Reading aloud: when is it a good idea?

Published on 2nd December, 2010 in Teaching Tips by Frances Watkins

Students often enjoy reading aloud, if this technique is used with caution. It can neatly round off a text-based lesson and can also focus students on pronunciation and phrasing. It may also be a useful diagnostic tool: a speaker’s intonation, stress, pausing and rhythm often reveal how much of the text they have understood, beyond word level. Learners can be actively encouraged to read aloud in certain genres:

•  Dialogues: frequently found in coursebooks. As they are intended to be spoken, it is logical to say them out loud.

•  News items: students can read aloud news items from a script, as ‘newsreaders’. It is also common for us to read extracts from written news aloud to a listener in our first language, so this element can be exploited. So, give students mini news articles to read and ‘report’ on and provide an introductory discourse marker: 
    Did you hear about…? / Listen, according to this … / It says here …  + possible introductory sentence + read (part of) text aloud.

•  Poetry: this includes limericks, rhymes, and extends to riddles and jokes. These are often read aloud in our first languages too.

Your context might provide other, more learner-specific genres. For example, your students may need to give speeches or presentations (written text to be spoken).

As discussed last week, students first need to comprehend the text. After this, provide some preparation time before they read aloud, specifying clear time limits and goals, eg:

Later you’re going to read this to your partner(s) as fluently as possible. You have seven minutes to practise reading it quietly. I can help with pronunciation.

Let students rehearse in pairs or threes and if possible work towards some sort of ‘finale’ or performance to heighten the challenge, eg a class demonstration or a recording. Monitor and assist individuals throughout, to raise the status of pronunciation.

1 Comment

  • With short texts in particular, or even with learner texts, the whole process of elborating and internalising the text and then reading it out dramatically etc. can be really effective and helpful. This is a far cry from the mechanical reading out loud that we all reacted against. 🙂

    Sharon Hartle on 9 July, 2011