Slide 1: Welcome to the eighth webinar in the series on helping teach reading. My name is Emily Kresiak. I am a Research Assistant working for WordFarmers Associates on behalf of the Ohio Partnership for Excellence in Paraprofessional Preparation at the University of Dayton School of Education and Health Sciences Grant Center.
Slide 2: This webinar talks about oral reading, which is the oldest form of reading instruction and still one of the most frequently used forms. One reason it’s the oldest form of reading instruction is that, until the twentieth century, books were scarce. Schools, churches, and homes where reading was taught had few books. In classrooms, each student read, and others listened. The teacher corrected mistakes as the students took turns reading. Today, most schools have enough books for all students in the class to have a copy of the same book; and approaches to oral reading are more varied than in the past.
Slide 3: The old approach of having students take turns reading to the group has been strongly criticized, though it is still used. It’s called “round robin” reading. You may remember “round-robin” reading from your elementary school days. You may have noticed some of the problems with it. Among the problems with this approach to oral reading is that students who read better than average have to follow along reading silently at a pace that is uncomfortably slow for them.
Slide 4: Following along in the book might help those students who read very slowly on their own—if they don’t get bored or distracted and stop paying attention. Unfortunately, research suggests that they often do get bored and stop following along. In fact, many students, not just struggling readers, stop paying attention until it is their turn to read.
Slide 5: Another problem with the round-robin approach is that many students are embarrassed about how they read. They do not want to have the whole class hear them make mistakes. Research shows that students learn less well when they are anxious.
Slide 6: However, as with any skill, practice is the key to improvement. Practice in reading aloud is an important part of learning how to read. If a student can read well aloud, the student can almost certainly read well silently. The major goal in oral reading is to have students read aloud with fluency and expressiveness. Fluency and expressiveness are linked. They result from a combination of reading skills. Fluency is sometimes used to refer to reading speed or rate—how many words the reader reads per minute.
Slide 7: Research-based fluency charts describe average reading rates for the different grade levels. Fluency rates vary greatly for individual students; but some charts indicate that students who score at the average on reading fluency measures read at the following rates by the end of the school year:
1st grade – 70 correct words per minute
2nd grade – 90 correct words per minute
3rd grade – 110 correct words per minute
4th grade – 125 correct words per minute
5th grade – 140 correct words per minute
6th grade – 150 correct words per minute
Slide 8: These are not goals for each grade level; they are descriptions of actual reading rates by grade level. In particular, they are the rates for the readers who are right in the middle of the class in terms of fluency.
Slide 9: Also, it’s important to keep in mind that the word “fluent” is related to the words “fluid” and “flowing.” In talking about oral reading, helping students with “fluency” also implies helping them achieve a smooth, natural reading, as though the reader were talking, rather than reading.
Slide 10: Beyond first grade, fluency is one of the main things that teachers, paraprofessionals, and tutors assess in oral reading. When a student can read a passage fluently, it almost always indicates that he or she understands the meaning of the passage. Of course, there may be a few students who can decode words quickly and pronounce them correctly without any understanding of the meaning of the words. But that circumstance is rare. There is almost always a strong association between immediate recognition and correct pronunciation of words and having some idea of what they mean.
Slide 11: Expressiveness is an even stronger indication of comprehension, not only of words, but of phrases, sentences, and even punctuation. Research has shown a strong link between expressiveness in oral reading and general reading achievement.
Slide 12: Expressiveness is hard to define, but it reflects students’ ability to vary their reading speed to reflect meaning, to pause at the right moments, and to read in phrases as well as sentences, as well as to change the tone and pitch of their voice to indicate meaning.
Slide 13: A simple example of expressiveness is when a student varies the rhythm and voice to show different feelings implied by the words, sentences, and phrases. The student knows to read a sentence like, “Let’s surprise Julie and treat her to an ice cream cone,” in a different tone and rhythm than a sentence like, “They looked all over the neighborhood and couldn’t find their lost puppy.”
Slide 14: Another simple example of expressiveness is when a student knows to raise the pitch of his or her voice at the end of a question and to drop the pitch and volume a little at the end of a statement. For example, the following would be read aloud slightly differently at the end of each sentence:
“My name is Margaret Dawson.”
“Your name is Margaret Dawson?”
Slide 15: Listening to students read orally is an effective way for teachers and paraprofessionals to assess students’ progress in decoding, sight reading, and comprehension of reading material. However, the main benefit of oral reading is for instruction. As teachers and paraprofessionals or tutors listen to students read orally, they can help them learn to recognize words and use punctuation to help express meaning in a way that they can’t help the students if they’re reading silently.
Slide 16: In addition, the practice in oral reading is focused practice. When reading silently, the students’ minds can drift off at times. This can happen with oral reading too, but it’s less likely to happen, especially with students who are still learning how to read.
Slide 17: Fortunately, many good ways to offer practice in oral reading have been developed to replace “round robin” reading. Most of them are one-on-one methods, with a teacher, paraprofessional, or tutor guiding the practice. The student reads and the listener gives help as needed.
Slide 18: One specific form of such help has the teacher, paraprofessional, or tutor read a phrase or sentence aloud first, to show how it should be read, and then having the student read the sentence. This method is called “echo reading.” In echo reading, the teacher or paraprofessional often moves her or his finger along the words, phrases, and sentences so that the student can track the print and see where the adult pauses. After the teacher or paraprofessional reads the phrase or sentence, the student imitates, or echoes, by reading the phrase or sentence in a manner similar to that used by the adult. Echo reading can help students improve their sight word recognition and expressiveness.
Slide 19: Another one-on-one form of oral reading instruction is “paired reading” or “partner reading.” One way of doing paired reading is simply to have two students take turns reading to each other. The turns should be short, of course, or the student who is not reading may lose focus on the passage. This form of paired reading works well with two students who are at about the same reading level. Even if they are both struggling readers, each knows some different words from the other. Readers at the same level can help each other without feeling self-conscious in the way that a struggling reader might feel in reading to a peer who is a noticeably better reader.
Slide 20: Paired reading can also take the form of both students reading at the same time, matching their reading speed to each other. This form of paired reading may work better when one of the two students is a somewhat better reader than the other. The better reader can slow his or her reading pace a little, and the struggling reader is able to read a little faster than he or she could in reading the passage alone. The struggling reader follows along, orally, with the better reader.
Slide 21: When a pair of students reads together, you could say they are doing a form of “choral reading,” yet another method of having students read orally. However, choral reading is usually done by a whole class or by a group of several students. Choral reading can mean just reading in unison; but it is often scripted like a performance, with different students or groups of students assigned different sentences. In choral reading students strive for a more dramatic effect than if they were just reading any passage together.
Slide 22: For example, different students might read different lines of a narrative, but the whole group might read a “refrain”—a section of the passage that is like a chorus of a song in that it is repeated. Sometimes one student reads a sentence, and then another student joins in on the second sentence, and then another student on the third line, and so on. The many ways in which readers’ voices are combined can achieve dramatic effects that couldn’t be achieved by a single reader.
Slide 23: Poems are often used for choral readings; but, even for students in the intermediate grades, the simple stories in picture books also offer surprisingly good material for “scripting”—assigning different sentences or lines to be read by individual students, the whole group, and subgroups (such as all the girls or all the boys in the group). Other than reading difficulty level, the main thing to consider in selecting material is that it be rhythmic and lend itself to expressiveness. For practical purposes, such selections should usually be short poems, though longer ones can work in some cases with older students.
Slide 24: Repeated practice in oral reading is essential to helping students master reading skills needed for fluency and expressiveness. Repeated oral reading practice is especially helpful when it uses a variety of approaches that take into account individual readers’ skills. It is also helpful when oral reading practice keeps readers’ attention focused on the reading material. Students particularly like oral reading when the passages are engaging, even entertaining much of the time. Enjoyable experiences with oral reading are essential to helping students get pleasure from reading and seek it out, rather than avoid it.