Strategy Guide

Shared Reading Opportunities for Direct Literacy Instruction

K - 12
Strategy Guide Series
Teaching Literacy Across the Gradual Release of Responsibility

About this Strategy Guide

Shared reading offers rich instructional opportunities as teachers share in the workload while students access the text too. Embedded in the middle of the gradual release of responsibility, shared reading has elements of a read-aloud and guided reading, but it's most valuable for explicit demonstration opportunities with shared text.

Research Basis

Don Holdaway introduced shared reading in 1979, praising its instructional density, the influence of corporate learning, and its engagement of students. Holdaway (1972) explains that shared reading connects students through shared feelings and shared experiences. Thus shared reading is more than a lesson; it becomes a shared event. Holdaway (1972) elaborates on the learning opportunities innate in shared learning involving common language that is meaningful to the students. Justice & Pence (2005) expand this idea, explaining that in shared reading the teacher intentionally encourages and supports the student’s engagement and participation. Meanwhile, the student gathers meaning and constructs knowledge. While it originates with young children, shared reading has potential through middle grades and high school (Allen, 2000). Shared reading is usually instructionally dense because it is the step in the instructional continuum just before guided reading (Burkins & Croft, 2010).

Strategy in Practice

Before Reading

  • Select a more difficult text than one you would use for guided reading but simpler than one you would read during a teacher read-aloud. Choose based on relevant criteria such as print features, patterns in the text, and comprehension opportunities.
  • Secure a copy of the text for each student because the heart of shared reading involves all students and the teacher looking at the text while reading together. Possible variations are small groups reading a common text or dyad reading (Morgan, Wilcox, & Eldredge, 2000).
  • Preread the text, identifying your teaching points. Focus on a comprehension purpose, and direct the experience toward meaning work. Shared reading is highly useful for teaching about print and for illustrating strategies of cross-checking and monitoring. Plan carefully for these teaching moments to identify the lesson’s most important points.

During Reading

  • Make sure everyone has access to the text.
  • Support fluent shared reading in which either you or a proficient student reads the text aloud while others read aloud at the same time, with periodic stops to discuss content. This implementation may vary depending on the grade level, the purpose of the lesson, and the difficulty of the text. In kindergarten, shared reading often involves an enlarged text that everyone reads together, while middle school students engage in shared reading with partners or in small groups.
  • Engage in a think-aloud, modeling the strategies that are your instructional focus for the lesson. Support students in concentrating their energies on that focus. For high school students, the lesson can be about understanding Shakespeare’s language, while a third-grade class can practice using context to determine the meanings of words.
  • Regardless of grade level, shared reading should engage students in a discussion of the text. Support students in thinking deeply about their reading and in discovering things in the text.
  • Incorporate the text into other reading experiences, such as students rereading the text independently or finding other texts by the same author.

After Reading

  • Revisit the text during other group reading times.
  • Provide students with their own copies of the text that they can carry into their independent reading.
  • If the text remains difficult for some students, let them practice during guided reading or with more teacher support in a small-group, shared reading experience.


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