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Eye Movement and Speed Reading

Your eye movements in reading should have the same kind of automatic response as driving a car or word processing an e-mail. Training students to read faster helps build this automaticity by reducing line fixations and the amount of time spent on each fixation.

So, how do our eye movements affect our reading ability?  Most people would probably say that their eyes follow the print, left to right, at a consistent rate across the page.  However, this is far from the truth.  Using sophisticated cameras and computer analysis, scientists have found that our eyes fixate on several places in the line in a rather herky-jerky motion.

In fact, when our eyes move, they aren’t even looking at the words, but are just moving from one fixation to the next.  Eye movement accounts for only about one-tenth of the time spent on each line of reading text.  In other words, reading consists of a series of individual glances at each line of text and the corresponding meaning-making of each glance.

The greater the number of fixations per line and the more time it takes to make sense of each fixation, the slower the meaning-making will be.  Better readers have less fixations per line and rapid processing of each word.  This is what Marilyn Adams (1995) refers to as “automaticity” and is the necessary prerequisite for reading well.  This automatic processing develops as the reader becomes able to quickly and effectively apply the semantic, graphophonic, and syntactic cueing systems to the text.

Of course, the number of fixations per line and the duration of each fixation should depend on the degree of reading difficulty.  Reading unfamiliar material or subject-specific vocabulary requires slower processing.  Also, the purpose of the reader should determine reading speed.  Reading a biology text for a test is quite different from reading a Goosebumps mystery for fun.  The problem is that poor readers tend to read everything in the same way, that is with too many fixations and taking too much time to process the words.

Specific speed reading techniques have been developed to vary the reading rate according to the degree of text difficulty.  Speed reading will also help call attention to, and even break, many poor reading habits.  Effective speed reading will also maintain or improve reading comprehension as students increase their silent fluency rates.

FREE DOWNLOAD TO ASSESS THE QUALITY OF PENNINGTON PUBLISHING RESOURCES: The SCRIP (Summarize, Connect, Re-think, Interpret, and Predict) Comprehension Strategies includes class posters, five lessons to introduce the strategies, and the SCRIP Comprehension Bookmarks.

Get the SCRIP Comprehension Strategies FREE Resource:

Mark Pennington, MA Reading Specialist, is the author of the comprehensive reading intervention curriculum, Teaching Reading StrategiesDesigned to significantly increase the reading abilities of students ages eight through adult within one year, the curriculum is decidedly un-canned, is adaptable to various instructional settings, and is simple to use–a perfect choice for Response to Intervention tiered instruction. The program provides multiple-choice diagnostic reading and spelling assessments (many with audio files), phonemic awareness activities, blending and syllabication activitiesphonics workshops with formative assessments, 102 spelling pattern worksheets, comprehension worksheets, multi-level fluency passages recorded at three different reading speeds and accessed on YouTube, 644 reading, spelling, and vocabulary game cards, posters, activities, and games.

Also get the accompanying Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books. These 54 decodable eBooks (includes print-ready and digital display versions) have been designed for older readers with teenage cartoon characters and plots. Each book introduces focus sight words and phonics sound-spellings aligned to the instructional sequence found in Teaching Reading Strategies. Plus, each book has a 30-second word fluency to review previously learned sight words and sound-spelling patterns, five higher-level comprehension questions, and an easy-to-use running record. Your students will love these fun, heart-warming, and comical stories about the adventures of Sam and his friends: Tom, Kit, and Deb. Oh, and also that crazy dog, Pug.

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books BUNDLE

Teaching Reading Strategies and Sam and Friends Guided Reading Phonics Books

Or why not get both programs as a discounted BUNDLE? Everything teachers need to teach an assessment-based reading intervention program for struggling readers is found in this comprehensive curriculum. Ideal for students reading two or more grade levels below current grade level, tiered response to intervention programs, ESL, ELL, ELD, and special education students. Simple directions, YouTube training videos, and well-crafted activities truly make this an almost no-prep curriculum. Works well as a half-year intensive program or full-year program.

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