One of my favorite strategies for encouraging active engagement is called Shared Reading. This can be a whole class activity in which all children, regardless of reading skills can participate. Shared Reading can also be a template for reading with one child or a small group. The secret is to include as many senses as possible (via the Sensory Alphabet) and to involve multiple intelligences (a la Howard Gardner).
Objectives for Children:
To practice the habits of successful readers. These include making personal connections, making inferences, visualizing, evaluating, retelling, and reflecting.
To make connections between the Sensory Alphabet and a variety of children’s fiction and non-fiction selections.
The Sensory Alphabet:
intrapersonal (self knowledge)
Notice this process weaves together the Open-ended Structure (Prime the Mind, Invent and Reflect), a sequence that moves Before Reading to During Reading to After Reading, Multiple Intelligences, and the Sensory Alphabet.
Present a book that contains connections to one or more elements of the Sensory Alphabet or that has a valuable concept or main idea. Some books can be read repeatedly but the first time they are read the full process should be followed.
PRIME THE MIND
Depending on what children have already experienced, you may involve them in a related hands-on experience to “prime” their minds. (Naturalist or other intelligences)
Help children make a personal connection to the main idea of the selection. For example if the book is about friendship, you might ask, “What do friends do together?” You can also make a conceptual web with them or use the format: KWL. Alternatively you may provide a concrete object (such as a large rock) to see, touch, etc. and ask children to describe it.
Hold up the cover of the book and ask children to describe what they see. If they do not mention elements of the Sensory Alphabet, ask them questions. (Visual intelligence)
Ask the children to predict what the book might be about. (Logical intelligence)
Depending on the book, you may ask children to watch for sounds, words or other elements that occur in the book as it is read. (Various intelligences)
You will read all the words, but write and display one or more words that are repeated in the book. When you come to that word/phrase, point to it and have the children “read” it chorally. (Linguistic and musical intelligence)
Stop periodically to have children imitate words, actions or sounds in the selection and/or to ask them to point out Sensory Alphabet elements in the illustrations. (Kinesthetic, musical and visual intelligences)
When appropriate, have children predict what will happen next. Stories usually provide many opportunities to predict. Informational texts will not, unless they are describing a process. (Logical intelligence)
Ask children to give a reaction to the selection (such as thumb’s up or down). Intrapersonal intelligence)
Ask children to retell the book or parts of the selection, (especially the main idea), using different media. Examples: discussing, acting out, drawing, collaging, building, using puppets, singing, dancing, playing a game, tinkering, etc. (Many different intelligences)
This activity is the ‘heart’ of the reading process and so should be given plenty of time and focus.
Have children engage in writing, word play or other activities related to the main idea or details in the selection. (Linguistic and other intelligences)
Ask children what activities they liked the best and record their answers. (Intrapersonal intelligence)
Make notes on the strengths you see in each child.
Three Lesson Plan Examples
TOO MUCH TALK
by Angela Shelf Medearis
PRIME THE MIND
Show students a yam (sweet potato) and ask: “What is this? What do you know about this?” After they have given a few answers, ask, “Can it talk? Are you sure?” Hold the yam to each child’s ear for them to double check.Look at the cover of the book. Ask students to predict what the book will be about. Ask them to mention things they see, including colors, shapes and lines. Ask them if they think the story takes place in their hometown.
Write on the board, “Oh, that can’t happen!” and tell students that is their part to read. Point to the line every time it occurs in the story. The story is so repetitive that students will spontaneously join in with other lines as well.
Periodically ask students what they think will happen next. Also ask them to make inferences about what they see in the illustrations.
Make faces and gestures like the characters and have the students imitate.
Ask students to clap if they liked the story.
Ask students to recall characters from the story and repeat some of the things they said. (Use puppets if possible.)
Sing: (Tune: Frere Jacques) Write, “That can’t happen!” on the board and do as a call-and-response with the children.
A yam talked to me! A yam talked to me!
That can’t happen! That can’t happen!
Then I heard a dog talk! Then I heard a dog talk!
That can’t happen! That can’t happen!
Relook at the illustrations and talk about the lines, shapes, colors, etc. Ask children to use markers to draw their favorite things from the story. Share.
Ask: What activity did you like best?
Kites Sail High
by Ruth Heller
Grades 3-4 and up
PRIME THE MIND
Put a list of action verbs on the board. Ask students to tell you what they have in common.
Pantomime one of the verbs and asks the students to guess which one. Ex. “eat.”
Group students in fours. Ask the students to choose another verb from the list and pantomime it for their group.
Put a list of “-ly” adverbs on the board. Ask student to tell you what they have in common.
Ask students what adverbs “do.”
Demonstrate how an adverb can modify a verb by re-pantomiming your verb but changing it according to one of the adverbs. Ex. “eat slowly.”
Show students the cover of Kites Sail High and ask them to predict what the book will be about.
Show students several pages in the book that feature “-ly” verbs and ask them to guess what they are.
Have students choral read the sentences after the adverbs are guessed.
Talk about the qualities of art seen on each page.
Ask students to give a thumb’s up if they liked the book.
Have students try these activities with adverbs:
Write adverbs according to what they mean. Ex. write “quickly” quickly and “slowly” slowly.
Sing, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.” Then re-sing, changing the adverb. Ex. Sing it angrily, sadly, loudly, etc.
Chant the following in a rhythm:
Action verbs tell WHAT to do,
And adverbs tell us HOW to do.
In their groups, re-write, “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” with new verbs and adverbs:
(Verb) (Verb) (Verb) your boat,
(Adverb) down the stream.
(Adverb) (Adverb) (Adverb) (Adverb)
Life is but a dream!
Ask students: Which activity did you like best and why?
“BEAR IN THERE”
from A Light in the Attic
by Shel Silverstein
Grades 4-5 and up
PRIME THE MIND
Ask students: Have you ever had a problem with an animal? Let them share with the person next to them.
Read the title chorally. Ask students to predict what the poem will be about.
Ask questions such as the following before the answers are given in the poem:
- Why is the bear in the refrigerator?
- What is he doing there?
- What will happen if someone opens the door?
Give 2 or 3 students one line to read chorally. Encourage them to read expressively and try to convey the meanings of the words.
Act out the actions of the bear and first person character as they occur.
Give a “thumb’s up” if you liked the poem.
Ask for volunteer pairs to imagine and act out one of the following:
- How did the bear happen to get in the refrigerator in the first place?
- How can they get the bear to leave?
Ask each student to draw a picture to illustrate the poem. Use pencils or markers or both. Share. Then show Silverstein’s illustration.
Do one or more:
- Have students dramatize another problem with an animal.
- Have each student write a 2 to 4 line poem about another problem with an animal. Illustrate and share.
- Give groups other Shel Silverstein poems to present chorally.
Ask students: Which activity did you like best? Why?