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6 strategies to spice up a Shared Reading

December 18, 2022

If you are a content-based language teacher, Shared Reading is likely a big part of your classes. Whether you are reading a story you have co-created with your students, an article, or a descriptive slideshow that came with your curriculum, it is important to use strategies that keep your students engaged with and attending to the text.

Recently, several teachers have made posts in the Somos Collaboration group on Facebook seeking ideas for boosting engagement and processing while reading long slideshow texts together with their students. In this post, I'll share some of their suggestions as well as some of my own.

Strategy 1: Rewind!

After reading a chunk of the text, stop and ask students some either/or questions about what you've just read together. In this example from Somos 1 Unit 7, I built a fill in the blank question into the slideshow and provided two options:

Students choose A or B as the best option to fill in the blank, and they can show their response in one of several ways:

  • Put students in pairs and designate one partner as A and one as B. For each slide, the partners discuss together the correct answer, then A or B stands up on your signal to indicate their response.
  • Designate one side of the classroom as A and the other as B. Students stand up and move to the side of the room that they think matches the correct response, or they could point to that side of the room.
  • Students call out A or B on your signal.
  • Students record A or B on an individual sized white board and hold it up when you signal.

Add questions using an Add-on like PearDeck, create extra slides, or ask them orally on the spot!

No matter how you choose to Rewind, building in these questions will give students an opportunity to move or to talk, and it will provide a repeated exposure to the key information from the text.

Strategy 2: Draw

Drawing is a wonderful way to make an extensive reading feel less laborious. Instead of having students draw along while you read, consider giving them Drawing Time after each slide or after every few slides. In this way, they can fully attend to the reading AND have a break that also serves as processing time.

Drawing can be done on paper, on whiteboards, or with digital tools such as PearDeck, Jamboard, whiteboard.fi, and Formative.

An added bonus is that when you're done with the reading, you will have a pile of illustrations depicting the story or information from the text that you can use for extension activities!

Strategy 3: Find videos!

If you are reading about an informational topic, look for SHORT videos that highlight some of the concepts you've just read about.

If it's a text about a country or an event, look for official videos from the tourism department of that country, state, town, etc. about the topic you're highlight. Just be sure to preview them to make sure all content is school-appropriate!

Watching a quick video, or a clip from a video, is a great break for students' brains. Even more, it will serve as a visualization aid that help them to better understand the content. For example, teachers specifically mentioned how this video, which is embedded in a slideshow reading about the Panama Canal in Somos 1 Unit 3, really supported their students' understanding and broke up the monotony of read, read, read:

Strategy 4: Hannalolly's Hot Seat

This idea was shared by teacher Hannah Lancaster and expanded on by Holly Rooke in one of the recent threads in the Somos group. It is similar to the Kagan Cooperative Learning structure Numbered Heads Together!

First, divide your class into two or more teams.

Read a slide together, and then stop and give all teams an opportunity to confer within themselves. They need to make sure that everyone on their team understands everything on the slide.

Then, call up a representative from each team to sit in the hot seat. Ask ONE comprehension question, in your primary shared language, to the team representatives. You could ask an open ended question or ask them to provide a Target Language » Primary Shared Language translation. The FIRST team representative that raises their hand and provides a correct answer to the question gets a point for their team. This would be especially fun if you have some kind of a buzzer system that you can use in your class!

Hannah shared that she often will add a follow-up bonus question. When a team gets the point for answering the comprehension question correct, they earn the opportunity to get a second bonus point for translating a specific word from English to Spanish. For example:

Question: What does Justin want to be?

Anwer: a lawyer (+1)

Bonus question: How do you say "lawyer" in Spanish?

Bonus answer: abogado (+1)

As a twist, you could have each team representative record an answer on a whiteboard and reveal it, allowing the chance for multiple teams to earn points.

Strategy 5: Roll and read

Sara Pennington is another member of the Somos Collaboration group and also happened to be my partner in crime slash room facilitator queen at iFLT 2022. Sara shared that she had once challenged her student teacher, Chloe Roos, to come up with a way to break up shared reading using a die. Here's what she came up:

List 6 different ways to read the slide, and pair each one with a number on the die. Some ideas are:

  1. Students read the slide silently
  2. The class chorally translates the slide
  3. The teacher reads the slide aloud
  4. The class reads aloud the slide together
  5. Students translate the slide in pairs
  6. Students take turns reading sentences aloud with a partner

No matter which reading strategy they rolled, Sara followed up with discussion in the target language to ensure comprehension and help the students make connections to their personal lives and prior knowledge.

Strategy 6: Make it your own

If you are preparing to read a text with your students that you did NOT personally write, remember that YOU are the expert in your classroom and YOU are the best person to determine what kind of text your students will best be able to understand.

If you have access to an editable version of the slideshow, EDIT IT to meet the needs of your students. Maybe the slideshow provides a lot of repetition that makes the text longer, but your students don't need all of that repetition based on their interpretive proficiency. Or, perhaps there is information in the text that you know will be boring or difficult for your students to understand. You can delete that information before class so that the text is personalized to the needs of your students and your instructional goals. Another way that you can edit the text to support engagement during reading is to change wording to use expressions that you know your students already understand with ease!

YOU are the expert, and YOU are best suited to prepare texts for your students to read.

More Shared Reading strategies

Since Shared Reading is such a core activity used by Acquisition-Driven language teachers, we have MANY additional resources that can support you in building your confidence with this activity. Here are a few favorites:

Dip your toes in CI: Shared Reading

Engaging students in reading large blocks of text

Shared Reading Fun Club:

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