Teaching the Use of Inner Voice in Reading

Reading silently WITH comprehension is the goal of all reading instruction. Every literacy learner and every literacy teacher is aiming towards this goal.

Many students go through a process at school where they learn first to read "out loud" and then move to using their inner voice.  But for students with complex communication needs (CCN), using their inner voice needs to start a lot earlier.  For some students with CCN this is obvious - if a student has little or no speech then developing an inner voice is seen as essential by all.  However, we also need to remember that for some students with CCN, speech is so difficult and effortful that getting them to read out loud makes the task so difficult for them that they don't have much energy to focus on comprehension. In addition, by asking those students to always read aloud we may be interrupting their journey towards reading fluently.

"Inner voice is required to hold words in working memory long enough to process text at the sentence level and beyond. AAC users have reported that they are aware of and able to use an inner voice. There is, however, some evidence that in the absence of intervention, inner voice does not develop until later childhood. Making AAC users aware of their inner voice and teaching them to use it in reading, particularly in beginning reading, is important to successful Silent Reading with Comprehension." (Erickson, 2003)

As indicated in the quote above, teaching students with complex communication needs about their inner voice should happen early and often in literacy instruction.  We can model it in a range of ways.  For example, when reading a very familiar book we can say "I know this book so well, I'm going to read it using my inner voice" - and then read the book silently, nodding your head along with the words, turning the pages as appropriate.

On Thursday I was in Mr Clark's classroom at Willans Hill. He talked incidentally about inner voice a few times through the morning routine, encouraging the students to develop the use of their inner voice. Mr Clark has 8 students in his classroom - 5 of them have CCN and use an iPad with Proloquo2Go to communicate. 6 of Mr Clark's students are conventional readers and writers and two of them are emergent readers and writers. All of them need to develop their inner voice for use in reading.

The video below shows three of the occasions that Mr Clark encouraged all of his students to use their inner voice. Each of these were scattered over a the morning teaching block and took less than 2 minutes of the session.

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(Updated to add: unfortunately this video is no longer available)

And I'd love to hear the strategies that you use to encourage students to develop their inner voice.

PS Big thanks to Mr Clark and his students 🙂


Erickson, K. (2003). Reading Comprehension in AAC. The ASHA Leader, 8(12), 6-9.

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Comments (11)

  1. Reply

    Thanks for posting about such an important strategy, Jane. When a technique is useful for reading/writing and also language learning and verbal reasoning, it's one that we should all be considering for our learners. Can't wait to share this with our grad students. Thank you!

  2. janeroxby


    Hi Jane, I need to present some information to other staff at my school (following a request from a parent) about the importance of inner voice . I can't seem to access your videos of Mr. Clarke (?). Is there another way to access them. Thanks. J.Roxby (AGOSCI Winter Literacy in Perth)

    • jane


      Hi Jane, the video will be down for about a week - sorry. We just need to re-do it as there's a problem with it. It will be up again as soon as we can. Jane

  3. Ulrike


    Hi Jane,
    the Video does Not ecxist any longer .
    Is there any possibility to see it?
    That would be great!

    • jane


      HI Ulrike - I still need to fix the problem. I had forgotten about it so I will get onto it as soon as I can. Thanks for reminding me Jane.

  4. Charlotte Keelan


    Hi Jane,
    The video is still unavailable - is there somewhere else we can watch it?

    • jane


      HI Charlotte - unfortunately not. It is now beyond the period for which I had permission to share it. I will endeavour to record a new one at some stage. Jane

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