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Reading Aloud An Integral Part of English Learning
Rosemary Schmid Shares Insights From Her Approach

Rosemary Schmid, of UNC-Charlotte, in Charlotte, North Carolina, recently posted a comment on the TESL-L listserv regarding appropriate uses of reading out loud in ESL classrooms. She has agreed to share her remarks with the readers of ESL MiniConference Online. See also related articles on warnings against reading out loud as well as a call for rethinking the bias against this activity.

I have recommended reading aloud to my students, and I have even asked students to read aloud in class. In addition, I read TO my students, especially the beginning readers - adults.

Here's my thinking:

At home,

I suggest that the students read aloud to themselves, while taping themselves. Then, they should read that text again, but with "mouth closed, ears open", so that they can begin to "hear" when they read, an essential, I think to deeper understanding of what is being read in more complex texts. They have already met the material in class.

In class,

the students take turns reading aloud, sometimes a new paragraph, and sometimes the paragraph that was just read. The second time the same paragraph is read, the pronunciation is often better. The initial reader is NOT expected to understand what he or she just read, but the other members of the class are. And, they are reading along silently while a classmate reads.

In class, and on tape,

with beginning readers especially, but also with intermediate and even advanced readers for different reasons, I read to the students. (I have had the experience Dave Kees mentions of having to look up the pronunciation of a word I've never heard spoken! If it happens in class, it's a good time to explain again the differences in written language, and spoken language written down.) So many times I have watched comprehension grow on someone's face when their mind connects the heard word with the written word.

With more difficult materials, if the writer is "good", the music/intonation of spoken English helps in understanding the material. If the writer is "not so good" (some materials for native speakers definitely fit this category), my intonation (since we've already talked about attending to intonation) becomes an aid to comprehension.

I also prepare students before reading with some key pronunciation, if I think it might be useful, and there has always been some listening and speaking about meaning before reading.

My advantage, of course, is that I am a native speaker of midwestern American English, teaching in an Intensive English Program in the USA, but I applaud the careful use of "reading aloud."

Reported by Rosemary Schmid, English Language Training Institute
UNC Charlotte
Charlotte, North Carolina

2002 ESL MiniConference Online