Using Stories for Teaching Primary Social Studies, pp. 4 of 8

Shared Book Approach

The shared book approach or SBA for the reading programme is developed by Don Holdaway (1979) in New Zealand. It involves the use of enlarged text in big books that assists young students to attain understanding and experience as readers. They participate as readers in a non-threatening manner and acquire literacy skills over time. Teachers using SBA are urged to simulate the home reading environment when they read with their charges in class (Karges-Bone, 1992). This can be achieved by having a cosy reading corner in class with shelves of books, rugs, big bean bags and an easel for big books.

Although the approach is used for teaching language skills, there are useful aspects about the approach as suggested by Holdaway (1982) which teachers can bear in mind when teaching primary social studies. Firstly, the books to be used need to be those that students love. Secondly, the books need to have print large enough to be seen 20 feet away. Lastly, teachers need to inject enthusiasm in reading the big books. Karges-Bone (1992) adds that good quality big books are short (about 10 to 15 pages) and they engage students. Students are captivated by the rhyme in the text which enhances their ability to remember. Such books are well illustrated and students are able to make sense of the text by examining the pictures. Usually the big books have a strong but simple plot and storyline. They also contain a sense of humour which would be appreciated by students. Strickland and Morrow (1990) state that SBA can be carried out effectively for group sizes ranging from two to 25 students. It is suitable for students as young as two years old and as old as nine years old in the third grade. The choice of the big book and its use depend very much on student development. But basically, the key feature of big books is the patterned and predictable language which students enjoy and allow them to develop literacy skills.

SBA comprises the following steps: a) tuning in, b) pre-reading, c) first reading, d) second reading with all the steps a) to d) completed on Day 1, and e) third reading on Day 2. The sequence of story reading from whole to part to whole is utilized in the approach.

On Day 1, the purpose of tuning in is to settle students down and create a mind-set for reading. Here, students are exposed to something familiar such as their favourite poems, jingles, songs with enlarged text which need not be related to the children’s book of the day. Tuning in usually lasts for two to three minutes. In the pre-reading, students’ schema needs to be activated. Teachers can ask students questions about the illustrations on the book cover to predict what the story is about before reading out the book title. This is because all students will be able to read illustrations but not every child can read the text. This implies that the book chosen needs to have very good illustrations. When reading aloud, it is important not to point but to glide the pointer under the words to help students match the print to the sound and to teach them that reading English is from left to right and there is a space between words. In the first reading, reading is done expressively and teachers sit in a way that they can see the class and the book. As the reading progresses, teachers can ask more questions that are aimed at literal, inferential, personal response,        reorganization/re-interpretation and evaluation levels. By the end of the first reading, students should be able to get a good overview of the story. In the second reading, teachers will read the text aloud again together with the class without stopping and with their voices leading the reading. This will help students attain fluency and automaticity in word recognition, and internalize syntactic structure. The second reading is followed by some assessment of students’ understanding of the story.

An Inspiring Quote

"[Open-mindedness] includes an active desire to listen to more sides than one; to give heed to facts from whatever source they come; to give full attention to alternative possibilities; to recognize the possibility of error even in the beliefs that are dearest to us."

~ John Dewey, How We Think

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