When students and I revise their writing, the first thing I ask them to do is to read their draft aloud. New-to-me students balk at this. “Oh, that’s all right,” they tell me. “You can read it.”
“No, you read it,” I say, attempting to instill in them this habit. I have asked them to read aloud before our lesson, but they haven’t. I can tell they haven’t read aloud previously because they stop in the middle of sentences, pause, and then make changes in their draft.
They are hearing mistakes with their ears that they don’t see with their eyes.
What kinds of mistakes do they hear? Errors that sound wrong, even if sometimes they are grammatically correct. These include
- Long sentences that contain so much information that the student writer gets lost.
- Sentences that have been revised but still contain some of the no-longer-needed words.
- Confusing pronouns, such as when the writing is about two boys, and he writer uses “he” and “him” over and over without identifying the boys by their names.
What kinds of mistakes don’t they hear? Visual errors are hard to hear. These include
- Homophones (words which sound the same but are spelled differently, such as pair and pear).
- Spelling errors (such as reading “hoping” as “hopping”).
- Run-on sentences separated by a comma, especially if the second clause begins with a subject pronoun.
Reading aloud doesn’t lead to finding all errors, but I have rarely worked with a student who doesn’t find at least one error when reading aloud.