The University of Iowa

The Relative Effects of Teacher Read-Alouds and Student Silent Reading on Predominantly Bilingual High School Seniors’ Learning and Retention of Social Studies


Teacher read-alouds (TRA) are common in middle and high school content area classes. Because the practice of reading the textbook out loud to students is often used out of concern about students’ ability to understand and learn from text when reading silently (SR), this randomized controlled trial was designed to experimentally manipulate text reading while blocking on all other instructional elements to determine the relative effects on learning content. Predominantly Spanish–English bilingual twelfth-graders (n = 123) were randomly assigned to either a TRA or SR condition and provided 1 week of high quality instruction in US history. Daily lessons included teaching key terms in the passage, previewing text headings, and conducting comprehension checks. Results of immediate, 1-week delayed, and 1-month delayed assessments of content learning revealed no significant differences between the two groups. Students were also asked to rate the method of reading they believed best helped them understand and remember information. Students in the SR condition more consistently agreed that reading silently was beneficial. Findings suggest low performing adolescents of different linguistic backgrounds can learn content as well when reading appropriately challenging text silently as when the teacher reads the text aloud to them.


Reed, D. K., Swanson, E. A., Petscher, Y., & Vaughn, S. (2014). The relative effects of teacher read-alouds and student silent reading on predominantly bilingual high school seniors’ learning and retention of social studies content. Reading and Writing: An Interdisciplinary Journal, 27, 1119-1140. doi 10.1007/s11145-013-9478-8

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