Read Alouds Activity for ELLs

Duration: 5-10 minutes

Type: Group/Partner

This activity comes recommended by some heavyweights in the English Language teaching world: Larry Ferlazzo and Tonya Ward Singer and Valentina Gonzalez. You can read a really good article on reading aloud to ELs by Valentina on her website here.

  1. The teacher reads to the students, modeling good reading behavior like:
  2. Prosody: Reading with good pitch, emphasis and timing to really bring out the meaning of a text. Try the Tonya Ward Singer "I do it, we do it, you do it" method. Model it while the students listen, then have them read it together with you. Finally, have them do it with a partner while you go around and listen.
  3. Context Clues: Model reading a text and thinking through what to do when you come to a word you don't know. "Hmm, I don't know that word. What is the sentence before and after talking about? What prefixes or suffixes does it have? Maybe it means... Let me keep reading and see if that makes sense." You can annotate the text if appropriate as you model.
  4. Comprehension: Model reading a passage and processing what the text is saying as you read, connecting it to background knowledge or asking questions. "Hmm, I wonder if...?  Oh, I have done that before. I hate it when that happens. I don't understand that part. I should go back and read it again."


  • Research shows that these metacognitive strategies help students make significant gains in their reading ability. The more you model these behaviors and have students practice them, the more students are likely to use the strategies when they need them.
  • The process of modeling for everyone and then having students try it with a partner keeps everyone involved. Popcorn reading where students "cold" read a text is at best an inefficient use of time, and at worst, a detriment to students who already struggle.

"...doing round-robin reading or popcorn reading, where individual students are called on to read aloud for the class without any prior practice, is an ineffective practice that can be harmful to students. We never recommend having students do these “cold reads” because, as studies have shown, it can lead to embarrassment and frustration for the student who is called on to read. It also does not provide an engaging or valuable learning experience for the other students in the class."

- Larry Ferlazzo, The ESL / ELL Teacher's Survival Guide

Have you tried this activity? How did it go? Leave your comments below!

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