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Getting Started with Paired Reading

Getting Started with Peer Reading - Part 1. Watch the video by Allen Thurston.
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So we now know what paired reading is. And we also know how to organize the students/children. But how do we get up and running in the classroom? If you try and start to introduce paired reading with all components in one go– reading together alone, correcting mistakes, giving praise, talking about books, questioning, et cetera– there’s a danger that you will make something simple sound like rocket science. Therefore, we need to build it up over about four sessions. Overall, we want to move from telling them about paired reading, why we are doing it with an overview of what it entails, and giving a demonstration.
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This could be done with a teacher and a classroom assistant or another teacher or a member of SMT or two adults giving a demonstration. However, if your Oscar got lost in the post the last time you trod the boards, you could use the videos on this MOOC or train two student or pupils and get them to demonstrate to the class.
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As we know, paired reading has five main components– choosing the right book, supported reading, error correction, questioning, and praise. Ideally, we want to introduce a technique over four sessions. We add a little ingredient each session until the end of a fourth session, paired reading is happening in it’s full glory. In terms of the paired reading process, the first session should focus on choosing a book at the right level– remember, that’s the five finger test– and then switching between reading alone and reading together, including error correction. Introduce a paired reading log in session one and make sure pairs complete this log at the end of every session.
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The second session should then focus on praising and consolidating error correction. These strategies should be modeled for students during the session. And we recommend that this is done as a class. The third session should practice the previous techniques and should introduce questioning. In this session, use 3 question time breaks– one before reading, one about halfway through the session, one after reading. Introduce the question mat provided at the end of the manual and get the students to practice using it during this session. The fourth session onwards should be used to consolidate the learning to date and correct any areas of weaknesses. From session four, the paired reading process should be working for most pairs.
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There are resources available in the form of a series of PowerPoint presentations to help you structure sessions one, two, three, and then four to twelve. You will note that we’ve provided social and communication skills activities in two manuals. These were developed a number of years ago, as part of another project on cooperative learning.
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We found that the benefit of using these social and communication skills activities in conjunction with undertaking cooperative learning– of course, we’ve already said peer tutoring is a form of cooperative learning– was to increase academic benefits by about 15% compared to not using them.
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A number of teachers have found it beneficial to use these as starter activities to the paired reading. But this does make the session a little longer. Normally it adds about 10 minutes to the session. Let’s have a quick look at one of those PowerPoint resources are available to you to help you structure lessons. As we just mentioned, you may wish to choose any starter activity, which will help the pairs or the group communicate better. There are a range of activities that can be included to aid the developments of social and communication skills. We will ask you to look at these as part of your activities this week. Alternatively, you could create your own starter activities.
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What follows are the full PowerPoint activities to support you introducing in the lessons and weeks four to twelve. Each PowerPoint presentation reminds the students what resources they need to have to hand. Many teachers have found it useful to laminate the resources used for paired reading, and keep them in a file for each pair. That way, the resources are available for each session. We always remind students how to get a book at the right level. In truth, you may have to help some pairs in this process. Included in the resources is this aid memoir. It’s a basic checklist of what needs to happen during paired reading.
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Why have we included the checklist? We’ve used our previous research to decide what critical features of paired reading need to be there to get the benefits. These critical features are listed on the checklist. You may want to laminate this and gets used to self-check that they are doing everything on the list. You will probably need to remind students of the things they’ve learned in the training sessions, such as praise. This is typically something that is to be worked on in most classrooms. There is a copy of a praise card in the manual. Each pair should have a copy of this in their folder.
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To get this going, you may wish to lead a discussion on what effective praise word strategies could be. Think about developing a praise bank. Remember, rewards are very important, these may be verbal or tangible. One notable event during the North Tyneside peer tutoring project was a development of a sticker reward system in one of the schools. This school was in a socio-economically deprived area. Students decided that they would like stickers for good reading.
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What was notable was that some of the students who teachers said were likely to be out stealing cars the night before came into school and looked after their year seven/grade 6 student, and were delighted to receive a sticker for being a good tutor or a good reading. The important thing about this was that the reward system with student-driven, and students made decisions on who got awards. Some teachers found that having questions projected onto the whiteboard, as well as being printed on the question mats, helped their students. It’s also allowed them to ensure that questioning happened at a set time– normally, before reading, during reading, and after reading. Remember to take time to develop the pair’s questioning skills.
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It’s essential that you take time to fill out the paired reading log. It allow students to set goals and objectives for formative assessments. The PowerPoint contains a slide as an aide memoire for this. After you have paired reading up and running, your job isn’t over. So thoughts of retiring to the staffroom or kitchen for coffee and a bun are far from reality. As an important job for you to do, coaching and giving feedback to your students. This might be informal coaching or a more structured observation. You can use a checklist or more comprehensive observation schedule supplied in the manual.
How do you set up paired reading in your classroom or non-educational setting? To start using the paired reading method you will need to learn how to prepare and organise the students and to explore the resources that are freely available to help.
Please watch the video where initial advice is provided by Allen Thurston on how to get the paired reading technique up and the running in the classroom.
This includes the training of students, the introduction of starter activities and the number of training sessions required.
The PowerPoint slides that are used in the paired reading sessions are available below. They are in PDF format.
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Using Peer Tutoring to Improve Student Reading

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