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(#34)  Echo-Reading:  Story+Imitation+Verbal Expression Techniques

Greetings, My Friend!

Halloween is approaching! I hope you and your kids enjoyed last week’s “The Witch and the Broomstick.” It’s from the Hoberman books and is one of my favorite series.
You received the story in a couple of different formats, including a PowerPoint, as well as suggested therapy techniques for applying the story. Hope they’re helpful!
Also, I want to thank you for your kind comments!
I also received a question on “echo-reading.” So, today I’ll expand and embellish how to adapt the technique to use with your language-kids.
It’s a great way to do therapy, especially when you have a group of kids each with their own needs and goals. That scenario usually presents a bit of a challenge, but when doing this brand of “echo-reading” it’s a breeze!
First, I’ll share the typical interpretation of echo-reading, then the SLPs’ adaptation of echo-reading, and last-but-definitely-not-least, therapy procedures.

What is Echo Reading--Typically?

Echo-reading in the classroom, is a rereading strategy designed to help students develop comprehension, expressive and fluent reading, and knowledge about print. The teacher reads a short segment of text typically a sentence and the students echo it back—usually, but not always, before they are able to read the same text on their own.
It is important for either the teacher or the students to point to each word so they learn the letter to print concept.
  • Students must hear fluent reading and begin modeling fluent reading if they are to understand how they should sound when they read fluently, (Miller and Veatch, 2011).
  • Research indicates that matching speech to print is an underlining skill of specific word learning, (Jennings, Caldwell, and Lerner, 2014).
  • Reading becomes easier with repetition, and due to the familiarity with the book, students gain confidence and comprehend and process the words and information better and more quickly.

Adapted Echo-Reading

Typical echo-reading is like swimming on the surface of the water in an effort to get from one side to the other.
Adapted, language-oriented echo-reading is like taking a deep dive and swimming underwater, pausing-and-treading several times to view the sites.
Echo reading is a technique teachers use with budding readers to teach reading. As an SLP, many of my kids are in-the-midst of “budding” but my fundamental goal of doing this type of task is not to teach the child how to read. With that said, it is beneficial for them because they don’t have to decode the words yet they get to participate in the story and feel what reading fluency feels like.
My goals, however, are to adapt and expand the technique of echo reading to address oral language skills, via print. I.e., via a printed story. Via an interesting, fun storythat provides context. The targeted vocabulary words are in context so they make sense (most of the time). The grammatical structures are in context so they, too, make sense (most of the time). You get the idea.
Increased reading fluency can be, and many times is, an unintended but very welcomed, consequence.
Adapted echo-reading can be done… (these are listed in no particular order)
  • to keep their attention,
  • to keep them focused and thinking and participating,
  • to improve their confidence in dealing with oral language and print,
  • for group interaction,
  • for individual involvement,
  • for turn-taking,
  • for comprehension (verbal language and print language),
  • for using and expanding syntax,
  • for recognition and use of known and new vocabulary words (individually and in context)
  • for incorporating synonyms and their meanings in context
  • for recognition and explanation of idioms,
  • for grammatical use (tense conjugation, plurals, etc.),
  • for teaching quotation marks and to emphasize quotations
  • for auditory memory,
  • for pacing, and
  • (fill-in-the-blank)
In therapy, a “good story” provides a context for learning and is relatable, i.e., relevant to the child. The term “narrative” fits in this parameter as well: poems, articles, songs, reader’s theater scripts, etc.
Adapted echo-reading can be done with almost any narrative, but it’s done best, in my opinion, with the Hoberman stories.
Using stories from the Hoberman series,You Read to Me, I’ll Read to You, combines the best of reading material to use with young elementary-aged, language delayed students.
The stories are well-written, cute and entertaining, incorporate rich Tier 2 vocabulary, and incorporate a variety of potential grammatical-targets. The stories are short and written in poem-like form in “stanzas.” You might even consider using them for reader’s theater scripts. I have done so many times; the kids love them.
Most beneficially, the sentences/lines in the stories are short—perfect for building syntax and emphasizing word meanings. "Echo reading works best for short segments of text and is particularly well-suited for beginning readers," (Jennings, Caldwell, and Lerner, 2013).

Therapy Procedures for Adapted Echo-Reading

For specifics about “The Witch and the Broomstick” please refer to last week’s offering,“Who Wants a Helpful Halloween Story?” It provides the story materials (including the cards, DIY resources, and the PowerPoint) and details suggestions for doing the activity: How to do the prior knowledge task, suggestions for introducing the story, questions to ask, repeated readings info, echo-reading, and language task ideas.
Following are additional questions and answers as to how to adapt echo-reading into your therapy.
Do I have to do a prior knowledge task before I read the story?
Of course, you don’t have to, but it is advised. It sets up the story and provides relevancy. A prior knowledge task does not have to be exactly about the topic in the story, but can be something associated with the story that they can relate to.
For example, in the book,The Dot (by Peter H. Reynolds), the story is about a little girl and her artwork. For this book, the topic of the prior knowledge discussion might be, “Has there ever been something in your life that was hard for you to do?” Everyone can relate to that question and it would provide a good discussion-base for reading and understanding the book. InThe Dot there is a deeper meaning than artwork.
The information brought out in the discussion (be sure to encouragethem to talk!) will contain information you can reference back to as you move through the story.Most importantly it provides connections for learning and retention.
The prior knowledge discussion is an excellent time to make note of their spontaneous conversation abilities, and hopefully, over time, improvements.
What do I do first? Do I just read the book? Is there a set-up after the prior knowledge task?
First, read the story all the way through, using “performance reading.” Make it fun. Vary your vocal and facial expressions, vary your pitch and intensity, and gain eye-contact along the way. Create interest and intrigue. Then say, “Would you like to read the book WITH ME? I have a special way to make sure EVERYONE reads! You, you, and you!”
Do I write down the more advanced vocabulary words and introduce them first?
There’s no definitive answer. Do what you think is best and appropriate for your kids. If you choose to talk about the words first, you may want to put them on cards (like the cards used inThe Witch and the Broomstick). Determine if they are familiar with the words, if not, introduce them, and provide child-friendly word meanings, or look up the definitions. If you want, play games with the vocab cards to reinforce them.
If you choose not to review the words prior to the story, then be sure to identify them and give child-friendly definitions as you move through the story. Make sure they got the meanings as you go through the story two or three times.
Do I read every sentence, then stop and have them say the sentence?
Only if you want to be there for a couple hours! Since we are focusing on language, you can choose the sentences you want to emphasize that contain the words, or group of words, or grammatical structures that the kids need. Great for syntax and grammar! Add comprehension clarifiers if you want. FromThe Witch and the Broomstick, here are a couple therapy possibilities within the first couple of stanzas:
  • I’m a witch.A wicked witch. “Say that with me,a wicked witch. Who thinks she’s a good witch? Who thinks she’s a bad witch? How do you know?” Briefly discuss the word “wicked.” “Any other word that could have been used there?” List the words, say the words in the sentence, etc., etc.”
  • I’m the broomstick that she flies on. Say, “Now you….” or “Now it’s your turn to read and say that sentence with me….” Talk about conjunctions (I’m/I am), or about the plural “flies.” “What’s the singular, how does that sound to you?” Etc.
  • When I fly, they all cry, “Whee!” They imitate the sentence, and maybe add a fun gesture to the “Whee!” Later on, in the next reading, do a fill-in-the-blank,When I fly, they all cry, “_____!” Or, they do the gesture, etc. Talk about the rhyming words (fly and cry); talk about the word “cry.” “Were they really crying? In that sentence, what do you think that really means?” Etc.
Do all the children repeat all the sentences?
Know your kids and what they can and cannot do. If one child is at a two-word level, encourage him/her to do two words, or, maybe three; see how it goes. (Present all the words in the sentence, but if they only do two words, accept it.) Require their participation at their language-capability level and increase from there.
Also, you may choose to do choral imitation, or individual imitation. Or, go around the table and ask each child to say the sentence (at their individual capability levels).
How do I include “synonyms?”
Create cards of selected words in the story that you will be changing into synonyms. Give one card (or two) to each child and instruct them to watch and listen for the word in the story. If they notice “their word” they get a “point.” They get another “point” for coming up with a synonym of the word. If they need help, give prompts or hints, etc. Then, substitute the new synonym word in the sentence and read/say it out loud. Make a judgement, “Which one sounds best?”
Is it important for every child to be able to pronounce the words?
Yes, barring major articulation difficulties. (Although, requiring good productions at the carryover level is very appropriate.) For children without articulation difficulties, it’s been substantiated that if a child cannot pronounce a word, he/she will not use it when speaking or writing. Do repetition of a difficult word when you come to it. Practice it chorally (everybody says the word), then go around the group, “Now you say the word, now you, now you,” etc.
How do I get my kids to stay focused, even after we have read the story 2, 3 or 4 times?
Play a game; have teams. Ask questions, the one that provides the answer gets the point.
Also, many kids love to do re-readings of stories. They are familiar with the content, etc., and feel more comfortable and confident with it. They love to anticipate the words they know when you do fill-in-the-blanks.
Also, the more familiar they get with the story, etc., with some groups, move into more advanced interpretative and inferential high-level language questions. In addition, ask them give you the gist of the story (just a few words), or a summary of the story (more words; a few details), or retell the story (a lot more words, a lot more details).
What if a child does not participate?
If one child does not participate in the echoing, just acknowledge and compliment the others for their participation. Chances are, the non-participating child will come around, even if it’s just a few words.
At first, if they don’t repeat it correctly, that’s okay, just move on; they’re participating. After you’ve done it 2 to 3 times (over several sessions), contrast their phrase with yours, and encourage a correct production, i.e., do therapy.
Thanks for all you do!
Have a great week,
Homan, Klesius, Hite, 1993. Effects of repeated readings and nonrepetitive strategies on students’ fluency and comprehension. Journal of Educational Research, 87, 94-99.
Jennings, J, Caldwell, J, Lerner, J, 2013.Reading Problems:Assessment and Teaching Strategies (7th ed.). Pearson Pub.
Miller, M., & Veatch, N, 2011.Literacy in Context: Choosing Instructional Strategies to Teach Reading in Content Areas for Students Grades 5-12. Pearson.
Neuman, Wong, Kaefer, 2017. Content not form predicts oral language comprehension: the influence of the medium on preschoolers’ story understanding. Reading and Writing Journal, Vol 30, Issue 8, 1753-1771.

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