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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles:
Teach Early Childhood Literacy

Those First Few Weeks Using Shared Reading
Miriam Bissu

Welcome to the teaching of early childhood literacy. Before you begin you should know that this is one of the most challenging and rewarding fields in education. Please feel free to use this and the other pages on this web site as a reference and guide throughout the school year. 

I usually begin my day with a meeting in a designated meeting area at 9 A.M. I begin formal instruction in reading at this time with a shared reading lesson that lasts about 20 minutes. In shared reading all of the children and the teacher are looking at the same text, usually written out by the teacher in advance on an experience chart or published in a big book. The children are seated on the floor or a rug. They sit facing the big book on an easel or the chart that is mounted on a chart stand. The teacher sits alongside the text facing the children. With a pointer in hand the teacher models a left to right sweep as (s)he reads the text aloud. The children follow along visually. The teacher then re-reads the text and invites the children to join in if they feel they would like. 

The purposes of shared reading are to provide instruction in:

  • reading from left to right and top to bottom
  • decoding strategies
  • comprehension skills
  • getting meaning from text 
  • reading for enjoyment
  • using punctuation and one to one correspondence to read for meaning.

During shared reading the teacher's role is to model the strategies and skills used when reading. The children are encouraged to practice these skills in the guided reading lessons that follow shared reading and in their independent reading. Some of the decoding skills and strategies appropriate for this level are: 

  • noticing repetition in the text and using it to decode; 
  • anticipating repetition and rhyme in the text;
  • using rhyming patterns to decode new words;
  •  using pictures to provide clues to unfamiliar words;
  • reading number and color words;
  • using punctuation to convey meaning;
  • using word chunks to decode new words;
  • checking that the reading is accurate and makes sense;
  • self-correcting inaccuracies in reading;
  • using knowledge of letter sounds to decode;
  • cross-checking that sounds and letters match;
  • using knowledge of language and syntax to decode and to self-correct.

Throughout the school year, and particularly at the beginning of the year, I find poems and songs to be a valuable resource for shared reading because of their rhyming and repetitive text which support the beginning reader. I try to organize them around a theme, such as friendship, back to school and autumn. I recommend writing out the poems on chart paper in a tablet I set aside for all my poems so that I can re-use them to teach different skills and strategies and to provide more practice reading familiar text. I make individual copies of the poem leaving room for an illustration on the bottom. The poems are then placed in a poetry folder each child maintains. This makes a great independent activity in that it gives children the reading practice with familiar material that they need. While the children are working on their illustrations I can circulate and ask some of them to read the poem to me. This enables me to see if they are using their knowledge of the text, rhyming words, the rhythm of the poem and repetition as I have taught them to do during the shared reading lesson. I can then plan to teach and re-teach the skills listed above in future shared and guided reading lessons as needed by my students.

When I am doing shared reading with big books I choose big books that are related to the theme I am teaching and by the skills that I can use them to teach. I choose the level carefully. The material should present some challenges without being too easy or too difficult. Therefore it is important to pre-view the material so that there are not too many decoding problems and so that the text supports the strategies and skills you are aiming to teach.

Big books lend themselves to teaching comprehension skills to children as well as decoding strategies. After reading and re-reading a big book in twenty-minute lessons over the course of two or three days the teacher can lead a discussion to teach the following comprehension skills:

  • re-tell the story in sequence;
  • re-tell the story telling the most important events;
  • identify the problem in the story;
  • determine how the problem is resolved;
  • identify the main and secondary characters;
  • discuss the feelings of the characters;
  • refer to the text to support ideas;
  • identify the setting;
  • identify the theme or main idea of the story;
  • respond to the story and relate it to one's own experiences.

After we are finished with a big book I leave the book out so that students may read it on their own or with a partner. The children can read it for additional practice in reading as an independent activity during the guided reading lessons that follow shared reading. 

You might want to consult articles by other mentors on this web site. James Dallas has two articles on assessment you might find helpful: Using Assessment Data and Establishing Productive Record Keeping Practices.

Survive that First Day by Cynthia Carbone Ward will help you plan for your first day.

Good luck!


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