Having watched Jeremy Harmer’s virtual presentation on reading aloud I realized many things about this issue which were in a way familiar to me even before it. Yet, I must say that Harmer’s arguments really made me think about the issue more thoroughly and I hope that I will be able to use some of his pieces of advice with my future students. According to Mr. Harmer reading aloud can present an extremely positive experience if it is used in an appropriate way.
However, many teachers today o reading aloud tasks with their students poorly and that way produce a pretty negative effect. First of all, reading aloud is a highly challenging task if an unseen piece is to be read, even for native and proficient speakers. As we normally read silently, it is something that we are not really used to. Moreover, it doesn’t help comprehension of the text or reading strategies, as the students are most often focused on reading a sentence properly rather than understanding its meaning. For all these reasons, reading aloud tasks can turn out to be ‘deadly boring for the pupils. On the other hand, Mr. Harmer offers us several arguments in favor of reading aloud. In his words, it can be a good diagnostic tool for the teacher to check stress, intonation, pronunciation and general speaking abilities of their students. Moreover, it can be motivating, but only if it is rehearsed and performed. Therefore, we need to let our students really study a piece of language and prepare it, in pairs, for example. Poems and theatre dialogues are especially useful in this case, because by using such pieces of language we can help our students learn about sounds and writing correspondences, and therefore understand the beauty and necessity to say hings well.
In dialogues and performances they are more likely to pay attention to such features. Another issue Jeremy Harmer refers to is reading aloud by the teacher for the students. Situations of this kind resemble real life experiences when parents read to their children and they can present a real pleasure for the students for that reason. However, teachers need to read with passion, performance and interest in order to give a piece of writing life and power. In this case only will the teachers keep their students engaged all of the time.
There is no profit in reading in an ninteresting way. Having studied Jeremy Harmer’s arguments I have realized that a have misused reading aloud activities while teaching, on several occasions. When I examined the moments when the students were reading aloud in my classroom I came to a conclusion that they didn’t really understand the text they were reading. I guess that my biggest mistake was to ask them to read grammar rules aloud. When I checked their knowledge of the rules afterwards, the students really proved to have learnt them.
However, when I look at it now, I assume that they were familiar with the ules even before reading them aloud and that this task was in fact useless. Having all this in mind, I decided to talk to some experienced teachers of English and asked them about their opinion on the topic. I found out that according to some of them, reading aloud is not a bad idea in situations when some of the students are too slow and some are too fast. This is usually case with students about 10 – 12. If they have to waiting for their classmates to finish reading they are either bored and become noisy or give the answers aloud before everybody else has finished.
If a good student reads he text aloud everybody can follow at the same speed and finish almost at the same time. There really are cases when reading silently proves to be wasting of time because some students need a very long time to read the text and when they finish there is hardly any time left for other activities, and the fast students don’t know what to do and lose the interest in the lesson or the teacher is forced to turn everything into individual work so everybody finishes at their time and does all the activities silently by which the lively atmosphere and the element of speaking and excitement s lost.
According to this, in a classroom where we have students of different language abilities we can gain a certain benefit from reading aloud. I would like to investigate more on this topic, through my own experience. In conclusion, reading aloud should not be a task to pass a lesson more quickly. If we want our students to benefit from it we have to make it become a pleasant experience by letting them practice and prepare it in advance. This is a way in which all teachers should deal with reading aloud tasks and it is something I honestly hope to achieve with my students.