Reading aloud is so important in improving comprehension skills and verbal communication skills. It's importance can not be overestimated, several research investigations have discussed the significance of text engagement and proficient readers (Dolezal, Welsh, Pressley, & Vincent, 2003; Wharton-McDonald, Pressley, & Hampston, 1998). So it seems that if you want your child to improve their literacy skills, it’s time to encourage them to say it out loud.
Teachers are aware of the importance of students reading aloud, but reading aloud can also be intimidating for many young people. There is the fear of getting a word wrong, sounding stupid and having others think you can't read.
My biggest fear, when I was a student was that I would come across an easy word, like 'father' - a grade 2 reading word - and in my nervousness I would sound it out 'fat- her' and before I could think about it, and correct myself, my teacher would correct me and a classmate would snigger. I would spend the rest of that lesson thinking about my one mistake. Worried that I would be the girl known for her inability to recognise the word 'father' forever branded as ‘fat-her'.
When such mistakes are made, other students are usually forgiving or forgetful and no such taunts are followed up. But the real tragedy is that for the rest of that lesson I might as well have been absent. I was no longer able to listen and learn as my anxiety over a simple mistake was all I could hear.
This sometimes crippling fear of mistakes can happen to the most well adjusted child, given the right conditions - and it is a tragedy. An important lesson is passing that student by because of the drama that is playing out in their minds.
The challenge for teachers is to make reading aloud sessions fun, comfortable and a time where students can feel safe about having a go and making a mistake.
All they need as friendly faces, a childhood toy and good book ...and even a dog!
Here are three tips to make reading sessions feel safe for all involved:
1. Read altogether.
Read in a circle. I would move all the desks out of the way and ask my students to grab their chairs and book and sit in a large circle. Once in this circle I remind the students that this is our safe zone, only positive thoughts and encouragement here. I would explain to the students that everyone has to read. We will go around the circle and even if you just read a word that is fine. When it's your turn to read - read aloud for as long as you feel comfortable and then say 'pass'. Once the student says 'pass' we move to the next student.
I would find that even if a student is only reading a few words aloud they are still engaged in the lesson and actively listening. As the lessons continue these students often find the confidence to read aloud more and more.
2. Read with buddies.
Pair friends up together. Teachers are often trying to separate buddies as they talk too much. (Although the truth is that talkative kids will usually talk to anyone.) Kids feel more comfortable with their mates. I would find that if I got the dynamics right, groups of three or four students would read aloud and help each other out in a relaxed and friendly reading environment. Sometimes we would bring snacks and students could picnic while reading aloud.
3. Read to teddy.
For the younger students I would hold a ‘Teddy Bears Picnic’ at the beginning of the year. A time where kids can bring in their favourite toy (or choose one from the classroom teddy box) and discuss with their classmates why that toy is important to them. They would be asked to bring their toy back on special reading days. On those days the kids would grab their toy, their book and a pillow and sit by themselves and read aloud to their toy.
This was a lovely thing to do on a sunny afternoon, when we would head outside and sit under a big shady tree.
Reading aloud to a toy meant that kids were not being constantly corrected for the mistakes they were making. They were not worried about being teased. Nor were they anxious that someone would think they were stupid. Although I am sure the kids were making mistakes all over the place, I was looking at the bigger picture - if kids enjoy the reading process, they will work at it more often and it is with practice that they improve.
A safe learning environment where students can feel as though they are able to express themselves without ridicule is the ultimate goal. It’s important for teachers to be imaginative and look at ways to get students to read aloud without anxiety.
My final word on this would be that another way to get kids reading aloud without fear would be for them to read at home to their parents, their teddy or even their dog!
Canine Comprehension are always happy help with the dog part - just contact us.
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