11 – The Speed Reader Algorithm

The Speed Reader Algorithm

The Speed Reader algorithm uses the following communicative principles. Learners do a timed-reading of a interesting and meaningful story or text where they know about 100% of the words and grammar patterns. When they finish reading, they note the amount of time that they took to read the text. Then they do a short set of comprehension questions.

Nation (2014) suggests doing a series of Speed Reader activities during a term or academic year. Students track their Words Per Minute (WPM) with the goal of improving their reading speed. Nation claims that most EFL learners read at about 100 words per minute, but by doing a Speed Reader course, they can achieve a reading speed of 200 words per minute. This, of course, powerfully supports an extensive reading program where the goal is to read as much as possible.

When doing the Speed Reader activity, the teacher can project a digital stopwatch on the screen, so when students finish reading they can easily note the time. If a digital stopwatch and projector are not available, the teacher can write the following chart on the board.

Minutes         Seconds
0                       00
1                       10
2                       20
3                       30
4                       40
5                       50

The teacher says, “Start.” Then as time passes, she points at the 10 second intervals. When one minute is finished, the teacher erases the ZERO, and repeats pointing at the 10 second intervals. Then the teacher erases the ONE, and so on. After students finish the reading and comprehension questions, the teacher quickly checks comprehension with the class.

Finally, the students calculate their WPM scores and write them in a log. Students can use a chart like the one in the story “Rakugo: A Funny Side of Japan” from ReadOasis.com, or they can easily calculate reading speed with this formulae. Words Read x 60 ÷ Number of seconds it took to read. For example, the story has 480 words; and it took 3 minutes to read. Therefore, 480 x 60 ÷ 180 = 160 WPM.

Note: Learners can do a speed reading course at ReadOasis.com, and they can also use the Reading for Speed and Fluency course developed by Paul Nation and Marcos Benevides.



Dr. Joseph Poulshock

Dr. Joseph Poulshock works as Professor of English Linguistics in the Faculty of International Communication at Senshu University.