Monday, June 23, 2008

Read'em Good

A lively discussion is underway at Teacher Magazine's online discussion forum. The topic du jour is about whether or not reading aloud to high schoolers is good for them. Apparently a high school teacher's administrator doesn't think so. When I sat stopped in on the forum today, it looked like the "good"s were in the lead. And I'm among them.


I often read to my high schoolers--especially key passages, poetry, parts of dialogue. Although I'm no great orator from the late 1800s, but with a degree or two in communication arts, I do all right. I figure, it's not often my students get to hear a professional reader of literature. That's my first volley.

Here are my top 10 reasons for reading aloud to teens, or at least all I can think of on this beautiful summer's eve.


  1. They love it.

  2. They'll hear the words spoken in an effective (not definitive) way.

  3. I know they are reading the text and not just the Sparknotes. Who knows they might even notice the incredible difference and stick to reading the texts in toto.

  4. I can model how reading inspires one to pause and muse and question, or reflect and elaborate on a moment in a text.

  5. We can discuss an important point, or debrief on difficult part.

  6. Some students are auditory learners; it helps all students to digest a text not to be decoding the letters on the page.

  7. It works in the mind's eye and on the imagination just as well, if not better.

  8. Students can take notes or make art related to the reading while I read aloud.

  9. Spoken vocabulary meets written text.

  10. Research says students (even at the college level) who are read to read more.

As I noted above, I do not lay claim to reading texts "the right way." A pitfall of reading aloud is interpreting the text in a particular way. So, I also encourage (read: give extra credit) for students who agree to read the night before (and complete a chart of verbs of how each page is to be read and dictionary checks on vocabulary) and read in class. This way there is not the stumbling, staccato, flat and mispronounced, tortured reading, yet a student voice interprets the work.

On last point, I remember reading Great Expectations aloud as a 9th Grade. My 14-year-old voice cracked and the class laughed. I also remember my teacher Mr. Allison's mellifluous tones when he read Romeo and Juliet with us. Ah, youth.
Image credit: "Reading Along with Mr. Youngs" by Victoria Lecci

4 comments:

Tanaz said...

I think this issue is very interesting because I have never really heard people arguing about this; it's never really come to my attention. However, now that it has, I agree that it should be okay to read aloud to high school students. I do not think it should be the only way they read books or that it should be done every single day, but I think sometimes it is definitely okay and can be beneficial. Reading aloud can be a creative strategy and helpful for the students as a means to get a better feel for the text. In many instances, the students will be more engaged when they hear their teacher reading aloud to them and it does not mean they won't be reading or doing any type of work.

ceyo said...

I'm glad you brought up the point of reading aloud as being a way for students "to get a better feel for the text." Frequently, I read the beginning of a novel to "get them into it" and to hear a cadence that would be fitting. This can be expecially helpful for texts that come from unfamiliar tradtions of style due to time or place.

गिरिधर | giridhar said...

The 11-12 year olds whom I read aloud to (classes 6 and 7 in Hyderabad, India) found the experience quite rewarding. Especially so, since English was not a home language for most of them, and their language classes (they were learning Hindi and Telugu too, besides English) tended to be insulated from the other subjects that they studied (in English).

My brief report on the experience (for Teacher Plus) was called Reading beyond boundaries.

ceyo said...

गिरिधर | giridhar, your anecdotal report "Reading Beyon Boundaries" is a fine example of how we can model a reader's thinking as we read aloud, meditate on the meanings of words, and reflect in the process. Thanks for sharing this.