The adventures of a fourth grade teacher in East Central Illinois.

Shared Reading

We started our last read aloud for the year yesterday. For this story, I decided to try something new. Instead of me reading the story, I wanted to let the students do it. I had hoped to find a selection that everyone could read together, but I couldn’t find a book that we had enough copies of, so I decided to select one of the books from my Newbery Award and Honor bookcase. I have been building my collection for several years now, but I still have a long way to go before I reach my goal of having every single one of them in my room!

The book I selected was one I read with a fifth grade class when I was student teacher in Champaign: A Single Shard by Linda Sue Park. I chose this because it is a story that takes place in another country, in an unfamiliar time period, and introduces students to a culture that is quite different from their own.

To make this a truly shared reading, the students are taking turns reading aloud, usually one page at a time. Once a student has finished reading, he or she passes it on to another who has volunteered to read. We are only on our second day of doing this, but I’ve already noticed some things that surprised me:

First, everyone wants a chance to read! I thought at first it would just be my most vocal, outgoing, and stronger readers. Instead, everyone, even those who tend to freeze up when called on in class and those who know that they are not the strongest readers, still want a chance to read. Maybe it is because they also get to sit in my Teacher Chair when reading. Maybe it is because they get to have the full attention of the entire class. Or maybe it is just the novelty of reading aloud to the class. Whatever the reason, I am really glad to see everyone wanting to read.

Second, everyone is encouraging of those who are reading aloud. Because A Single Shard takes place in 12th century Korea, there are many unfamiliar words and phrases, but when someone struggles or stumbles, nobody laughs. They all listen patiently and offer support to one another. Again, there could be many reasons for this, but I would be willing to be a big part is that they all know that it may be their turn next and nobody wants to have anyone say or do anything unkind to them.

I won’t always do read alouds this way. I enjoy reading to my students, modeling oral reading fluency, finding discussion points, and giving them an opportunity to just sit and listen to a good story. But I think this is a great way to wrap up our shared reading for the year. It would be even better if I had 25 copies of this book, of course, so that everyone could read at the same time, but letting students take on the role of the teacher has been fun to watch, fun to listen to, and fun to be a part of!


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