Shared Reading Best Practices

Best Practices Library

This module explores shared reading and its benefits for grades 3–8. You will examine the many aspects of shared reading, including purposes, appropriate texts, strategies to model, and procedures.

What is Shared Reading?

Shared reading (Allen, 2000) is “the heart of comprehensive literacy.” It is the time during which teachers model through think-alouds what good readers do with text. Students have their own copy of the text, watch the teacher (or other fluent reader) read with fluency and expression, and are invited to read along. Shared reading builds a community of learners by helping students and teachers bond; students are partners in the learning process and see themselves as successful.

Prominent Features of Shared Reading:

  • Teacher or other fluent reader reads text.
  • Students are invited to join the reading.
  • Teacher models reading and thinking strategies in context using self-stick notes, highlighters, etc.
  • Teacher models repeated readings, if applicable.
  • Text must be visible to all students (big books, charts, posters, overheads, textbooks, class sets, etc.).
  • After modeling, students take a more active role in shared reading. They reread material to the class and model their own thinking.
  • Older, more fluent readers may present a shared reading lesson with teacher support.
  • Text level is on the average of the class.
  • Text supports and challenges.
Organize for Shared Reading

The shared reading process is similar in all grades. However, there can be physical differences in grades three and higher, depending on the text used and room arrangement. Because shared reading builds community, it is best to conduct lessons in a homey setting, such as around a teacher’s chair, rocking chair, couch, etc. Students can sit on the floor, in chairs, or a combination of both. If you use an overhead projector and transparency, have your students stay at their desks. Remember that all students must see you, and you must see all students. Keep the following items on hand for shared reading:

Tools for Teacher

  • Sturdy chart stand (or tape chart paper to wall)
  • Chart paper
  • Colored markers
  • Overhead markers
  • Basket or box to house smaller items

Tools for Teacher and Students

  • Self-stick notes
  • Highlighters
  • Pencils
  • Colored pencils


  • Carpet squares for students to sit on
  • Clipboards for students to write on (or folder or large textbook)
Shared Reading Lesson Sequence

Shared reading centers around students' needs. Creating a shared reading lesson is not as simple as picking a text, making copies, and teaching a lesson. Shared reading is purposeful, deliberate teaching, and the planning must be likewise.

Preplan for a Shared Reading Lesson

Several pre-lesson planning steps will benefit the teacher and students:

  1. Choose a Purpose. Teachers can model a new strategy, revisit a previously modeled strategy, or review/reteach a previously modeled strategy to support readers who have not transferred the strategy to independent work.
  2. Choose a Strategy.
  • Initially use informal reading observation notes to determine students’ strengths and weaknesses. Plan lessons based on those notes.
  • After you know students through individual conferences and small-group reading, identify their likes/dislikes and how well they use strategies in a supportive environment. Plan lessons based on gathered information.
  • Read response journals to see how well they use strategies independently. Plan lessons based on student responses.
Possible Strategies

Think about what good readers do and model those strategies. The following strategies apply to any type of text and genre:

Metacognitive and Comprehension Strategies:

  • Make connections (text-to-self, text-to-text, text-to-world)
  • Visualize
  • Ask questions
  • Infer (draw conclusions, analyze characters, make predictions)
  • Determine text importance (cause and effect, compare/contrast, sequence, main ideas, big ideas, supporting details, identify what's important versus what's interesting, access prior knowledge)
  • Take the text apart (analyze) and put it back together in a different way (summarize/synthesize, make judgments, make generalizations)

Fix-Up Strategies

  • Set a purpose for reading based on assignment or question
  • Know when they are confused
  • Know what to do about the confusion
Shared Reading Lesson Sequence

Nonfiction Text Features to Teach During a Shared Reading Lesson:

Fonts and Special Effects

  • Titles and headings
  • Boldfaced and color print
  • Italics
  • Bullets
  • Captions
  • Labels


  • Diagrams
  • Cutaways
  • Cross sections
  • Overlays
  • Distribution maps
  • Word bubbles
  • Charts, tables, graphs
  • Framed text
  • Illustrations and photographs

Text Organizers

  • Index
  • Preface
  • Table of contents
  • Glossary
  • Appendix

3. Select Text for the Lesson.

Teachers must know two things well: their students and available resources. Knowing your students means knowing their interests, home life, reading levels, reading behaviors (strengths and weaknesses) for both fiction and nonfiction. Collectively, this information tells the teacher what his students know and don't know or what they like and don't like. If the teacher wants to work on what his students know and don't know, he must identify the strategy he wants to model. The chosen text must lend itself to the strategy. If a teacher determines that his students need work on cause and effect relationships, he must look for texts that provide cause and effect examples.

If the teacher wants to work on students' likes and dislikes, he must identify what type of text he wants to model. This text may be a new genre. Maybe the students don't like science fiction. To build interest, he must pick a book that is not too difficult but has excellent descriptions for visualizing, a good story line, strong characters which appear multiple times, and cliff-hangers that encourage readers to continue reading.

Available Resources:

  • Big books—Big books for intermediate students are in print. These high-interest books can provide effective shared reading opportunities, especially for nonfiction. Many of these books include charts and graphs, sidebar questions, and colorful pictures.
  • Charts/Posters—Charts and posters can include texts from poetry or one or two paragraphs from an appropriate leveled text that focus on a specific skill or strategy. For example, a teacher wants to teach making inferences. He knows that text from the book Conquering Mount Everest lends itself to making inferences. He writes those paragraphs in large print on chart paper and uses it for the lesson. Later on, he can laminate the chart and place it in the room where students can reread it. Here is a possible text and possible inferences:
    Climbing Everest

    Reaching Everest's peak is not
    easy. Climbers face bitter cold
    winds while trekking through
    heavy snow. Deep crevasses in
    the ice open and close all the
    time, making the climb very

    Possible inference: Special
    clothing, skills, and equipment
    must be needed to climb Everest.
    Then there is the blowing snow,
    which makes it difficult to see.
    Powerful winds have actually
    blown climbers right off the
    mountainside! Avalanches,
    moving at speeds of 200 miles
    per hour, are the biggest killers
    of all.
    Possible inference: Climbers
    must have courage, be daring,
    and have stamina.
    At the top of Everest, there is
    only one-third as much oxygen
    as at sea level. Most (but not all)
    climbers need extra oxygen
    Upon reaching the summit,
    climbers can stay for only a few
    moments. If they stay longer, the
    lack of oxygen can weaken them, making the trek down difficult.
    Possible inference: Climbers
    who don't exercise good
    judgment risk their lives.
  • Overhead Transparencies—Overhead transparencies may be the easiest type of text to use for shared reading. Students stay at their desks and have a copy of the transparency. While the teacher is at the overhead modeling her thinking by writing along the side of the text, students follow along doing the same thing as the teacher. Transparencies can be made of just about anything, including magazine articles, teacher workbooks, textbooks, picture books, novels, recipes, newspaper articles, etc. These lessons require an overhead projector, screen, overhead markers in several colors, a transparency of the text, and one copy of the text for each student.
  • Textbooks/Class Sets—Textbooks and class sets of novels are excellent sources for shared reading especially if the textbook is too difficult or the novel is too long. Again, the teacher models his own thinking using sticky notes or maybe even a journal. Many strategies can be modeled using one unit of a textbook or an entire novel. For example, the students are learning about westward expansion from a social studies textbook. Some possible strategies to cover from this topic may be nonfiction graphic sources (maps, timetables, and charts), asking questions, making inferences, and identifying cause and effect relationships.

4. Identify Vocabulary Words or Concepts That Need Direct Instruction. Go through the text and identify concepts and vocabulary that your students might have difficulty understanding. Think of ways to connect students' prior knowledge to these concepts. Prepare to bring in props, if necessary.

5. Prepare Materials. Make sure each student has a copy of the text or can see the text from the overhead, chart, big book, or easel.

Shared Reading Lesson Sequence

Conduct the Shared Reading Lesson.

1. Introduce the Strategy.

The teacher introduces the strategy by offering a few ideas in writing, including the definition of the strategy and how it helps readers. These notes are valuable because they may be written on chart paper and hung on a wall for students to review when they are working in small groups, in pairs, or independently. This instructional strategy is a good way to scaffold instruction while students learn how to use the modeled strategy independently. As students become independent, the chart can be copied to regular-sized paper and placed in students’ reading notebooks for continued use, as needed. See the example.

Strategy: Visualize

Definition: Using the words from the text to create a movie in your mind.

About the Strategy: Visualizing helps me remember what I've read. It makes the words interesting and makes me want to read more. I can create a movie from any genre, including fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Descriptive words and phrases help me visualize.

As lessons continue, chart information can increase and include specific examples that help the reader visualize.

Chart paper may also be used to document focus strategies and texts for each shared reading lesson. This instructional strategy is helpful when teachers want students to recall a previous lesson. For example, the teacher can tell students, “Determine text importance, summarize, and synthesize were taught three weeks ago using a one-page handout and the social studies textbook. That strategy is being revisited this week.” By reviewing information on the chart, students remember the lessons and make connections from previously read material to new material. See the example.

Class Shared Reading Log—Fourth Grade Class

DateTextFocus Strategy
11/01The World Series (one page)Determine text
11/02The World SeriesSummarize
11/03The World SeriesSynthesize
information and
write a response
11/04Social Studies book (pages on
early explorers)
Determine text
11/05Social Studies book (pages on
early explorers)
11/07Social Studies book (pages on
early explorers)
information and
write a response

2. Introduce the Text. Give students an overall synopsis of what the text is about.

3. Teach Vocabulary and Concepts. Directly teach pertinent information about the text, including vocabulary words and content.

4. Read the Text Aloud While Modeling the Strategy. Allow time for student responses and questions during the lesson.

Shared Reading Lesson Sequence

Use the following language prompts or sentence starters to model the chosen strategy.

Metacognitive and Comprehension Prompts:

Make Connections

  1. This reminds me of a time when I …
  2. I know about this topic because I …
  3. The setting of this book is just like …
  4. This book is something like …
  5. What’s going on in this book is just like what’s happening in the ________ area of the world.

Ask Questions

  1. I wonder why…
  2. What does this word mean?
  3. Why did ____________ do that?
  4. What questions do I have before, during, and after reading?
  5. What is going to happen next?
  6. Why did the author put that part in the book?

Visualize/Create Images

  1. The author gives me a picture in my mind when he describes …
  2. I can see what the author is talking about when he …
  3. I can draw a picture of what the author is describing.

Make Inferences

  1. The author says this, but means …
  2. If I read between the lines, the author is telling me that …
  3. The clues to prove my inference are …
  4. Because of what the author said, I know that …
  5. From the clues or information the author gives, I can conclude that …
  6. I think that ____________ will happen next because the author says ____________.

Determine Text Importance

  1. I know these parts of the story are important because they match my purpose, which was …
  2. I think the author thinks ____________ is important because …
  3. I think the author’s opinion about _____ is ______ because …
  4. In which text structure is this text written? (cause/effect, problem/solution, description, compare/contrast, sequence/steps in a process). Using a graphic organizer will help me understand. I can draw a graphic organizer in text margins.
  5. I think the author’s purpose for writing this was to …
  6. There is a lot of information right here. I need to identify which parts are important and which parts are just interesting.
  7. How does this graphic source (charts, tables, graphs, etc.) help me interpret this information?
  8. How does this text feature (boldfaced words, font changes, bullets, captions) help me locate what might be important?


  1. This story or passage is really about… My views on this are …
  2. My opinion of _________ is …
  3. I first thought ________ about the topic. Now I think …
  4. I’ve read a lot of information. Let me stop and think about this for a minute.
  5. All of these ideas are important, but I think some are more important than others. I need to determine which ideas are the most important.
  6. Let me take the big ideas and summarize the text.
  7. My judgment of this information is …
  8. From this information, I can generalize that …
Shared Reading Lesson Sequence

Monitor Comprehension and Fix-Up Strategies Prompts:

Set A Purpose For Reading.

  1. What has my teacher asked me to do?
  2. How should I look at this text?
  3. My question about this topic is __________. That means that I should be looking for information on ___________. If I don’t find it, I should look for key words or phrases.

I Need To Know When I’m Confused.

  1. This is not making sense to me because…
  2. This wasn’t what I expected. I expected …
  3. This doesn’t make sense because my mind was wandering.
  4. Does this make sense?
  5. What is going on here?

I Need To Know What To Do About My Confusion.

  1. What do I think or feel about what I just read? I need to stop and think, write, or talk about what I’m reading while reading, not later on.
  2. I’m reading a nonfiction topic, and I really don’t know much about it. I think I should read more slowly. If I still don’t understand, I may need to reread or skim the text.
  3. What can I write or draw in the margins that might help me remember and understand what I just read?
  4. How does the graph (or any nonfiction text feature) on this page help me understand the text?
  5. Since I don’t understand this word, I may need to….
  6. Are there any text structure clue words and phrases that might help figure out what text structure I’m reading?)

5. Debrief. Ask students to think about what they learned to do with text. Jot down ideas on a piece of chart paper labeled with that strategy. For example:

Stop and Collect Your Thoughts!

Today during shared reading, we read Chapter 2 of The Man in the Iron Mask by Alexandre Dumas. We practiced Stop and Think About What You Are Reading.

We learned to:

  1. Stop after every couple of paragraphs or pages and ask, “What did I just read?”
  2. Stop and think.
  3. Refrain from reading the whole chapter without stopping.
  4. Figure out how to understand what we read.

Remember to keep these charts on the wall for student use. They can be rewritten and placed in students' reading notebooks when students use the strategy independently.

Extend Revisit Text Tips
  • Revisit the same text to model more than one strategy. For example, on Monday, use the text to model what’s important versus what’s interesting. On Tuesday, use the text to model identifying big ideas. On Wednesday, use the big ideas to summarize and synthesize.
  • The text may be read more than once in a shared reading lesson. For example, first read—listen, second read—model strategy, third read—fluency.
  • Extend the text as a reader-response activity. For example, on Monday use the text as a shared reading lesson to model how to determine text importance (identify cause and effect). On Tuesday, extend the text: map the cause-and-effect relationships onto graphic organizers, synthesize the big ideas, and draw conclusions.
Model Lesson

Below is an example of a shared reading lesson using a poem.

The Oak and the Rose

by Shel Silverstein

An oak tree and a rosebush grew,

Young and green together,

Talking the talk of growing things—

Wind and water and weather.

And while the rosebush sweetly bloomed

The oak tree grew so high

That now it spoke of newer things—

Eagles, mountain peaks and sky.

“I guess you think you’re pretty great,”

The rose was heard to cry,

Screaming as loud as it possibly could

To the treetop in the sky.

“And you have no time for flower talk,

Now that you’ve grown so tall.”

It’s not so much that I’ve grown,” said the tree,

It’s just that you’ve stayed so small.”

Plan Purpose and Strategy. Stop and think/write about what you are reading because students are having difficulty remembering what they have read and monitoring comprehension.

Plan Materials. Overhead transparency with student copies

Determine Vocabulary to Preteach. (bloomed, mountain peaks)

Lesson Plan:

  • Explain purpose for lesson (introduce stop and think/write about what you are reading) and why this lesson is important (will help readers remember and understand what they have read)
  • Direct teach vocabulary. (bloomed, mountain peaks)
  • Read the poem aloud using intonation, feeling, and emotions.
  • Reread. Stop at every fourth line and write in margins what you think that part of poem means. Think aloud the entire time.

An oak tree and a rosebush grew,

Young and green together,

Talking the talk of growing things—

Wind and water and weather.

Write: An oak tree and rosebush discuss how things in nature grow. They seem to get along with one another. They have a lot in common. Young and green, growing things, wind/water/weather.

And while the rosebush sweetly bloomed

The oak tree grew so high

That now it spoke of newer things

Eagles, mountain peaks and sky.

Write: Uh Oh! The tree has grown taller and the rosebush is still short. The oak tree now talks about things that the rosebush doesn't understand. I wonder what will happen to their friendship. I'm glad that the rosebush blooms the whole time even if it doesn't grow taller.

“I guess you think you're pretty great,”

The rose was heard to cry,

Screaming as loud as it possibly could

To the treetop in the sky.

Write: The rosebush seems mad. But it's not the tree's fault. It's supposed to grow taller than the rosebush. The rosebush should be happy that it's so pretty. It serves a different purpose.

“And you have no time for flower talk,

Now that you’ve grown so tall.”

“It’s not so much that I’ve grown,” said the tree,

It’s just that you’ve stayed so small.”

Write: I think that the tree tries to tell the flower that it did its job and that the flower needs to do its job—whatever that might be. I guess that means we all have jobs to do and shouldn't be mad or jealous when someone does something different from what we do.

I think the main idea is that everything has its place in the world. The tree is supposed to get bigger and see new things. The rosebush is supposed to stay small. It just needs to realize what the tree figured out. I bet I could use my margin notes to remember what I read. Let me see if I can do that. Cover the poem with a sheet of paper and use margin notes to retell the poem in your own words.

Reread a third time for fluency.

1. Debrief the strategy by writing a short paragraph on chart paper about the strategy. Ask students what they learned to do by watching the lesson.