Video summary

This unit looks at what paired reading is, why it should be used in the classroom as well as how it can be implemented with a few ideas. There is a PDF at the end of this unit with some paired reading activities which you may find helpful.

Paired reading consists of two learners, who can either be at the same or different reading level, that are partnered together to read through a text.

The teacher is responsible for:

  • organising the pairs,
  • giving specific instructions on what the paired reading activity is,
  • observes the reading, and 
  • monitors behaviour and assists when appropriate.

As mentioned in a previous unit, there are many benefits to implementing paired reading activities. These include:

  • an improvement to fluency –  as the more learners practise reading their fluency improves,
  • promotes reading confidence – there is less pressure to read out loud and make mistake in front of just one learner opposed to a large group of learners, even small groups can be daunting for shy or anxious learners and so paired reading, especially with a friend can be comforting and boost their confidence,
  • paired reading promotes cooperation as learners need to be patient with one another, learn how to share and take turns as well as promotes working together as learners can encourage and praise one another and help their partner when they struggle to read a difficult word.

Although pairing learners of the same reading ability can make learners feel more comfortable in that they can read at their own pace and feel less pressured and allow them to ask questions at their own level, this does run the risk of being counterproductive as learners who are both weak readers may struggle through the text too much. To prevent this situation, try pair learners at different reading levels together so that the stronger reader can help their weaker partner. This can be done in the following way: write all the learners’ names down in a list, starting with the strong readers and making your way down to the weaker readers at the bottom. Then divide the list in half and pair the top student from each half together. Continue down the list until all learners are paired.

There are many strategies which can be implemented during paired reading; the teacher needs to therefore instruct learners on which strategy they may be using that time. For example, do they read out loud simultaneously, take turns, read paragraph by paragraph, page by page and so on. There must be an established routine for paired reading; partners will not necessarily be seated close together, therefore learners will need to know where to sit during paired reading to avoid confusion and chaos. Perhaps you say all the learners in the first list are 1 and the second list 2 and so you instruct “All number 1’s take your chair to your partner’s desk”, if it is too crowded, some learners can even sit on the mat or reading corner, and if possible, you could even take your class outside to sit to do paired reading; as long as you can observe all the pairs!

Teach learners how to help one another; if one reader reads a word incorrectly, their partner can say, “Are you sure it says that? Try read it again”, or if they are both struggling on a word, try to figure it out together. It is important to encourage learners to be respectful and sensitive to one another and not make their partner feel bad or bash them when they make mistakes. Remind them that they need to be supportive and not make fun of other’s reading abilities. After the paired reading activity, learners can then discuss the text, ask each other questions and give feedback to the teacher on what they learnt and how they felt about the reading activity.

Although the teacher is not reading intimately with the learners as they do in small group reading, the teacher still plays a vital role:

  • Teachers need to be sensitive to learners needs and abilities and therefore place them in partners that will benefit them without making them feel anxious or ashamed about their reading.
  • The teacher is in charge of deciding what method of paired reading is going to be used and must clearly instruct learners on their task.
  • The teacher should rotate around the class to monitor learners and ensure they are behaving and focusing on their task and carrying through with it correctly, as well as offer support when learners need it; learners can raise their hand if they need help and cannot figure out a word together, or do not understand how a sentence makes sense.
  • Teachers can also use paired reading to assess learners, assess their reading, cooperation, comprehension and observe how they interact with their fellow peers.

Paired reading activities can be performed in various ways, this could be the standard alternating pages where partners take turns reading different pages, echo reading- this is helpful when a stronger and a weaker learner is paired together- the stronger reader reads a sentence or paragraph, and then weaker learner reads the same sentence or paragraph out loud again after listening to the first reader. Pairs can read simultaneously- this method removes some of the pressure of reading out loud, the teacher just needs to monitor the reading pace and slow it down if the weaker reader cannot keep up; it may also be a fun idea for learners to retell a familiar story to their partner- this promotes oral skills and comprehension skills, or perhaps act out the book, you can get creative and allow learners to choose their own props, puppets and so on.