Same-Language-Subtitling and Karaoke:

The Use of Subtitled Music as a Reading Activity

In a High School Special Education Classroom

W.Greg McCall,




The purpose of this study was to determine whether including Same-Language-Subtitling (SLS) activities in a reading class would increase the amount of time that special education students were actively engaged in repetitive reading activities and thereby impact their reading growth.  At this state in the research, the SLS activities will be defined generally as the use of high-quality subtitling and video editing technologies (similar to Karaoke) applied to music video and other multi-media presentations. The basic activity involved students repeatedly viewing short selections from musical videos (modified with karaoke-styled subtitles) while completing cloze worksheets. This type of activity should impact the student’s reading growth and language levels by increasing the time in which they are actively engaged with language and reading.

 Recent computer technology developments have made subtitling and video editing programs available and economic for classroom applications. This allows a teacher to choose challenging media and pair it with professional grade synchronized subtitles. An experimental study was conducted in order to determine the effect of SLS reading activities  on secondary special education students.



A major factor in 'Reading Growth' is: amount of time and engagement spent in reading activities. The writer predicted that SLS presented in strong audio-visual format would increase student engagement and time-on-task behaviors, and further that there would be a corresponding impact on reading growth.

                Simply stated, “SLS is the use of existing subtitling technology applied to song-based" media content (Kothari, 2000, pg. 135). This is similar to Karaoke, where the subtitled text changes color in exact rhythm to the lyrics (or to the dialogue) in a manner that allows even a non-literate viewer to visually track the words as they are performed. With SLS, the audio model can be very dynamic, the instructor can choose lyric or script at any reading level, and teacher and students have the option of creating their own SLS presentations. The available technology allows students to interact with subtitling media as a process and they can create their own SLS multi-media presentations.  This allows for a wide range of repetitive and rehearsed reading opportunities. This technology allows music and audio-visual presentations to reinforce what is basically a repetitive reading activity. While music strongly reinforces this activity, any audio model can be used as a starting base.

                For example, a class would follow a cloze reading script while viewing a projected SLS video. The music video then reinforces what is basically a repetitive reading activity, while the SLS text-on-screen supplies an accurate visual cuing to the audio model. This activity can easily include elements of rehearsed reading performance.  Just as easily, the activity can be done with a selection of poetry or a famous speech. On a more advanced level, the student would locate an audio source, create and edit a script, and create his/her own personalized SLS for presentation to the class.  For example, students could even record themselves reading a poem, or giving a speech to serve as the audio-model for building a presentation. Students can use the Internet to locate  a script, libretto, or text and using a word processing program, plus video editing software to create their own SLS reading presentations. The hard work comes in as the student matches his visual script in time and in content to the audio model.