Performance Reading: The Student-Led Read Aloud
Four ways to implement student-led read aloud, including turning repeated reading into engaging and effective instruction
- Grades: 1–2, 3–5
There are several forms of performance reading. In this article, I describe the student-led read aloud, one of the several effective and authentic types of performance reading.
We know that the teacher-led read aloud as a powerful oral reading strategy. Student-led read aloud can be equally powerful. When we read a text to students, we must practice beforehand to ensure that our reading is expressive, meaningful, and satisfying to the audience. The same is true for students who read aloud to others. Below are some ways to implement student-led read aloud.
In radio reading, students read aloud a portion of a text assigned by you, sounding as much like a professional radio announcer as possible. As such, they must practice their reading at school and at home, by themselves and with partners, to perfect their performance.
Some teachers designate times for students to read aloud to classmates, in wholegroup and small-group contexts. Fifth-grade teacher Hannah Maxwell has her students give oral book reports, or “book talks.” The goal of the book talk is not only for students to share their views on a book they’ve read recently, but also to “sell” the book to fellow students. Hannah asks her students to give a summary of the book, critique it, and read a favorite passage that illustrates a key event or illustrates the author’s writing style. To make the book as exciting as possible, students need to read their passage with expression. And, for that to happen, they need to practice.
Cross-age tutoring has been found to have significant advantages for both the tutor and the tutee. One way to implement cross-age tutoring is through pairing students at different grade levels to read aloud together as “book buddies.” Book buddies meet periodically, usually once or twice a week, for 20 to 30 minutes before, during, or after school. The older student may read to the younger student, the younger student may read to the older student, or the two students may read aloud together. Whoever reads must practice beforehand so that his or her buddy reaps the full benefits of the experience, which is especially powerful for older struggling readers. Practicing on material that is at their younger buddy’s level exposes these readers to the easier material they need to read to develop their own reading power. And rather than balking at being forced to read “baby” books, older readers see the activity as a chance to help and take responsibility for their buddy. For more advanced readers, the chance to read easier material from time to time builds fluency and expression. Younger readers also benefit from reading to a partner, especially if they have a chance to practice beforehand.
If forming book buddies presents logistical difficulties, you can forge connections between older and younger students with tape-recorded books. Recorded books can be a form of oral assisted reading in which students read a text and listen to a fluent rendition of it at the same time. Prerecorded books and other materials can be purchased from commercial sources, of course, but they can also be created by your students themselves. Older students can record books for younger students. Usually, a difference of two grade levels is ideal—grade 5 students make recorded books for grade 3, grade 4 students for grade 2, and so forth.
Younger students appreciate reading text while they listen to the same materials read in an expressive voice by an older schoolmate, and the students who make the tapes benefit as well. To reach the level of fluency required to make a high-quality recording, the older students must practice reading the text several times through. As with book buddies, recorded books as a strategy is particularly beneficial for struggling older readers who need to read easier material to gain proficiency. Making books on tape for younger students gives them a good reason to read books that might otherwise embarrass them. It also provides a reason to do repeated reading.
Developing recorded books is not only a natural way to promote repeated reading, it is also motivating and potentially lucrative. Opitz and Rasinski (2008) tell the story of a class of intermediate-grade students who made recorded books for the primary grades. Students got so immersed in the project, they began selling their recorded tapes to parents to use with their children at home.
For more about fluency, including lessons, strategies, and ideas, see Your Complete Guide to Reading Fluency .