Video summary

This video takes a look at the advantages and disadvantages when it comes to implementing group, paired and individual reading in your classroom. We hope that it gives you insight and will help you to manage your reading lessons.

Group reading is widely used by many teachers and schools for numerous reasons. Being in a group of learners who are at a similar reading level helps learners read and develop at an appropriate pace that doesn’t rush nor under challenge and bore them. Small groups allow teachers to give more direct instruction and guidance due to the intimate nature of reading in smaller groups, the teacher is more easily able to pick up on reading difficulties of individual learners, learners are given ample opportunity to read aloud in groups to promote reading fluency, and small group guided reading session encourages learners to take part in discussions as the teacher asks questions. This expands their comprehension, knowledge and vocabulary as well as speaking and listening skills.

Despite the many benefits of group reading, it may have a few negative consequences. Such as:

  • it widens the gap between weak and strong learners which can cause low self-esteem for learners in weaker groups as they feel as if they are not as capable,
  • many shy learners feel anxious during group reading and are hesitant to read out loud, this may make them appear to be weaker readers than what they really are,
  • due to the wide range of reading abilities and only a limited number of groups, some learners may feel as if they do not have any chance to grow and expand their reading abilities and knowledge
  • lastly, the teacher needs to still be able to manage the rest of the class while having guided group reading and this can be a difficult feat if not planned and managed sufficiently.

Some teachers or schools implement a strategy known as flexible grouping. This consists of learners in ranging abilities being placed in a small reading group which is changed up with different combinations of learners on a regular basis.  The advantages of flexible grouping include that they widen learner’s friendship choices by giving them the opportunity to be in contact with many learners, it enhances the knowledge and skills of learners and promotes positive self-esteem in learners by not having distinct “weak” and “strong” reading groups. Disadvantages to flexible grouping include strong readers feeling under-challenged and bored by the general reading materials to suit everybody, and weaker readers may not be able to keep up with the stronger readers in their group which may make them feel confused, embarrassed and less able. These two disadvantages hinder the enjoyment of reading. Flexible grouping may also lead to inaccurate assessment of learners who may be given unsuitable reading materials to be assessed off of.

Paired reading has been praised for the following reasons

  • It improves fluency as learners practise reading out loud and comprehension when the pairs ask their partner questions,
  • there is no pressure to read perfectly while in pairs due to the conversational manner,
  • learners are given some control and choice according to who reads first, what type of book they want to read and so on; if the teacher allows
  • cooperation with fellow peers is promoted during paired reading as learners help one another
  • learners are able to praise their partner, be patient with them and help them with difficult words- these are essential social skills
  • due to reading out loud and discussing texts with partners, paired reading also develops oral skills and the confidence to read out loud.

However, paired reading may not work if two strong learners are paired together they may rush through prescribed text too quickly and become restless, bored and disturb learners who are still trying to read. The teacher needs to be able to manage this and provide some more challenging texts for these learners to avoid this situation. On the other hand, two weaker readers that are paired together may struggle through a text with a lot of new vocabulary and unknown words, this may lead to them skipping these words, not progressing and not experiencing the full content of the text. Teachers should monitor and guide these students, helping them with new vocabulary. Paired reading may also be less effective due to the lack of valuable teacher instruction; the teacher is unable to observe and guide all the pairs at once and may miss opportunities to help struggling learners. In order for paired reading to run smoothly and be effective, it is essential for there to be an established routine that learners know and understand- not knowing what to do in a paired reading lesson could lead to wasted learning time.

Individual reading should be integrated into the daily programme as it allows learners to read at their own pace, which they are comfortable with and do not feel pressured or slowed down. It encourages independence as the teacher entrusts learners to go through the text properly on their own without his or her guidance. Learners are free to choose which books they would like to read during individual reading, this leads to more enjoyment of reading as they choose what interests them, shy or weaker readers are given to opportunity to practise their reading without the anxiety of making mistakes or reading out loud to other people, and this, in turn, builds confidence as learners are not under any pressure to read perfectly.

Implications of individual include that it

  • may only benefit medium to strong readers, as weak readers may struggle to get through a text alone, unknown words and new vocabulary is often merely skipped during individual reading,
  • learners are not given the opportunity to practise reading out loud; this helps them with fluency and pronunciation,
  • learners may only choose simple reading materials which do not challenge and progress them,
  • there is a lack of teacher guidance during individual reading meaning that he or she won’t be able to give the learners more input on the text that they get during small group reading discussions.

As you can now see, all three methods of reading in the classroom have many benefits as well as implications, therefore the best strategy would be to implement all of them by providing meaningful opportunities throughout the week; the most important thing is that reading is practised as often as possible!