When educators think about reading aloud to students, they often picture circle-time in an elementary classroom where a teacher reads a short story to the class. However, research and evidence-based practices support the fact that reading out loud at any grade level can provide various student benefits. From improved literacy and information processing skills to building active listening and student confidence, K-12 classrooms can provide the setting to read texts out loud. Here are four advantages that students can gain as a result of reading activities in the social studies classroom.
1. Build literacy skills
Every educator knows that reading comprehension and literacy go hand in hand. Reading aloud provides teachers a practical pathway to model specific pronunciation and expression of words that may be newly learned or difficult for students to initially comprehend. In turn, students receive opportunities to practice speaking vocabulary words out loud, whether as a class or in small groups.
In the social studies classroom, even at the elementary level, there are a myriad of academic terms and concepts, idiomatic expressions from past times, and ancient or foreign-language words that students may have difficulty pronouncing. Reading these vocabulary terms aloud has been proven to help students build the literacy, pronunciation, and expression skills needed to retain and better grasp the information.
2. Promote confidence through reading aloud
Along with literacy skills, reading out loud as a class can build student confidence, which in turn helps create connections in the brain and promote critical thinking. In younger grades, students who may be falling behind their higher-performing peers can catch up their information-processing skills by reading aloud and hearing others read out loud. For students who are auditory learners, hearing vocabulary words out loud may be necessary for them to comprehend and be confident in what they read.
Additionally, for some students the classroom setting may be the only time they hear a text read out loud or are given the opportunity to read aloud themselves. Reading can be a great equalizer for these students, and hearing the correct pronunciation and expression of words can do wonders to promote confidence in their own reading comprehension and fluency.
3. Foster active-listening skills
Some researchers argue that developing active-listening skills can be just as crucial in education as critical thinking and inquiry. Students who know how to listen attentively generally become better overall learners, but this can be a difficult skill to master. Through reading texts out loud, students can not only build active-listening skills, but also improve memory and concentration. However, attentive listening can be a struggle for many students, so teachers should focus on it in social studies.
To foster these necessary listening skills, have students listen for meaning when reading a text aloud. For example, when reading a primary source, encourage students to pay close attention to intent, tone, anecdotes, and other hidden details that can give clues to the meaning behind the source’s message. Discussing these aspects after reading text out loud, either in groups or as a class, helps teachers monitor active listening and check for student understanding.
4. Create a sense of community
Often teachers will utilize breakout groups or full-class sessions for students to read texts aloud, but in social studies classrooms these activities are especially important. Community, citizenship, and collaboration skills are key pillars of many state and district social studies standards. Listening when the teacher or other students are reading texts aloud and then having post-reading discussions can be essential in developing a sense of community within the classroom.
It may seem simple, but sharing in groups or whole-class sessions where students take turns reading out loud can create a respectful classroom community and set a foundation for post-K–12 settings. Creating this shared experience through reading a novel or textbook as a class has also been proven to build key critical-thinking and collaboration skills. Teachers can guide class or group discussions with essential questions, which also promotes student-led inquiry and deeper connections to concepts.
Anderson, R.C., Hiebert, E.H., Scott, J.A., & Wilkinson, I.A.G. (1985). Becoming a nation of readers: The report of the Commission on Reading. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Education.
Laminack, L.L., & Wadsworth, R.M. (2006). Learning under the influence of language and literature: Making the most of read-alouds across the day. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Zehr, M.A. (2010). Reading aloud to teens gains favor among teachers. Education Week, 29(16), 1, 12–13.
Monet Hendricks is the blog, social media, and meme connoisseur for Social Studies School Service. Passionate about the field of education, she earned her BA from the University of Southern California before deciding to go back to get her Master's degree in Educational Psychology. She currently attends the graduate program at Azusa Pacific University pursuing advanced degrees in School Psychology and Applied Behavior Analysis. Her favorite activities include creating relatable education-based memes and cooking adventurous vegetarian recipes.