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


Wanda Raiford, JD, PhD

​University of Iowa Alumna


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


0:00 – 0:14

The idea that the text is written, and that somebody has crafted each word is really important to me. The idea of reading is that the star is your text; you're just allowing some other person’s artistry to be experienced through your voice.

0:14 – 0:38

There are two aspects to reading aloud in the classroom. One where I read aloud to my students, and one where they read aloud to me. And what I find is that when people prepare a text to read aloud, that nuances of meaning are conveyed through words that are emphasized, places where people pause…

0:38 – 1:08

Language is designed to tune your emotions, and to corral your thinking. When I ask students to prepare to read, even if it's just three or four lines, I can assess often times their level of understanding. So, if somebody is reading something and they don't know where to pause for irony, I think “umm maybe you didn't get the joke.”

1:08 – 1:23

For example, the poem is about a boy who receives advice from an older man. He says, “when I was one and twenty I didn't really understand how life worked and how love worked.” And he received this advice, and in the last line of the poem he says, “and now I'm two and twenty. Oh, ‘tis true, ‘tis true.”

1:23 – 1:51

Right? He can attest to the, to the value of the advice he was given when he was 21, because a year has passed, and he has lived a long time in that year. And so the irony, it’s kind of a joke for people who are past 22. If a person were reading it and didn't get the joke they might say, “now I'm two and twenty and oh, ‘tis true, ‘tis true.” But if you get the joke you would say and now I'm two and 20 and oh, ‘tis true, ‘tis true.”

1:51 – 2:20

One day I didn't do a reading and the student said, “well what are we focusing on, Wanda?” And I said, “well we are focusing on Hester Prynne’s engagement with…” And they were like, “Yeah, but what?” And when finally it occurred to me, I kept trying to explain it and ask anyone in a concrete example from the text in my voice about where I thought this moment of epiphany had happened between these two characters in The Scarlet Letter. And once Iunderstood that I thought, “aww you'd like to hear me read.”

2:20 – 2:55

Even in something where you think about it being really not available to narrative, like math. Math has stories. For example, in pharmacy studies there's always a story. There's always either a story in the sense of, ummm why we might give this set of medications, this set of interventions to this particular patient. There's going to be a narrative with that. And that’s something that a professor might do extemporaneously, “Imagine you got a guy…”

2:55 – 3:20

But if you were reading from someone who had put together a case history and had thought about the sequencing of disclosures and what would come next, and what, even at the sentence level. To have a narrative scaffold, I think would really make it easier for students to remember, in detail, really complicated things that are not narrative.

3:20 – 3:58

I would advise people who are thinking about reading aloud to practice the passage that they're going to read aloud at home with an audience if possible, and to read it more than once. It’s very difficult even when you're just reading three lines of text, not to stumble, not to forget where you meant to pause, where you meant to put an emphasis on a syllable or a word. Those kinds of nuances that communicate meaning, are things that you probably need to prepare. And so my advice is to prepare very carefully. It’s a process of discovering things for me too. And I find that that's really a good use of time.