Tech-Break: Slash Reading

After so many months of tech-related posts, it is time for another tech-break! This one is called slash reading, and I am always happy to explain it to people. It even made it into one of the articles I did for TESOL Connections last year, but it is worth going over again in more detail. Slash reading is very straight-forward, and I love it because it has so many possible uses, including working on reading fluency and/or accuracy, and works with almost every age and language level.

To do slash reading, you need nothing more than a reading passage. I often use passages that students have in their textbooks, but sometimes I will print out something new  for students to use in class. I usually do a number of activities with the reading material before moving into slash reading as this familiarizes students with the content and allows for time to discuss new vocabulary and check comprehension. Slash reading can take about 5 to 15 minutes depending on what you do with it.

As far as prep goes, this activity could not be much easier. Prior to class, I read through the passage on my own and make forward slashes in my copy of the text where it is natural to pause. If I am using a passage that students do not already have a copy of, I make copies. That is all there is to it.

In class, I introduce slash reading by telling students that I will read the passage aloud and that they should make a slash (/) whenever I pause or take a breath. Depending on the age and level of my students, I may overemphasize these pauses, and I always prompt them to make the first several slashes so that they get the hang of it. I read the material once, maybe twice, and then we are ready for the fun part: reading!

Students are often nervous about reading aloud, but I use slash reading mostly for choral reading. This way, students have heard me read the passage at least once and no one person is singled out to read. With choral reading, everyone, include me, reads together and the slashes in the text help us stay together. With choral reading, you set the pace, which means that you could have students read chorally multiple times with the pace increasing each time. That is a measurable accomplishment that can help motivate reluctant readers. You could move from choral reading to individual reading by having students take turns reading the short sections between the slashes. For the most part, students will not even be responsible for reading whole sentences at this stage; reducing the amount of text they are responsible for also helps ease the pressure of reading aloud. If you want to work on fluency with less focus on accuracy, teams of students can even have slash reading races.

That’s slash reading, and it does so much more than get students to read aloud because it draws attention to where breaks should naturally occur. This is so important because many English language learners tend to take random pauses that break up important chunks of information and make comprehension more difficult. Slash reading is a great little activity to have on hand and, as you can see, there are many possibilities for it.

About Tara Arntsen

Tara Arntsen
Tara Arntsen recently completed her Master's degree in Teaching-TESOL at the University of Southern California. She currently teaches in the Intensive English Program at Northern State University in Aberdeen, South Dakota. She has taught ESOL in China, Japan, and Cambodia as well as online. Her primary interests are communicative teaching methods and the use of technology in education.
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13 Responses to Tech-Break: Slash Reading

  1. Miguel says:

    I found slash reading very useful and I didn’t know about it. I will try it when I have a chance. Have you tried doing it with poetry?

    Thanks a lot.


    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for your comment, Miguel! I am glad you think slash reading could work for you and your students. I have actually not tried this with poetry, but it should work the same way. Let us know how it goes. Good luck!

  2. Katrina VanTassel-Skinner says:

    I enjoyed your post. We have been using a variation of slash reading in Pinellas County Florida for more than 31 years. However, some of the younger teachers may not have been aware of it so I am glad that you brought it to mind. We call it “Read and look up.” RLU It is mostly for fluency and to get students to chunk their text and not read word by word. After doing the choral version, I then instruct students that they will now read the text between the 1st and 2nd slashes silently to themselves as many times as they can before I say, “Look up!” At which point they MUST look up and not look down again. I then point at a student and have the student try to state the phrase or sentence verbatim without looking down. If the student doesn’t get it exactly I quickly move to another. If necessary I say, “Read again.” and they all repeat step one until I say, “Look up!” Then we try again. As we continue through the passage, I vary the length of time they read and/or the sentence for students of different ability levels. This allows me to differentiate at any point in the reading. The kids love it and see it as a game. Since everyone messes up there is no shame in making mistakes.

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you so much for your comment, Katrina. It is great to hear that this technique has been so successful in your classroom and I really appreciate your sharing another variation of it. I will be sure to try RLU out with my students too. I am certain that it will go over just as well with my adult students as your young learners. Thanks again!

  3. Li-Lee says:

    I have been using this method for years but without a name, so now I have one – thanks! Along with the “read and look up” method, students learn to read texts in meaningful chunks and without even knowing it, acquire structures, pronunciation and cadence of English as well.

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for your comment, Li. It is great to hear from other educators that use this technique. It is so simple, but a powerful learning tool too.

  4. Merzieh sheerazi says:

    Sounds great….will use it in my ESL class. I see it working well on my students. I am in Karachi, Pakistan and the students really need techniques like this as they do not have the exposure to spoken English and their listening does not develop enough. This in turn results in ill- skills.
    Thanks for sharing the slash technique.

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for your comment. I am glad to hear that you are open to using this reading technique with your students. As you mentioned, it is a great opportunity to get more listening, speaking, and reading practice in. Good luck!

  5. Jeffrey Dillon says:

    Great reporting on your experience. I will definitely try this method with students. Where did the idea of marking the text at pauses originate from? I think that it is great for rowdy classes and where kids profess not to want to read. It is focused and includes a task, requiring their attention throughout. Good luck in all you do, and thanks again.

    • Tara Arntsen Tara Arntsen says:

      Thank you for both of your comments, Jeffrey! I am glad that your have had past success with choral reading. I am not sure how frequently it is used in the classroom, but I like to use it often and notice that students find it enjoyable.

      Since you asked, I first learned of this technique in Japan. When I was an assistant language teacher, one of the Japanese English teachers I taught with did slash reading with her classes and I picked it up. Since then, I have used it with a wide variety of students both abroad and in the United States.

      I hope that it works well for your too. Thank you and good luck!

  6. Jeffrey Dillon says:

    I’m glad I made the time to read this. Your description on how this works is helpful. I found choral reading to be one way to get kids to read. By involving their attention in marking the text, they may connect to it more readily.

  7. Elizabeth says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this important tool for students.

    I will happy to do it in class. I am sure my students will enjoy it!



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