Modelled reading (reading to or reading aloud) involves students listening to a text read aloud by the teacher. The teacher models skilled reading behaviour, enjoyment and interest in a range of different styles of writing and types of text. It provides an opportunity for teachers to demonstrate their enjoyment in reading, and allows students to see a purpose in learning to read.
Modelled reading can also be used to target various literacy focuses. This includes the teacher modelling skillful use of:
- concepts of print
- phonological awareness
- visual literacy
- understandings of literature.
The importance of modelled reading
Modelled reading is an essential part of daily reading programs across all year levels (F-6). Modelled reading:
- develops students' understandings about reading while building a background of text experiences that they can draw on as they learn to read independently.
- enables teachers to model good reading behaviours while providing opportunities to familiarise students with the linguistic and visual features of text.
Serial reading is a common form of modelled reading.
As well as demonstrating fluent and expressive reading, teachers can also model the comprehension of unfamiliar or complex vocabulary; and talk through their thought processes when comprehending a text. Similarly, analysis of the composition of the pages, use of visuals, and elements of the text structure can also be highlighted and discussed. This all occurs in an authentic literacy experience, where modelling of texts for pleasure can stimulate thinking and motivate students to read.
Theory to practice
According to the Gradual Release of Responsibility model (Duke and Pearson, 2002), modelled reading provides the maximum amount of support by the teacher as they are in control of all the reading. Nevertheless, during the reading, the student is encouraged to be an active listener and engage with the text. Students who are read to are supported in the development of their "vocabulary..., syntax, listening comprehension, print engagement and early reading behaviours" (Hill, 2015, p. 103).
The use of modelled reading relates to Vygotsky’s (1978) Zone of Proximal Development and Bruner’s (1986) notion of scaffolding. The practice of modelled reading falls outside the zone that a learner can successfully undertake with guidance. However, when a teacher or adult reads to students, they provide an opportunity for students to see and hear skilled reading behaviours. Through this high level scaffolding, students begin to imitate and internalise the modelled reading strategies in shared reading and guided reading (i.e. which fall within the zone of proximal development), so that the reader can gradually experience success and read independently (Bruner, 1986).
During modelled reading, students develop an appreciation and an understanding of literature and the skills required of readers. They gain practice in constructing images of events, people and objects removed from themselves. Unfamiliar and unusual vocabulary, increasingly complex sound-letter patterns and structures and features of different text genres can be introduced and explained through this practice (Heath, 1983). These sessions also provide an opportunity to nurture a passion for literature.
Implement modelled reading
- Select an appropriate text.
- Introduce the text to students, discuss the title, content, the author and illustrator, concepts of print etc.
- Provide an enjoyable reading experience for students.
- After reading, invite students to respond to the text.
- Discuss what students have heard, providing an opportunity for students to extend understandings and link their prior knowledge to new concepts and information presented in the text.
When reading to students the responsibility for reading is with the teacher.
- Fluency, phrasing and intonation are modelled to maintain interest and add to the meaning of the text.
- Students are active listeners.
- They are encouraged to immerse themselves in the storyline or content of a challenging text.
When reading to students the teacher might:
- model strategies used by efficient readers and demonstrate adapting reading strategies to gain meaning from different text types
- 'think aloud' about the text, making predictions and links with prior knowledge and experiences
- ask questions of the text, commenting when answers become apparent and when predictions are confirmed or need to be modified
- use self-correction strategies.
Discussion in response to the text and opportunities to reflect on differing interpretations should follow the reading. Opinions and responses are shared and discussion of the text invited, with the teacher demonstrating that different interpretations of the text are plausible.
Through being introduced to a range of texts, students develop their understandings of how the context can influence the development of a text. They gain an insight into the opinions their peers have about different texts. They learn that authors are influenced by their own backgrounds and experiences and can make deliberate decisions about the way they use language depending upon their own purposes and the needs of the audience.
Students can identify how sociocultural values, attitudes and beliefs are represented in texts and compare these with the beliefs and values of their own community. They can gain insights into different ways that characters and symbolic meanings are portrayed. Students should be encouraged to think critically about the text, for example, challenging what they perceive to be the author's meaning, questioning the text or bias and identifying stereotypes.
The purpose of modelled reading is for students to engage with a text that is beyond what they can read with assistance or by themselves. The text will be carefully selected to suit the teaching purpose, students' interest level, understandings and challenges for their learning. Through thoughtful attention to the selection of material being read to students, the teacher can ensure that students have access to a broad range of literature i.e. fiction and non-fiction. Careful selection will also ensure students are exposed to a range of styles of writing and text types.
When selecting a text for modelled reading, the teacher considers how it can be used to:
- demonstrate a love and passion for reading
- make connections between own knowledge and experience, and the ideas, events and information in texts read, heard or viewed
- demonstrate fluency, rate and prosody
- provide examples of new and interesting vocabulary that is different from that of everyday conversations
- develop listening comprehension
- support the discussion around character, plot or resolution development
- develop an awareness of different styles of writing (i.e. story beginnings, literary effects, writer's craft) and forms of texts
- introduce texts with increasing complexity and abstract concepts
- provide content or ideas that will generate critical thinking and analysis
- build a community of literacy learners.
Think-alouds during modelled reading
The first aim of modelled reading is for enjoyment; the joy of listening to an uninterrupted story or interest in following an information chain. However there are times when a purposeful interruption during modelled reading can assist the learning of students. A purposeful interruption where the teacher models their thinking processes to assist their comprehension, is known as a 'think aloud'. These interruptions are useful for demonstrating to students "what comprehension actually looks like during reading" (Keene and Zimmermann, 2007, p.38).
The thinking aloud strategy provides direct access to the reader's mind through the talk they engage in as they are thinking. When a teacher uses this strategy, they must be explicit and concise about the examples they choose to articulate. First the teacher stops to share their thinking and then students are invited to add to the thinking (e.g. through turn and talk, think-pair-share). Eventually, through supported practice, students will internalise the strategies articulated in the think aloud and use them to read independently.
In practice examples
For in practice examples, see:
Modelled reading lessons
Independent reading lesson: Scary Night
Bruner, J. (1986). Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Duke, N.K. and Pearson, P.D. (2002). Effective reading practices for developing comprehension. In A.E. Farstrup and S.J. Samuels (Eds.), What research has to say about reading instruction, (3rd Ed.), (pp. 205-242). Newark, DE: International Reading Association.
Heath, S.B. (1983). What no bedtime story means: Narrative skills at home and school, Language in Society, Vol. 11, No. 1, pp. 49-76.
Hill, S. (2015) Developing early literacy: Assessment and teaching (2nd Ed.). Hong Kong: Eleanor Curtain Publishing.
Keene, E.O. and Zimmermann, S. (2007). Mosaic of Thought: The Power of Comprehension Strategy Instruction (2nd Ed). Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.
Vygotsky, L.S. (1978). Mind in Society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.