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Demystifying Shared Reading Online

At the end of every school year, I meet with school leaders, and ask them: “Which lessons from our professional learning made a significant, positive impact on your school this year?”  Last year, one leader raised her hand and said: “I actually asked that same question to one of my teachers because we’re now the #1 elementary school in our district, and I want to make sure we know why we have grown strong.  One of my kindergarten teachers got amazing district test scores, and I asked her to share what she thought made her most successful.  She told me: ‘Shared reading.  Thanks to shared reading, I made sure I was teaching reading strategies every day to my entire class.’  So, today, I want to find all about shared reading so I can take it back to my staff. ” 

Shared Reading is one of the Three Fundamentals of a balanced literacy program.  Along with Read Aloud and Word Work, Shared Reading must be included every day in a child’s learning experience in order to strengthen reading skills.  What’s the difference between Shared Reading and Read Aloud? The three distinguishing characteristics are flow, purpose and the materials behind each of those.  

Now that we’ve defined what Shared Reading entails, I want to share the three steps I follow to ensure a productive Shared Reading lesson.

1. Plan for the Flow

To plan Shared Reading well, you need to follow the flow of the lesson.  
  1. Choose a book that is just above the readability level of the class. 
  2. Find the strategy you wish to teach in this book. 
  3. Identify two places where you can model that strategy in the same book. 
  4. Find a place where the students can practice that strategy, either in the same book or a different one.

PDF of "Five Days of Shared Reading"

Once I have located a text that matches my students’ readability level, I make the most of my find.  I tend to use one text across five days, and map out each day - one at a time. 

I start by finding the strategy.  I pay close attention to see that I have at least two places to model, and a few places for the students to practice.  If the text doesn’t provide sufficient opportunities, I look for a different text entirely or I choose a complementary text where they will practice.  Then, I map out exactly how I will model, and where.  Finally, I identify where the students will practice and how I will engage them. 

Learn more about strategies: Plan Your Lesson Meticulously with Strategy-Based Teaching

2. Plan Your Lesson Across Two Slides

Your first slide should introduce the reading strategy for that day.  The second slide should show the language goals, including the sentence stems and vocabulary. I like to differentiate those two slides using a different color background, and keep all of my slides for the whole week in one presentation. 

3. Teach Live

Shared Reading is one of the components I recommend teaching live.  You want to hear your students practicing.  A great way to do that is to mute most students except for the 2-3 you wish to listen to that day, or simply call only on those students to participate.  If synchronous teaching doesn’t work for you, then record yourself teaching and make sure to leave ample time for your students to practice on their own.  Ample should be about 1-2 minutes per opportunity.  

This is what Shared Reading can look like online:

I’ll be posting more about the Three Fundamentals in the coming weeks.  In these times where interrupted schooling is the norm, Shared Reading, Read Aloud and Word Work can make a huge difference.  

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