Use Captions for Literacy!

Common Core State Standards: 
Informational Text
Foundational Skills
Speaking and Listening
Instructional Strategies: 
Context Clues
Word Analysis

Do your struggling students avoid text at all costs? Would some of your students rather watch 10 movies than read 10 paragraphs? What if creating a text-rich environment was as simple as clicking a button?

One motivating, engaging, and inexpensive way to help build your students’ reading skills is through the use of closed-captioning and subtitled video. Imagine the additional hours of print exposure your students would get if captions were turned on every time they watched a video at home and at school!

This simple tech solution has big benefits for struggling students, students with print disabilities, and English language learners!

  • For English language learners, captioned media can improve vocabulary acquisition, listening comprehension, word recognition, and decoding skills.
  • For struggling readers and students with print disabilities, seeing and hearing unfamiliar words can help improve understanding of vocabulary words and material.

Expert Tips: Choose videos that are developmentally appropriate and cover high-interest topics. Make sure the vocabulary meets students’ listening and speaking levels to reap the benefits of reading while listening and watching.

Why does it work? We naturally read text that appears on the screen. Even your struggling readers will attempt to decode the text they see on the screen. Unfamiliar words are reinforced through the spoken audio and the action appearing on the screen. Turning captions on also increases your students’ exposure to print, providing them with many more opportunities for engaging with text than they may receive otherwise.

Want more tips and information on the benefits of captioning for literacy? Check out our Tech Research Brief Captioning to Support Literacy

Acknowledgment: Special thanks to Lina Breslav for helping to prepare this blog post.


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