As teachers, we can all agree that the ever growing mass of teaching methods for reading can be totally OVERWHELMING. You might be thinking, “Sure, shared reading sounds interesting, but how in the world am I going to fit one more thing into my already jam-packed day?”
Why complicate it, right? Well… let me just ask you this:
Have you ever peeked around a first grade classroom while a teacher is teaching a reading strategy lesson? If not, let me paint you a picture.
A handful of students might be sitting criss-cross applesauce like little angels, attentively hanging on the teacher’s every word. Meanwhile Bobby is not-so-quietly “whispering” to Sue about his new shoes. Mike is starring up at the ceiling daydreaming about the newest character on Fortnite. And Sweet little Carla is fearlessly playing finger soccer with a bug she found crawling on the carpet.
The rest of the class is probably tuning in and out of the lesson like a bunch of broken radios.
Not exactly the prettiest picture, is it?
The truth is, expecting an entire group of little learners to focus on a traditional reading strategy lesson is like expecting a group of house cats to play a game of water polo… it is just NOT happening!
So what is the solution? It’s shared reading!
What is Shared Reading?
Shared reading is a teaching method that requires the teacher to read aloud a book (typically above the student’s reading level) multiple times. The students must be able to clearly see the text. We can use big books, show books under a document camera, write stories on chart paper, or display stories on an interactive whiteboard. Use any method that works for you – just make sure the text is clearly accessible to students.
During the first read-through the teacher reads alone, while students are focusing on comprehending and enjoying the story. During this phase we want to pull students in – get them excited about the reading experience. We want them to predict what might happen next, ask questions, be curious, comprehend.
In successive read-throughs, students join in on the reading and the lessons become focused on a variety of reading skills and strategies. The class works together to re-read the story as a group. This can be done through echo reading, choral reading, and even readers theater style reading. Change it up to keep student interest high.
The best part…shared reading is chalk-full of benefits.
Here are 4 REMARKABLE benefits to shared reading!
1. STUDENTS WILL ACTUALLY ENJOY READING STRATEGY LESSONS
Remember that class I talked about earlier? The one where only a few students were actually listening to the teacher teaching a reading strategy lesson? Well… if the teacher had been implementing shared reading, you can bet your bottom dollar that the students would be more invested in the learning process.
Now to be totally transparent, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a few students still tuning things out. After all, these are 6-7 year olds we’re talking about. Their attention span can be shorter than a gnat’s wingspan!
But when partaking in shared reading our students are likely to be WAY more invested in the learning. This is because they are able to engage and interact with a familiar text in a collaborative manner with teacher support. These group interactions make the learning experience… dare I say… Fun?
Admit it. For many of our students, especially our struggling readers, the words reading and fun don’t always go together in the same sentence. This fact alone should be enough to propel us to give shared reading a go.
And best of all, the reading skills that you can integrate into shared reading are as endless as a summer’s day.
Here are some possibilities:
- comprehension strategies
- vocabulary development
- punctuation marks
- author’s purpose
- phonemic awareness
In all honesty, the possibilities are truly endless.
2. STUDENTS WILL GAIN CONFIDENCE IN THEIR READING SKILLS
Confidence… who couldn’t use a little of that, am I right? Especially young children who watch as their peers soar during reading lessons and they feel left behind in the dust. Discouraged. Deflated. And yes, frustrated.
If we integrate shared reading into our day for no other reason than to lift these children up as readers, we’ve just changed the world for many.
No matter what our students’ reading level is, shared reading builds confidence in all our learners.
Our High Achievers
Because the text is typically a bit above our students’ reading level, our higher students are challenged and gain confidence through meeting those challenges. For example, while the majority of the class will need support in reading a text during shared reading, our high achievers will already know most of the words and will have the opportunity to learn new ones. Let’s face it, most of us truly want to do a bang-up job pushing these kiddos to their full potential but it’s difficult to find the time. Yet we know that when they are given challenges it lights them up like Las Vegas at night.
At the opposite end of the spectrum are our struggling readers. Because the text is being read together, any anxiety they may have about reading evaporates. These students are given the opportunity to successfully and confidently participate in the reading experience. They are freed from the task of decoding, hence are given the opportunity to shine as they can now focus on comprehending rich texts.
Additionally, because shared reading exposes our students to books above their reading level, they’re exposed to richer vocabulary.
With the support of a teacher and collaborative efforts of the class, students no longer have to deal with the ever-so discouraging “I have absolutely no idea what that word means so I am going to pretend it isn’t written on this page” dilemma. Instead, when difficult vocabulary is encountered, students engage in stress-free collaborative efforts to make meaning to the words or phrases with the support of their teacher.
When students encounter unfamiliar vocabulary, they not only work through the process of making meaning of the word, but they get to hear the pronunciation of the word while visually seeing the text. This magical combination of seeing, hearing, and understanding words will boost your students’ confidence so high they will need parachutes!
3. IT VASTLY IMPROVES READING FLUENCY
Listening to students read before their reading fluency skills have developed is like listening to a bunch of robots. Really cute robots, but still robots at that!
Although robots would be awesome to have in our classrooms during STEM activities, they don’t really belong in our literacy lessons. But have no fear, because shared reading can act as your very own highly-effective robot destroyer!
Shared reading is a fantastic tool to help our kiddos fluently read because it allows them to hear the teacher model fluent reading first. Yes, this in done through read alouds as well.
The difference is this: A read aloud is oftentimes read once. In contrast, our students engage in a shared reading experience over multiple days, getting oh so much exposure to the same words over and over again.
On day one, our students listen as fluent reading is modeled through a read aloud.
On days 2 – 5, students actively engage in fluently reading with our support either by echo reading, choral reading, or readers theater style reading. By the end of the week students will have been exposed to the same text five times.
Throughout the week we will have worked with:
- Punctuation as students learn how their voices and speed of reading change with various punctuation marks
- Massive exposure to sight words in context (which account for up to 75% of the words our students read)
- Bridging word recognition and comprehension (fluency and comprehension go hand-in-hand)
Before you know it, your little robots will transform into reading fluency pros!
4. SHARED READING BUILDS CLASSROOM COMMUNITY
Have you ever been at a concert when the performer seems to end the show prematurely and you can hear the stadium start to rumble with voices yelling “encore, encore, encore”? As you start to chant along, you feel overwhelmingly whole. You feel like you are a part of something so much bigger than yourself because your voice is being intertwined with hundreds of others all experiencing the same thing in that very moment.
You might be thinking, where are you going with this?
Well, students are experiencing the same sense of togetherness during shared reading!
When a class reads a text together, they use their individual voices to become one unified community vocalizing a story. This allows our students to feel a part of the group and relate to their peers by sharing the experience. Your classroom community will be boosted exponentially!
But thats not all! When we ask our students to predict story events, define words/phrases, or any other learning experience we choose to focus on during shared reading, our students engage in collaborative work. They work together like cute little detectives to make predictions, discover meanings, etc. – so we better have our magnifying glasses and trench coats ready!
THE OVERALL PICTURE
Students love being read to, it’s true! And by sneaking in reading skill and strategy lessons through daily shared reading experiences, we’ll become total teaching ninjas! I mean…look at what a powerful punch we’ll get in less than 15 minutes a day!
So you see, the only things that are overwhelming about shared reading are the mind-blowing benefits your students will get to reap.
Now what are you waiting for? Karate chop your old reading strategy lessons, pick up a book, and embrace your full teaching-ninja-potential today!