Strategy Guide

Using Paired Reading to Increase Fluency and Peer Cooperation

K - 6
Strategy Guide Series
Differentiating Instruction

About this Strategy Guide

In this strategy, students read aloud to each other, pairing more fluent readers with less fluent readers.  Likewise, this strategy can be used to pair older students with younger students to create “reading buddies.”  Additionally, children who read at the same level can be paired to reread a text that they have already read, for continued understanding and fluency work.  This research-based strategy can be used with any book or text in a variety of content areas, and can be implemented in a variety of ways.


Research Basis

In order to increase student fluency, readers need experience reading to and listening to other readers of all kinds.  Specifically, lower-level readers benefit from strategies such as Paired Reading by listening to the reading of a higher-level reader.  Reading with someone else encourages students to try reading material that may be above their usual reading level, while also building oral skills so that students are more comfortable with their reading. Additionally, this strategy allows the teacher to observe readers in the classroom and work with students who may need more assistance.


Strategy in Practice

Paired Reading (also called Partner Reading) can be used in a variety of circumstances and with a variety of content.  This strategy encourages students to work together and supports peer-assisted learning and cooperation through reading, listening, and responding to other readers.

Pairing Students & The Roles of Students

Students can be paired in different ways - either by same reading ability or by more emerging readers with higher-level readers.  Additionally, younger students can be paired with older students from an upper grade. Use the following steps to pair lower-level (or younger) readers with higher-level (or older) readers.

  • After assessing students' reading abilities, list the students in order from highest to lowest according to reading ability.
  • Divide the list in half.
  • Place the student in the top slot of the first list with the student in the top slot of the second list; continue until all students have been assigned a partner.
  • Adjust partners as necessary, being sensitive of students with special needs.
  • Allow some time for students to chat with their new partners; considering presenting them with some "getting to know you" questions to ask and answer with each other.
  • Choose any book or text (fiction or nonfiction), where students will take turns reading by sentence, paragraph, page or chapter.
  • If the students will be reading individually (rather than at the same time), the reader from the first list should read first while the reader from the second list listens and follows along.
  • The second reader should pick up where the first reader stops. If additional practice is needed, the second reader can reread what the first reader read.
  • While reading, the partners can help each other with words or understanding, as needed.
  • The readers can then change roles and follow the same procedure.
  • Encourage pairs to ask each other about what was read and use illustrations (if applicable) as talking points, as well: "What was your page about? What was your favorite part?"
  • Students may record their notes and feedback on a recording sheet.

Implementing the Strategy

In order to effectively implement this strategy in the classroom, it is crucial to model the procedure for the students, exactly as you’d like it to be executed.  Once the students are using the strategy, encourage praise, and monitor students as they work.

  • Establish a routine for students so that they know the step-by-step procedure to follow during paired/partner reading.  Some things to think about include: Will they read aloud, simultaneously? Will they take turns with each person reading a paragraph? Will one person read while the other person listens and follows along?
  • Decide on an error-correction procedure to use when supporting their partners’ reading.  Should they re-read or correct misspoken words?  Should they signal to their partners if they are having difficulties?  Should the listening partner signal to the reading partner if he/she makes a mistake?
  • Model the procedure with a partner to ensure that students understand how to use the strategy (be sure to show students both the correct procedure and the incorrect procedure so that they clearly understand the differences).
  • Ask students to begin reading in pairs; remind them to adjust their reading speeds (if reading simultaneously) so they stay together.
  • Remind students to offer praise and feedback frequently as their partners are reading.
  • Monitor and support students as they work.
  • Experiment with Paired Reading by switching partners and groups with new texts!


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