Saturday, February 11, 2006

Disfluency

I don't know if you can see this without AOL, but it's meant to be a comedy clip in which a freshman journalism student masacres his attempt to cover the sports segment of a college newscast program.

Boom Goes the Dynamite

It's true that his sports coverage screams Olympic Level Geek, but it also screams something else.

It screams "I can't read." As I watched this young man, I "got" that I was supposed to find this funny, but I found it tragic. We might not have noticed the stupidity of "Boom Goes the Dynamite" (do I have to name names when it comes to stupid off-the-cuff remarks made by famous, sucessful newscasters?) if he'd only been able to pin together a few coherent sentences in a row. But his reading is marked by an inability to group words appropriately. He can't "chunk" more than three words at a time, and when he hits unfamiliar multi-syllabic words (three or more), he has to slow. way. down. to process them.

Mortified by his inability to keep up with the video on the screen, he fell completely silent at points. When the reading continued again, you can hear that he is having to "toss" all punctuation in order to keep up. The words make less and less sense--like when someone unfamiliar with e.e. cummings tries to read it aloud.

Now, it's possible that the kid can read fine, but his eyesight is awful, he normally wears glasses, and he thought that he should do the show without glasses. He could barely see the text which appeared to be behind or to the left of the camera.

Otherwise, it was a painfully long demonstration in the importance of having your children read aloud. Reading fluency isn't cosmetic. Expressive readers who know what to do when they come to punctuation, who know how to modulate their voice to effectively read the piece, demonstrate much, much higher rates of reading comprehension than children who don't. It was once believed that fluency follows comprehension but recent research in reading has demonstrated that at the very least fluency and comprehension work hand-in-hand. And for some readers--fluency begets comprehension.

2 comments:

Hillary said...

Oh! That was just painful! Poor guy. I do admire his forging through, though, and not giving up. I wonder if he wore his glasses next time, or if he was ever given another chance?

The Queen said...

I should clarify that I don't know if the kid wears glasses or not--I was just thinking that the other "situation" that could produce that kind of disfluent reading would be if he really physically couldn't read most of the text on the prompter and that he was guessing at the words based on the bit he could make out. Usually a reporter in his shoes is reading material that he actually wrote, so it's possible that if he normally wore glasses he just vastly overestimated his ability to read a teleprompter without them and was having to recall what he wrote based on a few blurry visual cues.