Daniel Starch.

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silent reading is very nearly identical, but that silent reading in-
creases thereafter considerably faster from grade to grade, so that
in the eighth grade the rate of silent reading is approximately one
word per second, or about 25% faster than oral reading.

Mead ('15) tested 112 pupils in five classes in the sixth grade in
both oral and silent reading. He made six tests, each two minutes
long, and determined the speed by the number of lines read and the
comprehension by the number of "points" reproduced in writing.
His results are as follows:



Relative ability

in silent and oral reading.

After Mead ('15)

Av. No.
Lines Read

Av. No. Points

Per Cent Reproduced
OF Amount Read

Silent reading


12. 1


Oral reading


Each of the five classes did better in silent reading than in oral
reading. Mead concludes: "From the results of these five classes



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we are more convinced than ever that our schools devote altogether
too much time to oral reading and too little to silent."

Within the following two years, Mead repeated the same tests
with 340 pupils in grades three to ten, excepting the ninth, and ob-
tained corroborative results. "Fifteen out of seventeen classes
did better by the silent method of reading. Seventy per cent of the
children taken separately did better by this method." The de-
tailed facts are given in Table 90.

Pintner made eight tests, two minutes in length, with 23 pupils
in the fourth grade and found the following results :


Relative ability in silent and oral reading. After Pintner ('13)

Av. No. Lines Av. No. Points
Read Reproduced

Silent reading 28. 18.

Oral reading 20. 15 .

Thus it appears in all of the tests that silent reading has the lead
over oral reading in both speed and comprehension. /H. A. Brown
('16) and others believe that there should be no oral reading as
such after the third grade, that silent reading should be empha-
sized instead, that above the third grade teaching to read should be
teaching to study, and that there should be a great deal of sponta-
neous silent reading.

Superintendent Llewelyn ('16) of Mt. Vernon, Indiana, at-
tempted to increase among his pupils the rate of reading and to
stimulate interest in reading. He adopted the plan of giving oral
reading three times per week, instead of five times, of supplying a
motive for silent reading by asking questions to test the knowledge
of silent reading, of using the two extra recitation periods for live
questions and discussions of what had been read, of stimulating the
reading of library books and of having frequent book reviews. Each
book was assigned to two pupils so as to make the discussion more
interesting and lively.

No quantitative tests or comparisons were made, but the results
reported v;ere to the effect that the plan produced a love of reading,
that teachers became more effective because they had to prepare
for the giving of suggestions, that oral reading did not deteriorate
and that reading was much more extensive as indicated by the fact
that the class read about ten times as many books as before.


(5) Phonics. The tendency in recent years has been in the
direction of less emphasis upon phonics and upon formal drills in
general. Various investigators believe that extensive emphasis
upon phonics and articulation in oral reading tends to estabUsh
slow habits of pronunciation and interferes with the proper develop-
ment of speed in silent reading. Final experimental evidence on
this question as on many other questions is lacking.

Currier and Duquid attempted to decide by experiment whether
it was advantageous to teach phonics or not. No definite compara-
tive tests, however, were made, but their impressions were that the
phonic classes concentrated on the word and the sound at the^;:j-
pense of the sense, that their reading was less smooth and slower
and that their ideas were confused. On the other hand, they re-
ported that the no-phonics classes enjoyed their reading, that they
read more swiftly, more expressively, and more for the sense of the
material but that they did not read quite so accurately. The
ability to attack new words was about the same. Experiments
of this sort ought to be carried out more extensively and compari-
sons of the results should be made by means of more precise, quan-
titative measures.

(6) Comparisons of General Methods of Teaching Reading.
Numerous methods of teaching reading have been advocated by
publishers and educators, but no one knows with certainty the com-
parative merits of these methods nor which ones are most economic-
ally productive of the best development in reading ability.

Superintendent Harris ('16) of Dubuque, Iowa, in conjunction
with H. W. Anderson, undertook an experiment to determine the
relative merits of three systems of teaching reading. The teachers
had felt for some time that they were not securing the results in
reading that they might reasonably expect. The experiment is
described thus:

"As a first move to remedy this unsatisfactory condition, the superin-
tendent instituted a trial of the Beacon system at the school hereafter
designated as School A, and of the Horace Mann system at school B.
The present year was the second in which these systems have been thus
used. The Aldine system was continued in use in the four other schools,
C, D, E, F, mentioned in the report following. The teachers who worked
with the Beacon system were enthusiastic in its favor; but their opinions,
no matter how enthusiastically declared, were not sufficient to secure
general agreement. With this state of affairs existing, the problem re-
solved itself into how to raise the question of the efficiency or worth of


the various systems of primary reading out of the realm of mere opinion
and place upon bed rock by scientific evaluation of results actually

"In order to accomplish this it was decided to test:

"i. The mechanics of oral reading in the second half of Grade I (lA)
and in the two divisions of Grade II (2B and 2A).

" 2. The silent reading in Grade II: for (a) rate; (b) comprehension.

"These tests were given in the following schools:

"A Where the Beacon system is used ;
"B " " Horace Mann system is used;

"C D E F " " Aldine system is used.

"It was believed that these tests would show the results obtained by
the Beacon system and the Horace Mann system during the first two
years of their use, and offer an opportunity for comparison with each
other and with the Aldine system."

Oral reading was tested with Gray's oral reading scale, and silent
reading was tested by Starch's tests measuring the speed and com-
prehension of reading. The results obtained are given in the fol-
lowing tables.

Results of the oral reading test








Horace Mann















44- .

"These scores seem to indicate that in each grade, School A, where
the Beacon system is used, excels all other schools in the simple mechanics
of oral reading. In fact, the scores of Grade I A at School A are better
than the Grade IIB scores of both the C and D, and not particularly far
behind the Grade IIA scores of the Aldine group of schools. The figures
also indicate that the results at School B, where the Horace Mann system
is used, are slightly better than at the schools where the Aldine system is

"The results of the Oral Reading Tests seem to show conclusively that
the pupils trained by the Beacon System are very greatly superior in the
mechanics of oral reading to those trained under the Aldine or the Horace
Mann systems of reading."

1 Average
1 Median


2. 2














1 Average
1 Median












Results of the silent reading test
TABLE 93. Rate of reading


"Tal)le 93 shows the average and median rate of silent reading. It
shows that in Grade IIB the Beacon pupils at School A read at the
average rate of 2.2 words per second, while the non-Beacon group in the
same class read at the rate of 1.3 words per second. The Aldine pupils
read at the following rates: C, .8; D, .9; E, 1.7; F, 2. The Horace Mann
pupils at School B read at the rate of 1.7 words per second. This shows
that in this grade the Beacon pupils read .2 of a word faster than the
nearest competitor (School F) and that they read more than twice as
rapidly as two of the Aldine schools. The difference between the Beacon
group of pupils and the best Aldine pupils is not significant, however.

"In Grade II A the Beacon pupils at School A read at the rate of 3
words per second, while the non-Beacon pupils in the same class read at
the rate of 2.3 words per second. The table shows that the rate of reading
in Grade HA is clearly faster at School A (Beacon pupils) than at any
other school; the nearest competitors being School F and the non-Beacon
group at School A, where the pupils read at the rate of 2.3 words per

TABLE 94. Comprehension of reading

Beacon Beacon H. M. Aldine


(Average 26.2 20.5 18.4 10. i 10. 20.6 17.
[Median 30. 18. i 20. 9.4 8.5 19. 17.5

Average 31.5 19.9 15. i 30. i 11. 8 24.3 22.3
Median 31.9 17.5 19. 19.9 8. 23.3 1S.3



"Thus, the Beacon pupils in School A, Grade IIB, on the average
reproduced 26.2 words, while the non-Beacon pupils in the same class
reproduced 20.5 words. The nearest competitor to the Beacon group of
pupils is the group at School E, which reproduced on the average 20.6
words — 5.6 words behind the Beacon group. Schools C and D made the
remarkably low grades of 10. i and 10.

"In Grade HA, the Beacon group of pupils reproduced 31.5 words,
wliile the non-Beacon group in the same class reproduced only iq.q words.
The nearest competitor in the Aldine group of schools was School E,


where the average number of words was 24.3. The results obtained
through the Ploracc Mann system seem to be below the average, this
class reproducing only 15.1 words.

"The results of the Silent Reading Tests seem to show conclusively
that the pupils trained by the Beacon System are far superior to those
trained under the Aldinc or the Horace Mann systems of reading.

"It was realized that objections might be raised to the results herein
shown, on the ground that the teacher rather than the system was the
strong factor in the results. While it is highly improbable that out of six
different corps of teachers, the group teaching the Beacon System would
be uniformly better, in each section tested ; yet, as an absolute check upon
this phase of the matter, the Silent Reading Tests were given in Grade
IIIB, which entered school before cither the Beacon System or the Horace
Mann System was placed on trial in any school and which therefore could
not have had, in any one of the six schools, its initial training in either of
the two systems named." (Starch's Reading Test, Series A, No. 3, was


Showing median rate and comprehension of silent reading in Grade IIIB


Rate 2.9 1.8 1.9 1.9 2. 1.8

Comprehension 24. 27.5 12.3 29. 27.5 19.5

"This table shows that the pupils at School A read more rapidly than
those at any other school, their median rate being 2.9 words per second,
while the nearest approach to this rate was 2 words per second in School
E. However, in comprehension three schools excel Grade IIIB at
School A. Pupils at School A reproduced 24 words correctly, while those
at Schools B, D, and E reproduced 27.5, 29, and 27.5 words respectively.

"Furthermore, in the tests made in Grade II, while the Beacon group
at School A excelled all other groups in rate and comprehension of silent
reading, several of the other schools excelled the non-Beacon group at
School A in both these points. Thus, in the rate of silent reading, in
Grade IIB, the non-Beacon group in School A was excelled by Schools B,
E, and F, and in Grade II A, the non-Beacon group at School A was
equalled by School F; and in comprehension, the non-Beacon group at
School A was exceJled by School E in Grade IIB, and by Schools C, E, and
F in Grade IIA.

"These facts show rather conclusively that it was not the superiority
of the teaching which determined the results of the tests, since teachers
in other schools than School A, both in Grade II and in Grade III, with
pupils trained under the old systems, secured results as good as or better
than those secured by the teachers at School A with pupils whose first
training also had been under the old system."


Whether or not the results would be generally superior in other
schools and under other teachers cannot be inferred perhaps from
these results with complete linahty. The experiment, however,
is interesting and is here cited chiefly for the purpose of shoving
what should be done in the way of scientific comparisons and tests
to determine the most proficient methods of learning and teaching

Gray made a comparison of the attainments in reading in 44
schools, 26 of which had used the Aldine method, 17 the Ward
method, and one a method of its own. The results showed no con-
sistent or uniform superiority of one method over another. The
average test scores were approximately the same.

Waldo ('15) compared the Howe system with the Ward system.
The latter had been used up to the sixth grade in all the schools
except one in which the former had been used. The tests were
not carried out in a suihciently careful manner to warrant reliable

Hendricks made a comparison of schools in which the Rational
method had been used with schools in which no special method
had been used. He found the former schools superior. This does
not necessarily prove the superiority of the Rational method but
probably the advantage of well-organized systems over less well
organized systems. The factors making for efficiency are so
numerous and intricate that much more extensive and far more
careful experiments will have to be made to demonstrate compar-
ative values of the different systems or methods of teaching reading.

(7) Suggestions for Improvement in Reading Ability. Ex-
perimental results have brought about a radical shift in emphasis
upon the aims to be accomplished in reading. In the first place,
there has been a shift from emphasis upon oral reading to emphasis
upon silent reading because facility in reading, in the sense of
thought-getting, can be developed to a much higher degree of
proficiency in silent reading and because nearly all the reading done
by the average adult is silent reading. In the second place, there
has been a distinct shift from emphasis upon slow reading to em-
phasis upon rapid reading because tests have shown that rapid
reading does not mean a corresponding loss of thought, as assumed
by many teachers, but, instead, rapid reading is accompanied on
the whole by an almost equal ability in comprehension. The rapid
reader will derive almost as many more ideas in a given period of
time as is proportionate to tlie greater amount of text covered.


Pupils were formerly told that they must not read fast but that
they should read slowly because they would then get the thought so
much better. In the third place, there has come along with these
two changes a shift from the mechanics of reading to the content
of reading. Former aims of reading are fairly represented by the
following answers, given by pupils who had finished the grammar
school, in response to the question, What is your idea as to what
the reading lessons were for? Some of the answers were: "To learn
to pronounce," "To help us in reading before people," "Just to
pass away the time," and "I thought it was to learn us to use better
language.'' (Briggs '13)- _

Accordingly then the aim in reading to-day is the development
of speed in reading and a parallel gain in thought-getting. Recog-
nizing this change in aim, what definite suggestions can be made
to facilitate improvement in these aspects of reading ability?
Experimental results are as yet too few to make many specific
recommendations with complete confidence. However, several
important suggestions may be offered.

(a) As to the speed of reading: Force yourself to read more
rapidly. Continuous effort and practice in this direction will very
materially increase the rate of reading as shown by experiments.
Probably most adults, as well as most children, read far more
slowly than they are capable of reading. So far as we may judge
on the basis of experimental investigations of the reading process,
speed of reading depends chiefly upon the rapidity of the assimila-
tion and upon the span of attention and less upon the other steps
in the reading process enumerated at the beginning of this chapter.
The rapid reader assimilates more swiftly and grasps more words
at each fixation.

Forcing oneself to read more rapidly than one's customary rate
will at first interfere with proper comprehension, but in the course
of persistent practice the more rapid visual and mental activities
will become habitual and the comprehension will probably then
come up to its normal amount.

(b) As to comprehension of reading: Grasp the thought with
concentrated attention, (i) Speeding up the rate of reading tends
also to stimulate greater concentration of attention upon the
whole thought content. That both speed and comprehension of
reading may be very greatly improved by practice, by reading a
great deal with the definite aim of improvement, is shown by such
results as have been obtained in the Dodgeville schools and else-


where. The remarkable rapidity of reading was accompanied by
an equally remarkable ability in thought-getting.

(2) Stop frequently to recall the essential ideas read. Compre-
hension will be greatly assisted by stopping at short intervals and
asking oneself the question, What have I really read? What are
the essential ideas? This will not only stimulate reading for
thought-getting but will also help to fix ideas in mind and to relate
them to larger units.

(3) Acquire the habit of looking for the essential ideas. This is
very important in efhcient reading. Skill in so doing will greatly
facilitate speed of reading by covering more ground and by know-
ing what may be read very hurriedly or even omitted.

(4) Tests at frequent intervals. Measurements by means of the
standard reading tests or by means of imj^roviscd tests patterned
after one or another of these testing ]:>lans should be given at fre-
quent intervals for two reasons. In the first place, they will afford
the pupil himself a definite basis for discovering his reading abil-
ity and, by keeping his own record from test to test, they will
furnish a powerful stimulus to the pupil to surpass his own preced-
ing attainments. This point was elaborated more fully in Chapter
XL In the second place, intensive tests with emphasis on both
rate and comprehension will give the pupil practice in the phases
of reading in which the school has in the past not furnished ade-
quate training. The great emphasis upon oral reading has tended
to instill slow habits of reading and placed the primary emphasis
upon the mechanics of reading rather than upon thought-getting.
Tests of reading ability, for this purpose, may be improvised and
given as often as desirable by having the pupils in a class turn to
a specified page, read with their maximum capacity for a limited
interval, say half a minute, a minute, or several minutes, note the
point of stopping, and then write a full account of the thought
content, or answer questions. Such a procedure might profitably
become a regular part of the instruction in reading.



Processes or Steps Involved in the Act of Writing

An analysis of the various steps involved in writing (or copying)
similar to that made of the reading process reveals the following

(i) Reception upon the retina of the form of the letters to be

(2) Transmission of the visual impressions from the retina to
the visual centers of the brain.

(3) Recognition or perception of the letters through the visual
and other association processes.

(4) Transmission of nerve impulses from the visual centers to
the motor centers of the fingers, hand, and arm.

(5) Transmission of nerve impulses from the motor writing
centers to the muscles of the fingers, hand and arm.

(6) Execution of the muscular movements involved in the
writing act.

(7) Return kinesthetic nerve impulses from these muscular
movements back to the kinaesthetic centers in the brain and
thence through steps (5) and (6) to help in correcting and con-
trolling the writing movements.

(8) Return visual impressions of the letters or marks as actually
executed back through steps (i), (2), (3), (4), (5), and (6), in
helping to correct and control the writing movements.

What do we know concerning the manner of operation and the
importance of each of these steps in the complete writing process?
Steps (i), (2) and (3), while important when the child first learns
to write, practically drop out in the skilled writer in whom the
ideational and visual processes in the brain and the kinaesthetic
sensations from the writing act itself serve directly to control steps
(5) and (6). In the practiced writer they simply serve as a general
control in securing the proper alinement, size, and spacing of the
letters. The practiced writer can write about as well with his
eyes closed as with them open. The chief difference is in such



features as alinement, spacing and heaviness of strokes. The
letters themselves can be formed practically as gracefully and as
quickly with the eyes closed as with them open. Miss Downey
('08) found, in her experiment to determine the effect of different
distractions upon the writing habit, thiat the visual factor has an
obvious function in acquiring new coordinations but has little
effect upon the fully formed habit. The visual perception of the
form of letters, while important, is probably not as important in
learning to write, even in the beginning, as it is in learning to read,
because the writing act depends largely upon the development of
muscular control. The visual perception of the form of the char-
acters to be written and of those actually written must serve as
a guide in the attempts at writing, but quickness in visual per-
ception is not as important in the writing act as in the reading act
because the writing act is much slower even in the skilled writer
than the visual perception of the forms is, whereas reading depends
directly upon the rapidity of visual perception. Then, also, the
child has usually learned to recognize the forms of the letters

Online LibraryDaniel StarchEducational psychology → online text (page 25 of 41)