Shadoku Explained

Adding shadowing to beginner extensive reading has immense potential


I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. I’d like to thank Yuko Suzuki, who first told me about the huge potential of incorporating shadowing practice into extensive reading classes for beginners/lower-level students. If you have a chance to see one of her presentations I recommend you take it -she’s a very effective teacher and presenter.

So what is shadoku? Well, it is a term coined by me as a gag over lunch at a seminar in Fukuoka. I’m kind of chuffed that it has been adopted somewhat by the community 😉

Shadoku is shadowing and tadoku (extensive reading).

Shadowing is a type of speaking fluency practice that involves attempting to speak along with another person or an audio source. It is different from repeating. When doing read and repeat, for example, the source would speak first, then the learner would repeat. In shadowing, the source would speak, then the learner would attempt to say the same thing at the same time with the smallest lag possible. One feature of shadowing is that learners are encouraged to imitate the speaker’s tone, intonation, emotion, and pronunciation.

This video gives a brief explanation of shadowing.

So how does this work with tadoku (extensive reading)?

Well, I have only been experimenting with this for a few months, and we rolled it out to all the beginner students in the Cambridge Academy last week.

I have adapted (messed up?) Yuko’s technique slightly, so I will introduce my version of shadoku below.

For beginners (mainly junior high school first years and elementary students) I am planning to do shadoku as described below until they reach YL 0.4, at which point I may allow them to read and listen instead, or we may continue with shadoku if that seems appropriate at the time. Basically this year is another learning experience for me.

How to do shadoku

There are four steps in my version of shadoku, so a student will read each book four times.

Step one: look at the pictures, think about the content. At YL0.1-0.3 there are plenty of pictures in the books and students can guess a lot of the content just from that. This step takes a minute or two, and we encourage students to look closely at details in the pictures.

Step two: listen to the audio and read along silently. This step allows students to focus on how to pronounce words and how the English sounds when spoken.

Step three: listen to the audio, read along, and shadow out loud. This step allows students to shadow assisted by the text.

Step four: listen to the audio and shadow out loud. Do not open the book. This step allows students to use their listening skills and short-term memory to shadow successfully. I also encourage students to think about the meaning of what they are saying during this step.

Introducing shadoku

For the first three or four classes I have students do shadoku as a group, with me leading them. I introduce each step (I have a notebook with the four steps that I show to remind students), play the CD when necessary, and give students feedback and advice. Students shadow together as a group, which makes them feel less self-conscious and allows more confident/keener students to set a good example.

Shadoku diagrams
I use these diagrams to explain shadoku

After a few classes and once students are more confident, we do group shadoku at the beginning of class and then students work individually with headphones and personal CD players in the latter half. They are also expected to continue practicing in the same way at home.

The benefits of shadoku

I haven’t been using shadoku with my students for long, but already I am really happy with how things are going. I’ve been asking all our new students (starting at YL 0.1) to do shadoku, and am currently planning to have them continue until they reach YL 0.4 or so.

The main benefit is that students are much more involved in the task.

Previously when we did reading while listening some students were clearly zoning out. I had a couple who appeared not to have made any progress mid-year so I had to have them go back to the beginning and do intensive work reading to me, etc.

I can’t see that happening this year, as I can hear the students practicing and can monitor if they are getting the right pronunciation, intonation, etc.

The students also seem happier and the atmosphere in class is much better than last year.


This is still a work in progress. So far so good, but we’ll see if students get bored or some unexpected problem pops up. We’ll also have to see where it would be appropriate to stop doing shadoku in class and transition to reading and listening. I suspect it’s going to be when students move from YL 0.3 to 04, but I’m not sure and look forward to trying it out in a couple of months’ time.

Anyone else using shadoku? Anything to add?

Step 5 – read the story without audio.

That might be a good additional step -will try it next week 🙂

13 Apr 2016, 7:31pm
by Rob Waring


Great book he’s reading…

Some of the best! Wish there were more of them… hint, hint.

We do a version of shadoku in that we read a passage (Aire English Fun Phonics Readers) over two weeks. They first hear me reading it. Then they read with me a couple of times. Then they go home with a CD and listen and read with a parent signing off on that as homework. The next week, we read together as a group, and then they break down into pairs for individual reading out loud, where I go around and support/monitor. In the higher levels, I begin to also ask and answer questions about the reading passage as a group. It is also a form of shadowing, in that they are just learning how to listen to a variety of questions and pull answers out of the test in specific patterns. The same passage is sent home for an additional week of reading practice. Kids in the higher levels also will do a Q&A writing print for homework as well. On week 3 we introduce a new passage.

This experience is a supplement to the Everybody Up textbook series that is their grammar coursebook.

Of course, I also coach the parents on how to use our reading library most effectively by encouraging the shadoku approach.

I don’t know if I will ever be able to quantify the results, but it can’t be bad, right?

It sounds like you’ve got it all sorted Cynthia. Good to hear. 🙂
We are starting a reading program next month and are excited about it. We will use the CTP series. They have been updated and are really attractive.
You say the parents sign a page after they’ve read/listened for homework.
Do you know a good printable I could use to show the students progress, or any websites supporting a take home reading program?
Many Thanks in advance 🙂

Sounds like a good way to focus on fluency in reading.

This is great, thank you so much, Ben. We are creating a similar program, so this helps a lot.

For young, beginning students, I’m wondering about the process of trying to decode the phonics and read, rather than just repeating what they hear. I’m afraid this might be skipped. But I think you are working with older students here? Probably more proficient readers? I’m thinking of elementary school, especially years 1-4, students just learning how to read.


Hi Tristan

Yes, you are right. This is talking about upper elementary students who already get phonics and decoding, and can read simple sentences, or junior high school students. We’re working on reading fluency and having them try to shadow makes them focus on the actual sounds of the words. It also allows the teacher to hear how well they are reading/hearing the text.

Our younger elementary students do basic phonics (FO1 phonics content) then read phonic readers like Follifoot Farm (Jelly and Bean).

Yes, that’s what our students are doing. We’re also seeing if we can get more reading for them outside of the classroom while still at an early-to-intermediate stage of being able to process phonics.

Thanks again for all the information you provide in this blog. Over the summer our elementary school has stocked our library with Oxford Reading Tree, Builiding Blocks and Penguin Kids Readers. The librarian has also been on board and has put CD’S in the back of every book and organised the books by level. Because I’m dealing with kids from grade 1 to 6 with a massive range in English ability it’s difficult to recommend a way to use the books, but I’m putting out a letter to the parents and students basically outlining the concepts of Extensive Reading and the Shadoku method you outlined here.

Great stuff! I find one of the keys is to take some time (even five minutes) to practice in class. Once kids see how to do it its much more likely they’ll do it at home 🙂


Leave a Reply

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives