monkey pre-survey


Teacher Responses Via Survey Monkey

Anecdotal Notes & Teacher Checklists

Anecdotal notes taken during small group guided reading and independent time showed 100% of students engaged in small group discussion and tasks over two observation sessions.

Engagement and participation checklists were collected from teachers to assess reading behaviors between using unmodified and modified texts. Results indicated: 75% of students participated more actively when given a modified text.

Active participation included:

  • Offering to answer questions
  • Asking relevant questions about the text
  • Appropriately sharing text details with a partner
  • Completing text assignments and tasks (if not completed with unmodified text)
  • Displaying on-task/engaged behavior during whole group (eye contact, posture, etc)

Analysis and Summary


Teacher responses, as well as anecdotal observations indicate a positive impact of modified texts in the general education classroom for students with disabilities. Teacher responses indicated an appreciation for the virtual professional development series, with an emphasis on the technology tips and websites provided to help them modify and adapt texts for their students.

Points to Consider

  • This study included a very small group of subjects, so results are not conclusive
  • All four students also receive Tier III reading interventions
  • During anecdotal observations, students may have been trying to impress the observer. There were also only two observation sessions.
  • The student the showed the most growth was an ELL student, as opposed to a student with a Specific Learning Disability in reading
  • Teachers continue to indicate lack of time and resources as an issue for provided modified texts for students with disabilities
  • Is it truly the responsibility of the classroom teacher or the special education teacher to provide the modified texts for students?
  • Is modifying texts truly worth the effort based on student achievement?