The Power of Shared Reading

I was in a classroom the other day sharing a book with a group of very busy little second graders. By busy, I mean roll on the floor, call out, up on your knees, sit down on the carpet. Up on your knees, sit down. Chat, chat, chat. I wanted to share a book with them before Remembrance Day because it is such a special book. But because this would be a lesson from a coach and not their regular teacher, and the book was quite a long one, would I still be able to gain and sustain these busy little brains' attention? Enter the shared reading experience.

While there are many factors to include when you are thinking about engaging your learners (classroom management, self regulation, positive learning climates just to name a few), I find that shared reading is such a great way to engage your learners if you choose a rich text.

The story I chose was A Bear in War because we are getting close to Remembrance Day/Veterans Day.  I used the vocabulary from my Hooked on Writing Unit 4 to begin the lesson.  This school will be celebrating their 100th birthday next week.  Little did I know how much of a connection that would be.  

As we went through each word as a class, students were immediately enthralled with the words and made so many great connections and attempts at what the words might mean.  We talked about what they meant which spurred more relevant conversation. Even the child that struggles the most was able to contribute. As we went though the words and listened to each other's contribution, I attached the words onto the chart paper. I could see kids reading the words. There were some complex words in there!

The girl in the story has polio and the story is based on true events.  It takes place back in 1916.  This school that these students go to was built in 1916 and they are getting ready to celebrate 100 years.  When I found that out it sent goose bumps down my spine. We were then able to "see" what was going on in the world when their school was opening 100 years ago.  We talked about polio.  I was amazed at how much these little wiggly kids knew and how well they were able to contribute. 

When we were finished our story, students went back to their seats to work on a little teddy bear booklet on the elements of this story.  I would normally have saved that activity for the next day when I reviewed the story with the kids but because I don't return until next week, I wanted to get a feel for their understanding of the story and their written expression capabilities.  As I moved around the room and students were sharing their writing, I could see right away the students that were expressive writers and the ones that struggled. But I noticed that some of the strugglers were also the same ones that contributed the most to the discussion of the book and the vocabulary. I developed this assessment form to help take a closer look at the student strengths during shared reading and where I need to individualize for each student in their literacy development.  You can download your copy here or by clicking on the picture.

So what about those little darlings that could speak so well and make great connections but had difficulty expressing themselves in writing?  

I would certainly plan for lots more opportunity for them to write about topics of choice but also, building their confidence in the shared reading arena will go a long way to developing their confidence as a reader and writer.  This assessment form will give me important information about my small group writing instruction and what levels of support each child will need. It will also give me the formative assessment information I will need to "butterfly in" and provide just the right kind of feedback that these students need as the work to move forward.  I would also then plan a shared writing activity where I would emphasize certain elements of writing that those particular students need while building on the strengths of the stronger writers and modelling new writing skills that they need.

What do you find is the best thing about shared reading?  Do you find it informs your writing instruction too?

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