Show of hands: How many of you have asked for volunteers to read aloud in class only to be met with 25 resolutely blank stares?
Teacher Theresa brought up this topic on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE! recently. “We’re reading a play in class, but I’m having a hard time getting students to volunteer to read,” she writes. “Do you have any suggestions? I thought about just forcing them to do it, but I don’t want them to have a negative relationship with reading.”
Here are the top suggestions, recommended by our Helpliners, for getting your students to speak up.
Make it fun. “Can they use accents?” —Kristen W. “In my experience, the boys love reading the girls’ parts!” —Ellen F.
Have a system for calling on students. Try the Popsicle stick method, suggests Lydia A. “Put each name on a Popsicle stick, and draw one out when you need a reader,” she says. This helps randomize the readers so students don’t feel singled out.
Let students call on one another by “popcorning.” “Students ‘popcorn’ by reading for a little while and then calling on another student,” says Caterina D. This way, students are calling on each other. You could even make them alternate boy-girl to keep it varied.
Reward readers. “One teacher I know does her own version of the Oscars after finishing reading a play aloud in class. She even gives out plastic statues.” —Holly S.
Make it a competition. “When we read Romeo and Juliet, I split the class into Montagues and Capulets, and we have a contest of the best readers. Good reading earns the team points!” —Harriet D.
Respect student preferences, but enforce limits. While some teachers embrace the “Just assign roles” model, some teachers railed against that. “There was nothing I hated more than reading aloud in class when I was a student. Getting randomly assigned a big role would have been torture for me and probably everyone else. I’d assign roles based on what you know about your students, or take volunteers,” suggests Jacky B. But what if you wait for volunteers, and no one comes forward? “Then just assign it. You tried!” Jacky adds.
Incentivize them. “I give extra credit for reading aloud.” —Deb C.
Give them a choice. “At the beginning of a play, I give out character lists and note if the character has a big or small role. Then students can volunteer based on how much reading they’ll have to do.” —Jennifer F.
Go small. Instead of reading in front of the whole class, break them into small groups and let them read with each other. “I’ve found much success with this method, and I’ve never had any complaints.” —Martha A.
Teachers, what suggestions would you add to this list?