I remember hearing some teacher say “Why do we make students read aloud in class? People don’t read aloud when they’re in private.” And sure, there are times when it makes sense to have your students read quietly to themselves. But there are benefits to having one student at a time read out loud for the whole class. Here are a few of them.
BREATHE LIFE INTO A PASSAGE
Some students find it hard to hold their attention throughout a passage, and not all passages are intensely riveting in the first place. When you read aloud, you can place emphasis in various points, give characters personality, show contrast, establish the right tone, and so on. Read our post on Using Your Voice to Convey Meaning for tips on how to get more out of reading aloud.
As students encounter words they’re less familiar with, they might not know how to pronounce them. You might not catch all of these if the students hadn’t tried to speak them aloud. Unless a reader gets hung up on a word, we’d recommend not interrupting them, but simply making a note of it, then addressing any mispronounced words after the whole passage has been read (at which time you can also explain/review definitions).
MAKE IT INTERACTIVE
When one student reads aloud and the rest listen, the whole class is reading at the same pace, which grants you opportunities for interactivity. You can ask students to raise their hands whenever they have a question. Or have them clap twice whenever a particular word is spoken. Or have them stand once the answer to a question you asked at the beginning has been revealed. Or have students join in reading aloud whenever a character assigned to them has dialogue.
Often, when one student is reading out loud, the rest of the students follow along in their own books. But you could also have them shut their books and turn it into a listening exercise for everyone who’s not the reader.
Especially when a passage features multiple sentence structures, reading aloud is an opportunity to practice pacing and pitch within a sentence and from one sentence to the next.
IDENTIFY KEY INDICATORS
The English language uses several groups of words (usually conjunctions, prepositions, and adverbs) that express that what’s about to come next (or, on occasion, what came just before) is important. The particular group used often depends on the point and style of the passage. Here are a few of those groups:
- first, second, third, …, then, next, after that, finally
- therefore, as a result, ergo, consequently
- although, however, but, while, even though
- additionally, furthermore, moreover
- if, as long as, unless, until
Call whichever set of words is relevant to your students’ attention before the reading begins, then ask the reader to emphasize these words when they reach them.
KEEP THE ENERGY UP
Reading aloud can keep the energy of the classroom up, while reading quietly might dampen it. There are time when you might want to bring the energy down a bit (before bringing it up again), but otherwise, reading aloud is probably a good idea.