During read alouds, the teacher selects a mentor text which highlights a particular comprehension skill. Throughout the reading of the text, the teacher models "think alouds" in order to display appropriate reading strategies, behaviors, and comprehension skills. Many different genres are used while the teacher shows the children how to question, think about, and discuss the text. Using proper rhythm, intonation, and fluency, the students learn how a book should be read. Focus is placed on the initial set purpose which can include text-to-text connections, using schema, main idea, author's purpose, inferencing, etc.
In our kindergarten class, one book per week will be selected by the teacher for close reading. On the first day, the students will begin by listening to a "cold read" by the teacher. The book is read simply for enjoyment with the understanding that it will be revisited throughout the week for different purposes. Essentials questions are presented for the week's focus. Children are encouraged to listen for unknown words so definitions can be explained. The second day focuses on vocabulary where several words are chosen, defined, and recorded in close reading booklets. Text dependent questions are explored on the third day, followed by collaborative questions on the fourth day. A story retell is conducted on the fifth and final day.
During shared reading, the children gather together with the teacher and share a book together. Most often, big books are used so that the print is large and easy to read. Students focus on the text as well as the pictures as they make predictions and generate meaning. A "picture walk" launches the first reading as the teacher guides the students through a preview of the text. Questions are asked to help figure out words and phrases. The text is then read to the children and predictions are checked. Engagement in shared reading with the same big book spans five days. With each revisit, further discussion and questioning concentrates on comprehension by engaging in retells by investigating the story elements~title, characters, setting, problem, solution, events (beginning, middle and end). When the students are familiar with the book, lessons focus on looking closely at the print by highlighting certain letters, phrases, word hunts for high frequency words, rhyming words, listening for syllables or number of parts (sounds), and punctuation. Some of the skills the children are learning during these sessions are: tracking print from left to right and word by word, vocabulary expansion, concepts of print, finding letters and sounds in context, story sense, sequencing of story events, predicting, and inferring. The students participate in reading with enjoyment with a high level of teacher support.
Joy Cowley is the author of many of the kindergarten shared reading big books.