The Missouri Reader Vol. 40, Issue 3 - Page 59

Radio Reading is a variation on Readers’ Theatre that “possesses all the effective elements of practice in developing fluency” (Reutzel & Cooter, 2008, p. 182). Students act out a script as though they are news anchors, sports announcers, weather persons, or roving reporters. As with Readers’ Theatre, there are few props involved, but an added element may be the inclusion of sound effects such as police whistles, barking dogs, doors shutting, or any other effective and appropriate to the script (Hudson et al., 2005; Reutzel & Cooter, 2008). Crawley and Merritt (2004) recommend having the student who is acting as the announcer develop one or two questions to ask the audience based on the information presented in his or her radio reading performance.

With both Readers’ Theatre and Radio Reading, students should be given time to read the script silently first, and the teacher can “model a way the script could be read” (Crawley & Merritt, 2004, p. 93). Students can bid for parts and work collectively to determine how best to present the selection. Ample rehearsal time with the group and with the teacher as a model is necessary so that students “gain confidence and can read their parts with proper volume, accuracy, rate, phrasing, and expression” (Reutzel & Cooter, 2008, p. 183). The use of a tape recorder or videotaping can provide great benefits to practice for performance and fluency as this method allows students to hear themselves as others do so that they can better connect with and understand problems in their reading (Coger & White, 1982; Hudson et al., 2005).

Reading aloud in class. High school English classes involve large quantities of reading due to the nature of the content area. Students may often be asked to read aloud in class, but teachers may neglect to give them prior opportunities for practice, causing time-pressured and performance stressors, especially for struggling readers. Walczyk and Griffith-Ross (2007) demonstrated that students under time restrictions for reading tasks have lowered comprehension of texts. Students also may struggle with decoding difficult words, and their reading may lack smoothness, putting them at risk for feeling uncomfortable performing in class. Teachers can help with this aspect by pre-teaching difficult words prior to assigning reading tasks. This has been shown to increase accuracy and fluency for given reading passages and to build a long term effect of increasing a student’s ability to independently decode long words (Archer et al., 2003).

Students benefit when teachers give them time for silent reading prior to reading aloud because they have an opportunity to become familiar with the author’s style, to clarify words, and to be more confident with the purpose of the piece (Anderson et al., 1985; Crawley & Merritt, 2004). One idea is to allow students extra practice time by assigning passages of text a day or several days prior to having students read aloud in class. Teachers should be sensitive and fair when asking adolescent students to perform in front of their peers and should not force them to read in front of others if they do not want to, but there is confidence and growth at reading abilities for students when they are successful at performance type tasks.

Skimming to Increase Reading Rate and Comprehension

One method that can benefit all students in content area class such as an English class that requires a large amount of reading is to introduce the strategy of skimming. Crawley and Merritt (2004) define skimming as a “quick overview of a book or chapter . . . to find out the main topic or message in the selection and some details” (p. 168). This method involves directing students’ attention to text features such titles, subtitles, chapters, and headings and then teaching them how to adjust their reading rates: to slow down to select important information and speed up when the details are irrelevant to the purpose (Robinson, 1993). Teachers can model skimming as a way to show students how to vary rates. Students may skim by reading topic sentences, bolded words, or side bars. It takes an understanding of the purpose of the reading, which can be explicitly stated by the teacher, and then practice at determining what is important to that purpose and what is not.

As a pre-reading activity, skimming provides students with text familiarity and allows them cognitive access for organizing “facts so they can be retained” and also increases students’ confidence for understanding (Maxwell, 1973, p. 52). Dechant (1991) emphasized the importance of cognitive organization to comprehension because readers “can identify the propositions or idea units in text and can convert these into a coherent whole” (p. 431). Fluency is impacted by skimming a passage to select those key ideas as students can more quickly gain an organizational understanding of the text prior to more concentrated reading of the material.

Hoover (1989) asserted that different reading purposes dictate rates of reading, and it is the more “efficient readers [who] vary their rates of reading when completing assigned tasks” (p. 20). Skimming is considered a fast-paced method in that it assists students in gaining an impression of the text, in determining the reading level of the text, and in assessing its significance to the purpose of their tasks (Hoover, 1989). Teachers need to keep in mind though, that while reading rate does influence