Welcome to my fourth blog post! The new term has started and things are going to be fast and furious, especially for the Primary 6 pupils. Since the PSLE Oral examination is round the corner, I have decided to focus on the Reading Aloud component in this post. For readers who are parents with P3 to P5 children, this post will still be relevant since essentially, this component is tested across all levels.
Let’s recap what you are expected to do when reading aloud a passage:
Simply put, the examiners expect you to read clearly and smoothly. You must also read the passage accurately and with expression. Let’s break down each part so that you will be clear about what to do.
1. Good Pronunciation and Clear Articulation
To read the passage clearly and accurately, you need to ensure that you:
pronounce the end consonants clearly, such as the /s/ at the end of ‘girls’, the /t/ at the end of ‘start’ or the /k/ at the end of ‘pack’
look out for words with tricky endings such as ‘gasp’ (gas-p) and ‘scientists’ (scientis-t-s)
know the difference between long and short vowels, such as ‘ship’ and ‘sheep’, ‘will’ and ‘wheel’ or ‘sit’ and ‘seat’
practice the ‘th’ sound – which can be at the beginning (thought, thermal), middle (Mother, weather) or at the end (mouth, wealth). “Thirteenth” has the ‘th’ sound at the beginning and at the end!
Remember to read EVERY word in the passage, even the words that you are not sure how to pronounce. When you practice at home, use the dictionary to check the correct pronunciation of unfamiliar words or try finding the definition online. Online dictionaries such as Cambridge Dictionaries Online and Oxford Dictionaries Online offer the recorded reading of a word and you can easily listen to how a word is read.
For other tips on pronunciation and articulation, refer to Mrs Chew’s earlier post on The Do’s and Don’ts of Oral Reading.
2. Appropriate Intonation
This means that you should inject feelings into your reading and ensure that your voice goes up and down. The last thing you want to do is sound like a robot and put your examiner to sleep!
So how do you read the passage in a more interesting way? Click on the link below to listen to a famous comedian, Betty White, read the story ‘Harry the Dirty Dog’ and take note of how she makes it lively and engaging for her young readers.
Link to the story: http://www.storylineonline.net/harry-the-dirty-dog
After watching the video, you would have noticed that Betty:
stressed on certain words to draw your attention to them.
For instance: He felt tired, hungry too. So, without stopping on the way, he ran back home.
The italicised words are read louder than the other words. She did so to highlight how Harry the dog felt and how eager he was to go back home.
So, stressing on the correct words can help to convey information from the passage.
changed her voice in direct speech
For instance: As soon as the children began to scrub, they began shouting, “Mummy, Daddy, look! Look! Come quick!” “It’s Harry! It’s Harry!” they cried.
Her voice changed to show how excited the children were when they discovered the dog they were cleaning was actually their missing pet. When you change your voice in direct speech, you are conveying the feelings of the characters in the passage.
If time permits, listen to the other stories on the website and see how each reader makes his or her story comes alive. With regular practice, you will be able to read with expression too!
3. Fluent and Well-paced Reading
Reading fluently means reading at a consistent speed that is not too fast or too slow. Reading too quickly may make you careless and trip over or skip words while doing it too slowly makes it very boring for the listener.
Key to Well-Paced Reading: Pausing at the Right Places
after punctuation marks like the full stop and comma
before connectors e.g. At first he was uncertain about the move but the promotion was too good to turn down.
You should pause before ‘but’ in order to break the sentence into two manageable parts.
It is especially important to remember to pause at the appropriate places in a long sentence. Failure to pause could result in you running out of breath and ending up pausing at the wrong part of the sentence. Let’s take a look at this long sentence. Try reading it and think about where you will pause in this sentence other than at the comma.
Martha formed her own dance group, creating experimental dances that expressed feelings such as joy and grief in new ways and doing away with fancy costumes in favour of simple outfits and bare stages.
Taken from DIBELS Oral Reading Fluency Progress Monitoring Sixth Grade Scoring Booklet
Below, I have indicated with a ‘/’ at the appropriate places where you should pause:
Martha formed her own dance group, / creating experimental dances that expressed feelings / such as joy and grief in new ways / and doing away with fancy costumes / in favour of simple outfits and bare stages.
You need to break the sentence up into meaningful chunks so that you will not pause at the wrong place, which will affect the listener’s understanding of the passage. Below is an example of how pausing at the wrong places (marked with /\) can affect the listener’s understanding. Try reading it to someone.
Martha formed her own dance group, / creating experimental dances that expressed feelings such as joy and grief /\ in new ways and doing away with fancy costumes / in favour of simple outfits and bare stages.
For those of you who are still unsure and would like to practise breaking up your sentences. you may wish to visit http://www.deepenglish.com. You will be able to find the transcript of the passage and the recorded reading. Try reading the transcript and use a pencil to mark where you will break the passage first. When you are ready, listen to the recording (Choose the normal or slow-paced readings) and check if where you break have been accurate. From the reading, you will also be able to pick up the reader’s intonation and articulation of the words as well.
Useful Resources for Independent Practice
The bottom line is, to improve on reading aloud you should listen to or watch good read-aloud videos as much as you can to learn how these readers engage their listeners using their voice. Other than the two websites mentioned above, there are a number of websites with audio stories for children available for free on the Internet and I have listed some of the links below:
Also, remember that success is ‘the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure’ (Colin Powell) so you need to practise, practise, practise! Pick up your favourite book and choose a short passage. Read it aloud to your parents, siblings or friends and have them comment on your reading. Better yet, record your reading on your smart phone and use our Oral Reading Checklist to grade yourself.
I hope you find these tips useful. All the best!