Literacy-Based Intervention- Where do I start?

I get a lot of questions from SLPs who want to provide intervention that is relevant to the classroom, but don’t know where to start.  My best first place to start is with structured shared storybook reading.  Language and literacy are absolutely linked, and addressing the development of children’s literacy skills will lead to language development gains, and vice versa.  As Karen Erickson from the Center for Literacy and Disabilities says, “Language is the key” to literacy learning.

So what is structured shared reading?  This is way more than just reading a book aloud to your students.  While you use storybooks as the content of your lesson, you follow a specific ‘before,” “during” and “after” reading structure.

Before reading, you need to set the purpose for reading.  This is really important!  Choose one purpose for reading the book with your students.  Save all of the other purposes for future readings (yes, you will read the book again).   We rarely read a book to students more than once, yet students need multiple opportunities to hear a text before they really comprehend the story.  Purposes for reading can include any of the following:  sequencing, making connections (to self, to other books, to the world), summarizing, story grammar elements, main idea, concepts of print, and many, many more.  Be very explicit in sharing the purpose for reading with the students – let them know so that they know what they will need to remember.  Also, don’t try to do too much each time you read the story.  You will read it again!

Before reading, you also need to help your students build or access their background knowledge.  What do they need to know (or already know but may have difficulty remembering) about the content of the story.  Ask questions, talk about the cover and title, and predict what the story might be about.   The context will help students comprehend the story.

During reading, you will read the story to the students, but you will also pause to ask questions.  Remember to tailor your questions to your PURPOSE that you established prior to reading.  So, if your purpose for reading is to work on story grammar elements, tailor your questions during reading to the story grammar elements.  For example, you could stop when you first encounter a character in the story and say, “Look, here’s a person in our story!  Where would she go on our graphic organizer:  characters, setting, problem or solution?”  Continue to periodically check for students’ comprehension of the text.  Are they still with you?  Do they know what’s going on?

After you finish reading the book, don’t stop there.  Go back to your purpose and do something with the students related to that purpose.  So, if your purpose was to identify story grammar elements, maybe you have the students complete a graphic organizer of the story grammar elements.  Or, you compare the characters in the book you just finished to those in a previously read book.  Don’t do too much – just think of your purpose.  Remember that you will read the book again!

Here are some great links and resources for structured shared reading: – templates for shared storybook reading in English and Spanish – book and lesson ideas around shared reading

Ezell, H.K. and Justice, L.M. (2005).  Shared Storybook Reading:  Building Young Children’s Language and Emergent Literacy Skills.  Baltimore:  Brookes Publishing.

Happy Reading!

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