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What You Need to Know About Using Audiobooks for Elementary Literacy Instruction

What You Need to Know About Using Audiobooks for Elementary Literacy Instruction

Unlocking your students’ love of reading is key to ensuring that they can achieve academic success later in their academic careers. However, that experience can potentially turn sour quickly if your students are struggling with phonemic awareness and phonics skills. When students are struggling with how to pronounce sounds and words, they never have the chance to fully comprehend what they’re actually reading.

By removing the common barriers that your students struggle with as they learn to read, audiobooks can be a very powerful tool to support their fluency and comprehension skills while they’re still working on those underlying foundational elements.

Here are some reasons why you should start using audiobooks for ELA instruction and some tips and resources to get you started.

Why use audiobooks?

The benefits of using audiobooks in the classroom are endless. Here are a few of the many benefits, listed by Reading Rockets:

  • Introduce students to books above their reading level, or allow struggling students to access on-grade-level texts
  • Model good, fluent reading
  • Teach critical, active listening
  • Highlight the humor, excitement, and adventure in books
  • Introduce new genres that students might not otherwise consider
  • Introduce new vocabulary or difficult proper names or locales
  • Sidestep unfamiliar dialects or accents, Old English, and old-fashioned literary styles
  • Provide a bridge to important topics of discussion for parents and children who can listen together when commuting to sporting events, music lessons, or vacation spots
  • Support reading comprehension, particularly for below-level readers still struggling with phonics

Tips to keep in mind

While audiobooks can work well in the classroom for many students, keep the following points in mind when deciding if it’s right for your class.

Consider the supplies you might need to get started

Take an inventory of the technology in your classroom to make sure that you’re prepared to roll out the use of audiobooks. Say goodbye to using old CDs or cassette tapes—many of the audiobook resources you might use are free and available online. Are you planning on listening to an audiobook and providing students with a physical copy of the book? Make sure that you have a classroom set of physical copies. If you’re planning on playing one audiobook aloud to your entire class, an inexpensive speaker for your computer can help project the sound to your entire room. Or, if you’re at a school with 1:1 devices, make sure that your students have headphones to plug into their computers so as to not distract others.

Plan how you will implement audiobooks in the classroom

Audiobooks are most used in the form of a literacy stations within a larger station-rotation model. Consider looking at the Daily 5™ framework for early literacy best practices and inspiration for how to organize your literacy instructional practice.

Make audiobooks meaningful

It’s not enough to put your students in front of a computer and expect them to magically learn to read—you know that! Embed audiobooks within a larger instructional activity or expectation so that there is a direct action for students to take after listening. Ideas include pairing up students after listening to practice retelling the story and creating writing activities in which students apply comprehension skills such as summarizing the story, identifying main idea, comparing and contrasting, or drawing conclusions about what they read.

Looking for specific audiobook resources for your classroom? Check out these articles below to get started:

[The Daily Five + Reading Eggs] The Perfect Fit for Your Literacy Model

25 Audiobooks That Every Teacher Will Love

Where Can Teachers Find Free Audiobooks for Their Students