Jul 10 2011

The Webcam as a Reading Tool

Technology helps students improve their reading fluency.

Reading is a fundamental component of a basic skills-oriented education – one of the "three R's" that every student must master. In his 2003 book The Fluent Reader, Professor Timothy Rasinski of Kent State University defines the concept as "the ability to read accurately, quickly, effortlessly, and with appropriate expression and meaning."

Lesson Description: This lesson helps students become more fluent readers by making them more aware of what they look and sound like when they're reading.

Before the lesson, print for each student two copies of a reading passage (approximately three to five paragraphs in length) that is both instructional and grade-level appropriate. Each student also will need a highlighter and a computer with a webcam.

To begin, have students use the webcams to record themselves reading their passages. Students should then watch the videos on their computers and highlight on the printouts the words or sentences with which they have trouble. Meet with students individually to identify and discuss improvements they can make with regard to speed, accuracy, expression and intonation to improve their reading fluency.

Next, ask students to practice reading their passages aloud or to themselves, focusing on the areas they are trying to improve. When they are ready, have students record a second video using the webcam and highlight on their second printout any passage with which they continue to struggle.

Conclude the lesson by having students write a short essay reflecting on which skills they feel they improved after practicing and which ones they believe need additional work.

Subject Area: This lesson is designed for small groups of students in grades two to four to improve reading fluency, but it can be adapted for other grade levels.

Curriculum Standards: This lesson meets the following Kansas State Department of Education Curricular Standards for Reading Education:

  • Uses knowledge of conventions to read fluently at instructional or independent reading levels (Benchmark 2, Indicator 1);
  • Reads expressively with appropriate pace, phrasing, intonation and rhythm of speech (Benchmark 2, Indicator 2);
  • Uses knowledge of sentence structure to read fluently at instructional or independent reading levels (Benchmark 2, Indicator 3);
  • Uses a variety of word-recognition strategies to read fluently (Benchmark 2, Indicator 4).


Grading Rubric: Students should be graded on their ability to recognize errors in their reading, including speed and accuracy issues, and to improve their reading with practice. Develop a rubric that allows students to rate themselves during both their first and second readings of each passage.

Students also can be evaluated on their overall fluency through the use of progress-monitoring tools such as reading probes.

Teaching Tips

  • Use headphones to minimize the noise of students listening to their videos.
  • Begin the lesson as a group so students become familiar with using a webcam and understand what's expected of them during the lesson.
  • Make available a variety of reading passages so students can choose which one they would like to read for this lesson. Giving them options will increase their interest in reading in general and in the lesson in particular.
<p>Wessel Du Plooy</p>

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