Classroom activity

Dialogic Reading can be used by teachers with children individually or in small groups, or can be used by an external reader invited to read in class.

There are two methods, the first follows a more rigid procedure and is the classic method developed in the 1980s, particularly suitable for younger children from 3 to 6 years of age; the second follows a less rigid procedure, is the most recent method developed by the novelist Davide Amante in collaboration with some schools and is more suitable for children from 6 to 12 years of age.

Dialogic Reading method for smaller children
While reading books with the child or the children gathered around, the adult uses five types of prompts (CROWD):

  • Completion: the child fills in blank at the end of a sentence. 
  • Recall: the adult asks questions about a book the child has read
  • Open-ended: the adult encourages child to tell what is happening in a picture
  • W questions: the adult asks “wh-” questions about the pictures in books
  • Distancing: the adult relates pictures and words in the book to children’s own experiences outside of the book

These prompts are used by the adult in a reading technique called PEER:

  • P: adult prompts the child to say something about the book. 
  • E: adult evaluates the response.
  • E: adult expands the child’s response.
  • R: adult repeats the prompt.

As the child becomes increasingly familiar with a book, the adult reads less, listens more, and gradually uses more higher level prompts to encourage the child to go beyond naming objects in the pictures to thinking more about what is happening in the pictures and how this relates to the child’s own experiences.

Dialogic Reading method for children from 6 to 12 years
This method makes use of the CROWD and PEER sequences but introduces a greater freedom of interaction between children and adult. The teacher gives greater importance to the student’s point of view and allows the children to build their own story, if they wish by interpreting and varying the theme of the story, to the point of developing a new story, parallel to the original one. In this method the creative element is strongly stimulated.

The method involves the READ sequence:

  • R: Read – the teacher reads the text together wit the students
  • E: Expand – the teacher expands the story discussing with the children personal experiences or similar situations to the story
  • A: Associate – the adult and the students discuss different points of view and add new aspects to the story.
  • D: Develop – the students, with the help of the teacher, develop a new story that unwinds in a different direction from the book they are reading .

This method, more suitable for books where the text is more consistent or prevails on images, is extremely stimulating for children in that not only it stimulates their curiosity in seeking logical associations with the story they are reading but also encourages students to actively develop new points of view. As the novelist Davide Amante argues, the READ method helps young students to elaborate a situation but above all to share their creativity within the group and to accept and explore different points of view on a shared theme. Basically, with the READ method, creativity is routed in a productive way.

Both methods have the advantage of developing the interpersonal skills.

The book can be any children’s book purchased from the bookstore or, for example, Amazon. The decisive factor for the teacher is choosing a quality children’s book, that has a solid story stimulating ideas and imagination and, possibly, an interpretation of life, well developed and written and possibly by a competent author. You should discard sketchy, lightweight, trivial books with stories that carry a limited and/or repetitive view of things. Four examples for everyone: The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry or The Guardian of the Stars, The journey of Anais with the wind by Davide Amante, Alice in the Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum. All the books you will find on this site are specially selected and adequate for Dialogic Reading. The choice of a quality book is fundamental in Dialogic Reading as it ensures non-repetitive, non-trivial content that allows the child a broad and profound vision of reality upon which it is possible to start a dialogue with the parents.

Teacher-child dialogue is another essential factor in Dialogic Reading. The teacher spends time with children, approximately an hour dedicated to Dialogic Reading. Having read a few paragraphs, the teacher stops reading and proposes the children to talk about what they have read up to that point. This is the fundamental moment of Dialogic Reading because the teacher stimulates the children to express their opinion and discuss around the book, then putting himself or herself in the background and leaving the field free for the children to express their thought about what they just read in the book. Children are thus stimulated to dialogue but also to develop their own thoughts around the book with their own words and expressions. The teacher will simply confirm that the expressions and words used by the child are correct and consistent and if anything to provide the child with synonyms or other expressions to define what he or she wants to say, thus helping him or her to broaden their vocabulary and expression skills. During this process a constructive dialogue is established between teacher and children, around a specific and shared theme which is that of the book. This process highly contributes to the development of the relationship with the teacher but also to the child’s self-awareness. In this way the child, in addition to developing personal expressive abilities, also develops a greater relational and consequently behavioral maturity, which is then reflected in relationships with peers.
During the teacher-child dialogue it is important that children take the direction they wish and that their thoughts are accepted with respect and interest by the adult, who will intervene in the discussion only by providing help to the children when they show difficulty in expressing or completing their thoughts. The children must be left free to develop additional arguments to the story and even develop different scenarios from those proposed by the book.