Subjects: Subjects were members of two intact EFL/reading classes at a woman's university in Osaka, Japan. The comparison group consisted of second year students in the general education curriculum. The experimental class was designed for students who had failed EFL classes, termed a Sai Rishu (retakers) class. Students in this class were second, third and fourth year students. Both classes were held once a week for 90 minutes and were taught by the same teacher (B.M.).
Treatment: For the first semester of the year, both classes followed a traditional curriculum, which included reading selections, comprehension questions, vocabulary and grammar exercises and translation exercises. Students in the comparison class adapted well to this method, turning in assignments on time and doing well on exams. Attendance was nearly perfect. The Sai Rishu class was different: Very few students turned in their homework, much of which was incomplete, and students were often late to class. Overall, attendance was poor, and one-third of the students dropped the class before the end of the semester. Test scores were very low. Because of this experience, a new approach was tried for the second semester with the Sai Rishu class.
While the comparison group continued with traditional instruction, the Sai Rishu class spent the second semester reading graded readers, both in class and as homework. About 100 books for students of EFL were purchased for the 30 students in the class. Students were required to read 50 books during the semester, and were also required to write short synopses and keep a diary in Japanese recording their feelings, opinions, and progress. Books ranged from the 600 to the 1600 word level (a 1600 word level book contains about 17,500 words). During class sessions, the teacher checked students' notebooks, discussed their reading with them, and encouraged them. The 50 book requirement proved to be too ambitious, but by the end of the semester, some students had read over 40 books, and the average number of books read was about 30.
Measure: A 100-time cloze test was given as a pre-test and post-test to both groups. The text was about a little girl's experience at the time of the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. Thus, subjects had some background knowledge related to the story. Test-retest reliability, calculated from separate administrations of the test two weeks apart with a sample different from the subjects of this study was .87.
Twenty subjects were randomly selected from each group for the study.