These drills are based on the technique of Repeated Reading.
They could not be simpler. Read a short piece of text aloud, timed by a stopwatch. Then read it again, trying to go a little faster. And again. When the stopwatch indicates that your speed gains are beginning to plateau, you are done. That’s usually 5-6 trials.
Repeated Reading helps build an inventory of sight-recognition words, which are recognized automatically, instantly and effortlessly. (These are not the same as memorized words or sight-words). It gives the student practice at reading faster, exercising everything from eye movements to expressive prosody.
Faster reading means better comprehension. The way we have implemented Repeated Reading will also help build vocabulary. Since the texts are harder, it gives opportunity to help your child’s comprehension skills through questioning, scaffolding, and retelling. Commit to 15 minutes of Repeated Reading every day, and your child will progress quickly.
The Torgesen Study found that severely dyslexic students became normal, or even above-average, readers after an intensive 8-week phonics intervention. But they remained SLOW readers. Slowness is the major characteristic of ‘non-automatic’ dyslexics who decode accurately. (Watch out – readers who rely on guessing from context and from first-and-last letters are also slow.)
The… problem… is… that… slow… reading… reduces… comprehension.
Slowness also makes reading less pleasurable. Strong readers LOVE reading, and they read more. Struggling readers read less. And a small gap in skills in the early grades becomes an insurmountable handicap by university. This is the ‘Matthew Effect in Reading’.
The Denton study repeated Torgesen’s intensive intervention, and added eight weeks of fluency training – one hour per day. And the slow-reader problem went away. Even students who had not responded to previous interventions were successful with the combination of intensive phonics- and fluency.
Warning: If your child has ANY weakness with blending, then work through the BLENDING program first. If you are not sure, then start with BLENDING anyhow. You will know in the first 20 minutes if blending is a problem.
If your student guesses at words, then you MUST fix blending first or risk simply developing a better guesser – a dead end that only looks like improvement. BLENDING first, FLUENCY afterwards.
Sarah Dowhower offers a review of the research behind Repeated Reading in her classic paper “Repeated Reading Revisited: Research into Practice”. Click on the image to read the first page, or retrieve the full paper from JSTOR here: Dowhower(1994).
Repeated Reading is a great technique for all sorts of reasons. Strong readers use it for studying, strong writers use it for improving their texts. Practicing RR improves sight-recognition vocabulary, especially in our format since we present the unusual words both in- and out of context.
If you are tutoring more than one student at a time, consider having them work together, taking turns reading and following. Repeated Reading is hard work, but it is also fun.
As our text, we have used ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by English mathematician Charles Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar creatures.
Based on word complexity, Alice is about a grade-4 level book. Some of the language will seem old-fashioned, since it was written over 150 years ago. Dodgson/Carroll loved playing with logic, and there are lots of opportunities to engage your student about the ‘sense’ in his nonsense.
If you are using our site, then chances are that your student isn’t a grade-4 reader – and in any case may be younger than grade-5. But that’s OK for Repeated Reading, You will be working through each page of text together, discussing and practicing the vocabulary.
If the text is too hard for your student, then read it aloud the first time yourself while he reads along. Feed him the words he gets wrong as he reads and re-reads. If that isn’t enough, then maybe he isn’t ready for Alice – but you can still do an informal Repeated Reading with whatever text he is reading. Use a stopwatch (I use the clock function in my smartphone), and create a graph by hand.