Whisper Phones: What They Are, How They Help, & Teacher Tips!

Updated: Nov 18

One of my favorite tools to use during oral reading exercises is a whisper phone!

Have you ever used one? This is an auditory feedback device that helps support articulation and reading fluency, particularly among struggling readers. The reader barely has to whisper into the device, and it magnifies their voice so they can clearly hear themselves read aloud. Another benefit? It feels like a fun "toy" for them, so they are EAGER to engage in our reading exercises! Win, win!

There are so many ways you can use these handy little helpers in your classroom, but I wanted to share just a couple of my favorite activities with whisper phones. I use both of these techniques in small groups or with individual readers.

Here are a couple of great tips for using whisper phones with your small groups:

Note: I always use decodable texts that feature only skills I have previously taught. By the time my students read these texts, they have previewed many of the words within the passage through a variety of dictation exercises and/or reading activities at the word level.

  • All students begin reading the text simultaneously, using the whisper phones. Remember, they barely have to whisper to be able to hear themselves read, so this is surprisingly quiet, in spite of the fact that each student is reading. The teacher "checks in" by tapping the text. This signals the student to "hang up" his/her phone and read at a normal voice level so the teacher can listen, offer feedback, correct any errors or misunderstandings while reading. The teacher taps the text again to signal the student to "pick up" his/her phone and resume whisper reading. Then the teacher "checks in" with another student! Typically, I set a timer for possible 5 minutes, and we all continue reading until the timer goes off. Depending on the length of the passage/text, they may read it more than once. That's okay! The sustained reading helps build stamina.

  • To build fluency with phrasing and expression: The teacher selects one sentence from the passage. The teacher reads the sentence aloud, modeling phrasing, intonation, expression, etc. The students then pick up their whisper phones and reread the same portion from the text, practicing the same fluency techniques the teacher has modeled. Typically, I do this for just a few specific portions of the text that allow for great expression when reading. Then, when we encounter those portions within the text while reading it as a whole, students have had an experience with fluent reading to put into practice independently.

I just love to see how focused my students become when they pick up these phones to read

The particular whisper phones my students are using in these pictures are Toobaloo Auditory Feedback Phones . I'm not endorsing this as a product, but these have held up fairly well for me.

If you want a more affordable option (and likely more durable as well), then there is a great DIY version of whisper phones you might want to consider! Melissa, from Teacher Thrive, has a fantastic tutorial for creating your own whisper phones using PVC pipe. Check it out below if you are interested!

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