Write It Out Loud

Anyone who knows me will know that I am a big fan of reading aloud as a means of developing understanding as well as promoting enjoyment in reading. It is commonly accepted that when children are read to on a regular basis by an adult, their chances of success in formal education increase dramatically; there are very few children who do not like listening to a story or a poem being read to them with great expression by an able reader. Some of the best teachers I know will read to their students daily, demonstrating to them the benefits and the joy of that shared experience.

However, there is another, arguably more significant role for reading aloud which is often overlooked, and that is its use by students themselves as a strategy to improve writing. Teachers seem more reluctant in the age of technology to encourage reading aloud as a strategy, particularly for older students, though ironically it is the ready availability of technology which makes recording and listening simpler than ever before. As this presentation from Peter Walsh at McMaster University in Canada neatly demonstrates, for those students who do not yet have a firm grasp of language and grammar, reading their work aloud, either to themselves or to someone else, allows them to hear their weaknesses, whereas simply re-reading with the eyes often has little or no effect when it comes to better writing. A further benefit to this technique is that when the developing writer is struggling to find the right expression, reading or speaking their thoughts aloud before committing them to paper can often make the difference between acceptable and accomplished.


6 thoughts on “Write It Out Loud

  1. I have a love/hate relationship with Peter Walsh’s video. He admits he is going to simplify the idea about how the brain works, but I worry it is too simplified–maybe to the point of misinformation? Someone who knows about how the brain works would have to chime in, but this four parts of the brain diagram feels like right brain/left brain 1990s fever. Do you know Walsh’s background?

    However, I like its clarity and I can see how it can convince someone to write out loud, by giving them a reason why it is that they can’t catch their own typos and grammar mistakes. On that note, I am quite taken with Ryan Trauman’s podcast about using audio assignments in classrooms: http://www.ryantrauman.net/scholarelectric/2012/11/13/212/ . If you scroll down you can just listen to this post as a podcast, but the text is all there if you’d rather read it. (I like the podcast personally.) In addition to writing out loud live, I want to start having students use their digital devices to record their writing and listen to it in playback–not just for publication, but in process as well. I imagine this will give one more layer of separation between what the writer meant to write and hearing what was actually on the page. (I can also imagine this sort of podcast might convince a teacher of the value of using technology with reading out loud as well!)

    • Hi Anna,
      Thanks for the contribution. I did have concerns about the simplistic description of the functions of the brain, but on balance I felt that the message about ‘hearing’ the mistakes was important enough to recognise it as a valid technique to improve writing. I’m not familiar with Ryan Trauman so thanks for the link – I’ll definitely check that one out. I do like your idea of recording writing as part of the process. Like many teachers I used to encourage kids to read their writing aloud to each other but there can be all sorts of issues there which the technology can certainly alleviate and improve upon.


  2. Thanks for this video clip and editing suggestion. As director of the Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning (www.thecttl.org), I have passed it along to my English and History colleagues. You might be interested in our recently published resource, “Think Differently and Deeply,” that looks at ways teachers use research in how the mind learns to inform their instructional decisions and work with each student. It is also available at http://www.thecttl.org untie “Resources” tab.

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