Reading as a Spoken Experience in the Brain and Language Classroom

February 2024

Reading is far too complex of a topic to have been fully covered in our single issue on the topic back in June 2019, so for the next two months, we’ll take a fresh look at reading and the many forms it can be taught and learned. Specifically, for February we’ll focus on spoken reading: the science behind reading aloud and why it’s an effective teaching tool, as well as some practical suggestions to bring into our classrooms. 

Watch before you read...

Way back in June 2019 we took our first look at reading and the brain. Now, we’re revisiting this topic in a double issue in February and March. This month we’re focusing on the intersection of reading and speaking. The Main video summarizes what happens in the brain when we read. In the More podcast episode, Rosemary Johnston discusses the benefits of reading aloud and highlights research done in this area. To start us off, Afon (Mohammad) Khari delves into the neuroscience of reading aloud.

 In the Think Tank, Laura Gibbs and Heather Kretschmer explain how teachers can use Readers Theater to help students develop their reading and speaking skills. Veteran contributor Amanda Gillis-Furutaka clarifies what the phonological loop is and why it’s so important for reading. Next, Christopher T. Hank gives teachers practical advice for organizing students with different native languages into tandem pairs and having them read to each other. Kelly Rose describes how she has students read tongue twisters aloud to help them improve their pronunciation skills. Finally, in our PLUS section, Yasser Tamer Atef closes the Think Tank by sharing what care in the classroom looks like for students with disabilities.

Dr. Rosemary Johnston

The Research Files Episode 74: The power of reading aloud in school and at home

Our Thoughts on Spoken Reading

THE READING BRAIN Afon (Mohammad) Khari

As language teachers, we stand at the crossroads of language acquisition and cognitive development, guiding our students through the intricate pathways of the reading brain. In this latest issue of our magazine, we embark on a riveting exploration of the neurobiology of reading, unraveling its secrets, and understanding why it is a cornerstone for educators.

Think Tank Articles

OPEN THE LANGUAGE CLASSROOM CURTAINS TO READERS THEATER Laura Gibbs & Heather Kretschmer

Have you always had this desire to do theater in your classroom but felt daunted by all the labor that would involve? Worry no more. There is an easy way you can enjoy doing theater without the overhead: readers theater! So, let’s start with a definition of readers theater, and what makes it different from conventional theater. In conventional theater, the goal is to create an illusion of reality on the stage: the audience watches as the action unfolds, while the actors are in a simulated world of their own, separated from the audience by an invisible wall. In readers theater, by contrast, the performers speak directly to the audience, acting with their voices to bring the scenes to life in the audience’s imagination. Readers theater is thus a theater of words, which makes it perfectly suited to the language classroom…

OUR MIND’S EYES AND EARS: THE PHONOLOGICAL LOOP AND HOW IT HELPS US TO READ Amanda Gillis-Furutaka

You may never have heard of the phonological loop. Neither had I until I read a book about working memory written by the cognitive research scientist Alan Baddeley (2019). But I was familiar with the phenomenon, even though I had no name for it. And I expect the same is true for you.

CAT GOT YOUR TONGUE? HOW TANDEM LANGUAGE PAIRS CAN GIVE EACH OTHER THE GIFT OF GAB THROUGH READING ALOUD Christopher T. Hank

We’ve all been there. Admit it. And our language-learning students have, too. Being tongue-tied can be extremely disconcerting, particularly when stumbling along trying to speak in another language. Over time, repeated instances of having something you believe is worth saying but being unable to express yourself appropriately in the moment, especially with an audience of native speakers, can lead to demoralization and, eventually, silence. So, what do you do? You listen to the others. Let them talk. You’re all ears. Maybe carefully formulate some things you’d like to say, just to show you’re really there… 

TIPS FOR TEACHING TERRIFIC TONGUE TWISTERS Kelly Rose

Looking for a quick warm-up routine in your language lessons? How about trying a tongue twister? With just one sentence students can practice speaking aloud in English while focusing on pronunciation and prosody. For over ten years I have used this technique with much success in my English pedagogy classes. My students look forward to reading the kooky sentence every week and repeatedly indicate feeling an improvement in their English pronunciation skills in the end-of-term surveys.

Think Tank Plus

CARE AND EQUITY: THE VIEW FROM THE LENS OF DISABILITY INCLUSION Yasser Tamer Atef

Let’s agree on the following: care is multidimensional, inclusion is also multi-dimensional, and likewise, social injustice is likely to occur at many levels. As educators, we should strive to eliminate injustice in our classrooms and instead cultivate caring, inclusive learning environments. We should foster collaboration and create a culture of shared responsibility between students and educators, ensuring that care is ingrained in the nature of the classroom by default rather than being a performative obligation.

Call for Contributions: Ideas and Articles Think Tank Staff

Become a Think Tank star! Here are some of the future issue topics we are thinking about. Would you, or anyone you know, like to write about any of these? Or is there another topic you’d like to recommend? Do you have any suggestions for lead-in, or just plain interesting, videos? How about writing a book review? Or sending us a story about your experiences? Contact us.

The MindBrained Think Tanks+

is produced by the Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) Mind, Brain, and Education Special Interest Group (BRAIN SIG). Kyoto, Japan. (ISSN 2434-1002)

Editorial Staff

Stephen M. Ryan                Julia Daley                   Marc Helgesen

           Heather Kretschmer          Curtis H. Kelly              Skye Playsted              

  Jason Walters                    Nicky De Proost             Mohammad Khari

 

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