Reading skills form the backbone of a child’s education, and by using peer assisted learning strategies reading can be taught even more effectively. Getting an early start in reading can go a long way in helping kids to form a solid foundation of being able to read effectively, and this will help them in every other subject. There are a number of proven ways to help children learn to read successfully, from reading aloud in class, to teaching them phonetics to having them demonstrate reading comprehension. Another powerful method is peer assisted learning.
Peer assisted learning, including peer tutoring, has many benefits for all involved — the tutor, the recipient and the teacher. Peer tutoring has been shown to improve academic achievement not only for the recipient but also for the tutor as well. Teaching a concept or subject allows the tutor to gain a better understanding of the subject as well while explaining it. A deep level of comprehension is required to be able to teach, and peer teachers will also develop excellent communication and leadership skills.
Here are four important elements to include or consider in any peer assisted learning strategies reading program:
1. Promote a Supportive Classroom Atmosphere
The first and most foundational element of an effective peer assisted learning program is a supportive, cooperative atmosphere. Without it, not much else can happen, and learning cannot thrive. Encourage students to create and promote a positive classroom attitude with shared goals, good energy and always a sense of teamwork. This kind of atmosphere increases student motivation, makes them feel excited and hopeful, and will cut down on student behavior problems.
2. Start with Small, Supervised Groups
Ease your students into peer assisted learning by forming small groups of no more than five students and have them work with one another. Allow each of them to take turns being the group leader and make yourself available for questions or assistance. Observe the groups and give each student pointers about how to lead and teach more effectively. From there, experiment with different group configurations. Try grouping children of similar reading levels, but also try groups that mix reading levels. From there, you can have stronger students tutor the ones that need help in specific areas.
3. Blend Reading and Writing Lessons
Blending reading and writing activities is another great way to help students to improve their reading abilities. The two go hand in hand, and there are a number of excellent peer assisted learning strategies that students can practice together. For example, students could read a portion of a book or story and then write a summary of it. A stronger and a weaker student can do this together, and then compare notes. For an added element of fun, students can also illustrate what they’ve written.
4. Include time for Independent Work
While you will provide most of the reading curriculum, you can also provide time and space for students to select books and material of their own to bring in during reading class, or to read at home and report on in class. Part of your peer assisted learning strategies reading sessions could entail pairing or grouping students who are reading the same (or similar) books. That way they can study and compare notes on the text they are reading while feeling a sense of autonomy from being able to choose some of the books they are reading in class.
Peer assisted learning is a powerful method of helping students to comprehend reading and take it to the next level. These are just some of the elements and strategies that can be employed in the classroom to make peer assisted learning successful and fun. With peer assisted learning strategies reading can be learned even more quickly and effectively, and children tend to really enjoy these interactive learning strategies. The Readingrockets.com group has reported that peer to peer instruction and tutoring is a very effective strategy for struggling readers. It is also helpful for students with learning disabilities, students that come from challenging socio-economic backgrounds and also for disadvantaged minority students. Peer assisted learning can definitely be a powerful addition to any reading curriculum.