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The Importance of Reading Aloud in a Language Learning Class

July 20, 2022

For many, reading is a silent, internal process.

When I did my CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), my tutor taught me that reading aloud was unnatural and, therefore, didn’t have a place in the classroom. 

As I’ve developed as a teacher, especially as a teacher of adult ESOL literacy, I’ve explored this belief a lot. I’ve discovered that reading aloud is an essential part of the English language classroom. 

Here are some beneficial ways you can use reading aloud in your language classroom:

Try reading aloud to your students

Reading to students is a great way to add some energy, drama, and fun to the classroom. It provides an opportunity for English learners to hear the words and be exposed to the concept of reading. It can also activate imaginations, build vocabulary, and improve overall understanding of the language

Students can listen and follow the text as the teacher reads or simply enjoy listening to the text.

Have your students read aloud

Getting students to read aloud is one of the best ways to check that their sound decoding skills are developing. It also provides an opportunity to practice pronunciation and check that they understand punctuation. 

There have also been studies to show that reading aloud aids memory. Colin MacLeod, a psychology researcher at the University of Waterloo, Canada, found that readers of all ages remembered words better if they read them aloud. He calls this "the production effect."

Be aware that some learners may lack confidence in reading aloud in front of peers. This can be especially true for learners with dyslexia or for those who find literacy challenging. 

In this case, aim to create a welcoming, supportive, and respectful classroom atmosphere, and allow learners to work in small groups or pairs to read aloud. 

Practice choral reading

Choral reading is a great way to read aloud in class. It gets everyone involved and allows learners to gain confidence before reading alone.

Simply display a text on the whiteboard or screen and ask students to read it aloud together. If one learner struggles with a particular word, they can hear how to say it from the other learners or the teacher. 

Use technology to read aloud

You can use tools such as the Microsoft Immersive Reader on Ellii to read texts aloud to learners.

Ellii's Word Bank Readers lesson section has tasks where students can...

  • read and listen to recorded audio of the text

Audio track on top of an excerpt from Leena's Big, Happy Family lesson from Ellii's Word Bank Readers section.

  • record themselves reading a text for the teacher to mark

Example of Ellii speaking task type with a record button to record your answer.

  • watch videos and read aloud with the highlighted reading prompts

An Ellii read aloud video from Lena's Big, Happy Family lesson.

Share your thoughts!

Do you use reading aloud in class? If so, how? Let us know in the comments section.

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Comments (8)

Sherry T.(Teacher)

I enjoy reading together with students to introduce a new reading or to review a lesson the next day before continuing with new activities. I usually ask for volunteers to read, so that nobody is put on the spot. Sometimes I ask each student to read ONE sentence (only one!) to help them learn that the period is the end marker. I tried the immersive reader on ellii with my online class this week, and it went very well. It's nice for the teacher to have a break, and for students to learn to listen to a new voice. I think learning pronunciation and intonation is helped by reading aloud and hearing someone else read. I can easily hear when students struggle with reading sight words too. I love to read, and I think reading with my classes is a very useful activity.

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Tanya Trusler(Author)

Hi Sherry, thanks for sharing what you do in class! I'll pass on your comment to Emily. I agree that it can be uncomfortable to put students on the spot, and I also liked having my students take turns reading only one sentence each out loud. We're happy to hear you're enjoying the immersive reader!

Maureen C.(Teacher)

It's pretty shocking that a CELTA/TESOL instructor devalued the importance of reading aloud. I agree with all of the above suggestions. I tutor teenagers one on one, and tell them why I want them to read aloud. I give feedback on their pronunciation, reading speed, and check their comprehension of what's read aloud. I encourage listenng to e-audio books to further develop reading skiils, which, in general teenagers avoid!

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Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks for sharing your teaching tips, Maureen! I love your point about telling students why you're having them do something. I've also found that students respond better to a task when they understand the reasoning and importance behind it.

Holly D.(Teacher)

I totally agree about the value of reading aloud in the classroom. Another fun activity with both young adults and teens is reading children's books out loud. When the vocabulary is simpler, they are able to focus more on word emphasis, pacing and feeling, which makes reading aloud fun. I do it in small groups with each student taking a turn to read a few pages. Then, if there's time left, I ask them to choose one person from each group to take turns reading a (slightly more advanced) story aloud together to the entire class.

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Tanya Trusler(Author)

Thanks for sharing this great tip, Holly! I used to do the same thing with my lower-level students, either using children's books or books written for ESL students.

Tanya Trusler(Author)

Ellii now has a Video library! If you're looking for more practice with reading out loud, see the Word Bank Reader category in the Stories & Songs section for a list of lessons that include videos with guided, read-aloud practice built right in. Happy teaching!


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