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Ministry of Education.

Shared reading

Shared reading, with its high level of teacher support provides opportunities for explicit instruction and joyful, lively reading experiences – of stories, poetry and non-fiction. It helps students develop a love of reading and to build a strong foundation for guided reading.

Teachers talk about shared reading

Watch these case studies to see how teachers use shared reading to build students’ understandings about language and texts and develop as confident, enthusiastic readers. Each case study includes a focus on a particular Ready to Read shared book.

You can also download a transcript of the audio, and a PDF of each case study for use in professional development sessions.

Introduction - Why Shared Reading?


Introduction: Why Shared Reading? Transcript

Shared reading helps students develop a love of reading and gives them a pathway to independence. Through shared reading, students learn how texts work and how readers read. The large amount of teacher support means that students can quickly join in and feel and sound like readers. After many shared readings of a big book and lots of opportunities to practise, they’ll be able to read the small book versions on their own. 

Shared reading gives students access to all sorts of texts – fiction, non- fiction, plays, and poetry, that they wouldn’t be able to read by themselves. Texts for shared reading (big books and poem cards) use memorable language and encourage enthusiasm for reading. They often have rhythm, repetition, and rhyme, including refrains that students love to join in with. For new learners, shared reading supports early concepts about print, such as reading from left to right and learning to match spoken words to written words. Shared reading also helps students exercise their imaginations, extend their vocabulary, and build comprehension, fluency, and confidence. In these ways, shared reading lays the foundation for guided reading. 

The books for shared reading aren’t levelled. That means they can be used with different students in different ways. There are teacher support materials (TSM) with suggestions about the many ways you can use the books. You can find more information about shared reading (and the TSM as well as audio) at  readytoread.tki.org.nz.

In the following case studies, teachers talk about their use of some of their favourite Ready to Read shared books. These books are provided free to all New Zealand primary schools. 

Case study 1 – Bubbles

“One of the best things about using Bubbles is that the text is so simple, the children can join in and feel like readers really quickly.”


Case Study 1: Bubbles Transcript

Why shared reading? (0:00-1:15) 

I teach new entrants, and shared reading is something we love doing. The sheer fun and enjoyment of reading the books together really builds a love of reading. It’s a huge part of our classroom programme, and it’s such a stress-free way of getting children on the pathway to reading. We do shared reading every day. I introduce a new book most weeks, and we reread familiar ones and the poem cards too. Within a few days of starting school, children already have one or two books they’re getting to know, and they’re experiencing what it’s like to be a reader. 

Shared reading builds confidence with language and shows children how texts work, which sets up a good foundation for guided reading. There are so many teaching opportunities – ways of making meaning, learning new words, thinking critically, forming opinions, learning concepts about print, exploring and experimenting with words and sounds, and so on. 

Shared reading is also a great opportunity for me to notice what the children can do and what they might need help with, both when we’re reading together and when they’re having a go at reading the books and poem cards by themselves. 

Using Bubbles (1:16-2:08) 

When I choose a text for shared reading with new entrants, I want something really engaging. Bubbles is perfect because blowing bubbles is something that nearly all children know about. We build on that by reading and enjoying the book together (and at some point, we also blow bubbles). It’s also a really fun story, and the children love the surprise ending – who would think the bubbles would land on a hedgehog? It’s really engaging for them. 

Bubbles has a nice, simple structure, like a poem, and the repetition of words like “up, up, up” and “over the cat, over the dog” means that children can join in really quickly. I think it’s important for them to feel like they can be successful at reading as soon as they start school, and Bubbles is a really supportive text for them. 

Becoming readers (2:09-3:20) 

One of the best things about using Bubbles is that the text is so simple, the children can join in and feel like readers really quickly. And there are so many ways it helps build children’s understandings before they start guided reading. 

I focus a lot on helping the children understand that reading is all about making meaning, so I encourage them to talk about the story and the pictures, especially during the first reading. 

Once they’re familiar with the story, I often focus on the things that will help them read the text successfully, like noticing punctuation to get the phrasing right, and one-to-one matching (those sorts of concepts about print). For example, I might say at the beginning of the session, “Remember, we’re thinking about reading this story smoothly and making it sound like talking.” So I listen for fluency and phrasing and whether the children change their voices to make it sound interesting. At the end of a session, one of the children said to me, “Well, that sounded like a real story, didn’t it?” 

Meeting many needs (3:21-5:03) 

One of the things I love about shared reading is the way I can use it to meet the needs of many students at the same time. For example, for English language learners, Bubbles is a good way of building vocabulary and getting familiar with language structures like “over the cat, over the dog”. And it’s a book I can use with children on their first day at school. 

I usually plan to use a shared book several times over a number of days. I have a rough idea of what I want to use it for, but it often changes in response to what I notice during the lesson. But for the first reading, we read it through so that they get to know the story, and we do a lot of talking about it. Sometimes I find that I have to feed in some of the ideas to support meaning, for example, in Bubbles, they need to understand the concept of the wind blowing the bubbles, and they need to know what a hedgehog is. Asking the children questions helps me to know whether they understand the ideas in the story. 

I often use Bubbles with a small group as the children seem more confident about joining in, and it’s much easier to notice what they are doing. I love it when I hear one of the less confident children chiming in with “up, up, up” and “down, down, down” with great expression! 

It’s really helpful to have the audio available so the children can listen and read along. It’s another way to help them towards reading the text by themselves. Once they know the text really well, they can use the small books to read independently. 

Observations and reflections (5:04-5:57) 

I’m often surprised in shared reading by the things that children are noticing, like a child who hasn’t been at school very long saying “Oh, there’s ‘the’”. That shows me that they’re noticing and attending to the text, so I would note that down on my planning. Or if I’m reading Bubbles with a small group and I hear them noticing the commas and phrasing their reading, then that helps me to make decisions about what I’m going to teach next. 

I also like to help students make links between what they are learning and other aspects of the classroom programme. With Bubbles, I often base language experiences around it, such as going out to blow bubbles and talking about what we see and then using this for shared and independent writing. 

Teacher support material and audio for the book, Bubbles, is available online.

Case study 2 – Bread

“The books available for early readers are usually fiction, so I deliberately use non-fiction books in my shared reading programme to expose the students to different types of text.”


Case Study 2: Bread Transcript

Why shared reading? (0:00-2:15) 

Shared reading is important for helping my year 1 students to grow as readers and to develop a love of reading. It gives them access to texts they wouldn’t otherwise be able to read and stretches and moves them along as readers in a really enjoyable way. 

Shared reading is a central part of my literacy programme. It works in with every other aspect – oral language, all kinds of writing – and more reading. Shared reading often links to language-experience activities – the reading leads into talking, doing activities (like making bread or experimenting with things that float), and into writing. This writing is then something that students can read. These activities all reinforce each other, and it gives the reading real purpose. 

And of course, shared reading supports guided reading. All the things that the students are doing in guided reading, such as making meaning, finding out about how texts work, and thinking critically, are things they are also doing in shared reading. 

The other thing about shared reading is that it’s flexible. I can adjust my level of support depending on what I’m noticing about my students, and there are lots of opportunities for explicit teaching. Also, it’s not just a whole-class activity. If I want to work more intensively with some children, then I can do shared reading with a smaller group. And it’s great for building vocabulary, fluency, and confidence with English language learners. 

I like that the Ready to Read shared books aren’t levelled so I have a lot of choice with how I use them, especially the non-fiction books. You can return to them over and over again. In year 2, students will still be interested in reading Bread (or Stick Insects or Will They Float?), but by then, they will be bringing a whole lot more to their reading. 

Using Bread (2:16-3:41) 

The books available for early readers are usually fiction, so I deliberately use non-fiction books in my shared reading programme to expose the students to different types of text. I want them to learn that reading is not just stories – that non-fiction helps us to find out and wonder about the world around us. Bread has lots of non-fiction features like a contents page and photos and labels, so the children can learn about these things together. I also like them to see that when they read non-fiction, they can use what they already know about reading, like using the picture to make meaning. 

Bread is a book that is really easy to link to the children’s lives. The children in my class come from a wide range of cultures, but they all usually have some form of bread in their lunchboxes. When the children see the front cover, they can share straight away about where they go bread shopping or the types of bread they make or eat at home. It’s a really high-interest topic for them. 

Bread has lots of information, and I love that there is so much the children can relate to or learn about, such as the ways we eat bread, the way bread rises, and the differences between making bread at home and in the factory. 

Becoming readers (3:42-4:53) 

Using Bread for shared reading helps to get the students used to reading non-fiction texts. We look at things like how to use a contents page, page titles and photographs, and why some words are in bold print. We’ll talk about how these features help us to understand more about bread and the process of making it, like having labels on photographs so we know what the photo is showing us. This helps them understand how reading non-fiction is different from reading stories. 

We look really carefully at how the text is organised so the children are learning about the different ways language and symbols can be used, like in the ow chart where words, numbers, and arrows are all used together. We also look at concepts about print and how they help us to make sense of the text. The children can find different types of punctuation and use these to make their reading sound interesting, and they can look at the way that non-fiction is different from the fiction books they are familiar with. 

Meeting many needs (4:54-6:50) 

In the first lesson with Bread, I’m looking for the children’s prior knowledge about the subject and what they are interested in. After that, I go back to the teacher support materials and decide what my focus will be. The teacher support materials are really helpful when planning because someone else is an expert on the text and you are the expert on your class, and you can bring all of that together in your planning. 

One of the things I’m looking for when using Bread is the children’s understanding of process and procedure. In my classroom, we have created visual reminders of the processes for basic tasks, like unpacking our bag, so I help them make connections between that and the ow chart “making bread at home”. 

Once we have read the text together (often over a couple of days), we might follow the ow chart to make our own bread, and the children love it! This is where I can really focus on the precise language that comes through in non-fiction, like kneaded, bubbling mixture, and dough rising. I usually note down the words that I want to focus on. The experience brings out great discussion and language, like noticing that although they all started with the same sized piece of dough, they didn’t end up with the same sized piece of bread! 

Because Bread is so suitable for basing a language experience around, I sometimes choose to use it with just a small group, especially when I want to address specific needs such as extending language structures and vocabulary. We use the text and our joint experience to create our own writing, which the children can read and share with others. 

Observations and reflections (6:51-8:28) 

After reading Bread, and after making bread, we write about it. One of the ways I like to do this is to use the photos we took of making bread and create a piece of shared writing that shows the steps we followed. I give each student a copy but leave a space at the end for the children to draw and write about something they have learnt about making bread. This gives me the opportunity to talk to the children and ask them questions like “What are you going to tell your partner about this?”, “What was happening here?” This gives me really good information about their understanding of the concepts in the text and whether they are confused about anything. 

I try to be aware that although Bread lends itself to experiences like making bread or visiting the supermarket, I’m really wanting the children to be learning about being readers. So, after the lessons, I reflect on what they’ve learnt as a reader or writer and what we need to focus on next. 

When we’ve finished using the book, I like to keep it available so that the children can read it independently. Being in a school with a number of year 1 and 2 classrooms means that the text often needs to go to another classroom for a while, but once I bring it back, it gives me a great opportunity to see how the reading behaviour of the students has changed. 

Teacher support material and audio for the book, Bread, is available online.

Case study 3 – Haere Atu!

“My students are heading off in all sorts of directions with their reading, and shared reading is a big part of making that happen.”


Case Study 3: Haere Atu Transcript

Why shared reading? (0:00-2:00) 

I have a year 1 and 2 class, and we are a “community of readers”. My students are heading off in all sorts of directions with their reading, and shared reading is a big part of making that happen. I like the idea of guided reading and shared reading being two different ways children can develop independence in reading. Shared reading exposes children to books that they would never try on their own and shows them what they are capable of. It gets them actively participating, not just following along with the words, but thinking about the unfolding story, predicting, inferring, and enjoying – especially the humour. And, they get to grapple with interesting ideas and think critically. Even with seemingly simple texts such as Bubbles and Greedy Cat, there are so many aspects students can think about. 

Shared reading is also a way of introducing or reinforcing what children will come across in guided reading. For example, it’s quite a big idea to realise that a sentence can sound like it’s finished but it actually carries on to the next line, so children need to learn to “read to the full stop”. But if they’re used to reading sentences that run across several lines in shared reading, they don’t get fazed when they come across this sort of thing in a guided text. It’s the same with having multiple lines of text on a page – they realise they can manage it. 

But shared reading is so much more than that. It’s about the children being engaged with the story (or poem, or play, or non-fiction book) and with the language. It’s about the joy of reading together (and independently) and sharing ideas and responses in a safe and supportive environment. It’s about building their understanding of how stories work, getting to know particular authors and illustrators, having fun with language and ideas, and doing all the things that good readers do. 

Using Haere Atu! (2:01-3:23) 

I find that Haere Atu! is a great text to use with students who are gaining control over the reading process. Most children have been around sandflies or mosquitoes, so they can make connections to their experiences, and they love to share their ideas about what happens when you get bitten! 

Haere Atu! is very engaging because it has a repeated refrain that the children really love to join in with, often from the first reading, “Haere Atu, go away! I am not your lunch today”. I’ve found that my English language learners can pick this up quite quickly, even if they don’t initially understand what it means. It contains lots of humour and this, with the rhyme and rhythm of the story, makes it a really fun read, reinforcing that sense of loving reading. Students feel success as they are able to access the text quickly, and it’s a reading experience everyone can enjoy together. The story also introduces te reo Māori in a really supportive way. 

Another thing I really like about this text is that I can use it to explore the way authors have fun with language. The children become really good at finding the interesting language on a page, like “saggy baggy board shorts”, and I like to help them make connections between this and the language choices they make in their own writing. 

Becoming readers (3:24-5:19) 

One of the great things about Haere Atu! is that you can use it to talk about the features of fiction texts and how authors make stories sound interesting and exciting. Because of the lively language like “zoomed” and “slapped and flapped”, it’s easy to practise reading expressively, and the children have fun reading phrases like “Kia tere! Quick!” in an interesting way. It’s also a good time to talk about concepts about print, such as different types of punctuation and how these can help us read with expression. 

Haere Atu! has a strong narrative structure, so it’s easy to use to identify the beginning, middle, and end, especially with the repeated incidents in the middle of the story. It’s also good for thinking about how the author lets us know that something is going to change – how they know that “the woman with the lumpy bumpy beach bag” is going to do something different. 

A main focus for me when doing shared reading is on the students’ comprehension. I find Haere Atu! really supports the children to summarise information, so I will ask questions like “What happened at the beginning of the story?”, “What was the problem?” This is where I’ll often use texts like Haere Atu! with a small group, so I can really focus on developing comprehension with them, often as a link to what we’re doing in guided reading. 

One of the things the children enjoy is working out what the Māori phrases mean, like “Haere atu”. One of the children said “I think it means fly away”, so we went back in the text and looked at whether that would work. We also made connections to other places we use the word “haere”. The children realised that the text told us that it meant “go away”, and we checked it made sense. So that was a really great discussion. 

Meeting many needs (5:20-6:27) 

I usually have a good idea of what I want to achieve with a text, but I also have a look at the teacher support materials online for ideas. I plan to use the text over a number of days, and the first reading is always about the students’ engagement and making connections to things they know. I note in my planning which ideas I want to focus on. 

While we are reading the text, I look to see which children are reading along with me because I want everyone joining in, even if it’s just with the repeated refrain. Something else I look for is which children are following the storyline and thinking about what’s happening (or what’s going to happen). It’s usually quite easy to tell from their reactions, but I might also ask questions to check. 

Having the audio and small books available for children to read along with really helps them to build their confidence, and if they choose to read the big book themselves during reading time, then I know they are ready to have a go at reading the small books independently. 

Observations and reflections (6:28-7:32) 

Although I plan the first few shared reading sessions, I often find that I need to change my plan in response to what I’ve noticed during a lesson. For example, if some children are finding it challenging to identify the middle of the story, I work with them in a small group in the following session, with this as our purpose. 

There are so many ways of building on children’s learning with Haere Atu! One way I find really successful is to encourage them to create their own sentences based on the rhyming adjectives in the story. Together, we experiment with the rhymes, trying out different initial letters to make new rhyming words. For their sentences, some children will use the adjectives straight from the book, “I am wearing a spotty dotty T-shirt”, but others will create a new phrase “I am wearing a bouncy flouncy sunhat”. I often take photos of their work to keep in my modelling book, which we can refer to later on. 

Teacher support material and audio for the book, Haere Atu!, is available online.

The Ministry of Education and Lift Education would like to thank the following people who contributed to the development of these case studies: Judy Aitken, Susan Court, Gemma Dawson, Kay Hancock, Krista Huber, Andrea Piters, Esmay Sutherland, Jane van der Zeyden, and Mel Winthrop.

Dragons! Dragons! Dragons! 
Dragons! Dragons! Dragons!

The Ready to Read big book Dragons! Dragons! Dragons!provides a rich shared reading experience for all my students but once I’ve shared it with the whole class, I use it differently with different groups. This year when I introduced it to the class, I started by getting my students to look at the illustrations to find clues about the story. We had a lot of discussion about dragons. That helped them to make connections with their knowledge of dragons from fairy tales. Then we looked at the differences between the cover page, where the dragons look happy, and the title page, where they look really gloomy. The students suggested the dragons might be lonely.

As I read the story (with a little bit of joining in from the students), they quickly worked out that the dragons were lonely because they didn’t know how to make friends. On the “Library” page, I read them the book titles and we talked about which of the books that the dragons were reading might be the most helpful. There was some great critical thinking going on. This text also linked really well to our term topic about building a safe and happy classroom and making friends.

After the initial readings, I’ve used this book with new entrants to build familiarity with “book language” (phrases such as “four fiery dragons” and “Run for your lives!”) and reinforce concepts about print, such as left-to-right reading and one-to-one matching. They love to practise reading the big book with a pointer.

With my students who are on the way with guided reading, I often use this book as a way of exploring narrative structure. I help the students summarise the events in the story (the initial problem, the attempts to fix the problem, and the successful ending). Then it’s something I can prompt them to draw on when they are reading other books, such as (at Blue) Skipper’s Happy Tail or I Want to Fly.

Once the students are thoroughly familiar with the shared text, it’s usually not long before they’re keen to try reading the small book version by themselves.

Michelle, teacher, new entrants and year 1

Updated on: 03 Nov 2020

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