Partner reading

Many students with reading difficulties do not read fluently, even though they can decode many words accurately. Students who read slowly and accurately but with difficulty with comprehension, need to have opportunities to practise fluent reading orally with feedback from a more proficient reader, either a teacher or a peer.

The purpose of this strategy is to provide fluency instruction and train students to read effortlessly. Students who read effortlessly are free to focus on comprehending text because they do not have to work out the words. Once students are familiar with partner reading it can also be used to practise comprehension skills such as retelling, summarising and main idea.

Before using the strategy:

1. Pair students

One way to assign partners is to make a list of all students in the class, with the highest-level reader at the top and the lowest-level reader at the bottom. Next, divide the list in half. The highest-level reader will be partnered with the top student on the bottom half of the list. The next student on the top half will be partnered with the next student on the bottom half and so on.

2. For some older readers, rotating pairs frequently has been shown to be an effective way to keep students motivated (Fuchs, Fuchs, & Kazdan, 1999).

  • There is more than one way to assign partners. Knowing your students’ personalities and reading levels is the key to having a productive partner reading time. Partners can be rotated when needed. (Denton, C., Bryan, D., Wexler, J., Reed, D. Vaughn, S., 2007, p. 225)
  • Selects appropriate texts. The choice of text will depend on student reading ability. The text selected should be at an easy reading level for the lower level reader of the pair.

Strategy steps

1. State the purpose and explain the benefits.

Today we are going to learn how to do partner reading. This means you will work together to read a text and help each other understand and recall the information read. You will be paired so one partner can help the other improve their fluency. However, reading and discussing the text will help both partners understand and recall the information.

2. Model and teach

You can model the procedure with a student or another adult, or you can show a video of two students working together. It is essential that students see the procedure in action and are allowed to practice the steps before they are expected to work together independently.

  • Partner 1, usually the higher-level reader, reads first paragraph. Partner follows along.
  • Partner 2, usually the lower-level reader, reads the same paragraph.
  • Students briefly discuss what they just read by retelling what happened or by identifying the main idea of the paragraph. They can identify the main idea by asking each other: Who or what was the paragraph mainly about?’ and ‘What was the most important thing about the ‘who’ or the ‘what?’’ or ask a question, make a connection or retell.

Paragraph shrinking cue card (PDF 51.42KB)

  • repeat the above steps until passage is complete.

Demonstrate correction procedures:

  • If a student reads a word incorrectly, skips a word, or does not know a word, his/her partner will point to the word and say, ‘What is this word?’
  • If the student reads the word correctly, the partner says, ‘Yes, that word is ____. What word? Please reread the sentence.’
  • If the student does not know the word, the partner says, ‘That word is _____. What word? Please reread the sentence.’
  • The student repeats the word and is asked to reread the sentence.

Error correction card for prompting (PDF 64.07KB)

Students will also need several opportunities to practise the correction procedure. (Denton, C., Bryan, D., Wexler, J., Reed, D. Vaughn, S., 2007, p.227)

Provide additional modelled practice as required.

3. Memorise the process

Use the prompt cards to assist with memorising the process and the correction procedures.

4. Guided practice

  • set up students with partners and supply appropriate text
  • review how partner reading works, supplying pairs with prompt cards for process and correction procedures
  • circulate around the room and be available to assist with any difficulties as they arise. Provide additional guided practice as required.

5. Independent practice

Once students are familiar with the process of partner reading, it can be used in various content area teaching as a way to involve all students in text reading and comprehension of text. This would include introduction to topic specific vocabulary and choosing texts related to the topic but as levels appropriate to the students' instructional levels.


Boardman, A. G., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J., Murray, C. S., & Kosanovich, M. (2008), Effective Instruction for Adolescent Struggling Readers: A practice brief. Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

Denton, C., Bryan, D., Wexler, J., Reed, D. Vaughn, S. (2007), Effective Instruction for Middle School Students with Reading Difficulties: The reading teacher’s sourcebook. University of Texas Systems/Texas Education

The National Institute for Literacy (2007), What Content-Area Teachers Should Know About Adolescent Literacy

Torgesen, J. K., Houston, D. D., Rissman, L. M., Decker, S. M., Roberts, G., Vaughn, S., Wexler, J. Francis, D. J, Rivera, M. O., Lesaux, N., (2007), Academic Literacy Instruction for Adolescents: A guidance document from the Center on Instruction, Portsmouth, NH: RMC Research Corporation, Center on Instruction.

University of Texas System/Texas Education Agency. (2004, 2003), Meeting the Needs of Struggling Readers: A resource for secondary English language arts teachers.

Australian curriculum

ACELY1660: Interpreting, analysing, evaluating: Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning about key events, ideas and information in texts that they listen to, view and read by drawing on growing knowledge of context, text structures and language features.

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