Case Study: Whispering Wonders

Sometimes the right answer really is the simple one.  In order to help first and second graders improve their reading skills, teachers often assign independent reading.  Having 20+ young readers all going at the same time generates a noise level that immediately takes some students off task.  So how do you let those eager readers practice their pronunciation and maintain an orderly classroom?   Whisper phones provide the simple yet elegant solution at Oaks Elementary. 

Ashley Alfaro practices her independent reading with the help of a Whisper Phone and a book about worms that write, in Ms. Sarah Afyounizadeh’s class.

Academic Lead Teacher for K-2 Literacy, Janie Hodge identified three specific objectives to improve student performance using the teaching tool provided with a grant from the Humble ISD Education Foundation.   Using Whisper Phones during independent reading time, Hodge hoped to increase time-on-task, improve fluency scores and improve spelling and dictation scores.  Second grade teacher Terri Criner explained, “using the Whisper Phones helps first graders in getting to know words for reading and giving ‘emotion’ to their reading, while with 2nd graders it builds confidence, fluency and comprehension.”

The plastic headband mounted phone is really a manual voice amplifier.  It allows students to use their “Whisper Voice” while reading and directs that sound to their ear.  The focused sound helps first graders compare their pronunciation or inflection to that of the teacher.  They also use it to sound out words when writing.  Fluency is not just measured in the speed of the reader but also in the emotion the word carries in their voice.

With a Foundation grant, the staff at Oaks Elementary was able to purchase 250 Whisper Phones. Since their arrival teachers have been finding new ways to take advantage of the focus they bring to children.  In Special Education settings, they have helped students with dyslexia match sound patterns with the words on the page.  They are used in small group settings when a teacher will read a selection and students will independently repeat the reading comparing their sounds to that just modeled by the teacher.  They have even been introduced to the Kindergarten students to prepare them for use when they get to first grade.      And best of all there are no batteries to replace.  In fact the only real maintenance is a quick wipe down with anti-bacterial cloths.

Ms. Hodge has her hopes set on adding to the number of Whisper Phones by taking advantage of the Education Foundation Employee Campaign campus funds.  Ms. Hodge reported, “by December, second graders had already seen a 15% growth in time spent on task during independent reading,” and she can’t wait to add more classrooms seeing the benefits Whisper Phones provide.