Reading Aloud in the Classroom

Featured Instructor: 

Wanda Raiford, J.D., Ph.D., University of Iowa alumna


Reading aloud in the classroom helps improve students’ focus and understanding. 


  • Helps students understand concepts
  • Helps students retain information
  • Engages students


The human voice not only transmits meaning but also sets a tone. Wanda Raiford reads aloud to her students to model fluency and expression, critical thinking skills, and a deep connection with words. This strategy promotes learning through critical, repeated reflection on a text.


Reading Aloud: Details & Examples

Scholarly literature suggests that reading aloud can:

  • promote better group discussion by introducing the reading of the text as a social activity; 
  • help students to experience and understand stories and concepts through different inflections and phrasing;
  • help students to identify significant passages;
  • provide an accessible narrative structure for complex information;
  • improve comprehension of a text, including multifaceted concepts and interconnected processes;
  • promote holistic thinking by connecting the specific with the global;
  • connect cognitive and emotional knowledge;
  • promote listening skills crucial to many academic pursuits;
  • target the skills of audio learners, motivating them to read; and
  • model the strategy of rereading.
    • Rereading often reveals new uncertainties about a passage, which teaches students to continually challenge their assumptions.
    • Rereading honors the intellectual work done to form an interpretation, rather than teaching students to simply memorize the standard interpretation of a text.

Instructors might wish to experiment with podcasts as a means of reading aloud. Audacity is free, open source, cross-platform software some instructors use for recording and editing sounds. 

Reading Aloud: Best Practices

Reading aloud can be appropriate to all disciplines. Literature instructors might encourage students to focus on a passage from Shakespeare. Math instructors might ask students to read the margin notes of a famous mathematician to learn about the mathematician’s thinking process. 

Consider assigning a jump-in reading. Begin by asking students to read the passage silently to themselves. Next, have students take turns rereading the passage aloud, stopping at natural breaks and allowing a new volunteer to jump in to take over the reading.  

In most cases it is best to only have students read aloud a piece that they have already encountered in class or as homework. 

Another variation is to read aloud, in front of students, a piece with which you are unfamiliar, interjecting with your thoughts and questions as you read along. Students may find it helpful to see your process of questioning, even experiencing initial confusion. You can ask them for anonymous feedback about how your reading compares to their experiences reading assignments outside the classroom.

Instructors might wish to experiment with podcasts as a means of reading aloud. Audacity is free, open source, cross-platform software some instructors use for recording and editing sounds. 

Reading Aloud: Bibliography & Related Content


Blau, S. (2003) The Literature Workshop: Teaching Texts and Their Readers. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.  

Danko, S., Meneely, J., & Portillo, M. (2006) Humanizing Design through Narrative Inquiry. Journal of Interior Design, 31(2): 10-28. 

Kunselman, J. C. & Johnson, K. A. (2004) Using the Case Study Method to Facilitate Learning. College Teaching, 52(3): 87-92.

Sommers, J. (2005) Illustrating the Reading Process: The In-Class Read Aloud Protocol. Teaching English in the Two-Year College, 32: 299-307.

The University of Iowa Speaking Center. (2016) Speaking Center. The University of Iowa. Retrieved from

The University of Iowa Writing Center. (2016) Writing Center. The University of Iowa. Retrieved from

Wilhelm, J. D. (2001) Improving Comprehension with Think-Aloud Strategies. New York: Scholastic. 

Related Content

Reading Instruction -- Explore in-class activities and tips for reading aloud, identify challenges for students, help students to become better readers, and train students to evaluate sources. 

The University of Iowa Writing Center
The University of Iowa Writing Center provides writing guidance for all members of the University of Iowa community. The Writing Center’s online resources include a collection of links to guides on citation.