A simple, but surprisingly effective strategy for improving student writing is having them read their words aloud. This technique is so effective that asking students to read their work out loud is a standard part of most sessions at the UWC. While students are often surprised by the request, most quickly come to realize the value of giving voice to their words. Why does reading aloud improve writing?
There are a number of gains from this activity. First, it creates a purpose and an audience for the writing. The more students understand writing as a form of communicating, the better their writing becomes.
Second, the practice of sharing work builds up a community of writers in the class. As students hear how their peers have responded to a prompt, they begin to build up a sense of possible techniques and approaches they might use. Of course, the instructor should model appropriate responses. This is a time to affirm the positive aspects of students’ efforts rather than to give an exhaustive critique.
Third, the activity helps students hone their critical listening skills. While it is important for you to guide the class in responding to the student brave enough to read aloud, it is also important to help them move to a space where they can provide constructive criticism for each other. For example, teach them to repeat what they hear: “So, I think you wrote that . . .” That way, writers can begin to figure out if their message is even getting across, and listeners are encouraged to pay attention.
Finally,reading aloud can spark discussion about course material.