Tutoring Bilingual Students with an Automated Reading Tutor That Listens

Author Information
David Allbritton
DePaul University
Institution(s) or Organization(s) Where EP Occurred: 
Carnegie Mellon University
Effective Practice Abstract/Summary
Abstract/Summary of Effective Practice: 

Children from non-English-speaking homes are doubly disadvantaged when learning English in school. They enter school with less prior knowledge of English sounds, word meanings, and sentence structure, and they get little or no reinforcement of their learning outside of the classroom. This paper compares the classroom standard practice of sustained silent reading with the Project LISTEN Reading Tutor which uses automated speech recognition to “listen” to children read aloud, providing both spoken and graphical feedback. Previous research with the Reading Tutor has focused primarily on native speaking populations. In this study 34 Hispanic students spent one month in the classroom and one month using the Reading Tutor for 25 minutes per day. The Reading Tutor condition produced significant learning gains in several measures of fluency. Effect sizes ranged from 0.55 to 1.27. These dramatic results from a one-month treatment indicate this technology may have much to offer English language learners.

Description of the Effective Practice
Description of the Effective Practice: 

The Project LISTEN name is based on the acronym “Literacy Innovation that Speech Technology ENables”. Central to the pedagogy of this tutor is its implementation of the Sphinx II speech recognition engine. This technology enables the Reading Tutor to analyze children’s oral reading, track their place within the context of a story and provide feedback to children both preemptively and in response to difficulties they encounter during the oral reading task (Mostow & Aist, 2001). The software is implemented on standard Windows computers and utilizes inexpensive headphones with a noise-canceling microphone.

Supporting Information for this Effective Practice
Evidence of Effectiveness: 

Effect sizes were robust for both fluency measures (1.16 for fluency: total read and 1.29 for fluency: read correct). Effect sizes for the sight word measures were also substantial at 0.58 for sight words timed and 0.49 for sight words untimed.

Equipment necessary to implement Effective Practice: 

Standard Windows computers and inexpensive headphones with a noise-canceling microphone.

Estimate the probable costs associated with this practice: 

Approximately $30, assuming that there is already a computer available.

References, supporting documents: 

Poulsen, R, Wiemer-Hastings, P., and Allbritton, D., (2007). Tutoring Bilingual Students with an Automated Reading

Other Comments: 

We tested a system, the Project Listen Reading tutor, that was developed by Jack Mostow's group at Carnegie Mellon University. We showed that even with a small amount of use of the system, it was highly effective at improving fluency for non-native English speakers.

Contact(s) for this Effective Practice
Effective Practice Contact: 
Peter Hastings
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Effective Practice Contact 2: 
Robert Poulsen
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Effective Practice Contact 3: 
David Allbritton
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