Getting the Most Out of Oral Reading

Sam Sebesta

When one student reads aloud while twenty others listen, no one gets enough oral reading practice. That's a reader/listener ratio of one to twenty. Are there ways to improve that ratio? Certainly! Here are just a few:

Buddy reading

Pair a more able reader with one who is not as proficient. Give them an easy, engaging book to read. Then encourage them to read together page by page: The stronger reader models, then the weaker reader rereads. Check the result for improved fluency – and friendship.

Chamber Theatre

Divide your class into random groups of 4 to 6 students. Give each group a different selection to read. Vary the genres; for example, give a folktale to one group and a narrative poem to another. Also, mix in some fantasy, realistic fiction with dialogue, and informational nonfiction. Later, if you wish, you can focus on a variety of selections within one genre.
Smaller ratios give students more oral reading practice. Chances are, they'll enjoy it more, too.

Each group must plan how to present its selection in an interesting way. But, Chamber Theatre is very flexible. The only requirements are that the group must read the selection aloud and that everyone in the group must participate.

First, brainstorm presentation possibilities with students. In one group, some members might mime as others read. In another group, two members might make a quicksketch (a quick drawing on a large piece of paper or the chalkboard) to illustrate what the others are reading. In another group, one reader might read the main idea while other readers cluster together to read the supporting details in chorus. Help each group find creative ways to present the selections orally. They can practice and later perform for the rest for the class.

As with all oral reading, don't require children to do Chamber Theatre the first time they read a selection. Practice is important. For best Chamber Theatre results, groups should plan one day and perform the next. You'll find that some students voluntarily take the material home to practice.

Silent partners

Are some of your students too shy to read aloud to a partner? Do some students stumble when they read aloud? Here's where a child's imagination can come to the rescue. Ask a student to set a three-minute egg timer and read aloud for that period of time to a pet, a stuffed animal, or an invisible "someone" in a chair. Does that sound foolish? It isn't if you're a shy reader who needs practice. And it isn't if you know, as many children do, that a teddy bear or a pet gerbil is a quiet, endlessly patient listener.

Lowering the reader/listener ratio

Try these techniques to lower that reader/listener ratio and help your students get more time reading aloud. Keep the ratio in mind as you plan. What will it be? One to seven? One to five? One to zero? Smaller ratios will tell you that the students in your classroom are getting more oral reading practice than they used to. Chances are, they'll enjoy it more, too.

Related Resources

TeacherVision® Resources

The Emotional Appeal of Children's Literature

Six Tips for Successful Oral Reading


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