Using Reflective and Tell Me Questions Statements as a Part of Shared Reading Instruction

by Beth Poss

Students and teacher with masks on in a socially distanced classroom

This article was originally published by Beth Poss at 2021.

Shared Reading is much more than just a read aloud. This evidence-based strategy focuses on the interactions between adults and learners as they read with the purpose of building language and literacy skills.  During shared reading, adults explicitly model reading behaviors and engage learners in discussions about the text, including features of the print, illustrations, and the content being read.


Interactions between adults and learners are a critical part of shared reading, including opportunities for questioning, responding, and discussing before, during and after the read aloud. Research on shared reading indicates that it is an effective component of reading instruction supporting the development of emergent literacy and language skills. (Erickson and Koppenhaver, 2021) Shared reading has a positive outcome on vocabulary, language, and phonemic awareness with students with and without disabilities (Davie and Kemp, 2002), (Fisher, Lamp, Frey 2008). This powerful strategy involves reading with (not to) students and connecting content to their personal knowledge and experiences.


But what kind of questions should educators ask? How do we engage learners with significant disabilities or complex communication needs in a meaningful discussion about a text?


To know where to begin, let’s learn how to “Follow the CAR” and “Put the CROWD in the CAR”. These two approaches structure shared reading for dialogic interactions with open-ended questions and comments that promote discussion and participation. (Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium, 2016)

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Readtopia, the comprehensive curriculum program from Don Johnston, Inc, provides high-interest leveled chapter books for emergent through conventional readers. Readtopia supports learners at all levels in developing the language skills needed to support comprehension.  The Story of Dr. Dolittle, a text from the Upper Elementary Thematic Unit Birds, Mammals and Reptiles, is well suited to using both Follow the CAR and Put the CROWD in the CAR strategies during shared reading of the text.

Dr Doolittle graphic novel example

Follow the CAR reminds educators to:

  1. Begin the discussion with a COMMENT, and then stop and give learners wait time to respond. “Wow, Dr. Dolittle sure has a lot of animals!”
  2. ASK a question, preferably an open-ended question, and then stop and give learners wait time to respond. “What do you see in this picture?”
  3. RESPOND by adding more to the learner’s responses. “Yes, I see a pig, too. I also see a bird.”

Putting the CROWD in the CAR goes even further to emphasize open-ended questions as a part of shared reading.

  • Completion: educators pause and leave a blank at the end of a sentence, students fill it in. This is typically used in books with repetitive phrases or rhymes.
  • Recall: educators ask questions about what just happened during a reading, pausing to give learners an opportunity to respond.
  • Open-Ended: questions that do not have a specific answer, “Tell me what’s happening in this chapter.” “What was your favorite part?”
  • Wh-Questions- these may typically focus on pictures “What do you see here?” These can still be open-ended, as there may be multiple correct answers with which a learner can respond.
  • Distance- Questions that build a bridge between the book and personal experience, “They ate coconuts. What food do you like to eat?”

To help engage learners consistently in strategies such as Follow the CAR and Put the CROWD in the CAR in a manner that is meaningful, educators can utilize a set of open-ended, predictable questions that can be asked and accessed in a fun and game-like manner, using custom printed dice or a digital spinner from LessonPix.

Reflective Questions Lesson Pix Example
Spin Wheel that says tell me something you see on the page
Edmonton Regional Learning Consortium. “Shared Reading.” Literacy Instruction for Students with Significant Disabilities, 2016, Accessed 12 April 2021.
Davie, Juli & Kemp, Coral.  (2002) A Comparison of the Expressive Language Opportunities Provided by Shared Book Reading and Facilitated Play for Young Children with Mild to Moderate Intellectual Disabilities, Educational Psychology, 22:4, 445-460, DOI: 10.1080/0144341022000003123
Erickson, Karen & Koppenhaver, David. (2020). Comprehensive Literacy for All: Teaching Students with Significant Disabilities to Read and Write.
Fisher, Douglas & Frey, Nancy & Lapp, Diane. (2008). Shared Readings: Modeling Comprehension, Vocabulary, Text Structures, and Text Features for Older Readers. Reading Teacher – READ TEACH. 61. 548-556. 10.1598/RT.61.7.4.
Beth Poss

Beth Poss M.A., CCC/SLP, M.S Education, is the Director of Educational Programs at LessonPix. She is an educational and technology consultant and former assistant principal. Areas of special interest include the Use of Technology in Early Childhood, Designing Inclusive Learning Environments, Supporting Social-Emotional Learning to Promote Academic Success and Culturally Responsive Teaching.

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