6 Paired Reading Strategies to Help Students Struggling With Reading

6 Paired Reading Strategies to Help Students Struggling With Reading
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If decoding, speed, and accuracy in silent reading are a struggle for some readers, imagine how much more difficult it can be to read aloud. Oral reading requires students to use the correct inflection, accurate pronunciations, and appropriate expressions, which is why helping students practice reading aloud is a top priority for many literacy educators.  

While strategies such as choral reading, group reading, and shared reading are all great for learning and practicing oral fluency, some students might prefer to practice their skills in a one-on-one setting. In many cases, it may not be feasible for a teacher to spend a lot of one-on-one time listening to each student read out loud. Fortunately, there’s another option. Paired reading, also known as "partner reading," allows teachers to pair up students to take turns reading a text aloud to each other. Here are six strategies for making the most of paired reading activities to help struggling students.


  1. Group a high-fluency reader with a low-fluency reader

    This strategy makes it easier for teachers to create positive peer modeling for struggling students. Teachers can pair low-fluency readers with friends or work partners who have high reading fluency so the struggling readers can hear their friends pronounce tricky words, add expression, and use a natural rhythm when reading aloud. Since students will be working one-on-one instead of in a group or a large class, there is less social pressure and embarrassment over disfluencies.


  1. Group same-level readers together

    A different take on traditional leveled reading groups involves forming leveled reading pairs. Although pairing up two students who both struggle with reading fluency may seem counterintuitive, there are several benefits to this approach. First, students who are self-conscious about reading aloud may be more willing to give it a try if their partner shares the same struggles. Second, students have a chance to privately share helpful reading strategies with each other. Finally, when students are working in pairs, the educator has the flexibility to walk around the classroom and interact as needed, making it easier to provide additional guidance.  


  1. Allow students to pick their own reading partners

    Everyone has preferences, and students are no exception. With this in mind, why not let students create their own pairs for an oral reading activity? Struggling readers who prefer to read aloud with another struggling reader will be able to choose that option, while those looking to learn by example from a more fluent reader can do so as well.  

  1. Choose interesting and individualized texts

    Paired reading allows teachers to select different texts to suit different needs, rather than trying to find one text that fits the needs of a group or even the whole class. Educators can also allow student pairs to pick books on topics that interest them. For instance, two students who are on the same sports team might want to read a story about their particular sport, while a pair who enjoy superheroes may like to take turns reading from a comic book or graphic novel.  


  1. Choose plays or dialogues for students to read aloud

    Reading a text aloud can feel a bit unnatural, especially for struggling readers. However, dialogue can feel much more natural to read aloud with a partner. Future thespians may also benefit from the stage cues noted in plays to help give context to their reading. These cues can even help students connect the written material with the inflections and expressions they naturally use when speaking.  


  1. Provide tips on positive, helpful peer feedback

    Before beginning paired reading activities, educators can hold a class discussion about positive ways to support and correct classmates. Instead of the teacher explaining rules and suggesting phrases, students can get involved by creating a collaborative list for paired reading. Examples of rules include "No interrupting" or "Be respectful," while suggested phrases could be "You might want to try…" or "This is pronounced…" as opposed to "You're wrong." Setting up rules for positive feedback from the outset helps make partner reading a safe space for struggling readers.


When students who struggle with reading are reluctant to read out loud, paired reading can offer a low-pressure way to practice their skills. For students who need extra support in developing reading fluency, this strategy facilitates practice in a more private, one-on-one setting while still allowing them to receive feedback and model reading accuracy, speed, and expression. Try these six strategies to make the most out of paired reading time in your classroom.  

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