The Basics of Shared Reading

Shared reading is a highly beneficial way to spend 10-15 minutes of your instructional time daily.

Shared reading is a time in which the teacher and students read an enlarged text at the same time (choral reading).  Often the text is written on chart paper or projected by some means.  It is important that the text is large enough for all students to see.  Shared reading texts are initially not a text that students are able to read independently but often after many readings, it becomes a text in which students can read on their own.  Shared reading is an enjoyable experience that helps to build classroom community through the shared experience. Shared reading is often dropped after the early grades but is valuable across all grade levels.

Shared reading is extremely beneficial for English Language Learners (ELL).  Shared reading provides a non-threatening opportunity for ELL students to learn new vocabulary, learn new sentence structures, and participate in successful supported reading alongside their peers.

The following are some of the many benefits of shared reading:

sharedreadingThe types of texts you might use for shared reading are:

  • big books
  • poems/songs
  • readers’ theater scripts
  • plays
  • speeches & documents
  • enlarged pages of books

Shared reading is easy to implement and for as many benefits as there are it does not take a lot of time. 

Here is a description of what shared reading might look like at the elementary level using a big book version of The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Day #1

Introduce the text: 

This story is called The Very Hungry Caterpillar.  In this story, the caterpillar is so hungry that he eats a lot of different types of food.  This story is also a counting book.  We will be counting to see how many of each food he eats.  I wonder what kind of food the caterpillar might eat? 

Read text (first read):

Provide a model of how to read the text using appropriate intonation and expression.

Listen carefully while I read the story so that we can find out what the caterpillar eats and then we will all read the story together.  

Read text (second read) & discuss:

Invite your students to read with you.

Let’s read The Very Hungry Caterpillar together.  You can use the pictures to help you know which food the caterpillar will eat.  Remember this is a counting book so you can also use what you know about counting to help you know how many of each food the caterpillar will eat.

Talk about the story after the second reading to keep the focus on the meaning of the story.  You can invite children to turn and talk with a partner about what happened in The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Teaching Point

Now is the time to do some specific teaching.  You do not want to have more than 1-2 clear and specific teaching points.  More than two teaching points can make the new learning confusing for students.

Teaching Point #1:  Readers use the pictures to help when they are reading.

Teaching Point #2:  Readers use what they know about the type of book they are reading to help when they are reading.

The pictures in stories can help readers know what the words in a story will say.  When we were on this page what picture did we see?  So, we knew this part was going to be about  _________.  Readers also use what they know about how a book works to help when they are reading.  We knew this was a counting book.  The numbers counted up.  After we counted 2 pears we knew the caterpillar would eat how many plums?

Days #2 +

Throughout the week read the text again and again and again with your students.  Once your students are familiar with the text you can fade your voice out at times to let the students take more control over the reading. The purpose of repeated readings is to help your students gain more independence with the text and to provide more teaching with a familiar text.

When choosing which teaching points to address on subsequent days think about the observations you have made of your students during independent reading, guided reading, and read aloud times. A few examples of possible future teaching points for The Very Hungry Caterpillar are using expression when reading, reading the punctuation marks, solving multi-syllabic words, analyzing the author’s craft, making connections to other texts or personal life experiences, etc.  I find Irene Fountas’s and Gay Su Pinnell’s Literacy Continuum to be a helpful resource to use when thinking about grade level appropriate teaching points for shared reading.

In Summary

Upon the implementation of shared reading, you will see it become a favorite time of day for your students.  The texts you read during shared reading time will be texts that your students will want to return to again and again.

You may want to have your students collect all the poems/songs in a three-ring binder or a composition notebook.  My students enjoyed illustrating their poem/songs when adding them to their notebooks.  Students often read their poetry notebooks during independent reading time or at their literacy centers.  Also, remember to have the big books that you read together available in your classroom library for students to reread.

Dedicating time each day for your students to participate in shared reading will have a huge pay-off that you will notice as you see your students gravitate toward the texts that you have read together.



Fountas, Irene C. and Pinnell, Gay Su. Guided Reading: Responsive Teaching Across the Grades (2nd edition). Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2017. Print.

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