The Effect of Reading Code Aloud on Comprehension: An Empirical Study with School Students

Alaaeddin Swidan, Félienne Hermans

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In recent times, programming is increasingly taught to younger students in schools. While learning programming is known to be difficult, we can lighten the learning experience of this age group by adopting pedagogies that are common to them, but not as common in CS education. One of these pedagogies is Reading Aloud (RA), a familiar strategy when young children and beginners start learning how to read in their natural language. RA is linked with a better comprehension of text for beginner readers. We hypothesize that reading code aloud during introductory lessons will lead to better code comprehension. To this end, we design and execute a controlled experiment with the experimental group participants reading the code aloud during the lessons. The participants are 49 primary school students between 9 and 13 years old, who follow three lessons in programming in Python. The lessons are followed by a comprehension assessment based on Bloom's taxonomy. The results show that the students of the experimental group scored significantly higher in the Remembering-level questions compared to the ones in the control group. There is no significant difference between the two groups in their answers to the Understanding-level questions. Furthermore, the participants in both groups followed some of the instructed vocalizations more frequently such as the variable's assignment (is). Vocalizing the indentation spaces in a for -loop was among the least followed. Our paper suggests that using RA for teaching programming in schools will contribute to improving code comprehension with its effect on syntax remembering.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCompEd '19
Subtitle of host publicationProceedings of the ACM Conference on Global Computing Education
Place of PublicationNew York
PublisherAssociation for Computing Machinery (ACM)
Number of pages7
ISBN (Print)978-1-4503-6259-7
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Event2019 ACM Global Computing Education Conference, CompEd 2019 - Chengdu, Sichuan, China
Duration: 17 May 201919 May 2019


Conference2019 ACM Global Computing Education Conference, CompEd 2019
CityChengdu, Sichuan


  • Reading Aloud (RA)
  • Programming Education
  • Primary School
  • Bloom’s Taxonomy


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