“Read it Again!” – The Joy of Shared Reading
“Read it again! Read it again!”
The cheers of the children ring out as we finish reading the last page of Mrs. Wishy Washy. They cannot wait to hear the book again. There is joy, engagement and excitement for every student. Shared reading is a daily part of our literacy instruction in our kindergarten classroom, and one of the most important pieces of our day. I believe that shared reading has a place in all elementary classrooms, as it speaks to the power of learning with an “expert other” through a low risk, enjoyable experience.
Don Holdaway introduced shared reading, an interactive reading experience, as a way to imitate the typical bedtime story. It’s a joyful time for all students to access a text, experience what it feels like to be a proficient reader and get caught up in the pleasure and engagement of reading. It’s also a time for teachers to support children in building an effective reading process system and model what it looks like when a proficient reader is using his or her system.
Shared reading texts can be a variety of formats – as long as children can see the text clearly. You can use big books, large charts, or projected text. Big books are still my favorites. I love the excitement that a new big book evokes as it sits on my easel waiting to be read, and I love how children can return to the book over and over again on their own. I also use poems, songs and chants on large, homemade charts. These allow me to customize my shared reading texts for the students in my class, responding to interests and needs.
Enjoyment, reading for meaning and talk is always at the heart of the work we do with every shared reading text. I typically plan for one big book and 2-3 charts each week. We revisit these texts every day for a week. Carefully choosing your texts is important. Highly engaging characters like Mrs. Wishy Washy, high interest topics like monarch butterflies, dinosaurs, Superheroes (or whatever your class is interested in), and charts that have children’s names or connections to shared experiences keep the excitement high as you revisit the texts during the week.
The following is a list of possible teaching points for shared reading lessons. It is not all-inclusive, nor is it listed in any particular order. These teaching points evolve as the year goes on and as you observe your students and what they might need. This is your opportunity to make the thinking you do as a proficient reader visible to your students – and to encourage them to share the reading work with you. I am always amazed at just how much can be taught in shared reading lessons!
- Word by word matching
- Looking at text
- Where to start reading
- Left to right (page and sentence)
- Return sweep
- Parts of a book: cover, author, illustrator
- Using illustrations to help comprehension
- Letter vs. word
- Noticing punctuation and what it means for the reader
- Spaces between words
- Making predictions
- Rhyming words
- Using meaning, structure and visual sources of information to solve words and comprehend (Is that word right? Does that make sense? How do we know? Let’s check it!)
- Searching and gathering information to support word solving or comprehension
- Word solving (Cover words to look at first letter or letters or use oral cloze: “what might this word be?”)
- Comprehension strategies (visualizing, questioning, activating schema, inferring, making connections, predicting on the word or text level, monitoring, cross-checking)
- Nonfiction text features
- Genre study
- Character study
- Readers talk about books
Every shared reading lesson starts with reading the text for enjoyment. There is always the opportunity for talk, initiated by the children, about what they are thinking, noticing or wondering. Much of my teaching is implicit and embedded into the conversation every time we read a text. For example, at the beginning of the year in kindergarten, I am verbalizing book handling and pointing out the cover, the title, the author and dedication. I may talk about how readers think about what they are reading. I then focus explicitly on one or two specific teaching points for each lesson, as we reread and interact with the text, such as word-by-word matching or checking the pictures. I have a general plan for the week, focusing on a different area each day. For example, I might focus on reading the pictures, predicting and word solving on Monday, monitoring and cross-checking Tuesday, print conventions on Wednesday, fluency on Thursday and orchestration on Friday. As always, I follow the children’s lead and adapt as I listen to the conversation and respond to what the class or small group might need.
At the end of the week, our shared reading texts go in the children’s Shared Reading Binder. This is a 3-ring binder where children keep copies of all the poems, songs and mini-books we read each week. I take a photo of the charts and put them in the binder to go home for the weekend. We stress the importance of bringing these binders back to school on Monday, where they are kept in the children’s individual book boxes and are available for children to read independently during our readers’ workshop. The home/school connection is very important, and these binders provide another opportunity for children to share what they are learning at school.
Revisiting shared reading texts is yet another great teaching and learning opportunity. The large charts and big books are available to children to read throughout the day, in addition to being in their binders. I also have an invitation at the end of every week for children to engage further with the text. Some possibilities might be; a puppet to make, toys to act out the book or art materials available to create art inspired from the text. Children that choose to linger even longer with a text are encouraged to do so. This is a choice during our Explore time after we’ve finished with a shared reading text.
Shared reading is a part of our daily schedule for whole class and small group lessons that I couldn’t do without. The powerful learning and enjoyment that children have during and beyond shared reading lessons makes this time extremely valuable. There are so many possibilities for all grade levels! How do you see shared reading fitting into your day?
Katie Keier has been teaching and learning with children, as a classroom teacher and literacy specialist, in grades K-8, for twenty-six years. She is currently a kindergarten teacher in an urban, Title I school. She is the co-author of Catching Readers Before They Fall with Pat Johnson, from Stenhouse Publishers. Katie is an adjunct faculty member for American University, a national presenter and conducts staff development workshops and interactive webinars. She is currently in training for Reading Recovery for classroom teachers. You can follow her @bluskyz on Instagram and Twitter, and her kindergarten class @KinderUnicorns .