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Tips for Increasing Rapid Naming Ability in Struggling Readers

By Jenny Nordman
 | Sep 13, 2017

Rapid Naming AbilityWhile rapid naming ability may not be the first thing one thinks of when listing the characteristics of an effective reader, the impact of this cognitive skill should not be underestimated. In fact, children with reading issues often demonstrate significant difficulty when asked to quickly name familiar objects or symbols. Conversely, more advanced readers tend to perform strongly on rapid naming tasks.

Rapid naming involves processing information and responding swiftly. Within the context of reading, it is needed for word retrieval, sound–symbol correspondence, automaticity, and oral reading fluency. For a student to be able to respond and integrate information, a variety of neural systems must work together quickly and seamlessly. However, when instructing struggling readers or those with documented reading disabilities, achieving rapid naming may require additional practice.

Here are some practical tips that can be used to increase rapid naming ability when working with readers who have difficulty with this important cognitive skill:

  • Play “Search and Say” with the classroom word wall and a flashlight. The teacher (or a selected student) points to words on the word wall using a flashlight, and the students must quickly respond. This activity builds rapid sight word recall.
  • Have the student complete timed, repeated readings of a passage in order to build automaticity. It is recommended that the passage be no more than 100 words. The student can make a game of it by trying to beat their time, and this activity can be used as a literacy center with premade, leveled passages and stopwatches.
  • Play games that require quick word retrieval, such as Pictionary, Scattergories, or charades. Connect these activities to a text selection by incorporating vocabulary words or scenes from a story.
  • Use flash cards for letters, sight words, sounds, phonograms, etc. Flash card activities require fast processing, but they should not be competitive if being used for remediation.
  • Sing short songs or recite poems and quicken the pace as you repeat. This activity gradually increases the demand on processing speed, and is especially enjoyable for young children. Please note that those with speech issues may find this activity difficult.

With these practical activities, you can help to build rapid naming ability in your students. Be sure to also send a few of these suggestions home to parents for even more practice. 

Jenny NordmanDr. Jenny Nordman is an assistant professor of reading and literacy at Regis University in Denver, where she coordinates of the Master of Education in Reading program. Her areas of expertise include reading assessment and intervention, cognitive skills associated with reading success, neurocognition, and evidence-based best practices.

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