Headphones help pupils improve their reading

14th September 2007 at 01:00
They benefit from listening to recordings of words they had difficulty in distinguishing

PUPILS WHO listened to recordings of themselves reading progressed four times as quickly as other classmates, a research study has found.

Dr Flora Macleod, Dr Philip Macmillan and Professor Brahm Norwich, of Exeter University, designed a catch-up programme based on the premise that some children, despite being fluent in English, may be behind in reading because they have difficulty in distinguishing the different sounds that make up words or syllables.

The study was conducted with 159 children, aged between six and 13, who were at least one year behind their peers in reading.

Teaching assistants were trained to work in one-to-one sessions with the children. They helped the pupils make a tape recording of themselves reading a list of words correctly. The words on the list became progressively harder.

The pupils used recorders designed for people learning foreign languages. They were able to hear their own voice played back through headphones.

The scheme was designed to fit into the 20 minutes set aside in the literacy hour for group or individual work.

The children had the tape sessions twice a week for 10 weeks and then had five 14-minute sessions in between, practising reading the words while listening to them. They were given word recognition tests in the week before and the week after the programme.

The researchers found that the children in the self-voice group made on average a gain of 1.56 months compared to those following their usual classroom routine, who gained 0.37 months.

The programme was also tried out using another person's voice on the tape, but these children did not make the same progress as those who listened to themselves.

There was some evidence that older pupils benefited more from the method than younger ones, possibly because they were better at working independently.

"Using yourself as a model is used quite a lot in psychology," Dr Macleod said. "In sports science, for example, seeing yourself doing a good high jump on a video and asking why you did that high jump so well is more helpful than looking at someone else.

"The tapes these children are using are edited so they have a perfect model of themselves speaking. What we need to tease out is what exactly it is that makes the difference: is it having a model of oneself talking or is it about he ability to distinguish sounds?"

* 'Listening to myself: improving oracy and literacy among children who fall behind'. Early Child Development and Care

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