Why Shared Reading after Primary?

If I had to choose one component of a comprehensive literacy program that confounds teachers after primary grades, it’s shared reading.  We have a variety of definitions of what ‘shared’ means. We have nostalgiac ties that associate shared reading with choral reading. Sometimes I hear that students are bored looking at the same text for so many days.  My response?

  • What is your criteria for text selection?
  • Have you considered your definition of ‘text’?
  • How are you intentionally planning to help students unpack a text over the week?
  • Does your planning incorporate collaborative learning?

Shared reading can be a powerful learning time for students. Whereas the read aloud tends to be narrative, and student independent reading is also often fiction/non-fiction narrative, shared reading can be ANYTHING: image, video, audio, art, web-based, multimedia…and print.  It can be ANYTHING: descriptive, expository, persuasive or narrative, or any format: infographics, two page layouts, poems, songs, novel excerpts, photo essays, video clips, informational excerpts, news articles, opinion pieces, etc. Consider Scholastic’s Issues 21, Take Action, or magazine subscriptions like Scope or Action. Your library has collections of Boldprint and The 10.  Perhaps you’ll visit Teaching Kids News, or Wonderopolis. Yes even a critical look at a twitter moment! So long as your selection is rich enough to engage readers over days and relevant to the learning needs of your students.

Why do Shared Reading?

  • an exciting place to introduce a variety of texts that a teacher wouldn’t choose for a read aloud and students may not choose for pleasure reading; it’s a safe space to ‘try on’ reading many different text types since we are different readers depending on text.
  • an opportunity for explicit instruction around comprehension strategies, text features, unfamiliar vocabulary, etc.
  • **repeated readings, along with instruction, support struggling readers. As does access to Read and Write for Google!
  • contributes to a reading community through a shared experience
  • offers a scaffold in the gradual release of responsibility; it bridges the instructional distance from teacher read aloud to independent reading
  • offers opportunities for reading/writing connections
  • an ideal spot to integrate content

What is Shared Reading?

  • 15-20 minutes daily
  • all eyes on text, either on class screen or ideally within reach (could be shared between students on hard copy or on screens)
  • text revisited over 4-5 days
  • teacher does most of the ‘heavy lifting’ early on, then as the week progresses, students take on more of the responsibility. By Friday, each student should be able to respond in some way independently that demonstrates understanding.

How do I plan for Shared Reading?

Think about a 5 day plan that progresses:

  • hook or introduction (to pique curiosity and activate background knowledge)
  • comprehension, deconstruction (what are you noticing? how are you making sense of the text?)
  • interpretation (now what are you feeling? thinking?)
  • response, application (what do you want to do about it?)

Here’s a blank template for a 5 Day Shared Reading plan.

Best Tip: Don’t reveal the text on Monday.

Instead, create anticipation, activate background knowledge through connecting images or video clips, or grab some unfamiliar vocab…..a gazillion ways. Here are some:

Monday Shared Reading ideas

Sample Shared Readings

Even after considering these ideas, maybe you’d still like to see an example, right? Here is a link to a variety of shared reading lesson plans (based on texts in Issues 21, Take Action, Graphic Poetry series, a picture book) that might help you reflect on your practice. By all means, revise them to suit your students’ needs.


More ideas for planning…

If you’re a Thames Valley teacher, check out Literacy Online in your employee portal for tons of information around shared reading, like this:

What do I need to teach in shared reading

How do I assess?

  1. Ongoing observations as you eavesdrop on student talk.
  2. Leaving tracks of thinking: a written conversation between the reader and the text.  How do we really know if a student comprehends a text? Modelling and encouraging students to leave tracks of thinking gives us insight into what strategies and skills are helping them make meaning.  What connections are helping them? What predictions are they making? What questions arise while they’re reading? All of these are revealed when students annotate their text. I’ve shared the power of this strategy in an earlier post: Leaving Tracks of Impact and Thinking
  3. Student responses to the text by Friday:  What do they want to do as a result of reading this news article? What do they want to create as a result of reading this video or infographic? What do they want to write that uses this reading as a mentor? What more do they want to explore as a result of reading this song or this non-fiction text?

tracks of thinking

Let’s up our game around shared reading so students have access to a wide variety of text and have a chance to unpack more complex text safely because of your intentional moves everyday.

ppt slides


5 More Books to Help Your Students Empathize with a Newcomer’s Journey


How could anyone have imagined that the Syrian refugee crisis would continue unabated for so many years? How is it that so much time has passed that we now have books about those Syrian families embarking on desperate journeys to ensure safety and futures for their children and themselves? What was a ‘current event’ has now become a human migration chapter in world history, dragging on with no resolution in sight. Thames Valley District School Board has embraced many newcomers over these past 24 months, not only from Syria, but indeed from other conflict zones. As an advocate of sharing stories with students that can act as mirrors, windows and maps, I want to bring  your attention to 5 more books to support your literacy program (In an earlier post, I shared some ideas and texts to support students in learning more about the refugee crisis).  These stories will not only build background knowledge, but will also build empathy…the true path to understanding and welcoming newcomers to our schools and our hearts.

Stepping Stones is a beautifully crafted picture book with artwork created from stones by a Syrian artist. The introduction tells of how the author, Margriet Ruurs, sought to find this artist to illustrate her story. These stone creations form images that mirror the photographs we find across newspapers and online. Stunning. The story is shared in both English and Arabic and follows a family’s journey, ‘a river of strangers… a river of people in search of peace.’

where will i live

Where Will I Live? is the newest photo essay from Rosemary McCarney. She uses vibrant moving photographs of families from all over the world who are forced to flee and find new homes.  The surroundings are gripping… pavement, railways, refugee camps, yet also cheerful as you scan the children’s faces, eyes, games.


stormy seas

Stormy Seas: Stories of Young Boat Refugees invites us to consider the historical context of refugees who flee by boat, from Germany, Vietnam, Cuba, Afghanistan and the Ivory Coast. Each of the 5 stories is told through a mixture of illustrations, photographs, maps, timelines, thought bubbles of quotes from the person fleeing, details of what happened and how their story turned out. Colourful layouts create visual appeal. The similarities and differences between these refugees’ journeys will facilitate connections for students and provoke a great conversation.

making canada home

Making Canada Home: How Immigrants Shaped this Country is a terrific collection of photographs, images, posters, timelines and stories of the incredible impact immigrants have had on this country.  The book begins with the First Nations as the first immigrants to the land and traces the myriad groups that have made Canada their home over the centuries. Shared stories of challenge, resilience and success all come together to support the message of inclusivity and diversity that is the changing face of Canada. A must have for social studies explorations.


Syria to Canada: A Boy’s Story closes the loop on learning about the refugee journey. Imagine that a boy who has recently arrived in Canada and is attending school here in Thames Valley has now published his story, along with illustrations by another Syrian newcomer! The story, in English and Arabic, follows this young boy’s life from hiding inside his home in Aleppo, through to selling items on the street in Jordan, and finally being invited to come to Canada. He shares his memories but also his dreams for the future. Black and white sketches enhance the story and will no doubt capture young artists’ attention. [These boys were part of TVDSB’s GENTLE program that offered reception services to newcomers in London, Ontario.  If you would like a copy of this book, please email Jenn.Shields@tvdsb.on.ca.]

This text set provides insight into the unimaginable hardships faced by refugees, but also reveals the unflinching spirit of hopefulness they bring. We all benefit from hearing their stories and welcoming them.