DMA Education developed with the collaboration of the novelist Davide Amante an operational framework of indispensable criteria for Dialogic Reading.
This operational framework was supervised and approved by novelist Davide Amante and a selected evaluation group of teachers, professors, psychiatrists and psychologists.
The objective of this framework is to give teachers a standard, reference, method.
Definition of the in-class activity
Dialogic Reading is the systematic engagement of children, under the supervision and guidance of a teacher, in conversation about a storybook and in the generation of thoughts and points of view based on the subject of the storybook, aiming to build children’s language and vocabulary.
The reading group
The aim of Dialogic Reading is to give each child the opportunity to talk and interact with the teacher, hence the number of children participating to the reading group is chosen with this in mind.
Choosing the book for small children
The teacher selects the book to read in class. With small children the book should have an adequate number of images, at least as many pages as the text or more. The text should be simple and plain but not obvious or lacking in originality.
Choosing the book for children of any other age excepting small children
The teacher selects the book to read in class, the choice of the children’s book suitable for Dialogic Reading is particularly important. The choice is based on the teacher’s experience and sensibility. The right book is what we commonly define a ‘good book’, a book which meets certain quality criteria especially in terms of contents.
It should be understood that children’s books with simplistic and repetitive stories and illustrations, inevitably limit responses and interactions as researchers Diana Brannon and Linda Dauksas of Elmhurst College make clear in their academic research on the efficacy of Dialogic Reading (2014). On the other hand the teacher should not be afraid to choose a book considered for an age older than that of the children attending the Dialogic Reading session or considered ‘too difficult’. The point here is not for children to thoroughly understand the story, but for them to explore curiosity, emotions, context and find a point of view, an argument of discussion around which they will interact with the teacher.
Multiple book reading in Dialogic Reading
Multiple book reading should be avoided. The teacher should read a paragraph and immediately after start a discussion on the paragraph, revisiting it by labelling the objects, defining the characters and describing what is happening, eventually letting the children retell the story and promoting a discussion around the children’s point of view around that particular paragraph. Once done, the teacher should move forward to the next paragraph promoting a new discussion around it. This is important for children learn, just as in real life, that stories move forward no matter how much we are willing to discuss about them, ultimately learning that the interpretation of a story is connected to time and context and that often the story becomes more interesting, and also more understandable, as we move forward.
First level purpose of Dialogic Reading
The first purpose of Dialogic Reading is to build children’s vocabulary and oral language skills. The teacher, after reading a paragraph, asks questions, repeats words, suggests synonyms, expands children’s responses. This activity should be thoroughly repeated until children are comfortable using new vocabulary. Then the teacher may move forward to the next paragraph.
After reading a chapter or a series of paragraphs the teacher should assess children’s vocabulary using the Wh- questions (Where, What, Who, When). This directly leads to the second level purpose of Dialogic Reading
Second level purpose of Dialogic Reading
Once children are comfortable using the book’s vocabulary, the teacher prompts children to describe in their own words what is happening, backing up children’s point of view or comments on the story, going so far as to accept and promote interpretations or developments of the story that diverge or open new directions from the story itself. This process not only helps children learn to contextualize and understand events, but helps them activate a creative process around a given story, that stimulates children to open their mind to different points of view. Here, the teacher should let children free to propose their points of view and should only intervene when and if the children’s creative process completely diverges from the story of the book, helping them stay on track as they develop their creative process. This is a fundamental aspect of Dialogic Reading and is called expansion phase. In this phase the teacher chooses to localise the expansion process more on the images of the book or the text or both, depending on the age and vocabulary level of the children.
Third level purpose of Dialogic Reading
The teacher encourages conversation between the group, about the points of view and interpretations of the story proposed by the children. This phase is very important for relational purposes, because it invites children to confront their thoughts with peers, become conscious of different point of views, learn to relate their point of view to others. In this phase children should be allowed to express their point of view, letting them lead, follow or participate to the group discussion depending on their character and attitude. The teacher should only intervene when a behavioural excess is detected.
Key aspects of the Dialogic Reading process
Having fun is the keyword here. The Dialogic Reading process should never be pressed and the teacher should always show interest and curiosity. The teacher may also promote an interpretation obviously incorrect and silly, to stimulate children’s reaction and discussion. The participation of children should always be praised.