What Is It?
When listening to teachers read books aloud, students hear good models of fluent and phrased reading. In addition, teachers can demonstrate to students how to make connections between books and their lives. When teachers read aloud and comment on connections, students learn how to use their prior experiences and mental images to help them understand what they hear. Personal feelings, attitudes, ideas, information, and instructions all play vital roles in reading comprehension.
Many commonly used literacy strategies encourage students to become better listeners. Teachers often use listening activities to help students predict events in a story. Or, teachers may ask students to visualize a particularly vivid scene in a story. Sometimes, teachers have students "play with language" after listening to something that is read. For example, the teacher asks the students how they might describe a scene or event by using different words than the author. After listening to a chapter, older students can summarize what they have heard.
As students become more fluent writers, they may sit in the "author's chair" and read their writing to other students. After listening to a writer read his or her work, other students can ask questions, say what they liked about a piece, or offer constructive feedback. In both reading and writing, listening skills play an important role in clarifying the meaning of the text.
Implications for ELLs
Teachers' talk is a primary source of information and language input for ELLs. It not only conveys ideas about the topics being discussed but models how to use language, serving as the input or data which learners internalize and use to express their own meanings. The qualities of the teacher's talk are of great importance. Effective teachers often adapt their speech to facilitate language learning. These adaptations may include speaking slowly, using short sentences, paraphrasing the same message several different ways, and explaining word meanings. Teachers also use gestures, pictures, and props to make the meaning more clear.
ELLs learn from listening to read-alouds, songs, poems, and chants. Listening to the sounds, rhymes, and rhythms of English provides ELLs with the auditory experiences they need to pronounce and read English. Beginning ELLs benefit greatly from listening to read-alouds of picture books. Effective teachers use the illustrations to develop vocabulary and to make story meaning clear.
Many ELLs go through a "silent period," during which they listen and observe more than they speak. During this silent period, ELLs benefit from opportunities to participate and interact with others in activities that use gesture, physical movement, art, experiential activities, and single words or short phrases. Effective teachers are aware that ELLs who are quiet in class may be hard at work listening and comprehending. ELLs may take longer to answer a question or volunteer a comment because they need more time to process the meaning and to formulate an appropriate response.
Strategies for Supporting ELLs
Effective teachers monitor students' listening comprehension. This can be especially useful when English language learners (ELLs) are in their "silent period," during which they listen and observe more than they speak.
As ELLs become more proficient in English, teachers begin to read from chapter books and other age-appropriate materials. In this way, they continue to build and monitor students' vocabulary development and listening comprehension.
To foster reading comprehension, teachers model how readers make explicit comparisons between the text and their own lives.
Glimpse of the Classroom
Mrs. D. sits in front of the 17 students gathered at her feet. They are in the Reading Corner of the classroom.
To continue the reading, Mrs. D. reminds the children where they left off in the text. Suddenly, one of the children sings out a phrase from a song.
Mrs. D. starts to read from chapter 3. She speaks with inflection, and her reading mesmerizes the students. Periodically, she stops to ask students what certain words may mean or what their predictions might be. The class sits cross-legged, hanging on every word, eyes glued to Mrs. D.
She reads, "...feeling the coolness of the clear water beneath the hot sun."
She finishes the rest of the chapter.
Questions to Think About