Mistakes in reading lead to best progress

6th November 2009 at 00:00
Children who make regular mistakes while reading aloud improve faster than those who seldom stumble, new research has found

A two-year study into paired reading found pupils who made a mistake every two minutes had the best reading development.

Allen Thurston of the Stirling Institute of Education was part of a team of researchers who monitored more than 3,000 pupils in more than 100 Fife primary schools. "Making the right number of mistakes when reading aloud can be critical for reading development," he said. "It's like the three bears - not too hot, not too cold, just right! It's the same with errors: too few, and the child wasn't sufficiently challenged and became disinterested and unresponsive. Too many, and he or she became discouraged and inhibited. Reading development was optimal when a pupil made about one mistake every two minutes."

The study, part of the Fife Peer Learning Project which involves pupils tutoring each other to improve in maths and language, also found that a two-year age gap between children who were reading together resulted in the greatest gains. There were benefits for children being helped to read, and for those doing the helping.

"Paired reading worked best with cross-age groups, 10 or 11-year-olds teaching seven or eight-year-olds, and there were quantifiable reading gains for those pupils making errors at the right levels," he said. "When compared with tests carried out with primary pupils in other Scottish regions, these pupils' reading levels improved significantly."

Reading tests were given to pupils at the beginning and end of the period of research. Improvements in reading test scores were closely correlated to the number of mistakes that pupil helpers identified and corrected when using the paired reading technique.

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