Date of Award


Degree Type

Certificate of Advanced Study


Connecticut Literacy Specialist


Dr. Karen C. Waters


Researchers have consistently found a link between quality classroom discourse and the increase in student reading comprehension. Classroom discussions help students make sense of fiction and nonfiction texts while deepening their understanding. Incorporating the principles of Vygotsky’s social constructivism as the theoretical framework, the aim of this study was to examine the relationship between the use of accountable talk sentence stems and the quality of discussion using the fishbowl discussion strategy as a means of increasing student comprehension of a text. Observation of the effects of student discourse of 18 students over the duration of six weeks yielded measurable differences in the quality and the quantity of discussion. Students were arranged in two circles: an inner circle that conducted conversation and an outer circle that observed and commented on the behavior of the inner circle. Pre and post assessment results were tallied and scored using a rubric. The evaluation criteria included the number of student comments, use of textual evidence, elaboration upon another student’s response, and the use of sentence stems. The results indicated that using sentence stems and engaging in discourse that required students to respond, question, clarify, and further develop what others said in a discussion increased student comprehension of a text and the use of textual evidence to support their comments. Specifically, the use of accountable talk stems encouraged students to take ownership of the conversations by thinking and reasoning together, building on one another’s ideas, and holding one another accountable for the comments being made in a discussion. Therefore, accountable talk was an effective strategy to increase classroom conversation and comprehension, and should be considered to be a viable strategy for supporting students in achieving literacy goals.


Prepared for EDR 692 Applied Reading and Language Arts Research. A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the coursework required for the post-masters' Certificate of Advanced Studies (CAS) in Literacy.



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