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Shared reading as a writing tool? Go for it!

A while back, I wrote about how interactive writing is a power-packed teaching move. Another hands-down favorite (for both reading and writing) is undoubtedly shared reading. Shared reading helps teachers efficiently connect the dots between all aspects of literacy. What follows are different ideas for infusing writing-friendly concepts into existing cycles of shared reading. 

First things first: What happens in a cycle of shared reading? 

A cycle of shared reading is comprised of a series of short sessions. Across the cycle, the class reads and revisits the same short text/text excerpt. Teachers can plan cycles of shared reading that incorporate different aspects of literacy and match the current goals of classroom learners. While shared reading is often used during reading, it has value all across the day – including writing time. Here’s a bit more on the basics of shared reading:

The above chart is adapted from Mentor Texts That Multitask: A Less-Is-More Approach to Integrated Literacy Instruction by Pam Koutrakos (2022)

What kind of texts are featured?  

The best shared reading text is any short, high-quality text that you know, have, and believe the students will enjoy. Repurpose a unit mentor text and highlight it in a cycle of shared reading. Also, keep in mind that the text can be formally published, teacher-written, class-composed, or student-written (names removed, permission provided). 

What will I emphasize? 

The work of readers and writers can’t be separated. Here are a few ideas for how to make explicit connections to writing.

Scrutinize Structure

There are many playful ways to dip into structure explorations. Consider posing a mini-inquiry that gets students noticing, thinking, and sharing what they see in a mentor text. Discuss ideas and then list out theories and substantiated findings. A few possible provocations include:

  • How do authors set up the pages of their informational books?
  • What do we notice about sequence?
  • How do authors invite interest?
  • How do writers make their writing flow? 
  • How do literary essayists organize their ideas? 

Charts co-created during these short sessions of shared reading become powerful learning artifacts that can be repeatedly revisited during writing time.

Wonder About Words 

In order for word learning to stick, students need to practice using their knowledge in authentic contexts. Shared reading supports students in preparing to apply word wisdom. There are seemingly infinite ideas for a word-themed session of shared reading. Each helps classroom writers gain clarity for what it looks like to ponder word choices and/or apply word knowledge where and when it counts. 

  • Phonological and Phonemic Awareness: Sneak in a bit of extra practice breaking up words by syllable, playing alliteration and rhyming games, or segmenting, blending, and/or changing sounds in words. Consistently practicing these skills builds readiness for getting letters, sounds, and words down onto the page. 
  • Phonics and Spelling: Find, name, and/or discuss specific letters, sounds, patterns, and word parts present in the text. Orthographically map target words. This extra practice boosts understanding and proficiency. It also develops preparedness for applying word smarts during writing time. 
  • Vocabulary: Think about the meaning, connotation, and/or impact of a few specific words that an author chose to use. Find words with known cognates and discuss the benefits for readers and writers. Discuss and/or debate word choices. Consider and try alternatives. The opportunities are limitless. 
  • Figurative Language: Decipher the meaning and discuss the intent behind poetic language found in the featured text. Appreciate the creativity. Ponder possibilities for tinkering with figurative language during independent writing time. 

Collaborative word wondering encourages students to embrace the excitement of confidently using acquired knowledge as they write. 

Investigate Language Concepts

There never seems to be enough time to give grammar the attention it deserves. By weaving grammar into cycles of shared reading, students see contextualized examples of recently taught (or upcoming) grammar learning. These efforts translate into the more consistent and effective transfer of grammar concepts to writing pieces. During a session of shared reading, you might…

  • introduce a concept related to capitalization or punctuation
  • spiral learning around a specific part of speech
  • study sentence structure
  • consider the language choices an author made – and the impact it has on the reader
  • celebrate translanguaging present in a text, and provide reminders that utilizing one’s full linguistic repertoire is beneficial and celebration-worthy! 

Turn to any page of a chosen text and imagine how you can capitalize on the conventions present. 

Cultivate Curiosity Around Craft 

One additional benefit of using shared reading as a writing tool is that it shows students how to read and revisit a text with a writer’s eyes. Yes, classes might investigate “crafty decisions” in sessions devoted to structure, words, and language. However, there is always room for more practice! Collaboratively appreciating and discussing the craft employed by authors, illustrators, and creators is always a worthy pursuit! A couple of my favorite resources for doing this work with intention and joy are written by Two Writing Teachers co-writers. Craft Moves by Stacey Shubitz and Every Child Can Write by Melanie Meehan are jam-packed with brilliant, practical, and transferable ideas. If you already own either of these gems, grab them off your shelf and get inspired. If you do not yet own these titles, I highly recommend them.

(Not enough) time is a constant classroom challenge. Cycles of shared reading represent one way to thoughtfully reimagine how to make the most of each minute. This wonderful component connects the work of readers, writers, word explorers, and language lovers. Teachers can bend, mold, and shape cycles of shared reading with current goals in mind. When we thoughtfully (and playfully) integrate literacy, everyone wins! 

4 thoughts on “Shared reading as a writing tool? Go for it!

  1. Shared reading is so powerful. My class has learned to read our texts as writers, too! ‘What do you notice? What do you wonder?’ are great questions to ask.

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