Have you seen the commercials for Audible? You can listen to books just about anywhere. I personally have been a fan of audiobooks for years. Yes- I can read and I understand the benefits of sitting down with a good book. However, as a working mother, audiobooks allow me to multitask which is priceless. I have been able to listen to old favorites and find new treasures all because of the accessibility of audiobooks.
I am not sure what took me so long but this year I decided to make audiobooks a bigger part of my classroom routine. As an ELL/ELA teacher, I have a number of students who are not reading at grade level. This is a challenge for two reasons. The first reason is (like it or not) students are expected to participate in high stakes testing every year. These standardized state tests feature excerpts from “grade-level” texts. The more exposure I can provide to this type of text the better prepared the student will be. The other is for the pure pleasure of accessing a great story. Personally, it doesn’t seem fair to me that struggling readers should miss out on amazing stories.
Benefits of audiobooks:
- Students can go back and hear it again…as often as they need to.
- Students can access a text at a reading level above their own.
- The narrator’s interpretation of the text may help students understand the elements of indirect characterization.
- Students report an increase in self-confidence when they can participate in class discussions related to a grade level text.
If I haven’t convinced you yet, this is what the experts have to say:
University of Virginia psychology professor Dan Willingham author of the Science and Education Blog had this to say:
So listening to an audiobook may have more information that will make comprehension a little easier. Prosody might clarify the meaning of ambiguous words or help you to assign syntactic roles to words.
BookListReader.com author Mary Burkey wrote about an audio study in the article New Research Shows Audiobooks Have Powerful Impact on Literacy Development. She states
For me, the most important part of the study is that the researchers focused on just listening, with no follow-along-in-the-book or other reading intervention added. The impact of purely listening to books is striking. Two notable findings are that students using Tales2go attained 58% of the annual expected gain in reading achievement in just 10 weeks, putting them three months ahead of control students.
How do I make it work in my classroom?
- Students have the text in front of them as they are listening. The expectation is that they are following along in the text as they listen to the audio.
- When they get caught listening without reading along in the text (which they do) there are two consequences: start over or choose a new book at their level.
- They are expected to answer basic comprehension questions as well as open response questions. Open response questions require text evidence to support their answer. Students learn pretty quickly they if you did not follow along in the book it is a lot harder to go searching for the text evidence.
- We do have a purpose for reading each day and I provide the questions that need to be answered before they begin reading.
- Students are periodically challenged to read excerpts from the text without audio support to prepare for standardized testing.
How can a parent or guardian make it work at home?
- First of all, you don’t have to buy both the book and the audio version. If you read the full article on BookListRead.com you see that text is not required.
- You can borrow books and audio CDs from your local library.
- Search the internet for free audio files. Books that are in the public domain are available on several websites. The one caveat is that these will not be current best sellers. Public domain texts are often considered classics.
- Choose a story that you know and love from your childhood. Your discussions about the book will be more authentic if you know and have enjoyed the book yourself.
- Ask questions about the story. You don’t have to come up with a full lesson plan but trying asking questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or “no”.
- Try listening to books during your daily carpooling activities or on long road trips.
So go ahead, try that free book on Audible.com, and start listening.