I was introduced to the concept of “shared reading” during my first year of teaching when my principal sent me to a professional development opportunity to learn a “new” method of teaching, that I soon found to be priceless. Shared reading has its roots in "whole language" and is an instructional approach that is collaborative in nature. It is based on the research of Don Holdaway (1979) that emulates and builds from a child’s laptime experience with books and moves the experience to the classroom setting with the use of big or projected books.

By using the techniques of shared reading, teachers can empower students to become confident, independent readers as they practice important reading behaviors in a safe, risk-free environment.

1. A formal shared reading begins with warm-ups! The teacher leads the group with a favorite song, fingerplay, or poem that will set the stage for the book to be read. 

2. After the warm-up, the teacher uses questioning techniques to build on prior knowledge, such as: “What do you already know about ____?” “Has anyone seen a ______?” 

3. The teacher pulls out the book “I want to read a new book to you today. What do you think this book will be about?” (At this time, the teacher can point out the name of the author and illustrator, draw attention to the illustration on the cover, and narrow earlier predictions).

4. The teacher reads the story aloud to the students. During this initial reading, the teacher will model good reading habits. She will read with expression, pitch, pausing at punctuation, etc. During this reading, the teacher may demonstrate “think aloud” techniques. This first reading is a time for students to see how a good reader brings a story to life with excitement and joy.

Reading Together

Steps one through four of shared reading  are generally completed on day one when a new book has just been introduced. Step five will generally begin on day two. This step always begins with inviting the students to read the text along with the teacher (as she points to the text).

5.  Next, the teacher invites the students to read with her as she points to the words in the story. This choral "read together" time gives students opportunity to imitate skilled readers as they read text that could not be read on their own. This important section of shared reading has many varied activities and focus. 

During the first choral or group reading the entire text should be read. Following the initial choral readings there are several activities that will allow students the opportunity to become fluent readers as their ability to comprehend text deepens. These activities are generally based on a lesson objective, the age of the students, and/or the difficulty of the text. Here are a few examples of activities that you might consider using:

  • Look for specific alphabet letters or sight words.
  • Focus on phonemic activities such as rhyme, beginning sound, alliteration found within the story, or syllables in chosen words.
  • Cover words with post-it notes to allow students an opportunity to practice the reading strategy of what makes sense?
  • Use the think-aloud process to teach reading strategies.
  • Cover parts of words allowing for focus of beginning or ending sounds.
  • Focus on new vocabulary words.
  • Practice sequencing story events.
  • Focus on writing conventions. Ask students why the author chose a certain punctuation, etc.
  • Design a story map (beginning middle end).
  • Make a list of elements within the story.
  • Dramatize the story.
  • Talk about the job of the illustrator/author
  • Ask what was the author’s purpose?
  • Discuss the book’s genre.
  • Practice reading using rhythm instruments to promote fluent reading with expression.

As you can see, the opportunities for good teaching go on and on when you use the technique of shared reading!

Connecting To The Text

Shared reading allows students opportunity to work with text that is above their own reading level. Doing so increases reading skills, vocabulary, and comprehension.  Now, it is time to look at the last step of the process.

6. Connecting students to the text.

This step engages students with the text and allows for opportunity to explore and extend their learning. Here are some examples that you might consider.

Writing: Write a letter to one of the characters. 

Vocabulary Book: Make a list of vocabulary words and illustrate to add to a class-made new-word dictionary book.

Games: Play games with a "book" theme.

Poetry Chart: Write a poem about the characters and place it on a chart in the poetry center. Here is an example of a simple poem using easy sight and action words. 

Art: Make a construct character using construction paper, or paint a character. Create a mural of the story elements.

Social Studies: Talk about social connections to the story. 


Teaching the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts – Reading: Literature can seem daunting at first glance, but when you look at the standards closely, everything listed can easily be taught using proven “Big Book” teaching methods.more

Here are a few examples:

Key Ideas and details:

  1. After the first reading of a big book, move through the book page by page while making a list of the key details. For example. What is happening on this page? How do we know the character felt this way? Let’s reread the page to see how the picture reflects the words in the story. (You can expand this by adding sticky notes on strategic places to document findings or by creating a large chart.)
  2. Big books can easily be retold to enhance student understanding concerning details of text. These retellings, as well as the listing of characters, settings, and events can be accomplished in a number of ways such as: story mapping, spidergraphs, story paths, dramatization, puppets, art, writing, story hand, etc.

Craft and Structure:

Make a dictionary or bulletin board to compile unknown words. One example is “Fancy Nancy’s Words.” After a few readings, go through the text, list and define “fancy” or unknown words. Write the words on a strip or piece of paper, and ask a student to illustrate the word(s). Add to your bulletin board or dictionary.

Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity! 

This one is easy, as it is already the purpose of teacher big books and shared reading! Our goal is to “actively engage (students) in group reading activities with purpose and understanding. Shared reading allows students opportunity to be engaged in text and vocabulary well above their independent reading level and, therefore, accomplishes this goal every day!

So if you are worried about teaching the Reading: Literature portion of the Common Core Standards, worry no more! Stock your room with great quality big books. 


Times have changed since I first used Mrs. Wishy-Washy in my kindergarten classroom in 1991. The demands of the kindergarten teacher have moved into the world of academia, and kindergarten has become the new first grade.

With this great push of academics, there has been a tendency for early childhood educators to deliver academic content using teaching methods that are only appropriate for older learners and ignoring proven early childhood practices.more

One such practice is that of dramatic play. I am saddened at the lack of dramatic play opportunities that are being provided young learners. When I asked a teacher why she didn't include it, she said, "With curriculum demands I simply don't have time for it." While I can see her concern, I maintain that I don't have time to leave out dramatic play!

Play has so many benefits for young children and it is becoming the lost art of childhood. I can't imagine my program without it! So, flash forward 24 years! I am still using Mrs. Wishy-Washy in the classroom. Perhaps with more sophisticated knowledge and strategic purpose, but kids love it just the same!

You will find that bringing dramatic play into your classroom will build students' comprehension and fluency skills, deepen understanding of story elements, and provide Just Plain Fun. Acting out quality books is just smart teaching!