I’m a big believer in the power of reading and the need to maximize the benefits of a text. With private students, I’ve often asked them to work with a particular reading multiple ways. We read for comprehension. We study vocabulary and new structures in context. We discuss the content and make time for summaries and reactions. Additional readings can then be done. For example, I can select lines or paragraphs from the text and ask students to listen and repeat after me until fluent reading is achieved. I see the confidence and satisfaction grow when a student finally reads a passage smoothly.
What about independent reading? Of course, there’s reading for pleasure, reading for academic coursework, and reading that needs to be done at the workplace. But those all tend to be silent forms of reading. How can learners continue practicing oral reading to improve general fluency? What materials and strategies can be used?
Since last year, I’ve been toying with the idea of creating oral reading passages for independent practice. I hope to post my initial ideas in the near future in the form of video. How would you go about composing these texts and how would you ask students to work with them? Here are some of the factors I believe need to be addressed.
- A language learner needs to read a text multiple times. Therefore, the texts for oral reading practice should be short enough so that a busy person would be willing to reread it. A one-minute reading seems ideal to me. The shorter length would also more easily allow varied types of reading, from listen-repeat to choral reading.
- The texts need to be comprehensible. If a learner is going to read with expression, the content must be understood. That implies that the vocabulary and grammar must appropriate. For a mass audience, I think a set of readings needs to increase slowly in difficulty. When higher-level vocabulary is used, enough context must be provided so that the meanings can be inferred. Also, when new vocabulary is introduced, the words should be high frequency words to make them worth learning.
- Comprehension also comes through readiness. Simple pre-reading activities are used to engage and prepare a learner. From predicting to discussion, a pre-reading task activates prior knowledge and taps into relevant personal experience.
- Fluent reading is guided by knowledge of punctuation and sentence structure. I think some simple slashes or other markings make natural thought groups clear for a reader. I hope my series on punctuation will support my set of texts for oral reading.
- A learner needs a model. In a live lesson, we can serve as models for our students. But for independent practice, learners appreciate having access to recordings. For that reason, I have often selected podcasts online for private lessons. The recordings and transcripts are on-demand. I have also recorded my own reading of original texts in the past and shared those recordings with students. For the new set of videos, I will certainly provide a model for learners to follow.
- The content needs to be interesting. The learner must want to do this form of practice. Texts should be informative, entertaining, and/or reflective in nature.
Wish me luck as I move forward. Please feel free to comment and make recommendations.