By Katie Choate
As I was flipping through the Teach Like a Champion text, the words “The Challenges of Reading Aloud” caught my attention. How fitting for an English teacher, right? The problem is we all have different views on reading aloud in the classroom. Recently, I’ve heard from someone “up above” that teachers should never force a student to read aloud. Personally, I find that to be crazy. We’re talking about 14 year-olds or older! These students have been reading aloud since at least first grade. They’ve actually been assessed on their skills as far as reading aloud in their younger years in school. So why would we allow them to opt out of this as they become older and better readers? The answer they give is that it puts pressure on the student, makes them feel “put on the spot”, or demonstrates their reading flaws. I don’t believe this. I think these students have learned that “playing dumb” or announcing that they have self-diagnosed dyslexia will earn them a pass. If you watch these students, the second they are allowed to be skipped in regards to reading aloud, they tune out completely. They know they have won and that they will forever be able to do their own thing during this part of any lesson.
My personal philosophy: you will read aloud. When I call your name, you will read at least the paragraph we are on at a minimum. If you struggle, we will help you. If you have a legitimate issue, it will be documented somewhere and we will discuss that. I can honestly say I’ve never had a student officially diagnosed with dyslexia. I’ve had numerous students with stuttering problems or other speech impediments, and these students often do not have issues reading aloud…they’ve been working on their speech all their life. It’s something that stems from a self-conscious issue. Once these students realize I will not give them a pass, they are magically healed. I love that Lemov says, “The argument further assumes that struggling is a bad thing and that classroom cultures are incapable of making it safe to struggle and take risks “ (173). Isn’t this our job? To make them comfortable with things they are unfamiliar with or uncomfortable with. I think hearing others read and encouraging inflection and enthusiasm during reading is great. You never know when you might be asked to read something aloud. Wouldn’t these students rather be rehearsed in this skill rather than proving that they struggle with something?