The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 58

Performance Reading Activities

Performance reading is any activity that requires students to prepare and practice for reading aloud for the teacher or an audience. Too often, struggling readers have little support with tasks that require reading aloud in class (Worthy & Broaddus, 2002). Practice time and collaborative group effort are imperative to performance reading activities to provide this needed support. Furthermore, reading performance activities are beneficial to reading fluency and supportive to all readers in class because they include modeling, practice, and engagement with peers in a variety of texts (Worthy & Broaddus, 2002). When participating in a performance reading activity, students benefit in their reading fluency due to multiple readings of the material, and, with practice, they improve on rate and prosody. Practice and accountability toward the audience are the keys to the effectiveness of performance reading, and often, students find the performance aspect meaningful, fun, and appealing as they are reading with purpose (Worthy & Broaddus, 2002).

Several types of activities fall under the heading of performance reading. The commonality is that students prepare for and read for a peer, an audience, or the teacher. Practice allows for students to target prosody (Hudson, Lane, & Pullen, 2005; Worthy & Broaddus, 2002). Students’ efforts are enhanced with modeling and feedback as they practice and determine how best to express the reading in a performance. The teacher is integral to the activities because her “instruction and feedback are natural components of rehearsing” (Worhty & Broaddus, 2002, p. 337).

Partner reading. Students who engage in “high quality oral reading practice are much more likely to develop fluent reading” (Stevens, 2006, p. 42). Partner reading is a performance activity that helps to improve fluency because students read aloud to each other, and students working together are more alert and engaged cognitively (Walczyk & Griffith-Ross, 2007). The reader can gain feedback, and thus, the practice is of higher quality. The impact is significant because, as Routman (2003) asserted, students are less reliant on the teacher, there is increased reader involvement and attention, and these skills contribute to collaboration. An aspect that is vital to this method is for the teacher to model fluent reading first so that all students know what it is their ear should be hearing as they speak the words. The most important benefit is that reading aloud benefits all students in the class by helping both “less fluent readers and skilled readers to comprehend” (Walczyk & Griffith-Ross, 2007, p. 565).

Partner reading as a classroom oral reading practice “guarantees that the students are actually reading” (Archer, Gleason, & Vachon, 2003, p. 97). Crawley and Merritt (2004) recommend that students read chorally together and be allowed to “select books at the independent level. . . [to provide for] success in reading aloud without assistance” (p. 92). Routman (2003) suggested having students read various types of materials such as comics, newspapers, poetry, or picture books so that students practice at different types of texts. An added benefit for fun and social element is to have students practice expression and use character voices as a way to improve “both listening skills and fluency” (Routman, 2003, p. 128).

Readers’ theatre and radio reading. Both Readers’ Theatre and Radio Reading are collaborative group performance activities where students rehearse and perform a script of dialogue. These types of activities address fluency on multiple levels as skilled and less skilled readers work together as part of peer groups, the reading is modeled, and students practice repeatedly. Through interpretations of the script by the students, voice inflection and prosody skills are incorporated into the presentation. Most importantly, students tap into comprehension as they determine how to interpretively express the reading aloud. In these types of activities, students are not grouped according to reading ability but according to interests, and the focus is moved from ability to “fluent reading to convey meaning”

(Worthy & Broaddus, 2002, p. 338). Each group member should be required to participate on some level (Reutzel & Cooter, 2008). Scripts of dialogue for Readers’ Theatre may be purchased, or better, as a way to incorporate writing, adolescent students may engage in the writing of a script for either Readers’ Theatre or Radio Reading in response to literature.

There is flexibility in Readers’ Theatre in that little or no props need be involved, no stage is required, no costuming, and little or no memorization is required (Beers, 2003). Many genres such as poetry, picture books, and even non-fiction can be adapted to script development for Readers’ Theatre. The most effective selections include action, suspense, sufficient dialogue, multiple characters, and “comprise an entire, meaningful story or nonfiction text” (Reutzel & Cooter, 2008, p. 182). Coger and White (1982) have eloquently and appropriately captured the activity of Readers’ Theatre for adolescent participants as “an experience, a happening” (p. 3).

fluency, “rate of reading is not the primary goal in reading. The ultimate aim is comprehension” (Dechant, 1991, p. 465).