Friday, January 27, 2012

Learning Shared Reading


I was lucky to teach young learners using shared reading when I was working for The Sequoia Foundation, a wonderful institution that does an amazing job in public schools. Nothing new under the sun for ESL teachers, but seems to me that EFL teachers and trainers really do not know much about it here in Brazil. It strikes me as a big surprise because I only see advantages to this method. That's why I have decided to study the theory behind shared reading and to deliver a worshop in 2012 to brush up since I have the practice( quite forgotten, by the way...), but know very little about the principles behind it. Here is what I have come up so far:

What is Shared Reading?
Shared Reading is an interactive reading experience developed by Holdaway (1979), and it builds from the research that indicates that storybook reading is a critically important factor in young children's reading development (Wells, 1986). The storybook reading done by parents in a home setting is particularly effective (Strickland & Taylor, 1989). With this instructional technique, students have an opportunity to gradually assume more responsibility for the reading as their skill level and confidence increase. Children join in the reading of a big book or other enlarged text as guided by a teacher or other experienced reader until they are able to read independently. During the reading the teacher  involves the children in reading together by pointing to or sliding below each word in the text. This provides children the opportunity to participate and behave like a reader. 
This description pleases me, for it reminds me of  Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Learning - Children learn from and with a more experienced peer who pushes him or her a little beyond what they already know and builds on it by experiencing the reading passage. 

What does Shared Reading aim at?
Help children become familiar with texts so they can use the book independently for writing and reading. Shared Reading can be extended when teachers and children choose to make their own "big book" in response to a story or text. This provides a way for the teacher to model how the author's ideas can be revisited and related to one's own experiences. I remember reading a book called  Grandma Brings to a group of underpriviledged children in Salvador, Bahia . They were learning  places around the world and what gifts a person can bring to illustrate a little the culture of the places. As a follow up, we made a song about what could a person buy to depict our culture. Students made many interesting contributions.

What is the challenge for EFL teachers who want to use Shared Reading? 
Shared Reading is generally accomplished using an enlarged text that all children can see. Selected books must be suitable for students to join in the experience. This can be a challenge in itself because we usually use ESL books  that follow a totally different rationale. Traditionally, shared reading has used paper-based materials. However, a teacher can take advantage of a number of electronic resources that have been developed or even create the resources that match the syllabus. One such resource is called Mimic Books that has been specifically designed to be used on interactive whiteboards for shared reading lessons. The benefit is that it replicates the look and appearance of a real big book but on the interactive whiteboard making it clearly visible to children. Another site that I really recommend is called Readinz A-Z because it offers some free samples and amazing worksheets.  I have created some materials with Storybird or bugging a workmate to illustrate some of the vocabulary items or grammar points I was supposed to teach, but there are many webtools that can be used to help an EFL teacher who is eager to use such a rich reading workshop in class. I'll be posting some of my work this year at the end of this post regularly.

What are the characteristics of appropriate Shared Reading  materials?

When working with shared reading, it is important to choose or write a book that offers the possibility of multiple readings for enjoyment and also offer a rich picture text match. There are basically 6 types of appropriate books suggested by McCracken and McCracken (1995):
1- Rhythmic books. The rhythm of the text enables children to anticipate some of the words. An example would include Leland B. Jacobs book, Good Night, Mr. Beetle, where each line follows the format, "Good night, ________," with a culminating line for "The moon's in the sky."

2- Repetitive books. Many books contain repetitive text by which children can easily learn and join
in during that part of the reading. The classic story of the Three Little Pigs provides an example
of repetition:
I'll huff and I'll puff, and I'll blow your house in.

3- Cumulative books. This type of text continually builds each page by repeating text from previous pages and adding a new line of text with each new page. The House that Jack Built is a good example of a cumulative book:
This is the house that Jack built.
This is the malt that lay in the house that Jack built.
This is the rat, that ate the malt, that lay in the house that Jack built.

4- Basic sentence pattern books. In this type of book, a basic sentence pattern is used to provide support for the reader. For example, the basic pattern could be represented by,
"This is my __________," which is repeated on every page with variations in the blank (e.g., dog, cat).

5- Information books. These books do not follow a storyline, but are instead full of information
about content-related topics. Use of information books is a good way to support students as they learn vocabulary, facts, and concepts. Examples include Antarctica by Helen Cowcher, Sharks by Russel Freedman, and Pumpkin, Pumpkin by Jeanne Titherington.

6- Two-part books (question & answer). Brown, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr., is a good example of a two-part book. This type of text reads like a conversation in which a question is asked by one animal over two lines in the book, and a response from another animalis given with a subsequent two lines.

Teaching Methods 
Initial reading (done by teacher) follows this pattern: Gather children in an area close to the book. The book must be easily seen by the children.
  • Introduce book (share theme, examine title, cover, illustrations, etc. make predictions)
  • Excite student's imagination and relate prior experience to text
  • Concentrate on enjoying the text as a whole by taking a book walk
  • Encourage students to use background knowledge to make predictions
  • Encourage spontaneous participation in the reading of the story
  • Discuss personal responses to the book ( tricky for EFL teachers due to students' low proficiency level.
  • Direct children's attention to various aspects of the text, and reading strategies, and skills. Many of the strategies needed for independent reading can be taught during shared reading, especially when shared reading takes place with a small group versus the whole class.
  • Experiment with intonation and expression, discuss colorful phrases or words.
  • Attend to teaching points as they arise.
The children's contributions may range from reading in their heads or mouthing some of the words to more complete renderings which may include a number of approximations. Techniques for children participation could include:
  • choral reading
  • oral cloze (where the teacher pauses or drops his/her voice out of a choral reading)
  • dramatization
  • recording children reading the text
  • masking activities
  • word work such as "Be the Words" or sorting the words
What are the children supposed to do during the reading?
Enjoy reading
Track print left to right and word for word
Predic and infer
Expand their lexis
Learn and use reading strategies
Work on phonics by finding letters and sounds in context
Understand and use concepts of print (spacing, capitalization, punctuation)
Understand story elements such as characters, setting, beginning, middle and end.
Expand on the reading
Personalize content and develop critical thinking.

 Why should teachers revisit the text? 
In the shared reading model there are multiple readings of the books over several days. Throughout, children are actively involved in the reading (Yaden, 1988). The teacher may pause in the reading and ask for predictions as to what will happen next.  Groups of children or individual children might volunteer or be invited to read parts of the story. Through repeated readings and the predictable text, children become familiar with word forms and begin to recognize words and phrases (Bridge, Winograd, & Haley, 1983; Pikulski & Kellner, 1992).

What is the purpose of rereading? 

Readings of the same story serve various purposes. The first reading is for enjoyment; the second may focus on building and extending comprehension of the selection; a third might focus attention on the interesting language and vocabulary; a fourth might focus on decoding, using the words in the selection as a starting point for teaching word identification skills (Yaden, 1989). However, the main purpose is to entice students to become readers, and to systematically teach children how to be readers and writers themselves. (Parkes, 2000)

What to do after the first reading?
 After reading, the teacher can take students back to the point of 
making predictions, whether at the word or story level, and ask how they 
knew they were right or how they knew if their prediction wasn’t quite correct. 
Giving students this chance to talk about their thinking is very powerful and 
ensures their full participation. for EFL teachers, it becomes mandatory to establish a reading routine to guarantee participation and understanding. The teacher asks open-ended questions and helps students build connections to the text by activating students’ prior knowledge to the theme or main idea of the book. The second and subsequent readings allow for the students to chime in with now familiar words and phrases. In some cases, students and teachers can take turns reading (e.g., the teacher reads the left side and students read the right side).  Displaying the titles of the shared reading books can be very motivational to emergent readers with the caption: “Books We Have 
Read Together!”   Once read, the shared reading books or the ones written by students may be kept in an area accessible to students for independent and familiar rereading . If using a pocketchart, the teacher might write the story, or a portion of the story, on sentence strips so that 
students can retell or build the story by putting the strips in order (McCracken &McCracken, 1995).  Assign students roles by giving them index cards labeled with each character’s name. The students then wear the role tag and act out the story as a creative drama activity (Fisher & Medvic, 2000). Have students write a big book that extends from the storyline by 
predicting what would happen next if the story were to continue.  Create puppets for role-playing so that students can dramatize and become the characters (Fisher & Medvic, 2000). 
Have the students draw a picture of a favorite scene or character from. New stories can created or produced by the students using the same theme or sentence/language pattern of the book that has been shared.  

What are the steps?

Introduce the Story

Discuss the book cover's title and illustration.
Invite predictions about the story.
Point out and explain the author and illustrator.
 Read the Story
Be dramatic, showing obvious delight in both the storyline and the language.
  If appropriate and convenient, pause and invite predictions.
Ask brief questions to measure comprehension and spur curiosity.
Conclude the Reading Period
 • Allow time and space for spontaneous reaction and comments.
 • Ask about parts the children enjoyed most or least.
 • Ask questions about the story line, e.g. why certain events took place.
 • Ask questions relating the story to the children, e.g. have they experienced something similar, or how would they have handles things differently than the story's characters.
Conduct Additional After-Reading Activities
Ask the children to retell the story in their own words.
If appropriate, focus on repetitive elements, such as a phrase, chant or chorus, and ask children to chime in as you re-read that element in the story.
Point to the words in the text to demonstrate the conventions of print.
 Re-read the Story
If time permits, re-read the book.
Usually, the first reading emphasizes meaning and enjoyment.
Subsequent readings aim to (1) increase participation, (2) teach about book characteristics and print conventions, (3) teach reading strategies, (4) help develop a sight vocabulary of high frequency words, and (5) teach phonics.

Allow Independent Reading
allow children to browse or read book themselves.

 Conduct Follow-Up Activities
 Expand on the text byasking students to write their own books, illustrate the cover, give the story a different ending.



Tools for writing  e-books to be used for Shared Reading 
All About Monsters by danilyra on Storybird

Voicethread projects

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