Our elementary CI expert, the one and only Alisa Shapiro-Rosenberg, asks the group:

 Hi, Ben,

Hope the thumb is healing.

Can I please get some group think here – what are the reasons to discourage the common practice of asking/requiring beginners in the WL to read aloud (individually)?  I know someone who is looking into adding Vocaloo or one of those Apps to get his students to send in reading samples of a passage of the TL.  I told him that this has nothing to do with comprehension, as most American’s who’ve ever had a Bar Mitzvah can attest.  We can learn the sounds of the letters and how to pronounce the words and even demonstrate oral fluency in song no less! – saying the sounds correctly, emphasis on the right syllables – without ever knowing what the heck we are saying…

But my friend still thinks it’s important to see who is stumbling in the decoding. I told him that if they don’t have the sounds, meaning and look of the word in their head, then they need more input – you can see that in class – don’t waste time on this as a separate assessment – as it’s devoid of meaning…

But I’d love a more patient and point by point explanation of why it ain’t great. I didn’t find any research specifically on WL student read aloud…

Thx in advance!




15 thoughts on “Question”

  1. I believe that on one Tea with BVP episode BVP states that there is some role for practicing pronunciation or explicit learning as far as skill building goes, but this is ONLY useful for learners who have already reached the Advanced Low or above level of the language. Even then he said the research doesn´t really know how much it helps but it can´t hurt.

    Our priority before an advanced level (most teachers have advanced low to advanced mid) the priority of all classes is 1) Giving the students a good experience that makes them want to continue 2) Building mental representation.

    That´s how I would answer anyway.

    I just did a 45 second speaking test with all of my Spanish classes today. This was 1) To do a CYA to show I do assessments in different modalities 2) Motivational for the kids since I set the bar to something that everyone could do 3) Made kids feel accomplished 4) Gave something I can show to parents

    It did nothing for acquisition.

      1. I’d say 95% of the kids enjoyed it. The other 5% were those kids I can never please. Some said “Wow, I did 1.5 minutes and we only had to do 45 seconds.

  2. Alisa Sapiro-Rosenberg

    But this would be like asking kids to read a chunk of text to see if they could decode it- with no regard for meaning…
    Why would we waste precios instructional minutes or homework on that?

  3. Alisa Sapiro-Rosenberg

    Oh and in BVP speak isn’t pronunciation under the phonology umbrella, which is part of mental representation and doesn’t respond to direct instruction? Or did I connect the wrong dots?

    1. Good question, Alisa.
      I view pronunciation in upper levels as speech therapy. Why do I do it? I find it fun and can get the kids to enjoy it. That lowers the affective filter after a few years of grammar banging. It also transitions them into using their ears to hear messages and attune to meaning. It also establishes me as an authority in the language in my own right whom they can trust to lead them along a different path. It is that comforting kind of feeling that I get when I know that Picasso was not doing the crazy stuff because he had no talent for the traditional stuff.

      1. I am not too clear on this but I think BVP distinguishes between mental representation and skill. There are some things that could be taught explicitly- like what to do when you don’t understand something, skills like circumlocution, and he talks about speaking as a skill, but all of these skills have to tap the mental representation.

        But this stuff is a complete waste of time for K-12 learners and anyone below an advanced proficiency and even for those with an advanced proficiency interaction with more input is more beneficial.

        1. “all of these skills have to tap the mental representation”
          Beautifully stated. I believe BVP uses tennis as a metaphor for this distinction. Someone who has all of the biological functions going can probably swing the racket and sent the ball in some direction. That raw apparatus is the mental representation. Skill building is getting better at using that apparatus. On the other hand, a lot of these skills are not dependent on the L2, they can be done in the L1. The skill will then transfer to L2, L3, etc. when the mental representation has been sufficiently activated/created. I agree that circumlocution is is a good example of a skill that can be picked up in L1 by reading and having intelligent discussions in L1. Giving kids L2 words and having them come up with L2 definitions (i.e., circumlocutions) is totally dependent on the extent of their mental representation.

      2. …I view pronunciation in upper levels as speech therapy….

        I do that as part of the reading options, and for the same reasons that you give, Nathaniel:

        (1) [It is] fun.
        (2) The kids … enjoy it.
        (3) [It] lowers the affective filter.
        (4) [It] transitions them into using their ears to hear messages and attune to meaning.
        (5) [It] … establishes me as an authority in the language in my own right whom they can trust to lead them along a different path.

        Those are pretty good reasons. I did this when I taught AP French Literature. I gave them (optional) poetry to memorize. The pride was visible, esp. when we entered the local college declamation contests and walked away with all the hardware. I have students now in mid-life who probably don’t remember anything I taught them about grammar (my heartthrob) but can still recite “their poem”. Always aligning w the research seems a too rigid. Only we can decide what is best for us.

  4. Other than the reasons above mentioned, I agree it is a total waste of time (and can be painful to me the teacher) to have students read aloud in the TL.
    As a non-native English speaker, I know that when I read aloud in English I miss at least half the content, even now after living here in the U.S. for so long.

  5. Yes, yes. Survival first. No doubt about this.
    Let’s have kids read out loud, use up those minutes and check off those boxes if it all helps us make it through the day and be in good graces of admin little gods.

    1. Agree with what Bens says. I had an odd schedule today with classes only 25 minutes. All I did was a dictation after lunch. Assessment, corrective feedback built in the activity.

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