Research to the Classroom - Dyad Reading Part 2

3 Students and Teacher Doing Activity


Subscribe to the Podcast


Hi there, and welcome to the Structured Literacy Podcast recorded here in Pataway Lutruwita or Burnie, Tasmania, the home of the Palawa people. I'm so lucky to live and work here in this beautiful place and also to bring you this week's podcast, which is the second episode in our current Research to the Classroom series about assisted reading. Our Research to the Classroom series is in three parts: part one, where we share a published research paper; part two, where we unpack what classroom instruction might look like; and part three, where I talk to a real-life teacher about their experience of the particular practice with their students. 

What Does the Research Say?
In our last episode, I shared a research paper called The Effects of Dyad Reading and Text Difficulty on Third-Graders Reading Achievement by Lisa Brown and colleagues. The study outlined in the paper found that reading a text that was about two years ahead of your current reading level with a more capable partner for 15 minutes per day resulted in triple the growth of students who read books of their choice independently. This study lasted for 95, 15 minute sessions. If you haven't listened to the previous episode, where I discussed details of the study and reflected on what others have to say about this practice, I suggest that you do that. It will give you greater context to think about what I'm discussing in this episode. I found this paper really interesting as it provided more information about what we can do in our classrooms to support fluency for students who are struggling in their reading development. We know that there are simply not enough grown ups to go around to provide intervention support for all the children who need it. So practices that are aimed at whole class work are very, very useful. Just a quick note though, the study outlined in this paper did not gather data on the impact of Dyad reading on word-level reading, only text level and it specifically stated that assisted reading has been found to be beneficial for students who are already making the shift from decoding or sound by sound reading to more automatic reading. That is, they're moving to word recognition. 

How Do I Use Partner Reading for Students Who Can Decode?
Building a kit bag of techniques is as much about knowing when to do what as it is about just knowing what to do. So, let's dive into some more specific information about how we could employ this kind of partner reading in our classrooms for those students who have basic decoding sorted out and are now working on text-level fluency. The instructional routines that I'm sharing today come from Tim Rasinski and Chase Young. There's a link to the open-access article that I've drawn on for today's episode in the show notes at For those schools using DIBELs or Acadience, you're already monitoring student fluency in terms of rate. If you aren't using these assessments, don't panic. You can simply take an unseen age-appropriate text and have students read it aloud for one minute and then use the Hasbrook Tindle Fluency Norms to determine whether your student has reached an acceptable number of words read per minute; and they need to be correct words read per minute for the grade. The link to these norms is also found in the show notes. In the article, Fluency Matters, Tim Rasinski and Chase Young reviewed the reading profiles of some Year 3 students and found that half of them were reading below the appropriate threshold of 96 correct words per minute. The average reading speed for those students was 68 words per minute, which for us playing at home is about the start of year one-ish.

Different Measures of Reading Fluency
Do you know what the average number of correct words per minute is for your class? If you don't know, job number one is to find out. Reading rate is the easy bit to measure, but expression is trickier as it isn't nearly as precise. One measure you can use to score expression or prosody, which is about phrasing, is a five-point scale, and the link to that is in our show notes as well. The teacher determines whether the student read word by word with less than half of the words read with appropriate expression, more than half of the words read with appropriate expression, more than three-quarters read with appropriate phrasing and expression, or at least 90%. This is quite subjective, so you might like to record a few samples and have your team listen together and talk about your views. There are more details in the article about the student group and some of the challenges they faced, as well as the pleasing findings at the end of six weeks of instruction.

What Routine Should We Use for Whole-Class Instruction?

There are two slightly different versions of the instructional routine shared in the Fluency Matters article, but I'm going to focus on the one that is suggested for whole class use, as this will be the greatest benefit to classroom teachers.  It's called the 'Fluency Development Lesson'. This lesson runs for 25 minutes each day and involves short passages that are read and re-read with assistance and feedback, both with the teacher and with other students. The fluency development lesson combines modelling, assisted reading that we heard about in the previous episode, and repeated reading that most of us will have heard about and are likely doing in our classroom to some degree. The difference between the fluency development lesson proposed here and the repeated reading we're used to is that a new text is presented every day. Repeated reading does occur in a fluency development lesson, but it's not just one text for a whole week, and I know that's something that many teachers are struggling to get students on board with.

Step one of the fluency development lesson is to read the text you worked on in the last lesson. The students read the text, and this provides follow-up and repeated reading over more than one day. 

Step two is for the teacher to introduce a new short text, somewhere between 50 and 200 words, and read it aloud two or three times while students follow along.

Step three is a discussion. Ask engaging questions to get the students talking about what the text means and to make sure that they understand what it's about. This would be a good time to clarify unfamiliar vocabulary or unpack any truly tricky word spellings.

Step four involves the teacher and students reading the text chorally several times. So, all together at the same time. See where the repeated reading comes in? To make this engaging, you can use several varieties of choral reading, such as antiphonal reading, where half of the class reads a sentence and then the other half reads the next one and then you swap over. You can also do things like echo choral reading, where you read and then the students repeat you, or cumulative choral reading, where you start, and different rows of students join in until the whole class is reading. Changing up the way reading is done keeps things fresh and ensures that you don't lose the students' attention. 

Step five is to have the students read in pairs. Organise these pairs ahead of time so that each person has a supportive or lead partner, the same way as in the research study we heard about in the last episode. The difference between the study and this routine is that in the fluency development lesson, students take turns reading aloud for each other, with feedback given at the end of each reading. However, I think that this could be an opportunity for Dyad reading with both students reading together, but you'll make the choice.

Step six is to perform the reading for an audience. This could be another student, a parent helper, the principal, or another class, and can involve groups of students or individuals. Doing this daily, the simplest thing is probably just to find another student in the class who didn't hear you read before and read it to them.

Step seven was included because so many of the students in the class struggled with word-level spelling and word recognition. So it involves choosing a few words to be the focus of vocabulary work and word study, and this is where you can bring some morphology into the picture and maybe make some word families.

Step eight is about home involvement with students taking the text home to share with families and there you have another opportunity for repeated reading. 

One of the things that's great about this routine is that it facilitates both repeated reading and wide reading. Kids simply don't read enough. They don't have enough variety or depth to what they read. This is also a great structure because what students read can connect closely with other areas of the curriculum, not just English. If you like routine, you could set up a system of: 

  • Monday reading a background knowledge text from your text-based unit, 

  • Tuesday is a poem 

  • Wednesday is a text linked to science, 

  • Thursday is a text linked to history or geography, 

  • Friday is a text just for fun, something funny or on a topic of the student's choosing. 

The other really handy thing here is that there is no bother about 'levels'. Everyone reads the same text, and because it's read so many times, students who might be reading two or three years below their peers can be successful. Of course, if a student didn't have code and simply couldn't access the text, they might be better served making this time their phonics and decoding lesson with their text-level reading happening at a different time. 

What if I get the Text Selection Wrong?
Please don't worry that you're going to get the text selection wrong. We've been trained to be extremely selective about the text we choose, with the belief that we can only choose texts that match the student's level. However, the research has shown us that once you're through the learning to decode part of your reading journey, being supported to read harder texts than you could automatically read on your own actually gets the best results. If you have really high flyers, who you worry won't get anything out of this process, you could either just have a more complex text ready for them when it comes time to read with a partner or make them the lead reader for a struggling student. Where do you find these texts? Well, just about anywhere. If you are a Resource Room member, you already have access to a range of non-fiction texts designed to build background knowledge that you can print and use across several days for this. You can also use the morphology-focused reading passages that are a perfect length for a fluency development lesson. If you're looking for Reader's Theatre scripts, Dr Chase Young, one of the authors of the article where I found the fluency development lesson, has a website, There, you will find a range of free Reader's Theatre scripts for various numbers of parts. 

Is There a Link Between Reading and Vocabulary?
There's another reason that reading aloud is a great idea. There is great evidence to show that vocabulary development is aided by reading. The more you read, the more your vocabulary grows, but Linnea Ehri did conduct some research that showed that reading aloud yields better results than just reading silently. The suggestion being that it's because kids simply skip unfamiliar words when they read on their own.  Reading aloud also ensures that you are pronouncing the words, which is one of the three conditions necessary for mapping a word to long-term memory or orthographic mapping. We have to know what a word looks like, what it means and what it sounds like. So reading aloud using this fluency development lesson, makes sure that students have all three bits of knowledge. 

Let's Sum It Up...
In this episode of the Structured Literacy Podcast, I've shared a suggestion for a fluency development lesson that combines assisted reading, repeated reading, deep reading, and wide reading to give students a well-rounded reading experience. 25 minutes is a lot of time, given the limited number of minutes that we have in our day for literacy, but when we consider the benefits of the practice, and the fact that we can link the content to other curriculum areas, it seems like a very productive use of time to me. 

Coming Up Next Week.
This has been the second of our three-part Research to the Classroom series on assisted reading or Dyad reading. In the next episode, I'll be chatting with an experienced Year 5 teacher who has been using assisted reading in her classroom. Be sure to subscribe to the podcast wherever you are listening so that you can catch the next episode as soon as it's released.

 Until then, happy teaching everyone. Bye.


References and Further Reading: 

Hasbrouck Tindal Fluency Norms

Hasbrouck, J. (2006). For Students Who Are Not Yet Fluent, Silent Reading Is Not the Best Use of Classroom Time. American Educator, Summer 2006, 30(2). (5 Point Scale) 

Rasinski, Timothy & Young, Chase. (2015). Fluency matters. Connecticut Reading Association Journal.


Marina Mounsey

The three podcasts on fluency are amazing! Thank you my teachers have found them so useful. Love your work! 

Read more
Read less
Jocelyn Seamer

Hi Marina

I am so pleased that you have the series useful. Happy teaching! 


Read more
Read less

Leave a comment