Reading Aloud Tips for ESL and EFL Students

EFL Students in Thailand Presenting a Choral Reading Performance

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Why is Reading Aloud Important for ESL and EFL Students?

Reading aloud is an excellent method for improving an ESL or EFL student's reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills. The problem is that most students don't like to read out aloud. Motivating the unwilling student to read out aloud will reap long-term benefits in the form of a more proficient ESL or EFL learner.

Advantages Of Reading Aloud


I was not an advocate of having students reading aloud until I realized it could improve proficiency in all four language skills. Without actually reading aloud, reading can be a very boring passive skill. By reading aloud, my students use the language in an active manner, and English becomes more interesting and exciting. This is especially the case when the student has a teacher reading articles and stories that make the language come to life through intonation, stress on words, tone of voice, and all the theatrics involved in reciting a movie script.

My students who have read aloud have also improved their vocabulary and writing skills. By reciting words, expressions, and sentences, a student is more likely to remember and understand the language than by just passively glancing at it. If a student reads out aloud, he or she improves sentence structure fluency. This is done by grouping the correct number of words with both the subject and predicate of a sentence. If this is done, it will carry over to writing and assist the student in writing better sentences and paragraphs.

Why Don't Students Like Reading Aloud?

Having established the importance of reading aloud, the problem exists getting students to actually get up out of their seats and read out aloud in front of the class. Many students dread doing this for various reasons. The primary reasons are shyness, lack of self-confidence, and not wanting to be embarrassed in front of their classmates. This being the case, it falls on the teacher to think of a way to motivate students to read aloud.

What Is Motivation?

Motivation is an ambition which pushes a person to work hard and achieve a goal. It can be either intrinsic or extrinsic. An intrinsically motivated person is driven by an interest or enjoyment in the work which he or she is doing. Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, comes from outside the individual. For a student, it could be the rewards of getting good grades or praise from their peers. It could also be the punishment of failure or ridicule by peers. Many students are unmotivated to read. I strongly suspect that it is for the extrinsic reason of fear of peer rejection.

Motivating Students to Read Aloud

What is the best way to motivate a student to read aloud?

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Steps To Motivate Students To Read Aloud

If you accept the hypothesis that students are non-motivated to read out aloud due to fear of peer rejection or disapproval, I feel the following steps would help motivate them to want to read out aloud:

1. Show Attention To A Student:

All students demand attention, and it is necessary for the wise teacher to give it to them. Many behavior problems are caused by students seeking attention. The teacher can give students attention by calling out their names in class, looking and smiling at them, and also by engaging the students in class activities.

2. Make A Student Feel Important:

Every person likes to feel important. A teacher can make students feel important by first remembering and using their names often in class. Next, the teacher should often call on students when they raise their hands in class. A wise teacher could also allow students to assist in classroom routine chores such as erasing the board or passing out papers to students. When students do well on a test or homework exercises, the teacher should praise the students in front of their peers, or write comments such as "excellent" or "nicely done" on tests or homework.

3. Instill Self-confidence In The Student:

Feeling important will go a long way in instilling self-confidence in a student. In reading out aloud, many students with some self-confidence will come to the front of the class to read at the urging of their classmates. If students have only a little bit of self-confidence, the teacher should stand next to them when they read or have the students invite friends to read out aloud with them. While the students are reading, the teacher should be lavish with praise to enhance the student's self-confidence.

4. Extrinsic Reward Of Peer and Teacher Approval:

Finally, after students have read aloud in class, I ask the whole class whether the students are good readers. If the students have put on a good performance, most of the class will say that the students are good readers. I will then add that the students are excellent readers, and that they should be considered for entering a speaking contest. You can't imagine the smile of satisfaction that appears on the students faces when they hear those words of praise. The next time I asked for volunteers to read out aloud in class, these students were the first ones to volunteer.

Reading aloud should be emphasized in EFL and ESL classrooms. If we remember that most students are driven by extrinsic rewards of teacher and peer approval, we will be able to motivate our students to read aloud.

© 2011 Paul Richard Kuehn

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