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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Reading With Pauses

When teaching students to read with fluently, the importance of pauses should not be overlooked...

Language is rhythmic. It contains regular phrases and pauses. A phrase is a word or group of words spoken as a unit in one breath. Pauses are periods of silence between words and phrases. The function of a pause is to separate ideas and hold attention. Reading aloud too many phrases without pauses confuses the listener. Learning to phrase well and use pauses successfully can significantly affect the student’s reading pace and interpretation.

Pauses are a vital part of our speech pattern and should not be neglected. Too often students fear using the pause, because they feel the listener may lose interest. This is rarely the case. The chances of losing a listener are greater when a student reads aloud too quickly, because the listener may not be able to keep up with the reader and absorb what is being said.

To demonstrate this point, ask your students how many times they’ve received a voice mail message where the person rushed through the entire phone number plus area code all in one breath. Was the student able to call back the phone number correctly the first time after hearing the message, or did they have to replay the message several times? Try it as a short exercise in the classroom. Quickly read an unfamiliar phone number aloud in one breath. Check how many students wrote down the number correctly. Now read a second unfamiliar number aloud and pause after the area code, the first three digits, the second two digits and the final two digits. Check how many students wrote the number correctly when you added the pauses. Pauses do make a significant difference in what a listener hears and comprehends.

Pauses also add dramatic effect to reading text and hold the listener’s attention. Think about some famous quotes that are regularly cited. Would they have had the same impact without the pause? Let your students be the judge. Here are two famous quotes from John F. Kennedy and Neil Armstrong. First read each statement from beginning to end, without pausing. Then repeat the same statement, adding the pause.

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy

“One small step for man—one giant leap for mankind.” Neil Armstrong

Adding pauses to the above quotes makes these statements much more powerful and memorable to the listener.

A pause may only last a second, but it has a tremendous interpretative power!

Source: "How to Say It with Your Voice" by Jeffrey Jacobi

From Playbooks, Inc.

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