Do you teach a second or foreign language? Do you have students whose first language is not the language of instruction? Do you teach a discipline in which the accurate pronunciation of field-related terminology is important? Then you may be interested in supporting your students’ practice through Reading Progress, a free tool built into Assignments in Microsoft Teams that is designed to help students build pronunciation accuracy, fluency and confidence through personalized reading experiences.

What is Reading Progress and why use it?

Reading Progress in Teams supports students in improving their fluency, diction and pronunciation accuracy through independent reading practice that can be reviewed by their teacher, leading to actionable insights. The principle is simple:

  • As a teacher, you create a Teams assignment and attach a text document using the Reading Progress function.
  • Your students read the text out loud within the Teams environment and submit the resulting audio or video recording, which you can assess at any time.
  • Artificial intelligence (AI) driven analyses can be completed with your own observations and feedback, providing your students with insights to help them progress.

Reading Progress is integrated in Teams Assignments, allowing the teacher to easily provide feedback supported by AI-driven analyses. [Source: Microsoft]

This approach has several benefits over more traditional pronunciation practice activities in the classroom or language lab:

  • You can upload a single reading passage for everyone or differentiate for your students’ levels by assigning different passages to different students.
  • Students may feel less stressed using their own device in an environment where they feel comfortable, especially if you allow them several attempts.
  • Recordings are automatically saved, making it easier for yourself and your students to observe and follow up on their progress.
  • The auto-detect feature, localized in over 100 languages and language varieties, supports you in quickly identifying mistakes, such as mispronunciations, repetitions, phrasing, intonation, and omissions, based on artificial intelligence, thus saving you time correcting.
  • Insights on words spoken per minute, accuracy rates, and challenging words can be tracked per student or for the entire group, in order to inform your teaching.
  • Immersive Reader is integrated within Reading Progress, which means students can adjust page settings, format and font size for a more inclusive learning experience.

The Immersive Reader is integrated into Reading Progress. [Source: Microsoft]

How to create a Reading Progress assignment?

  1. Prepare your reading passage, preferably in Word format. To help the auto-detect function to recognize the language variety (e.g., Canadian English), it is recommended you set the proofing language accordingly (on the Review tab, choose Language, then Set Proofing Language).
  2. In your class Team, choose Assignments from the left menu, then click the Create button and choose Assignment. In the Instructions section click Attach and choose Reading Progress.
  3. A new window will open. After selecting the document you prepared, you can set options, such as:
    • the reading level and genre (to help you compare performance across assignments)
    • the number of attempts students can make before they have to turn in the assignment
    • the maximum amount of time taken to read the passage (can be unlimited)
    • the sensitivity of the AI-driven pronunciation analysis (can be adjusted also when you review the assignment after it has been submitted)
    • the requirement for a video-based submission (when turned off, the recording is audio-only)
  4. Click Next to return to the main Assignment window. Complete the remaining fields (title, instructions, due date, etc.) and Assign or Schedule the assignment when finished.

Once your students have turned in the assignment, you can use the Auto-detect function for AI-powered assessment of student errors. You can overwrite and complete the suggested errors, or turn off Auto-detect if you prefer to assess the copy entirely manually. The accuracy statistics adjust automatically as you review the submission. You can listen as many times as needed and jump to any word in the audio or video recording by selecting the corresponding word in the text passage.

Walkthrough of the Reading Progress function in Teams Assignments [Source: Microsoft Education]

Upcoming updates

In time for the Fall 2022 session, new Reading Progress features will be launched, including the ability to measure a student’s expression and intonation as well as a Reading Coach. This function will automatically generate individualized exercises based on each student’s specific needs. Once a student uploads a Reading Progress assignment, Reading Coach will automatically identify words they struggled with and create additional opportunities for practice. The new feature will also positively reinforce students to help build their speaking confidence. Moreover, Reading Coach will further interact with Immersive Reader to also provide students with features like Microsoft Translator, which offer real-time assistance to help all students, including language learners and students with special needs.

Speaking skills are essential in virtually any field, and giving students the chance to take control over their diction and pronunciation practice contributes to increasing not only their academic performance, but also their confidence. That’s the idea behind Reading Progress, which enables students to independently read aloud in virtually any language, record themselves, and grow their speaking skills while allowing their teacher to easily track their progress, provide feedback, and discover trends and opportunities for further improvement.

About the author

Andy Van Drom

Andy Van Drom has been teaching English as a second language and linguistics since 2005, first at Université Laval and then, since 2012, at Cégep Limoilou. After completing doctoral studies in Linguistics (Université Laval), he obtained a second master’s degree, in Higher Education Pedagogy (Performa, Université de Sherbrooke). With the aim of supporting inclusive teaching practices and fostering student success, his focus is on the role of language mindset in learner motivation. Andy has published 4 ESL textbooks with Pearson ERPI as well as several open educational resources in digital format. His keen interest in pedagogy led him to work with Profweb (now Eductive) in 2017 and with the AQPC in 2021, 2 mandates that are still ongoing. His desire to innovate in pedagogy has earned him an AQPC Honourable Mention, a Forces Avenir Award and the EF Excellence Award in Language Teaching.

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