Shared reading combines aspects of guided reading and read-aloud strategies. During shared reading, a teacher or proficient student reads the text aloud, pausing at pre-selected moments to discuss content and analyze the text. This strategy facilitates close reading of a complex text in small or whole group settings.
Shared reading allows you to motivate students, demonstrate fluency, model metacognitive habits and engage students at different reading levels. Shared reading integrates all literacy areas—reading, writing, speaking and listening, and language—and falls into the “we do” stage of gradual release instruction.
- Choose a text. Shared reading is intended for use with complex texts worth several reads. Text selection must reflect your learning goals for the lesson as well as students’ readiness.
- Read and re-read the text. At first, pay attention to points where you had to slow down, ask yourself a question or visualize a concept. Mark these. Next, reread the text from the students’ point of view. What prior knowledge will they need? Where might they struggle? Mark these parts as well.
- Use your notes from Step 2 to select points in the text that may require scaffolding. Based on your instructional goals, write several text-dependent questions. Recall that text-dependent questions should require close and careful attention to the text, and require students to use textual evidence in support of their analysis.
- Select engaging tasks. Rather than asking a series of questions to the whole class and choosing from the raised hands, employ creative methods to solicit 100% engagement and to diversify the lesson.
- Write your script. Prepare a script so you interrupt reading at purposeful stopping points. Embed your prompts in the text with sticky notes or by writing in the margins. You can also create two-column notes with the text in one column and your script in the other, or use a tool like the Shared Reading Lesson Planning Template.
- Read the text aloud or have a proficient student do so. Pause strategically and prompt students to discuss content and analyze the text. Only one person at a time actually reads aloud, but all students should read along.
- Implement your script. Monitor student engagement and vary the structure of the questions and tasks (e.g., turn and talk, stop and jot). Remember, all questions asked during shared reading should be text dependent and require students to employ textual evidence in order to support their ideas about what the text is saying. A first read should focus on what the text says and asks clarifying questions. Subsequent reads will ask more interpretive questions and focus on particular learning outcomes (e.g., examining author’s purpose, evaluating arguments).
English language learners
This strategy provides an interactive literacy experience that places reading, writing, language, and speaking and listening into context. It is important that ELLs both observe and participate in shared reading. Social interaction enhances comprehension; as English language learners hear phrasing, intonation and expression, they will better understand the process and the text. The following adaptations to shared reading can be made for English language learners:
- Pair English language learners with a partner who is at least one level of proficiency higher.
- Be sure you and the student readers offer sufficient wait-time (at least 10 seconds) during each pause during reading.
- Scaffold the shared reading with methods that expose English language learners to phrasing, intonation and expression (e.g. turn and talk, teacher think-aloud, etc.).
- Plan for several and varied re-reads—chorally, with a partner or silently.
Connection to anti-bias education
Shared reading creates an inclusive literacy experience, strengthens peer relationships and supports a welcoming classroom environment. Readers on all levels contribute, bringing multiple perspectives into text analysis. The centrality of text-dependent questioning develops the habit of mind necessary for becoming a critical consumer of information and an aware member of society.