Teacher modeling has a huge impact on potential for mastery in almost any complex skill. Think of an instrument you played in grade school—how did you learn the proper fingerings? Did a skilled musician demonstrate turning disconnected notes into a smoothly played song or the difference adding dynamics can make? Maybe you played a sport involving a club, a bat, or a racket. Did your coach move your hands to the proper position? Teacher modeling can be executed in unison or as imitation. You’ll likely see both in a dance class; the instructor demonstrates a move while students watch, and then the whole class performs the move in unison. Note that active participation by the student occurs in all these scenarios. It’s the same with reading development.

In Read Naturally programs, Teacher Modeling shows up in our Read Along Step. The student reads along, quietly vocalizing the words along with a recording of the story, often three times. At least, that's what they’re supposed to do. As teachers, we know that subvocalizing will help a student learn unknown words, proper pronunciation, expression, and phrasing. Because we understand that practicing reading aloud along with the recording will increase confidence and decrease reading anxiety, we instruct our students that the Read Along Step is not a listening step. Yet, most of us have walked by Read Live students that are blankly staring at the screen as each sentence turns blue. So, aside from verbal instruction, what can we do to encourage subvocalization?

Two significant barriers to subvocalization are distraction and self-consciousness. The following are tips for combatting these obstacles.

Seating Arrangement

When setting up your reading intervention space for Read Naturally programs, try to maximize space between students so that they don’t distract each other. Extra space can also make insecure students feel more comfortable reading out loud.

If possible, avoid facing students directly across from one another. It’s best to minimize the potential for eye contact between students as they may either find it too amusing to focus properly or too difficult to relax.

Try not to have students seated against a wall or at an angle that would prevent you from seeing and hearing them as you walk by. If you can see their screens, you will be able to recognize when they should be subvocalizing by the progress bar or the sentences turning blue. If you cannot hear them reading when they should be (or at least see their mouths moving), explain that you will have to add an extra Read Along until they can perform the step correctly.


If it’s not possible to create much physical space between students, consider using some sort of divider to give them a sense of privacy (or a shield from distractions). Many types of barriers could be effective. Typical folder dividers work well, but you can also consider using furniture in the room such as bookcases or curtains. If nothing else, placing something on a table between facing students will help to break a connection (think centerpiece).


Headphones are essential for a student to be able to focus solely on the recordings in their program. Headphones reduce distractions, making it easier for students to concentrate on the task at hand. Consequently, the comfort level of insecure students also increases with minimized reminders of other students surrounding them.

Do you have any tips to add? How do you ensure your students actively read along during the Read Along step? We'd love for you to share your ideas!