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Reading Dyads to Achieve Comprehension

By Lenzi Hart

Students may know how to read, but can they comprehend what they read? Using reading dyads is an easy way to help students achieve comprehension while reading.

What is a "Reading Dyad"?

Simply put, a "reading dyad" is a pair of readers, and this arrangement can pack a powerful punch in your classrooms, if used correctly. Dyads are a great way to foster meaningful social interaction between students, but at the same time, enabling them to practice comprehending what they read. Typically, dyads require a strong reader and a reader who is struggling. Lev Vygotsky pioneered research that explored how students comprehend and acquire language, and his findings reinforced the need for students to gain knowledge in a social setting. Group instruction that is student-lead is supported by Vygotsky's findings, and dyads are just that - student-lead group instruction.

Reading aloud to a student is a huge part component of comprehension, but oral reading is usually limited to a teacher reading text aloud to students, or listening to an audio version of a text. Dyads can diversify oral reading instruction. Begin by analyzing your roster and creating dyad partners based on skill. You can't just pair up students and have them read to one another. Careful thought should go into creating your reading dyads. Typically, you do not want to match reading skill when creating your pair of readers. You also do not want to go to opposite ends of the spectrum, either. Attempt to pair a reader with a partner that is slightly better than they are, in fluency and comprehension. Pairing an awesome reader with a terrible one could create problems and frustrations for both members of the dyad. After you've created well-thought out pairings for your dyads, you need to explain to your students how they will be working in pairs.

Position your desks so that students face one another. Instruct students that the first partner will read an entire page out of the text, and will then orally summarize what they read upon completion of the page. Their oral summaries should not take more than twenty seconds. They should keep it brief, but meaningful, and partners are welcome to help out students who are struggling during their oral summaries, just as long as the other partner doesn't end up taking over the other's summary every time. They will then switch and the other partner will read a page orally and summarize at the end of his page. The pairs should alternate until the reading assignment is complete. The length of the reading assignment can vary, but dyads work well with novels and chapter assignments. You should closely monitor the dyad pairs, making sure that students are reading orally, and that they are attempting to summarize at the end of reading their page.

Dyad assignments should not be permanent. Each time you decide to use the dyad pairings, switch up partners. This will not only keep the groupings fresh, but will help build relationships between studnets that might not have existed otherwise. Dyads are a productive and valuable alternative to larger reading groups, and can give struggling readers a sense of security in pairs that bigger groupings can not.