Thursday, July 13, 2017

Story Time: Reading Aloud in History Class

I started reading aloud to my students from time to time for two key reasons:

1.  I liked doing it, which was reinforced by the fact that they seemed to enjoy it.

2. Practical reasons. There were longer things I wanted them to read, but for one reason or another I didn't want to assign for homework. 

You might wonder why I wouldn't have students take turns reading. And the answer is that sometimes I do. There are students who really love reading aloud. Some of them are good at it, and some are not. I admit, that there are times when I will call on the "good readers" because I don't have time for the slower readers. But I will also make times for all to read who choose to. When I do that, I will usually just go around the room in order. I always allow a student to pass. I don't see the point in forcing a student who really prefers not to read. 

But for longer readings, especially of the narrative/story type, I simply loathe having students read aloud. I hated it as a student and I dislike it as a teacher. I found my reasons well summarized in a Edutopia article, 11 Alternatives to "Round Robin" (and "Popcorn") Reading. Here is an excerpt from that:

Round Robin Reading . . .

  • Stigmatizes poor readers. Imagine the terror that English-language learners and struggling readers face when made to read in front of an entire class.
  • Weakens comprehension. Listening to a peer orally read too slowly, too fast, or too haltingly weakens learners' comprehension -- a problem exacerbated by turn-taking interruptions. 
  • Sabotages fluency and pronunciation. Struggling readers model poor fluency skills and pronunciation. When instructors correct errors, fluency is further compromised.

The article goes on to list 11 alternatives to having students take turns reading aloud. I have mixed thoughts on some of the 11 alternatives. But one of them is having the teacher read aloud. 

If you want to delve into why round robin/popcorn reading is not such a great technique, check out the articles below.

So why should you read aloud? One of the best authorities on this topic is Jim Trelease. I first became acquainted with his work after I had my own children. I was in the children's library with my two toddlers and saw Trelease's book, The Read-Aloud Handbook on display. I was hooked. You can read a brief overview of his work in this brochure. Also check out the New York Public Library's discussion of the book for more info.

Another benefit of reading aloud is it might convince students to read more from whatever it is that you have chosen. I have had students ask to borrow my book afterwards or show me that they bought their own copy of the book. I haven't followed up to know whether or not they actually have read it, but this is an encouraging first step.

Alright, so hopefully now you are convinced that this is something you should be doing. What should you read?