quarta-feira, 16 de abril de 2014

Is Reading Allowed, Aloud?

By Jeremy Harmer

Many years ago I had something of a disagreement with a colleague who, in a class I had watched, had the learners read aloud from a chapter of Roald Dahl’s autobiography “Going Solo”.  Paragraph by paragraph, they went round the room struggling with unknown vocabulary in that stumbling robotic intonation that is particular only to people reading a text that is completely unfamiliar to them.
As I say, we had a slight disagreement over the pedagogical value of such an exercise.  It is not something I would ever do with classes and frankly, it’s something I associate with the prescriptive, repetitive, grammar translation hell of my Latin classes at school.  And in that context I can understand it more, as the only other speakers of Latin I was ever likely to encounter were in that same room and communicative opportunities were somewhat infrequent (not that this was the point) – so if our teacher wanted to know whether we could pronounce our Latin correctly, this was the only avenue open to him.  Which does raise an interesting question – how does anyone know what the correct pronunciation of Latin is? Has it been handed down, speaker to speaker, throughout the millennia?
In any event, the question cropped up again recently and on this occasion I wondered whether I was alone in my distaste for Reading Aloud (or RA), or whether there were lots of good reasons to do RA that I just wasn’t aware of.  In short I asked Twitter what it thought.
The general consensus that there might be reasons to do RA, but that nobody had done RA with their classes – nor was likely to.
Reasons people came up with were:
o    If the teacher reads aloud, the learners can develop sound-spelling relationship awareness
o    To kill time / run out the clock in class
o    Classroom management – a settling and focusing activity for young learners or more active classes
o    As a focus on sentence stress or intonation work
o    Practicing giving speeches or other ‘real world’ reading aloud tasks (e.g. drama / poetry)
o    Teachers often use “it’s good for their pronunciation” as an excuse to justify the activity
o    Roleplay or drama isn’t quite the same thing as reading aloud anyway
o    There is a difference between written and spoken English anyway, so the value is questionable
o    It can be quite stressful for students to be put on the spot like that

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