Many elementary school children do not read well orally. Helping a child to learn to read in a rhythmic and fluent manner can be a difficult task. Also, some children seem to have particular difficulty recognizing when they have misread words.
Fred Braun, of the University of Hawaii’s College of Education, contends that the traditional round-robin reading group is not the best place to develop these skills. In homogenous reading groups, children spend most of their time listening to poor or mediocre readers like themselves and do not get enough practice actually reading. Braun recommends that the teacher serve as the model, reading every day a selection from good literature and commenting on some aspect of the reading (rhythm, pitch) afterward.
It has been suggested that reading in pairs equalizes the waiting/reading time, however, Braun believes that it does not necessarily improve the quality of the practice. He writes that reading in pairs often lacks direction, and such practice does not help children to identify their mistakes.
Braun does not, however, reject the use of paired reading. Instead, he suggests that partnership reading should be a time when students reread basal reader stories with which they are familiar and comfortable (they should miss less than 5 words in 100).
During partnership reading, he suggests the teacher work with 2 pairs of children at a time (in a class of 24 children, an hour would allow 10 minutes of direct instruction with each group). Modeling the reading from the basal reader, the teacher points out what she would like the students to work on that day (for example, phrasing using punctuation cues). She listens to each child read a paragraph, modeling how to be a good listener and how to evaluate our partner’s reading. Then the pairs practice that specific skill using material they can comfortably read.
Partnership reading can be alternated with choral reading and the reading of plays. Braun believes that clearly focused partnership reading with the teacher as model is an activity that the children will enjoy periodically throughout the year. Furthermore, he asserts, improved reading fluency will result.
“A Strategy For Improving Reading Fluency” Reading, November 1988 Volume 22 Number 3 pp. 180-182.
Published in ERN March/April 1989 Volume 2 Number 2