Reading out loud

When I work on reading aloud with learners, I always try to do two things.

The first is to get the learners to read the text silently or in groups and make sure that they have understood. This is fundamental if they are going to read the text well, and they need to do it first - they can’t concentrate on meaning and pronunciation at the same time. The second thing is I often get them to mark the text, highlighting stressed syllables in words, pauses and other features of connected speech. I find this makes the reading easier for them and much more natural for a listener.

By Paul Kaye

Average: 3.5 (67 votes)


frofphee's picture

I also like to do that. I also have them prepare their texts at home, read them carefully and look up the unknown words they need in order to capture the meaning of the text. I find it helps them a lot.

laila2light's picture

hi everyone, I agree with you in terms of the importance of silent reading, but it  must be guided, i.e; purposeful reading. So, it's better to ask questions at the beginning so that students can understand and classify the ideas that are in a given text.

carladelia's picture

I do the same, but I also like to get them to practice some techniques such as scanning and skimming so that they can be able to uderstand texts that can be sometimes difficult according to their level of English. many of my students need to read authentic texts but don't have enough vocabulary or structure knowledge to do so, then actually reading through a text may be rather frustrating for him/her. Best wishes, Carla D'Elia - English Teacher

Heath's picture

I usually avoid reading aloud altogether.  For these reasons:

  • Not natural.
    It's not a very natural process (think about how often you read aloud in your first language - bedtime stories to the kids and that's all, for most people).
  • No comprehension.
    If a learner is concentrating on turning words into sounds, they are probably not concentrating on meaning.  Kind of like a computer turning text into speech - zero understanding or comprehension involved.
  • Embarrassing/uncomfortable.
    Many students don't like to be the centre of attention.  Maybe because they're naturally shy or inhibited, maybe because their pronunciation is weaker than other Ss, and often a combination of the two.  The end result is humiliation and demotivation to learn.
  • Limited usefulness.
    What does it actually help students to develop?  It doesn't help reading skills - skimming, scanning and intensive reading tasks would do that better.  It is non-interactive so doesn't develop communicative ability.  Only one student is speaking at a time, so it doesn't provide any more opportunity for the teacher to pay attention to pronunciation than any pair or group task would.  Etc, etc.

If I was to use reading aloud, it would be because it is relevant to the task or text in that it's representative of something real life.  Reading aloud can be good for:

  • Practising telling fairy-tales or bedtime stories. 
    Big focus on intonation and voice and imagery; role-playing a parent, Primary School teacher or Librarian telling stories to children.
  • Giving a speech.
    Focus on clarity, volume, and effective use of pausing, with less focus on reading aloud directly and more on using the text as a prompt and reminder; role-playing someone pitching a new product/idea/plan to a prospective client or to a senior manage, or role-playing a politician, company president, etc, giving a speech at a party, convention, or meeting.
  • Sharing a newspaper article.
    Focus on picking out the interesting information and reading only those lines/paragraphs aloud, interspersed with own comment; role-playing two friends during their lunch break - one reading the paper and the other listening to his/her comments on the article.
  • Instructions over the phone.
    Focus on giving clear and concise information without the aid of body language; role-playing people giving advice or instructions on how to do something via phone (eg. two friends, one reading a computer manual aloud to help the other fix their computer; or one friend sharing a recipe over the phone).

Even then, only the first involves complete reading aloud, the rest just involving picking out bits of information to read aloud... so I definitely prefer to limit it to those few instances where it seems realistic.

Peggyg's picture

I agree that reading aloud can be stressful for some learners and does need to be handled carefully. I use it quite often with my groups and I find that it promotes team work as more confident readers help less confident learners. We have fun while reading. It stimulates discussions and very often provides new lesson ideas. It is a good tool for helping with pronunciation, spelling and general dictionary work. I regard it as a valuable tool along with many others that I use with my learners. I find it to be a good interactive activity especially with my Entry 2 and 3 groups.

I like some of your ideas but I feel that reading aloud can be very enjoyable if handled in a sensitive manner.

Niranga Abeyakoon's picture
Niranga Abeyakoon

Niranga AbeyakoonDear all,Well, I cannot agree in reading out loud as a best way of learning anything. In planning a lesson, there should be a purpose. For example, if you want the students to do a reading activity, your lesson focus should be on a reading skill (skim, scan etc.).Also, I don't see a purpose of reading out loud in a class room. Then it should be called as speaking out loud not reading out loud !!! And this lesson should be prepared to be a speaking activity focusing on specific target language. Because, you cannot make the learners focus on all the stress and sounds in the context.What I would suggest is: select some target language (vocabulary, grammer, pronunciation) and plan your lesson to achieve those aims and prctice them in a communicative way, rather making them read out loud. And if you want to focus on the context of the passage by doing a reading activity, select a reading skill/s that you want the learners to practice.In my experience, the person who reads nor the listeners(actually they will be focusing on something else like the line the reader is reading and not on the context. Also the listeners get board with this activity...etc) get any benefit out of it. Instead, create activities based on focused speaking aims. Cheers!Niranga

suzy-jenkins's picture

I think it may be a good idea to start with, but understandng what is being read needs to be a top priority.  It It works well with the adults I work with (I teach non speaking adults English classes in my area).  They need to learn how to read and understand bus routes, maps, and other important things they will use every day in their lives.  What's interesting is that they usually are in groups when they travel, and they do read out loud to each other when they are trying to understand something like a menu or instructions and it works well in real life, not just the classroom.

Trixxie's picture

I'm an English Trainer in a call center in Central America. When our candidates are on the phone they do need to read aloud, so in my training reading  actvitities are essential, if not, they get to the phones and the customers who call don't understand what they are saying, due to the lack of ability of reading aloud. If anybody has any exercises on this topic, they are  more than welcome.

Heath's picture

That's a good point, Trixxie.If reading aloud is a key need of your particular learners, then yes, it would be particularly important to practise that skill (although probably best restricted to the reading aloud of the types of text that they will be reading aloud, and not overly applied to other areas).One other thing that I think is important to remember.  Teachers need to ask themselves "Is this the best use of time?"  Don't forget all the other things Ss need to be doing: practising reading for example. 

Gordana's picture

Dear allIn my opinion, having one student reading aloud while the others in the class listen is usually a total waste of time.   I have a variation on the theme which I would like to share...   After having read the text silently, or having been exposed to a recording, I have Ss read the text to each other in pairs - across the whole class simultaneously.      If it's a dialogue, they can practise their with the "Read, look up and say to your partner" technique, or if it's a text then they can read parts to each other. The teacher goes around and monitors, but usually students correct each other if their partner makes mistakes.Students (and teachers usually) enjoy the activity and it does have a positive effect on improving their English speaking skills.