A proven method to building comprehension in our students at elementary and middle school years.
What is Shared Reading?
Shared reading is quite simple as the name indicates. It is a space "for sharing a story and reading together" (Hubbard's Cupboard). Moreover, the developer of shared reading, Donald Holdaway believed that students learn a text best by reading it over and over. This concept has become popular in many classrooms and has become a consistent part of the reader's workshop.
Reading Rockets defines shared reading as "an interactive reading experience that occurs when students join in or share the reading of a book or other text while guided and supported by a teacher." During the lesson, the teacher models reading habits such as pausing at punctuation, using expressions, or intonation, for example. However, it is necessary not to deter from teaching comprehension as well. Mostly, teachers use a text that is a level above the average reading level of the class, but ensuring it is not not too difficult for the students.
Shared reading requires the study to have a copy of the book or text. Erin Weber has a fabulous shared reading lesson video where her students have a copy of the text. Personally, I prefer that the students have a copy of the book or text. However, not all teachers provide a text to all students, especially when working with younger students. Many of these teachers use big books to teach shared reading. These big book lessons (click on the link to see one classroom video) are the most suitable in the kindergarten or elementary years. Some teachers use a big screen to display the text in place of a big book.
The before reading part is the same as a read aloud session. Here, ask students to look at the cover to think about: a connection to the story and ourselves, a connection to the story and an idea, and make a prediction about what the story is going to be about. In a case where the story is just a text without pictures then you can opt to do a title prediction (i.e. figure out what the story is about based on the title).
The next part involves reading the text to the students; the idea is to model to them what good reading should look like. As you read, they should be following the text with their fingers. As they follow, the students should also repeat with the teacher. For younger learners, this means reading a few words at a time rather than a whole sentence at once. In shared reading, the teacher has to also focus on reading the text fluently and with proper expression. From time to time, stop and ask students questions to see if they are comprehending the text. If you are focusing on one strategy or skill then model that to them (e.g. making connections to another text or finding the main idea of the story). There is a helpful guide from reading-tutors for how to teach reading comprehension strategies in a lesson (some of the questions may have to be broken down or simplified for younger learners). As with the read aloud, a graphic organizer is purposeful when focusing on a reading strategy with questions that students can use to demonstrate that they have comprehended the text.
When working with students, I often re-read the text. In the re-reading process, I call one a student to read a sentence while the rest of the class follows and repeats the words or the sentence. I find repeating really adds to the learning. At this stage, the teacher should not read the words or sentences, but only act as a guide to support students as they attempt to read. Re-reading the text is also a good way to teach students the notion of a text look back. It is not always easy to remember everything we read and sometimes we have to "look back" in order to retrieve information.
You can end the lesson, for example, by going back to the "during reading" part to see if our predictions were correct or not or asking students about their favourite part of the story. You can also end the session with some form of assessment whether it be an activity or test. This helps us better grasp how much the students have understood from the session. As an example, here is a shared reading assessment for The Leaky Robot story, which also makes for a wonderful text when planning literacy stations. This short assessment is what I like end with after a shared reading session.