Access Choices

Audio supported Reading


Audio-supported reading (ASR) is a technique by which students access text through listening. It’s often referred to as text-to-speech (TTS). It is particularly useful for students who struggle with reading, as it allows them to access the curriculum and sustain engagement with challenging texts.

How you can support audio-supported reading

Using a text-to-speech (TTS) program provides students with the opportunity to control the reading process. They can choose to listen to the entire story, or focus on particular words or passages. They can also follow along with the highlighted words as a passage is being read to them.

Teaching tips
  1. Choose a story of particular interest to your students. Have them practice highlighting the first paragraph, then using the text-to-speech functions you’ve discussed with your school technology consultants.
  2. Help students develop the metacognitive skills that are needed for successful reading by modeling good audio-supported reading skills. Show them how to re-read or highlight and listen to challenging sections of text.
  3. Remind students that the audio-supported reading skills they practice in stories can also be used when they are searching for a new story to read.
  4. Provide all students with headphones, whether or not they specifically request them. This will enable everyone to feel comfortable participating in audio-supported reading.
Lesson: Learning Through Listening (Relates to teaching tip 2)

To understand how active listening to text can help with comprehension of the text.
Overview: In this lesson, use a text-to-speech tool to enable students to engage in audio-supported reading. This experience will serve as an opportunity for students to monitor their own comprehension, while decoding text at the same time.


Preparation: Select a story on a debatable topic (a good example is Where are the Women in Math and Science? Display the story in front of the class, and provide students with access to the story on their individual computers.


Lead a class discussion previewing the story with your students, observing and discussing the title and images. You might ask students what they think the topic of the story is, and if they know anything about that topic.
As a class, make a prediction about the topic of the story, and/or a question this story will answer. (In the case of Where are the Women in Math and Science? the title itself is a question—so you and your class may just decide to use it as is!) Ask students to write this prediction in the top block of their graphic organizers, and to number the story’s paragraphs and images.

Independent work:

Each student listens to the first paragraph using Text-to-Speech (TTS). The student then records key information about the first paragraph in the graphic organizer. Students can choose to summarize the paragraph in words; draw an image that represents the key information from the paragraph; or make a connection between the key information in the paragraph, and something else they have read, heard or experienced. Students repeat this process until the story is completed.
Each student observes the first image and records why he or she thinks it appears in this story. Again, students can choose to write a summary, draw a picture, or make a connection. Students repeat this process for each image in the story.

Group work:

In groups of 3-4, students share what they wrote for each paragraph and image. The group re-listens to particular paragraphs as necessary.

Class discussion:

Individual groups share their findings with the whole class.
The teacher leads a discussion about using text-to-speech. Do students think they would continue using text-to-speech? Why or why not?


Berninger, V.W. & Abbott, R. D. (2010). Listening comprehension, oral expression, reading comprehension, and written expression: Related yet unique language systems in grades 1, 3, 4, and 7. Journal of Educational Psychology, 102(3), 635-651.

Boyle, E. A., Rosenberg, M. S., Connelly, V. J., Washburn, S. G., Brinckerhoff, L. C., & Banerjee, M. (2003). Effects of audio texts on the acquisition of secondary-level content by students with mild disabilities. Learning Disability Quarterly, 26(3), 203-214.

Hogan, T.P., Adolf, S.M., & Alonzo, C. N. (2014). On the importance of listening comprehension. International Journal of Speech-Language Pathology, 16 (3), 199-207. doi: 10.3109/17549507.2014.904441.

Hogan, T.P., Sittner Bridges, M., Justice, & Cain, K. (2011) Increasing higher level language skills to improve reading comprehension. Focus on Exceptional Children, 44 (3), 1-20.

Jackson, R.M. & Karger, J. (2015). Audio-supported reading and students with learning disabilities. Wakefield, MA: National Center on Accessible Educational Materials.

Learning Through Listening | Free Lesson Plans. (n.d.). Retrieved August 4, 2015, from

Rose, D. & Dalton, B. (2007). Plato revisited: Learning through listening in the digital world. Retrieved from:

Common core standards


Interpret information presented in diverse media and formats (e.g., visually, quantitatively, orally) and explain how it contributes to a topic, text, or issue under study.

Suggested access support tools
Resources for Text-to-Speech (TTS)

Text-to-speech (TTS) can open a wide range of challenging texts to readers, and can motivate students to read and learn more. These resources can be used with Mac or PC computers. See your school Computer Technology specialist for help in getting these, or other, TTS tools working for your students.

Online Dictionary Resources

Just in time supports, such as a click-for-definition online dictionary, can keep students in the flow of reading while supporting increased comprehension and engagement. While there are many online dictionaries, three we like are listed here:

Translation engines

Did you know that struggling readers who speak other languages make linguistic connections and build better understanding when they see words or passages in familiar languages?  And did you know that Google has a free tool your students can use to translate any text?  Make this tool known and available to student to help them build understanding and engagement with texts.

…the fact that they can listen to this really just supports their understanding: that’s really powerful for me.

~ Teacher